There should be an APP for that!

(where APP = Automatic PDF Pusher)

I have five browser tabs open to article abstracts, from four different journals.

All five articles are currently published as provisional PDFs.

All look interesting and/or relevant to my work, but don’t quite tip the balance into “OMG I must read this NOW even though it’ll take up way more paper and I’ll constantly be flipping back and forth between the text, figures, and figure legends” territory.

And so I wait, hitting the refresh button in each tab every morning.

Sometimes it takes weeks for the final, formatted version to appear.

Five tabs at a time is enough to make me start thinking about alternatives; my usual range would be 1-3 such tabs per week.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an option on the article’s home page to receive an email / text / smart phone notification once the provisional PDF is replaced by a nicely formatted version?

I hereby claim copyright of this idea and demand a share of the no doubt extensive royalties it will generate. For the record, I’d almost certainly think about spending 99 cents on the iPhone app version.

Who’s with me? And what other geeky apps would you probably think about spending 99 cents on?

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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14 Responses to There should be an APP for that!

  1. Grant says:

    Sounds like the sort of thing that you could up as a ‘product suggestion’ to the likes of the Zotero or Mandeley developers.

    A related category of ‘delayed’ information is Supplementary Material, which often isn’t available in the early release versions of papers.

  2. Grant says:

    could *put* up, even. (Sigh.)

  3. Mike says:

    @Cath: I think it does already exist – it’s called an ‘Online Early Alert’, or ‘eTOC’ (for the version that even includes volume and page information).

    I get a bit annoyed at the idea of putting up a preprint without any of the relevant bibliographic data though (and the sort of formatting that positively encourages paper printing), to the extent that I don’t get OEA’s, and just wait for the eTOC’s. But Ecology might be a slower moving field than yours (quick, catch that pasture), so I can afford to wait for the ‘official’ version.

    @Grant: Yes! It’s exactly what Zotendely-oh (me say day-oh) need – an automatic updater that scans the doi’s in your library and corrects the relevant info!

  4. Nina says:

    yes, I want this as a Zotero-plug-in-ish thingie.
    As for other apps, ideally I’d like one that you can use without having a smartphone to operate other people’s phones to turn them off when you start an actual real-life conversation with them.

  5. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    I’ve never used Zotero or Mandeley – are they good for this kind of thing?

    Mike, I can’t see that as an option in any of the tabs I have open. I get my new article alerts via RSS, rather than as an eTOC email, and for many journals the version that shows up in the RSS feed is the provisional PDF. Do I have to sign up for a third-party service, or do you mean that you can get such an alert from the journal website itself?

    Nina, I believe that app exists and is called “glass of water”

    • Mike says:

      Sounds like you basically get the Online Early Alert, which directs you to the provisional pdf. If you can afford to wait for the “official” version, just sign up for the eTOC via the journal/publisher website.

      e.g., Wiley allow you to create an account, then sign up for OEAs and/or eTOCs to be sent to your email account for their entire range of journals. I’ve just reset my email address with them, and inadvertedly turned on the OEAs, which I’m a bit annoyed about. But the eTOCs work well, and link to the final version of the paper.

      • Grant says:


        I might look into the publisher’s eTOC (etc) services myself – but how do these compare with what PubMed offers? I like that their services works off keywords, drawing articles from the whole of PubMed (and, from memory, that you can set the frequency of updates).

      • Mike says:

        The eTOCs come out as often as the journal itself does. I’m afraid I don’t use PubMed, so I can’t compare. If you’re happy with getting online early versions of papers, I think you can select the frequency of updates for those though.

        • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

          Hmmm. I switched from email eTOCs to RSS because the emails were clogging up my inbox. I think I’d rather refresh a few tabs multiple times until the final PDF comes out than have that again!

    • Nina says:

      or “their glass of beer/wine”

  6. Well if an app or API could be produced that does that it could do much more: you could scan your library every now and then to get the latest version of the papers in your library, but also corrigenda, erratas and, holy of holies, retractions. Indeed I would expect the Mendelero people to be working on it already.

  7. Steve Caplan says:

    I’m only game for the 99 cents if my grant pays for it…

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