In the last several posts, I have been talking about a program called [Skim]. This is the only program I use to read on my desktop, and seeing as how I spend many hours a day reading, I have invested some time in getting the tools right. Skim possesses a huge advantage over its competitors for two main reasons: (i) it is free and open source and (ii) it is designed and used by academics, so it provides features tailored to the needs of the serious researcher. When you first download and launch it, Skim appears cluttered with (in my opinion) terribly ugly toolbar icons. Fortunately, you can turn off all the chrome and use keyboard shortcuts to access the important features. When I work with it, Skim looks like this:

Screen Shot of Skim in Use
Screen Shot of Skim in Use

I use [Moom] to set Skim’s default window to precisely two-thirds of my MacBook Air’s screen and the anchored text note to the remaining third. I use Shadow Killer to remove (you guessed it) the shadows between these two windows.

I like to keep short notes as text notes so that I can read them quickly while reviewing the text. I like to use anchored notes for longer comments, pulling important quotes, and outlining a chapter. I will talk about the way that I retrieve all these notes in a latter post. For now, I just want to point out the incredible ease with which Skim handles a wide variety of note types. I personally use highlights, text notes, and anchored notes, but you can find all sorts of other options if those fit your needs. When working with Preview or Acrobat, working with annotations is a pain and reading through them is even more of a pain, but Skim makes this entire process easy.

Add to these features that Skim is fast. Not only does it open extremely quickly (unlike every Adobe product), it also scrolls rapidly through 500+ page scanned PDFs without choking. As you can see in the previous posts, Skim is also highly customizable via AppleScript. All in all, this makes Skim the best-in-class PDF reader for the power-user digital humanist.

[Skim]: http ://skim-app.sourceforge.net [Moom]: http://manytricks.com/moom/