Earlier I typed up a quick rant disguised as a blog post about why you should stop delaying getting EndNote until you have to type your thesis. I did mention, however, that at times it can be convenient to put some, all, or a select few papers in a folder and browse that folder for papers you want.
I do this by implementing the My Papers toolbar. What the hell is that? It's simply a cute way of getting extremely quick access to papers that you want to find "this one thing real fast" in. It's for times when you know what you're looking for, you know who wrote the paper, and you don't want to open up EndNote, find the citation, and click on the "link to pdf". Well, if your papers' location on your harddrive is buried in some folder 8 levels in from My Documents, you might as well open up EndNote evertime right? It's basically the same amount of time and work. But, if your papers are one click away on the taskbar itself, then it's a whole new ballgame. Fortunately Windows XP can do just that for you (I haven't sold my second child for Vista yet, and have no burning desire to do so soon).
You can create a "toolbar" from any folder by dragging that folder to the edge of your desktop. Really. Just find a folder (doesn't have to be on the desktop to begin with) and drag it to the left or right, release, and there's your toolbar. I used that for a while (not for papers but for a Toolbar folder that has shortcuts to places I like to get to often and fast), but it kept getting in the way; it either takes up real estate or gets very annoying if you use the autohide because my mouse seems to reach all ends of the screen often. But I noticed later that if you drag that toolbar from the side to the taskbar, it plops down as a folder with a little double arrow that you can click to see the contents. This is where my Toolbar folder sits now. After a few weeks of a having a My Papers folder in my Toolbar folder, I found myself going to it more than anything else and thought I should give it its own seat on my taskbar, and we've been in love ever since.
When you have more than a screen full of papers, there are nice little scroll arrows it provides, and although I suspected with a lot of papers it would start to slow down, it hasn't. So the possibilities are endless: if you have all or nearly all of your papers in one folder like I do, you can use that; if you are working on a particular paper, you can put all the papers on that subject there; if you just have a few quick reference papers you always want to look up, you can create a folder of those and plop it down there. Personally I like the all-papers route myself, but whatever, its' a free country (unless you're reading this from a not-free country). Regardless, here's to the My Papers toolbar!