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I'm looking for software that will permit me to write articles of various sizes, with a title and tags for each article. The program should store the content, and then allow me to browse (whether from a list, or from a table).

Article will have equations, tables, graphics, and things like that; but if these options are not available, I would be okay with text-only.

I'm a student, and I often have to write my own reviews about some concepts and notions. Let's take enthalpy for example: I would like to write a small article about enthalpy where I would summarize the info I need about it, then store the texty and mark it with tags so I can find it easily afterwards. Let's say that afterwards I wanted to write a small article about crystal solubility, I would like to do the same thing I needed for the enthalpy article, and store it.

In the end, I want to be capable of browsing my articles' titles, one by one, displaying the content if I want to; or searching by either tags or content or title. It could be similar to a blogging system, but for personal use.

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Sounds like Scrivener might work nicely for you. You write your pieces in text, you can add graphics, you can view your pieces either in a list or as graphics which you can tag, and you can organize your individual pieces in folders.

You can download a fully-operational demo and use it for 30 days. Search for Scrivener on this site to see other discussions of it (often from me :) ).

  • I think that, unless Scrivener has content management features I'm not familiar with (I'm not the Scrivener expert here!), OP wants something like a content management system, not a development platform. Or is there more to Scrivener than I know? – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 16 '14 at 0:07
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As a student, you will be faced with not only storing your own writings, but storing other information (articles you read, graphics, web links) as well – and in a meaningful way that allows you to later find what you know that you already know but can't quite remember.

Many academics use information management solutions (see also: Personal Knowledge Base) such as DevonThink. A Google search brings up many pages where users explain how they work with this or similar tools.

The advantage to a tool like DevonThink is that it analyzes the content of the documents that you store in its database (it even "reads" images with text and PDFs), allowing you to find relevant content through a keyword search. DevonThink is extremely powerful and I find it quite useful in an academic writing context, where projects are not closed after completion, as they are with novel writing, but material and knowledge keep collecting and stay relevant for all your writing life.

I simply drag and drop everything that I read into DevonThink, from web pages to journal articles to my own essays and blog posts. Sometimes I make the effort to add keywords manually, but most of the time I just drag and drop documents on the DevonThink interface. Later, when I have to write a paper on a specific topic, I first go to DevonThink and see if I have already read something that is relevant to my current project. It is like a machine searchable memory for me.

Of course you will have to write your texts in another text editor, but the advantage to this is that you can use any text editor you want with the functionality that you find most productive, and don't have to write in a tool that might be good for organizing but has a horrendous writing environment.

As for your needs, DevonThink displays a list of all content that you can sort by type, title, date, etc. You can add tags/keywords to entries, group them, etc. You can access the content directly from DevonThink or open it in an external editor or viewer.

DevonThink is the only such tool I know, which does not mean that it is the only one or the best, just that I use it as an example for the kind of tool I think might be useful to you.

The only recommendation that I would like to force on you is that you think of finding a solution that works for you until you have written your dissertation. At the moment you are a student and think only of getting this semester's work done. But you may decide to get a Ph.D., and you are now already, every day, reviewing lots of material that when you sit down to write your doctoral thesis you will wish you knew where you read what you vaguely remember. So do your future self a favour and start organizing your knowledge right now in a way that will work for you in a few years when you approach the most difficult phase in the life of most academics. This solution does not have to be DevonThink, just decide from the perspective of maybe one day writing a dissertation. (And don't use solutions, like Google Docs, that you cannot be sure will still exist in five years. Google is famous for closing services.)

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When looking for tools like these, future-compatibility is a very big issue. First off, try to avoid any tools that have their own proprietary format and can't be edited using any other tool (look what happened to many 80s document files which were written using their own editors and the editors suddenly just vanished). Microsoft Office is also one such example which can not be relied upon. Their format might change 10 years from now, making your documents incomprehensible.

With this consideration in mind, I started storing my content in plain text files with markdown formatting. But then I met Zim Wiki.

This is a personal wiki for managing information which stores its data in plain files. It uses its own syntax but the syntax is very reasonable and quite close to markdown. I keep various notebooks inside it -- one for my research notes, one for general notes, one for my diary entries etc. It indexes all of the text and you can easily search across all your notebook. The good part in it is that you don't have to raise your hand above keyboard for any task. There are shortcuts for all sorts of things. You can easily search or go to any page without touching your mouse.

It supports adding Latex equations, code syntax highlighting, diagrams etc.

I would consider it to be equivalent to Evernote, albeit it has no Android client and all the data resides in your hard-disk in pure future-proof text files.

Furthermore, though it is quite old and mature now, the development is still active.

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Google Drive / Google Docs

Google Drive and Google Docs work together perfectly for what you are looking for. If you sign up for a Google account you get 15GB of free storage and you can use Drive just like a File Explorer.

15 GB of Space - Free

Next, you just create your Google documents, write up your articles and then later when you want to find all of your articles that have the word enthalpy in them, you go to google drive, type in the search term and it finds all your documents that have that word in them.

Access From Anywhere

The added benefit, of course, is that you can get to your documents from any Internet-connected device that runs a web browser. It's very cool. I use it and highly recommend it. It's a fantastic research tool, because it is convenient and only a web browser away. I use it on my work computer, home laptop and Nexus 7 (7 inch Android pad).

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    Search isn't quite the same as tagging, though. Does Google have a way to associate meta-data like tags with documents? – Monica Cellio Nov 16 '14 at 2:27
  • @MonicaCellio Good point and good question. I don't know of any way to add extra meta-data tags to documents at this time. – raddevus Nov 17 '14 at 3:19
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I would also suggest that Scrivener is worth a look. It has a good keyword and tagging system, including custom metadata. It also has a flexible search system. I have moved most of my writing from Word into Scrivener over the last year, because of the type of organization (and reorganization) it allows. The downside to Scrivener, in my view, is that while it is certainly capable as a "word processor," there are things that can be done in Word that Scrivener is simply incapable of, such as the in-text Track Changes functions that Word offers, and macros. Scrivener's UI also leaves something to be desired, especially if you are more of a keyboard than a mouse person. Its dictionary/spell check/auto-correct features are also lacking. Despite all that, it's become my writing environment of choice.

Another suggestion -- and this might seem to be an odd one -- is that you consider using WordPress, which also gives you keywords, tagging, and similar, with automatic timestamping of each "entry" or "post."

It is possible to install a fully functional WordPress on your local computer, so that when you "publish" an item/post (i.e., enter it into your database) it is not publicly published, but is only available to you, on your computer. You can get a locally installable version of WordPress at https://bitnami.com/stack/wordpress. I am using WordPress like that as a personal database.

I would, and personally do, avoid using Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Etc. As a system for creating, organizing, accessing, and even sharing your work, Google's system is (perhaps) better in theory than practice.

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