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August 6, 2009


If you’re like me, you have a folder on your HD filled with thousands of PDF files that you’ve downloaded, over the years, from the arXivs.

Yuji Tachikawa has written a neat little application, called spires, to manage those PDFs. It serves as a Site-Specific Browser for Spires and for the latest papers on hep-th/hep-ph. It keeps a database of those files you’ve already downloaded. If the paper you want is already downloaded, it will open the local copy. If you don’t have it, or if there’s an updated version at the arXivs, it will prompt you to download the arXiv version.

Here’s a movie of the application in operation. If you want to play with the source code, Yuji’s put it in BZR, which you can browse here.

Hopefully, there will be a few people, in our community, who’ll be interested in developing it further (I’m looking at you, Wolfgang!).

Posted by distler at August 6, 2009 4:32 PM

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Re: Spires

Hmm, support for the other arXiv categories would be really nice.

Posted by: Matt Leifer on August 6, 2009 5:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

You can add more arXiv categories by right-clicking the sidebar and select “arxiv/new”. Then you change the name to “gr-qc/new” or whatever you want.

hep-th/replacement, hep-th/cross-list, hep-th/recent etc. should also work.

Posted by: YT on August 7, 2009 7:49 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

It’s not freeware, but I found that Papers
was exactly what I needed to organise my mess of PDFs that had been clogging my badly ordered folders for a long time.

Of course I’m all for open source software, but I’d like to know from anyone who has tried both how they compare.

Posted by: Jonathan on August 7, 2009 4:12 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

“Papers” doesn’t integrate well to the SPIRES database and the arxiv. That’s why I decided to write one myself.

Posted by: YT on August 7, 2009 7:52 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

Jacques why staring at me ;-) This nice appl is close to being perfect anyway. One handy thing would be to make use of the Services feature of OSX, so that one can call Spires or arXiv utilities from within other applications. For example, clicking an hep-th number within a .tex document in TexShop, say, pastes in the texable bibtex or harvmac source code (or updates it if is already there). Analogous to this , for example.

Posted by: WL on August 7, 2009 6:01 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

In fact there’s a undocumented feature to facilitate this. Go to Window->BibTeX manager, and tell it which directory to watch. Now, whenever you save a TeX file with standard SPIRES key in it (like \cite{Author:2000gz}), this app automatically add the corresponding BibTeX entry to the associated bib file.
This app also watches when the tex program is run, and it runs bibtex automatically. So all you have to do is to insert \cite{…} string in the TeX file,
which can be done using Cmd-B (or Edit-> Copy BibTeX key.)

There are still things to work out for a document consisting of multiple TeX files, but it works pretty well for a single-file TeX document.

It uses fsevents behind the scene.

Posted by: YT on August 7, 2009 7:59 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

Not to get too off-topic, but I’m in the process of switching over to Macs. Spires looks like a lovely tool, and it got me wondering: what other mac-specific and physics/math-centric software do you and your readers use?

Posted by: Robert McNees on August 14, 2009 10:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

Of course, you’ll want a TeX installation, with a front end. See the Mac Tex wiki for options. I use TeXShop, myself. CocoaASpell and BibDesk are invaluable adjuncts.

The next thing you’ll probably want is a package manager: Fink and MacPorts (based, respectively on Debian Package Manager and theFreeBSD Ports Collection) are your leading candidates. I use Fink, but admit to being fairly frustrated with it at the moment.

If you use Keynote, you’ll want LaTeXit (as described here). But I, personally, use the S5 presentation capability in Instiki.

I suppose there are other, more general-purpose applications you’ll be wanting. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 15, 2009 2:20 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Spires

Jeez Bob, it took you long enough!

Posted by: Jeff Murugan on September 15, 2009 7:35 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Spires

I know, I know. But at least I can say that I’ve gone whole hog – a new MacBook Pro, two new Mac Pros, and Apple Displays. And a time capsule.

I love it.

Posted by: Robert McNees on September 15, 2009 1:30 PM | Permalink | Reply to this


What about zotero? I find it very helpful for keeping track of papers from the arxiv or spires, it can export in bibtex for instance, and even has shared libraries for collaboration (have not tried that yet).

Oh, it’s a firefox extension, free, avaiable here:

(no affiliation, just a physicist that has found it useful)

Posted by: John on November 22, 2009 2:54 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: zotero?

I’ll have to give Zotero 2.0 a whirl.

I wasn’t that much impressed with 1.x. I particularly didn’t find that it worked all that well with SPIRES.

In particular, one thing Yuji’s app does right (but the version of Zotero, that I tried, didn’t) is grab the bibtex data from SPIRES for any paper that it’s managing (whether downloaded from the arXiv, or from the journal’s webpage).

Posted by: Jacques Distler on November 22, 2009 12:58 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: zotero?

Yeah, I think it’s still the same way, where if you save from SPIRES it won’t get the arxiv pdf automatically, but saving from the arxiv won’t get the spires entry. It will save the publication info in another field (“extra” I think). I could see the problem of grabbing the spires info form the arxiv, since the spires link is through a search (find eprint number). But saving through spires should work better. Maybe I’ll take a look at how the site provider works and see if it’s an easy fix, should be…

Posted by: John on November 23, 2009 1:15 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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