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I've accumulated probably over a hundred interesting articles (mostly pdfs, but some web sites), that I want to periodically review. I'm not sure what's the best way to do this.

I could print physical copies, then stick them in a physical tickler file, but that seems like a lot of work. There must be a way to set up a rotation system so I read the articles regularly (for instance each article once per year).

How could I make this work?

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do I understand correctly, that you want to read the same article again after a certain time, or do you collect a large number of articles and want to have a look at the long list and choose some unread ones to read next? –  MostlyHarmless Jul 31 '14 at 13:43
I guess both could work. I just want to periodically review a list of pdfs, rather than having them sitting unread on my hard drive, collecting digital dust. I'm trying to do this with as least amount of work as possible. –  che_kid Jul 31 '14 at 14:37

4 Answers 4

I do this with Evernote and RememberTheMilk. In practice, an alert shows up in my task list that says "Review article XYZ" with a link. When I review it, I mark the task complete. The task will appear again after the repeat interval I selected.

To make it all work has a number of steps that may sound overwhelming, but in practice is a mouse click here and a mouse click there, once it is all set up. Here's the overview, you'll have to figure out the details of download, install, and setup for yourself:

  1. Get a (free) account with Evernote and RememberTheMilk, if you don't have them already.

  2. Install Evernote's Clearly in your browser. It will reformat web pages with just the main article, removing all kinds of distractions from the text.

  3. Install Evernote's Web Clipper in your browser. For additional flexibility, install Evernote on all the platforms you use, including a desktop version.

  4. Create a folder named "Reading" in Evernote.

  5. Configure Clearly / Web Clipper to default to the Reading folder.

  6. On the Evernote web site, link your Evernote Reminders to RememberTheMilk

  7. Create a "Smart List" in RememberTheMilk that includes these filters (you may want to include more, depending on how you use RTM). You can create a separate list, or integrate it in other task lists.

    status:incomplete and (dueBefore:Now OR due:Never) 

You are now set up to easily add reading material to your collection of things to review, and to have reminders to review show up on a list periodically. In operation, either of these workflows will be useful:

Web Reading: An article / blog post / something on the web is something you want to review periodically. Reformat it for distraction free reading with Evernote Clearly (one click). From the Clearly display, Clip it to your Reading folder in Evernote (one click). Evernote in your browser will offer to let you edit the note. Either now, or later using another Evernote app, edit the note and add a reminder (a few mouse clicks, maybe selecting a due date if today isn't what you want). See "Make the reminder repeating" below.

PDF or other non-web files: Import the file to Evernote. There's multiple ways to do that. I most often email an attachment to a private address at Evernote which automatically loads the attachment to my account. I also use a desktop feature that lets me designate a particular folder for files I want to load to Evernote. Drop the file there, and Evernote (desktop) finds and loads it automatically. There are other methods available. Once you have the file in Evernote, edit the note containing it, move it to your Reading folder, and add a reminder. Then see the next section, "Make the reminder repeating".

Make the reminder repeating: At this point, there is a note in Evernote containing the document you want to review. The note has a reminder, with a due date, which could be today. Now go to RememberTheMilk, where you will find a task entry for the note, with a due date and containing a long and obscure URL that is a link to the web view of the note. It is most likely in your Inbox, unless you know enough about RememberTheMilk to change default configuration, in which case you probably already know the rest of this. Edit the task, change the due date if you'd like, and add a repeat interval. You can repeat at pretty much anything you can imagine: "every 90 days", "after 180 days", "every March 1", and so on.

At this point, you can open the Smart List from step 7 above, and any of these reminders that have a date in the future will not be visible. As time marches on, the task will appear on the list. When you have reviewed the material, mark the task as complete. The repeat feature will have the task show up again on schedule.

As I said, what looks like a lot of steps to set up, but once there, operation is easy. Check the smart list that includes your reading material to review regularly. Select one, and then the URL it points to. Review the material. Mark the task done, and wait for the next time.

Add new material to review by adding it to Evernote, setting a reminder, and then setting the reminder to repeat in RememberTheMilk.

Almost forgot: for new or one time reading, add a reminder but don't set a due date or repeat. Those reminders will appear in your RememberTheMilk smart list too. (That's the "due:never" in the smart list definition.)

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You could use Docear ( , free and open source) - a fork of the free mindmapping software Freeplane - which is made for researchers and also incorporates a sophisticated system for extracting text and notes from PDF documents and keeping bibliographic references (even for each single note).

You can define an inbox directory and put your PDFs in there. Each file put in there gets converted to a node in the mindmap (which you can also move to other locations), so it gives you a list of your files, you can sort them and even add notes to them or extract highlighted text etc.

For more information, see the introductory video for Docear

The article Scientific Writing and Knowledge Management with Docear describes a workflow for collecting information and extracting/storing knowledege from it.

Example screenshot enter image description here

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Set up a folder called "tickler/" somewhere (e.g., on your desktop, as you will be accessing it regularly). In tickler/, set up lots of subfolders named MM-DD for all the days of the year (so, "01-01", "01-02" etc.). Distribute your pdfs into these files, and add txt files containing the URLs you want to review. Every day, check out the subfolder corresponding to that day. There you are.

Since you only have "over a hundred" things right now, you can probably only create subfolders for every third day in the year at this point.

Alternatively, name your subfolders YYYY-MM-DD. Tomorrow, you'll read through the 2014-08-01 folder... and when you are done, rename it to 2015-08-01. Then you will always have the next folder to review on top of your folder structure at the cost of some renaming. (Otherwise, you will have to look for each day's folder manually.)

The advantage is that you can also put non-repeating date-dependent stuff into these folders, which you can delete after processing on that day.

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hm, I'd rather use symlinks to the files in the tickler - otherwise in terms of backup, if you move your pdfs daily, you'll move more or less large amounts of data daily and change the file structure regularly, which in case of a normal backup would create a lot of data (although the real files mostly stay the same). –  MostlyHarmless Jun 13 at 1:19

I personally use taskwarrior also for this, and the combination of 'wait' and 'due' attributes.

If I really do not need to see the pointer to the reference material or an action before the date, I'd add it with a wait date, e.g.

task add pro:tomatos wait:20160501 +@garden Plant tomatoes

for an action or

task add pro:tomatos wait:20160601 +@reference Tomato folder for recipes

for a pure reference notification.

Taskwarrior will hide the entries and only show them if you ask for them with task waiting or similar, and of course once the wait-date is reached. For better visibility one can set the due date on the items onto the same day, or combine them with +next. Both boost urgency.

But using these features work best if you already use taskwarrior, because otherwise you have yet another command to check. If not, there other ways. Adding a tiny 0min entry into your calendar can be a really simple option, for example, as it pops up with the same visibility as your normal calendar entries, thus being hard to miss, and not being another system you need to remember to check.

For the web pages, maybe some special application would be appropriate, like e.g. Check4Change Firefox add-on. That way there would be no need to visit a page just to see if it changed.

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This reads as spam, though viewing your history doesn't indicate it necessarily is spam. Please expand a bit on this and how it works for those unfamiliar with the software. –  Raystafarian Jun 4 at 11:35
I don't know if creating a single task entry for every document is feasible (@che_kid talks about hundreds of documents). A single reminder to do the regular review will help, but you will still need some system to store the files and a review order. –  0x6d64 Jun 7 at 7:40

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