A free program such as Foxit Reader can be used for this task

We download lots of educational content (video, audio and text) almost on a daily basis. Over time, managing them could become a herculean task. This edition of NetSpeak takes a look at this issue and discusses a few tools meant for managing scholarly content with ease.

A large majority of web materials (text-based) we come across are available as PDF documents. However many of these documents may not even have a proper index or table of contents.

Learning process

The learning process can be made more effective and productive if we can customise the document with necessary annotations and bookmarks that point to specific locations in the document. A free program such as Foxit Reader (http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/) could be used for this task. Foxit Reader helps generate required bookmarks with a few mouse movements.

Aside this, Foxit Reader can be used to enrich a PDF document with text highlights, comments, notes and so on.

Of course, enriching the PDF documents with necessary annotations and bookmarks is only a minor step in making the learning process efficient. One might have downloaded tens of hundreds of documents pertaining to multiple topics and projects. Some mechanism is needed for organising these documents under different topics and heads for easy access. For instance, it should offer a search mechanism that can pull out documents with specific information (by scanning all the documents in our collection). Those of you on the hunt for such a solution may find the free software Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com/) rather rewarding. Mendeley allows you to add any document or web page into its library by simply dragging and dropping the document into its interface. When you add a PDF document on to its library it indexes full-text.

This means if you have hundreds of documents stored on the library you can invoke a word/phrase search and filter out the relevant documents. When you add a PDF document into the Mendeley library, it automatically extracts the document's citation data and keeps it in a bibliographic database. This citation data can be easily copied and pasted on to any text document.

It also offers a word plug-in that allows you to easily insert citations and reference list. This way, Mendeley functions as a good citation manager as well (similar to Firefox extension Zotero discussed in the past).

A notable feature of Mendeley is the facility to add a watch folder. The advantage of having a watch folder is that any document placed on this folder will get automatically added to the library. Besides the features discussed above, Mendeley lets you easily pull resources from the web too.

Using Mendeley's bookmarklet, Web Importer (http://www.mendeley.com/import/), one can import documents from a variety of academic databases such as Google scholar, JSTOR and so on.

Aside keeping the library content in your local storage, Mendeley allows you to sync the desktop content on to its server as well (for this you need to register with the service and take a free account). In addition, the service allows you to share your library with other Mendeley users as well.

Besides Mendeley, several other document management products are in place. Qiqqa (http://www.qiqqa.com/), a free software in alpha stage, is yet another tool in this genre.

Virtual CD/DVD drive

As you are aware, a huge collection of video tutorials on a wide variety of subjects is available on the Net. Many such tutorials are available as CD/DVD images. A CD image is just a copy of the CD/DVD disk and it comes in formats such as ‘iso', ‘bin'and ‘cue'.

To access the content of such image files, you need to transfer it on to a CD (using a CD-burning software like Nero). But in most cases this could turn out to be a waste of time and money, as we may not have any intention to keep these tutorials for long.

The best solution to get around this issue is to use a tool that emulates a CD drive, a virtual CD drive program. Similar to virtual PC tools (such as the Virtualbox software, discussed in the past, (http://www.hindu.com/biz/2009/09/21/stories/2009092150011300.htm), a virtual CD drive software functions such as a real CD/DVD drive and lets us mount CD images.

The advantage is that we can read the image content without transferring it on to a CD. This aside, virtual CD drive enables us to access the content of a CD even from a computer without CD drive.

Several free virtual CD programs are available. Daemon Tools Lite (http://www.daemon-tools.cc/eng/products/dtLite) is a simple easy to use, free CD emulation program. The software allows you to emulate a virtual CD drive and can be used to read a variety of image formats that include ‘ccd',' cue', ‘mdx' and ‘iso'.

The free version allows you to add four virtual drives at one go. Now, if you need more than four drives at a time, you can try out the free tool, Virtual clone drive (http://www.slysoft.com/en/virtual-clonedrive.html). This software lets you create 15 virtual drives at a time (this means you can mount 15 image files simultaneously).

A Google a day

Your on-line success generally depends on your skill to locate relevant content with ease and this in turn (to a large extent) depends on your Google skills. If you are deficient in this essential on-line life skill, you will have to seek the services of a search expert. Naturally, by sharpening your Google skills, you can keep a search expert away. And to help you in this endeavour, Google has started a new project called A Google a Day, which presents a search puzzle every day.

To solve these puzzles you need to apply your imagination along with a fair amount Google tricks.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Likewise Google a day' helps you keep junk search results away. So, those of you wish to enhance Google search skills, jump over to the search game ‘A Google a day':http://agoogleaday.com/.

The author can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com