An electronic (paperless) office is key to success in a world overloaded with information. Using the data cloud you can have it accessible at all times and everywhere - at home, at work and even from your smartphone while commuting. For a doctor who is keen to constantly learn more and stay up-to-date, a mobile office is it. Actually a mobile office is much more than putting away the papers, it's also the concept of having your office tools at hand, everywhere and anytime. Contacts, calendar, email, chat... the list goes on. I will soon bring you a big and juicy post about my personal configuration which I have developed for years. For now I will tell you about one particular part of my e-office, how I manage my PDF documents.
For most documents (images, text files, notes...) I use Google docs and actually Google apps is the base for my e-office. Although Google docs can store PDF files and has a very nice online viewer there is a crucial tool missing, the ability to highlight text and write notes.
Every doctor has a collection of memorable journal articles which they have read thoroughly and want to keep for future reference. If you are as me you strive to have all reference books in electronic format. Some will be accessible online (Rosens Emergency Medicine is available online at MdConsult for example) only but others downloadable as PDF files. Just as you've dried a few kilos of marker pens while doing your stud med years you will want to highlight your PDF collection as well. There are nice applications for this, my favorite one being the free and excellent Foxit pdf reader. But it's not an online web-application (actually, it is a "desktop application") and so doesn't fit into my mobile/online office configuration. I don't want to install it on the 10-15 different computers I have access to at work and then move the PDF files between work/home/wherever-I-am... you must see it will end with a disaster.
Earlier this summer an amazing web application appeared on my radar for which I have fallen in love with. The name is Crocodoc. With a (free) login you can upload your PDF file and store it on their server for later access. It can even take an address of a web page and convert it to PDF. Once you got it there it will open up in a special viewer where you have all the highlighting and commenting tools you ever need. Now you will start to understand why I'd love to have Tintinallis Emergency medicine in a PDF file!
And so, my real physical office is completely free of papers and I can access my PDF collection from anywhere, with my highlights and comments just as I had wished for. An amazing tool!
While we are at it there is another online web-application I'd like to mention which works with PDF files. PDF escape is the only online PDF app I am aware of that allows you to upload a PDF file and then edit it's text content and fill in forms. I have used it a lot to erase patient IDs from ECGs I want to keep. It's free and let's hope it stays free.
I would be surprised if Google doesn't advance it's PDF features in the very future, making Google Docs the ultimate office tool. Actually I really hope so since I want to have as much as possible in one place.