Amongst the many facets of my life that I am attempting to unclutter (why is that word so much better than 'declutter'?), the thousands (4987, to be precise) of PDF files that I have accumulated over the course of literature reviews for masters courses, teaching preparation for multiple subjects, and materials development for teacher education were really weighing on me. Every time I thought of going through and trying to rename them, my heart would sink. And I knew I had to identify them, because I have two cartons of paper that can't be thrown out until I know for sure which of those articles I have electronic copies of. Also the slight matter of actually needing to write up a literature review for my thesis proposal...
So after renaming about 200 of them, I decided this was for the birds. Laziness, as I believe Benjamin Franklin said, is the mother of invention. Or some serious web-searching. And what do you think I found? It turns out that Zotero is not just a convenient way to keep your bibliography. If you import your existing, lazily-left-with-the-long-string-of-numbers-from-the-online-database-as-a-title into your Zotero collection, Zotero will give you the option of retrieving the metadata for the PDF and automatically creating an entry in your reference collection. It took my poor overworked Inspiron's 1GB of RAM about 12 hours to do the import of the ~4GB of PDF files, but now the majority of those files are in the process of getting automagically identified and indexed in a format that I will be able to directly pull into a bibliography.
There are still a bunch of files that it can't identify itself, and I'll have to go through and search for the references. Some of the documents don't contain OCR'ed text, and some of them don't have readily identified DOIs, but if it takes care of 80% of them, I'll be a happy woman.
Note to self: When downloading PDF files, download them directly into the Zotero collection, so that this nightmare need never be repeated.
It never ceases to amaze me how stupid I can be. And that apparently there are enough other people out there who are equally stupid that someone comes up with a free software solution for our stupidity. :)