I have mixed feelings about classes where the bulk of the readings are in the form of scanned documents rather than textbooks or printed course booklets. On the one hand, it’s far cheaper and better for the environment to stick to digital readings (not to mention the fact that I don’t have to lug around a giant blue course book everywhere I go). On the other hand, I simply do not read as efficiently on the computer as I do with a physical copy. While I much prefer to read and take notes on paper, I try to avoid printing out all of these documents if I can. After all, it’s hardly an inexpensive and environmentally sound option if I wind up footing the bill for hundreds of dollars worth of paper and ink.
Luckily, I found a program that makes reading scanned documents so much easier. Skim, a PDF reader and note-taker application designed for the OSX, enables you to simultaneously read and annotate your documents. You can highlight and underline text as well as write out notes in the margins, just as you would with a printed copy. Best of all, with the click of a button you can export all of your notes to a separate file so that you easily access specific information without having to dig through the entire article to find it. Plus, unlike with handwritten notes, these notes are searchable: if you want to flip to the section on Plato’s Republic, simply type it in and you will be rewarded with every instance you wrote down “Plato’s Republic” in your notes.
As Skim’s creators say: stop printing and start skimming.
Unfortunately, at this point Skim only works on Macintosh computers. Does anyone know of any similar applications for Windows?