Managing PDF with Scrivener?

Dear All

I know a lot of softwares out there that would claim to manage Pdf. I’ve tried some of them, and the mere import was such a tedious task (Mendeley couldn’t cope with importing hundreds of pdf despite 8gb of ram…)
Then I realized that what I needed was to be able to search for my pdf by keywords, use spotlight and tagit, and not try to organize them in thematic folders as they could be in multiple folders…
A long-time user of Scrivener, I use it for my dissertation and it successfully manages hundreds of text files.
Thing is, I’d love to be able to manage my pdf there too but I’ve read that Scrivener would start to slow down at a certain point (circa 1gb of data)
I have more than 1500 pdf files and counting, would Scrivener cope? Is there a way to import the pdf in a lighter version as one would do with photographs in other softwares where the image size can be adjusted?
And is there a way to prevent the import of duplicates?

I’d be glad to take any input on that topic. Thanks!!


Scrivener shouldn’t slow down, no matter how many PDF files you import, at least not for regular use. Closing a project will take much longer, because when a project is saved it has to save all the search indexes, which will be large for gigabytes of text. But during normal use, Scrivener only loads into memory any files opened during the session, so many PDF files won’t cause any problem.

The main issue when you do this sort of thing is that the .scriv file will grow so large that it will be difficult to back it up, and if you are working on your dissertation, you really want to be able to back that up quickly and easily. An alternative is therefore to import your PDF files as aliases. Make sure they are all in a folder in the Finder that you are happy to keep as-is, and then go to File > Import > Research Files as Aliases… in Scrivener and import them all. They will appear in Scrivener’s binder with a little black arrow in the corner of their icons, indicating that they are links - that is, they haven’t been copied into the .scriv file itself, but rather, Scrivener will load them from the Finder folder. You will be able to do everything with them inside Scrivener that you would be able to do if they were imported properly, but this will keep your project size down and mean you can back it up easily. The only thing you need to bear in mind is that your folder of PDF files will need to stay where it is in the Finder so that Scrivener can load them when needed.

Hope that helps.

All the best,

I’d recommend either DevonThink Pro or, assuming they are academic articles, Papers 2 for managing large numbers of PDFs. I use both of them together and only bring the PDFs I need into Scrivener.

Papers will add all the bibliography data for you (or rather, will do its best to help you do it - generally it does an awesome job) and take care of naming files and filing them into folders.

DevonThink is unparalleled in its search capacity. It would might take more time to set up than Papers, you would need to do more of the work initially (unless you already have your PDFs filed in a meaningful way, then you could import that folder structure). After that though, it is very good at helping appropriately file new PDFs based on content. You can also replicate files so that the same file appears in 2 or more places.

Both Papers and DevonThink allow keywords and both allow very rapid searching (with Devon allowing more powerful and flexible searches).

Using Papers you could still use Keith’s suggestion of importing Aliases. This is, in effect, how I access my academic references in Papers from within DevonThink (and, occasionally, also in Scrivener).

Thank you both of you!!!

Importing them as aliases is just brillant, that’s exactly what I need as I certainly don’t want to duplicate storage and increase my phd folder too much!
Actually, my worflow is reading and annotating in Skim–exporting notes- saving notes in Scrivener. In fact, I only want to be able to access my articles from Scrivener and do keywords search in one location, read them again if something is missing in my notes.

I did try Papers, and didn’t like it actually…
I usually tend to minimize the amount of softwares I use and try to make good use of what I already have (Automator, Zotero, Skim, Scrivener).
Thanks again!