Paperlesser: Reviewing Papers
For a few months now, I have moved to reviewing papers without printing them. This is a quick post describing how I do it.
I usually review paper in three passes:
- a quick read, writing down annotations and questions to myself or to the authors;
- a much slower read, where I revise my annotations and questions, and often add many new ones;
- the actual writing of the review, collecting the annotations.
Moving from paper to screen is fairly simple, as there is a great free tool to annotate PDF files: Skim. A nice thing about Skim is the PDF Bundle format. This format allows to leave the PDF untouched while packaging the annotations alongside it in a way that many applications can understand.
The second crucial tool, which is not free this time, is EagleFiler. I won't go too much into the details, but the three main reasons that it works so well are: it lets me easily create a PDF bundle out of a PDF, it is able to display the annotations in its viewer pane, and it can search both in the annotations as well as in the PDF text.
So my workflow to review papers is:
- convert the PDF to PDF bundle format using this script;
- do the review writing annotations using Skim;
- write the review and store it along the annotated PDF.
I have found quite useful to keep annotated versions of a paper, when I get to review the same paper several times. Doing it paperlessly not only saves trees, it is more convenient.