LiquidText PDF Reader

I have experimented with different PDF readers on my iPad. Over the past several months I’ve exclusively used a program called LiquidText.LiquidText has a unique, award-winning, interface that allows me to drag, drop, and manipulate text using my finger. LiquidText was named “Most Innovative iPad App of the Year” by Apple in 2015. LiquidText feels much more natural than any other PDF reader I’ve used on iOS--and I've used many. After highlighting with my finger, the exerpts / highlights / comments are extracted into their own area. The excerpts may be dragged around, linked, and repositioned at will.When reading and highlighting, I either drag text from the PDF into the notes area, or simply hit “AutoExcerpt” and the text is extracted for me. I can comment on the excerpted information.I can also view the place in the paper the highlight came from by merely touching the excerpt in the notes area.LiquidText reads and writes to a whole range of cloud services, but has limited range of export document choices.An Enterprise version is available for $9.99 that adds features like multi-document search and the ability to comment on multiple documents simultaneously. I've been using the app so much, I upgraded primarily to support the developer.There are a few features that are not (yet) available—the most critical for me is the inability to export highlights into a text file—LiquidText only exports highlights to Microsoft Word. This, unfortunately, is not compatible with my workflow for extracting highlights, but I like Liquidtext so much, I figured out a workaround using Skim—here is my entire workflow:

  • I set up a Dropbox LiquidText Folder to serve as a bridge with my desktop.
  • I open the entry in Papers on iOS.
  • From within Papers I select "open in". -this brings up action menu.
  • I open, read, and annotate in Liquidtext. This includes linking the full-text of references to each excerpt (as suggested by reader GH).
  • I export the PDF and Notes from Liquidtext to my Dropbox Folder.
  • When I get to my Mac, I open the PDF in Skim.
  • Under the File Menu in Skim, I choose “Convert Notes” making my highlights into Skim Notes.
  • I then process the annotations as discussed in this blog entry.
  • (If you want to take the time on your desktop you can also replace the Papers PDF with the LiquidText highlighted version).

Give Liquidtext a try and please let me know what you think.

Importing Microsoft Word files into Ulysses

I subscribe to the newsletter from Soulmen, the makers of my favorite text / markdown writing app, Ulysses. From the newsletter, I learned it is now possible to import Microsoft Word .docx documents. The article said it was possible from any device, but I could only do it using the instructions for iPhone (not on my Mac).In order to import a Word file, it must be in a folder Ulysses can access. Within Ulysses iOS, choose the group where you’d like your imported document to live. Then at the bottom right of screen, choose ‘import’ and select your file. The Word document is converted to MarkdownXL with your formatting intact.Happy writing!

Ripping Pages 5.0 - One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

It is with great excitement and trepidation I view new versions of core software. So it was with Pages 5.0 for my Mac. Although I was excited to see some of the new features (e.g. enhanced iCloud synchronization), the program took a major step backwards in productivity enhancement. In fact, the whole suite of products (Numbers, Pages, and Keynote) are sad remnants of their former selves. Most of the articles I’ve read tout the fact the iWork Suite was rebuilt from the ground up, setting the foundation for the future. I, personally, was surprised and saddened at how feature-poor the original release truly was.

For the time being, I’m moving back to Microsoft Word, until the features I’m dependent upon get fixed. Before I made this decision, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to stay with Pages–here are some of the workarounds I came up with.

Some of the problems I’ve encountered:

  1. Zipping Files-Writing for me is usually a collaborative activity. I send versions of software back and forth with collaborators (sometimes by email). Unfortunately, Pages zips any file I decide to transfer. Google intercepts these zipped files, refusing to transmit them (because of their potential for containing malicious content). Solution: I tried using DropBox to transfer information back and forth with collaborators. Word allows me to transfer the files as needed.
  2. Papers / Pages interplay- With the previous version of Pages I could wait until my paper was in its final state before formatting my bibliography. No more. The new version of Pages does not play well with Papers 2 (side-note, Papers 3 has been released, but I’m avoiding upgrading for the time being). Solution: If I wanted to stay with Pages, I would now have to format my bibliography in plain text, then import the file with the bibliography into Pages for final formatting. By using Word, I can keep my old workflow (formatting my bibliography as the very last step of my writing process).
  3. Comments - Writing includes sending comments back and forth between collaborators. The implementation of comments and reviewing is sorely lacking in Pages 5.0. Even worse, if one attempts to export the Pages document into Pages’09, the majority of the comments are lost. I haven’t found an acceptable work-around in Pages. Microsoft Word’s commenting features are intact.

As much as I hate to say it, for the foreseeable future, I’m moving back to Microsoft Word for my manuscript and grant writing. I hope Apple focuses significant resources on bringing back productivity enhancing features of Pages and Keynote. Until then, they’ve lost me.