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HOW TO UNLOCK AND CRUNCH JSTOR .pdf ARTICLE FILES

Many philosophy article downloadable from journal sites as Adobe Acrobat .pdf files can be searched for keywords, though only a few, such as the Kluwer files for journals such as Erkenntnis, Philosophical Studies and Synthese, can be copied as regular text for note-taking.

But worst of all for accessibility is the JSTOR service, which is indispensable for many journals, such as Mind, Phil. Review and the Journal of Philosophy, whose files are neither searchable nor copyable as text, plus the .pdf files it produces are very large, e.g. 1490K for a 16-page paper at the high quality setting (they're almost unreadable at the lower quality setting).  The reason for all three JSTOR problems is that the .pdf file produced is an image file (a picture of the text, rather than the text itself).

However, fortunately there is a solution. If you upgrade to the full version of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 (rather than the free reader), you can download a free Paper Capture Plugin that you install in Acrobat, that will perform OCR (optical character recognition) on the large image file and convert it to a lean, searchable and copyable text file (e.g.: the above 1490K file reduced to a 183K .pdf file). The plugin has a maximum capacity of 50 journal pages, which covers all but a few cases, and you can download it from: http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=1907.

For me at least, the convenience of being able to search and copy portions of an article far outweighs the space savings (though presumably even 80 gigs of hard drive will fill eventually...:-), and conversion of an article takes only a minute or so.

The resulting .pdf file, after the initial crunching of the JSTOR .pdf file, can be further compressed by saving it as an .rtf file, readable by most word processors, including MS Word and WordPerfect. Typically the result is a file that is only 5%, or one twentieth, of the size of the original JSTOR .pdf file.

A more important advantage of this further compression is that key words or phrases in files can now be searched for by the Windows search function, so that, e.g., all of the articles mentioning a certain philosopher, concept, book or article can be found. (The search function ignores .pdf files, so saving them as .rtf files makes them visible in searches). Since the search function also works on .html web files, and any other text files, now you can find practically anything throughout any number of folders.

The full version of Adobe Acrobat includes a batch converter, so that all of the copyable .pdf files in a directory or folder can be converted to .rtf format at once, leaving the .pdf files unchanged. So one can both have the convenience of reading the original formatting of an article in the .pdf version, and also the group searchability of the .rtf files, with very little extra work or storage space.

Another source for .pdf image files (in addition to JSTOR cases) is the .pdf files increasingly provided by the Inter-library loan service in place of hard copies. These also can be crunched using exactly the same procedures.

Other advantages of having the full version of Adobe Acrobat include: convert one's own papers to .pdf format, e.g. for posting on a website, attach and edit comments directly on specific locations in an article, save whole webpages off the internet in .pdf format, and so on. (The educational version is available for $51 from WMU's Micros and More store): http://www.wmich.edu/mcs/software.pdf.

NOTE: If you're on a tight budget, and just want to make .pdf files of your papers without the above JSTOR advantages, a free alternative program to Acrobat, based on open-source code, is available at http://site4.pdf995.com/download.html. It seems to work fine, and has positive press reports.

Links:
Online Philosophy Journal Listing
John Dilworth Home Page
Philosophy Dept. Faculty Page

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Page Editor: John Dilworth
Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University,
Kalamazoo, MI 49008, U.S.A.
Last Updated: May-05-2003