Papers 3 for Mac (…and kind of for iPad)

papers3Mekentosj recently released a new version of Papers (now 3) … a paid upgrade for both Mac and iPad. I wasn’t too much of a fan of Papers 2 before, although the annotation features on the iPad were nice, and the syncing worked in some ways, but had some strange omissions: E.g. you could move articles from one collection to another, but the app did not sync changes in lables/read or unread status etc… actually pretty much all the fundamental stuff. I also disliked the rather clunky citations tool… Especially with both Zotero and Mendely being free, cross-platform and more convenient to use – which makes it easier to work on different  platforms and together with non-mac colleagues (or colleagues who don’t want to shell out for the Papers licence).

Nevertheless, I was rather excited that Papers was completely redesigned and, I hoped that, even though the application is in Beta for Mac (NOT for iPad?) the past limitations would be overcome – and at least it would provide a seamless way to sync libraries etc…. Another great improvement, I hoped, would be that the related articles feature would be much improved. The old Livfe was simply confusing…  So I downloaded the apps – and gave it all a try.

First off: Papers 3 for Mac 
Well, good things first: The design is pretty similar, so not overly confusing. I’m not sure it constitutes “a brand new look” as the website claims – but hey.
Unfortunately, the good news ends there: The matching feature, which looks up article details used to work quite ok in Papers 2 – although I never could get it to work with any Athens authenticated search engine. Well… in Papers 3 it just delivered garbage for the three papers I tried. I have no idea what happened. Even searching for the title, which in Google scholar brings up each article as a first hit, Papers 3 did not manage.

Next up the “social functions”, i.e. the related articles. I tried this on a reasonably old (2008) article (“Regulation of Nutrition and Health Claims in Advertising”). Well…  it offered 20 “related” articles – pretty much all of them useless (see picture above): All “related” articles were extremely old (1989?!), with most from the 1990s (really!) – and all pre-dating the article in question significantly. Several articles were missing the title – and appeared just as [Citation][C] – whatever that meant. And whatever made an article about shell fish consumption related – I have no idea. Comparing this to the two related articles that Mendely shows (with both actually related!) this was a particularly poor showing. Frankly, this much hyped feature seems fairly useless – to say the least.

So… would I buy the app for €59 (or €29.95 as an upgrade from Papers2)? Absolutely not. The app delivers nothing useful and new – and if you wanted to be cynical, you could say the upgrade is  simply there to make you pay again. So, my view is: Thanks, but “no thanks”.

Papers 3 for iPad
Well… if the Mac version was a downer, the Papers 3 app just got worse. First off, the iPad app removes the ability to sync over Wifi with the main computer library, replacing it with a forced sync via Dropbox. Why?? I have absolutely nothing against Dropbox, but I just can’t see why I have to use it when I can easily sync via Wifi – and don’t have to worry about space limitations etc. And yes, I can see it is a good thing to add that functionality for people who would like to use it. But why removing the existing sync options?

I honestly can’t say much more about the “amazing new ways to annotate” and other features of the app – as frankly the app kept crashing every time I actually tried to read a paper, which frankly makes the app completely useless. Well, maybe I should have looked at the iTunes stores reviews – which basically mirror exactly my experience.

In short, the new app, rather than building on the previous version and making things better – it simply makes things worse. And just to add insult to injury, the app removes the one reasonably good feature, which made it easy to carry the same papers around on the desktop mac and the iPad.

In conclusion, not surprisingly, the £6.99 for the iOS version, while not being a lot of money, is an absolute waste of every penny in my book. Especially, coupled with an  expensive desktop version, this is really simply unacceptable in my books. If you are a Papers user, I’d stick to my old Papers 2 – at least it sort of works…

Have you used Papers 3? What are your experiences? Please tell me I’m just unlucky… by using the comments function below!

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