Software for Philosophers

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 27, 2010 in Resources

computer work

As part of my quest to make this website as useful as possible, here is a guide to Software for Philosophers, aka Philosophy Software.

Philosophers, what software do you use?

Publications Management

View and Rename PDF (Win). I have thousands of article and book PDFs, and I download several dozen more each week. To keep them organized, I rename each file to include the author’s name and the article name. This process was a huge pain until I discovered View and Rename PDF. First, select all the files you want to rename. The program will open each PDF at a time (so you can see which document it is), let you rename it while you’re looking at it, then move to the next. It will even move each renamed file to a new folder, so I dump all my downloads into a ‘needs renaming’ folder, and then I have a ‘ready’ folder for PDFs that are properly named. This program has saved me untold hours of tedious work.

Also see my post How to Delete the First Page for Thousands of PDF Documents.

Reference Management (many). There are many reference management programs available. See this Wikipedia comparison table. I really don’t know which ones are the best. Powerful commercial packages include Biblioscape (Win), Bookends (Mac), EndNote (Win, Mac), Papers (Mac), Reference Manager (Win), RefWorks (web), and Sente (Mac). Free packages include 2collab (web), Aigaion (web), Bibdesk (Mac), GradeGuru (web), I Librarian (any), and Jabref (any). The most promising free solutions appear to be Zotero, Mendeley, Connotea, and CiteULike.

What I don’t yet know is if there’s a program that will look at all my PDFs and automatically figure out which papers and books they are, and generate bibliographic information on all of them. If anybody knows of a program or website that can do this, please comment.

Argument Mapping

See my page on argument mapping software here.

Formal Logic

Logic Tools (web). Logic Tools is a collection of web page calculators expression evaluation, modal system checking, etc.

Gateway to Logic (web). Collection of logic tools in a web page. Proof builder, proof checker, theorem builder, etc.

Logic Calculator (web). A simple logic calculator in a web page.

LaTeX for Logicians (web). A collection of logic symbols and tools that can be used by logicians who use LaTeX for writing papers and presentations.

Linear Logic Prover (web). Just what it says, in a web page.


LaTeX is a popular program for writing academic papers, and there are many front-ends that make it easier to use, like MiKTeX and LyX. Of course, it’s also possible to use programs like Writer or Microsoft Word, though this can be frustrating, depending on the content of your papers.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitchell LeBlanc February 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

Wow! Thanks so much, Mendeley is amazing!


Damian February 27, 2010 at 9:44 am

I’ve had exactly the same problems and windows is not exactly helpful in this regard. Even if you do put all of your articles and books in to different folders, it’s very difficult to keep track of where everything is, and almost impossible to find very specific things easily.

The best solution that I have found, though it is admittedly labor intensive, depending on whether you want specific information to be recorded or not, is Book Collector. I’m sure that there are others, but I like the fact that you can customize this program. It allows you to use the IBSN numbers to search for images and information about books, though I’m not sure that there is a similar system for articles.

I’ve captured a couple of screen shots, so that you can see some of what it can do:

This is the basic layout.

This is the image layout.

I’ve messed around with the HTML so that it only includes the categories that I want and in the right order. You can fully customize it to include different configurations, colors schemes, as well as categories, etc.

As you can see from the first image, there is a links section that allows you to link to information about each book, including the Amazon page, the folder where the book is stored (if it is an e-book/audio-book), and even the homepage of the author or philosopher, etc.

Philosophical/scientific articles would require you to catalogue them yourself, unfortunately, but I have done it at a rate of ten or so at a time, and it has been worth it.

There are plenty of other programs, of course, but I like the fact that I can tag and search for books and articles, and that it allows fairly detailed descriptions (or in the case of a philosophical article, the entire abstract). I’ve found that it is pretty much all that I need, but that obviously depends on the individual.

Thanks for pointing to some other useful programs and sites that I hadn’t come across.


Leo February 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Wow, that’s cool, thanks.
But do you actually read books on your PC? How do you do that?


lukeprog February 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm


In short bursts.

But I also bought a $60 personal laser printer so I can put it on paper and go to a park and read.


Deb February 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

This is all Mac … I’m playing around with a combination of DevonThink Pro Office (for the AI and OCR) and Sente (just for the core ref mgmt functionality). I keep my original PDF’s independently of either program (for now, until I get confident with each program’s native doc handling, file structures, naming conventions, etc.)

“What I don’t yet know is if there’s a program that will look at all my PDFs and automatically figure out which papers and books they are, and generate bibliographic information on all of them.”

Check out Sente’s process for automatically recognizing imported pdf’s. The more digital doc info the original contains the better, or course, but even the manual process for the files that don’t is acceptably efficient, and you only have to do it once.


Conversational Atheist February 27, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Luke: “What I don’t yet know is if there’s a program that will look at all my PDFs and automatically figure out which papers and books they are, and generate bibliographic information on all of them.”

Not sure about the books — but Papers (for mac) can scrape academic paper pdf’s and grab bibliographic information. You can also download pdfs from academic journals through the program which names and organizes it very well.

You can also create a handy bibtex file for the Papers references for any latex paper that you write.

– I use Papers all the time.


lukeprog February 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Conversational Atheist,

Thanks for the info!


Skeptic February 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

“What I don’t yet know is if there’s a program that will look at all my PDFs and automatically figure out which papers and books they are, and generate bibliographic information on all of them.”

No program will figure out *all* your PDFs. But this functionality is present in Papers, Sente, Zotero, I, Librarian, at least that I know of.


Rhys Wilkins February 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

ABBYY FineReader is a top program for converting your favourite hardcopy books into PDF. It has the best OCR by far out of any program I have used. I am currently converting Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett into a nice looking PDF with this program, since the one I originally downloaded was not OCRed and as a result, was over 220 megabytes. Now it looks modern, updated and is only a paltry 6MB! To top it all off it is decked out with bookmarks, table of contents and you can search it for any phrase you like!

Also PDFTools is an excellent little collection of apps for jazzing up your PDFs. I especially like it’s easy to use bookmarking tool, since most people who put up ebooks on the internet are too damn lazy to include their own bookmarks.


Tony April 7, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Some PDF organizing tools:

Both Calibre and Benubird PDF are free and worth a look.


Vlastimil Vohánka April 15, 2010 at 9:17 am

Dear Lukeprog,

Is there some good SW for inductive logic (probabilistic validity)? Say, if I want to test formulas like:
For any q, p, s,
1>Pr(q)>.5 –>
( (p or s) –> q) and 1>Pr(p or s)>.5 )



lukeprog April 15, 2010 at 9:53 am


Not sure. Have you checked the collections of web calculators above?


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