Archive for the ‘User Reviews’ Category.

Papers: Software for Research

What is it?

Papers is a software application for Mac OS X, iPhone and iPad that manages your library of (scientific) literature. It can be downloaded from the Mac-version costs €59 / $79, and there is a free 30-day trial available. Papers Touch, the iOS version, costs €12 / $15: this is a so-called “universal binary”, which means the same app runs both on iPhone (or iPoud Touch) and iPad.

Papers for Mac

The main screen is visible in Figure 1, and is comparable to the interface of Apple’s iTunes. In the left column there are several default folders, containing your library and a search field for example. Below there are both “smart folders” (that automatically aggregate content based on some conditions, like author or title words) and normal folders to which you can drag articles. In the middle you see the articles and a preview below. Although you can read the article in this preview, it is more comfortable to open it in a new tab or read it full screen. The right column shows the article’s information, including abstract. I found this to be very useful: when reading an article, sometimes I want to look back to the abstract. This way I don’t need to scroll back.

Figure 1: Papers for Mac - Home screen (click to enlarge)

Since Papers 2 arrived, it is also possible to manage your references with this program, like EndNote does. Figure 2 shows how this works: when typing in e.g. Word or Pages, double-press the Control-key and a menu pops up. Simply type in the name of the author, a topic, or what you are looking for, and select from the list. This functionality is called “Manuscripts” and works like a charm.

Figure 2: Papers for Mac – Manuscripts (click to enlarge)

Papers Touch

Reading from the small iPhone screen can be cumbersome because the articles are in PDF and –therefore- do not adapt to screen size (in contrast with the EPUB format that is used for many eBooks, but also available for our articles on Surgical Neurology International). Reading from the iPad goes very well, as can be seen in Figure 3. Synchronisation between the library on your Mac and your iOS device is done wirelessly (WiFi) – no iCloud (yet).

Figure 3: Papers Touch on iPad (click to enlarge)


I have been using Papers for a few years now, and am hugely impressed by the app. The addition of  “Manuscripts” in Papers 2 made EndNote obsolete for me. A minor disadvantage is that the number of available reference styles is still limited, but it is steadily growing. Such styles are made in the so-called Citation Style Language (CSL), which can be done by anyone who is a little familiar with the HTML and XML language.

I recently created the CSL style for Surgical Neurology International, that can be downloaded from our Author Instructions page. It has also been submitted to the original CSL styles repository, so you can expect it to be included with the app soon.


Excellent app, 5 out of 5 stars without doubt. And one of the reasons to buy a Mac.


Pieter Kubben

Information Technology editor

Surgical Neurology International