Best way for a historian to write a book

Hi everyone,
I’m wondering if you all can help me get the most out of MarginNote. I’m a historian, writing a book, and I’m trying to synthesize a significant amount of data- both books &articles, and digitized archival sources. I’m starting a new project and I want to be sure to get it right from the start.

Here is what I need to do:
a) I have what will probably amount to several hundred (if not 1,000+) PDFs of books and articles. I’d like to be able to excerpt them, and have an accompanying mind map for each article/ archival source. MarginNote 3 looks like an exceptional resource to do this.
b) I’d then like to be able to synthesize those mind maps, excerpts, and annotations from each PDF into the structure of my book.

What’s the best way to do this? Here are my primary questions:

  1. How big is too big for a single notebook? Visually, I can organize and collapse the mind maps from each PDF, so I dont see too much of a clutter problem there. But if I have a single study notebook for hundreds of PDFs, will my brand new ipad pro 12" crash every time I try to do anything? Is there a point where the app will keep crashing because the file is just too big?

  2. Is there a way to carry the excerpts/annotations from PDFs in one study notebook to the next? In other words, If I had a separate study notebook for each chapter, could pdf A be part of the chapter 1 notebook and chapter 2 notebook in a way that when I annotate/excerpt pdf A in the study notebook for chapter 1, those annotations/excerpts would be available in the study notebook for chapter 2?

Thanks everyone for your ideas!


I’m not a historian but I have really enjoyed reading the following blog as another historian described their own research journey. It’s an impressive look at the use of technology applied to the field. I’ve linked to the beginning of the journey although the book has just been released this year.

Personally I mean to spend some time at some point working out how to use MarginNote to read and mark up passages of PDFs but automatically add those passages to another program like DEVONthink where I have a growing library of quality categorised thoughts.

I’ll be interested to see what others say as MarginNote is very impressive at what it does, but I’m still trying to figure out the bigger workflow picture.

The main issue is really the organization of material extracted from many documents. My experience is that MarginNotes does not cater for that well. For one thing, it does not seem to automatically show which reference an extract comes from in a PDF export so you have to do that yourself. But that defies the very concept of efficiently combining data from various sources, and it becomes rather confusing as number of references increases.

If anyone used this software for doing a complex project then please let us know your experiences - the software does not have a user guide so perhaps there are hidden gems that are not very obvious.

Thanks Aliz. I think that’s exactly what I’m getting at. The larger question is how to handle efficiently combining data from a large number of sources. Are there ways to do this in MarginNote that I’m missing? Or do people recommend other software to accomplish this?

The other similar app I am aware of is LiquidText which has a different approach and certainly simpler. It allows combining extracts as one wishes and lists sources when exporting, and I found it more natural.

I have also found out that MarginNote does list sources in a separate column if export is to OmniOutliner.

Decisions, decisions…

Welcome new to the Forum!

Very good and worth discussion, has been put into Workflows in Scenarios category.

The forum will attempt to provide more resources about various professional fields. Welcome to share any your experience here after building your own workflow.

Support Team