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October 2012

TechTools this issue Reference Tools Compared

Reviewed Tools • • •

Zotero EndNote Mendeley

“Citation management software, or bibliography managers, are tools that assist you in collecting, storing, managing, citing and sharing bibliographic references.”

technology consulting

Exploring Research Software Solution I clearly remember that agony that I underwent fifteen years ago in my final semester as an undergraduate while writing a 40 page research paper for a history course. References and citation rules made my head spin and MLA and APA were acronyms I grew to despise. Well, those days are gone! A variety of citation managers make it a snap to stay at the head of the class while maintaining your sanity. Citation management software, or bibliography managers, are tools that assist you in collecting, storing, managing, citing and sharing bibliographic references. They collect meta-data directly from a database or document, store it,

organize it, and allow you to easily call it up for insertion into a document and to share it for collaboration with others. In this issue of TechTools, Patty and I review three of the leading citation managers that we recently took for a test drive: Zotero, Mendeley, and Endnote. I think you’ll agree with us that the right tool can turn the agony of research and citing into an easy and painless process. First Impressions Although each tool is slightly different in terms of how it is set up on your computer, you’ll be able to start researching in no time regardless of the citation manager you choose. Zotero, developed by

George Mason University, was originally designed to be used as a Firefox extension, but now includes Zotero Standalone, which enables it to be used with Google Chrome or Safari via “connector” plugins. Zotero is a “smart” extension that recognizes when the user is browsing content; the presence of a folder or file icon in the address bar signals that Zotero will capture the content for you----content that can include web pages, PDFs, and audio and video files. Users will no doubt find Zotero’s iTunes-like interface appealing and user-friendly. Mendeley, whose name is derived from the father of genetics (Gregor Mendel) and the creator

What first-time researchers really need to know.

Tutorials “Zotero won handsdown for its numerous specific screencast tutorials that provided an excellent foundation for understanding its functions. Additionally, an extensive blog site and editable wiki allow Zotero users to assist each other in utilizing Zotero for maximum benefit.”

Ease of Use “Each of the programs helps you to collect metadata right out of a database; all three programs allow you to work with a desktop interface and/or an online interface.”

“Zotero has the most efficient and user friendly method -a Firefox plug-in.”

of the periodic table (Dmitri Mendeleyev), also offers an easy-to use interface. Set up consists of a download to create the Desktop Mendeley file, which allows you to work offline. Endnote, a commercial product made by Thomas Reuters, requires installation from a CD that can be purchased via Amazon or your local computer store or a download from their website ( We found Endnote’s interface to be a bit clunky and less intuitive compared to both Zotero and Mendeley. Tutorials Tutorials are a fabulous way for getting up and running quickly with new software. Out of the three products evaluated, Zotero won handsdown for its numerous

specific screencast tutorials that provided an excellent foundation for understanding its functions. Additionally, an extensive blog site and editable wiki allow Zotero users to assist each other in utilizing Zotero for maximum benefit. The Mendeley tutorials, available at h t t p : / / videos-tutorials, were not as extensive, consisting of five short videos that effectively acquaint users with their reference management tool. In comparison, we found Endnote’s tutorials to be lengthy and rather slowmoving in their delivery. Endnote also offers a spattering live trainings, but their inconsistent broadcasts do little to appease the need for immediate knowledge. Ease of Use

Each of the programs helps users to collect meta-data right out of a database via a desktop and/or an online interface. We found Zotero to have the most efficient and user friendly method --- a Firefox plugin. When a resource is located while browsing in Firefox, Chrome or Safari, a small icon appears in the address bar. A single click of the icon results in an immediate download of all relevant information to Zotero. Mendeley offers a slightly different method which allows for importing citations directly from other online databases via the click of a button installed on the tool bar (setting up Mendeley consists of dragging and dropping the Mendeley icon to your browser’s tool bar). The citation becomes available in online Mendeley,

Technology Solutions for Non-Profits which easily syncs with its desktop application. Users should note that although Mendeley easily extracts meta-data from most files, there are times when data is incomplete, requiring manual entry. Endnote also offers a browser add on to grab meta-data from databases and websites which don’t offer an easy export option. This option, however, this is only available for Firefox –sorry Safari and Chrome users. The add-on looks good at first, but after havThis Month’s Q&A ing tried it out we were dismayed by how many steps it took to actually get the meta-data into the application: first press the button on your tool bar, then a login window appears. Log in. Then select between saving it to Endnote web or Endnote (desktop application) when prompted by a pop-up window. If you

choose to download it to Endnote, a popup window opens. Press save. The download begins. After downloading the resource, a pop-up window must be closed followed by syncing the desktop version with the online version. Whew! This seems like a lot of work to download a single reference. We found that we could shave several steps off this process by selecting to save to Endnote web, rather than desktop Endnote. Despite the cumbersome method Technology Tips Endnote employs to save meta-data from those sites which lack easy-export options, Endnote outshines both Zotero and Mendeley when it comes to downloading from most libraries. As the vanguard of reference management systems, users will find that many databases offer an “Export to Endnote

Web” option, making it grabbing a reference a painless and swift action, provided you have made Endnote your default reference manager. Management of References and Annotations All three programs organize references using folders. Zotero has convenient tabs for adding, editing and deleting tags while Mendeley incorporates tags mixed in with other metadata, making it a little difficult to find them. Mendeley allows you to “star” a favorite item, similar to what is found in Gmail, but Endnote outperforms with its ability to rank references via a 5-star rating system. Both Mendeley and Endnote allow for marking a reference as either read or not read, a nifty feature which Zotero is lacking. One feature that

Ease of Use “many databases offer an “Export to Endnote Web” option which makes it easy grab a reference,” “Endnote also offers a browser add on to grab metadata from databases and websites that don’t offer an easy export option. However, this is only available for Firefox – sorry Safari and Chrome users.”

Management “Zotero and Mendeley allow users to tag and easily crossreference resources. Endnote just searches all metadata.”

Mendeley’s PDF reader and annotations allow for easy collaboration

Management “Mendeley and Endnote allow you to mark a reference as either read or not read, a nifty feature which Zotero is lacking.”

Annotations “One nice feature of Zotero is that it downloads the PDF with the reference in one click if the database allows it… however, its inability to highlight or annotate PDF documents is a minus.”

“Mendeley’s PDF reader, however, is friendly on the eyes and includes notetaking, highlighting, and superior annotating abilities that allow different users to mark up and easily share their document notes.”

Zotero does have, however, is a “related” references feature which allows you to bundle references together.

50% of the time, however, but references can always be added manually. We found Zotero to be lacking one major area: the current version lacks Annotating and High- the ability to highlight and annotate PDF doculighting PDFs Zotero, Mendeley, ments. Mendeley and and Endnote all allow for manual editing of meta- Endnote don’t download data and saving the as- PDFs with the meta-data, sociated PDF files; each which requires manual uses a different method downloads for all PDFs for importing PDFs into you may desire for offline their software. When us- use; this is easily accoming Zotero, we recom- plished using a simple mend you either save drop and drag process. A your PDFs to your com- quick click of the Menputer and then drag them deley’s and Endnote’s into Zotero Standalone sync buttons ensures (Zotero’s desktop ver- files are being synced sion), or drag them di- with their online version. rectly into online Zotero. Although Endnote users Zotero also allows the can also utilize a webability to download PDFs based version capable of (and accompanying ref- storing up to 10,000 reference) into its software erences, Endnote web with just one click. This lacks the ability to store process works about PDFs, requiring all PDFs to be stored on a com-

puter. While we perceive this to be a serious drawback, Endnote does posses the ability to easily search online databases for a PDF which can be immediately imported into the Endnote library (users should note that this feature is unavailable if they don’t have access to the library). Once PDFs are imported into the Endnote desktop version, users can annotate and highlight the document but will need to email the document if collaborating with others. Integration with Microsoft Word All three programs work well with Microsoft Word and Open Office and possess the capability of citing references in over 2,000 bibliographic styles. Both Zotero and Mendeley

Cloud-Based Syncing for Ubiquitous Access require a plug-in for Word which is accessed from the “references” tab which enable easy citations and bibliographies to be created. Endnote, which also integrates with Apple Pages, appears as a separate tab within Microsoft Word, making the navigation between Endnote and Word nearly seamless. Cloud Computing and Collaboration When backing up your the Thisreferences Month’stoQ&A cloud, you can bask in the warm, secure feeling of knowing that your work is securely saved, allowing easy access and sharing of your references from any computer. Count on being frustrated, however, if you are planning on collaborating with Endnote; although you can share reference libraries via End-

note Web, sharing annotated PDFs require an antiquated email to your colleagues. Another big minus: Endnote isn’t currently integrated with mobile devices, a drawback that may alienate many researchers. Zotero shares these same negatives, making Mendeley the application of choice by default when evaluating citation managers for their mobile versatility. Additionally, Mendeley offers an extensive crowdsourced library of nearly 80 million free research paTechnology Tips pers. Users will also be drawn to Mendeley’s ability to track readership statistics of papers they author and upload. Mendeley’s profile, which is exhibited as a vitae, allows researchers to easily follow specific authors. Perhaps Mendeley’s best feature, however, is its ability to share documents between colleagues; each writer’s

annotation appears in a different distinguishing color, allowing for easy collaboration. Finally, Mendeley is ahead of the pack in regards to use with mobile devices. We tested the Mendeley app on the iPad and found it easy to access the Mendeley library; the app also works on iTouches and the iPhone as well. Cost and Online Storage The ability to store information is about the same for all three programs, however, each comes with different amounts of storage space and various pricing options that may ultimately drive your decision regarding these citation managers. Zotero and Mendeley offer free storage; Zotero provides 100 MB of storage space while Mendeley offers 100 MB of personal storage and 1GB

Microsoft Word Automated Citation “All three programs work with Microsoft Word allowing you to easily insert in-text citations from your library and track which sources you’ve referenced so as to automate the generation of a bibliography.”

Collaboration “Perhaps Mendeleye’s best feature is the ability to share documents between colleaguesleagues; each writer’s annotation appears in a different distinguishing color.”

Mendeley is currently the only one with mobile apps

Mobile Apps “Finally, Mendeley is ahead in the pack in regards to use for mobile devices; only Mendeley has apps for mobile devices.”

Cost & Storage

“Zotero and Mendeley are both free to start. Zotero gives you 100Mb of storage space while Mendeley gives you 100Mb of personal storage and 1GB for group storage.

of group storage space. To purchase five GB of storage space plan on shelling out $5 a month for Zotero or $10 per month for Mendeley. Mendeley also offers individual plans ranging from $4.99 a month for 2 GB to $14.99 for 20 GB; collaborative team plans can also be created. Those who opt to become a premium Mendeley user will enjoy Mendeley’s feature of automatically searching for articles based on your interests which are filtered directly to your library. After seeing the features that Zotero and Mendeley both offered as free services, we were disappointed with Endnote, which requires a hefty investment to purchase a license for their software; $250 and $99 for future upgrades; fullfunctioning student ver-

sions are available for $113.95 and include 5 GB of online storage. Fortunately, potential Endnote consumers can download a free 30-day trial from http:// before investing. We conclude that Zotero is the least expensive option, given the fact that users will probably want to upgrade Endnote every couple of years.

See editors choices and product comparison matrix on the next page

Editors Choices for Research Tools

Anthony’s Picks •

• •

Zotero for collecting information and cross-referencing resources Mendeley for collaboration and document markup Endnote for old timers who don’t have time to learn a new program :)

Patty’s Picks Mendeley is my software choice • Free library • Unbeatable collaborative features • Mobile platform

Some closing thoughts: When it comes to bibliographic managers, there is no one best product. Some users may want to consider using more than one bibliography manager, depending on their needs, as citations can easily be transferred from one platform to another. Our suggestion is to first check to see that the software contains the citation style that you need and that it easily accesses the databases you intend to utilize for research. Be sure to ask yourself • Will I be working with colleagues? • Do I need access to online PDFs ? • What type of annotating and highlighting features do I need? • Is expense a factor? • What are my colleagues using? Q&A Technology Tips

“When it comes to bibliographic managers, there is no one best product.”

“Some users may want to consider using more than one bibliography manager, depending on their needs, as citations can easily be transferred from one platform to another”.

Review of Research Tools




• Ability to search

• Free • Access to large,

• Free • Easiest to collect

Tutorials Ease of Use Management of References and Annotations Annotating and Highlighting PDFs Integration with Microsoft Word Cloud Computing and Collaboration Integration with Mobile Devices Cost and Online Storage Biggest Advantages

Biggest Disadvantages

multiple databases and find PDFs • Can download large numbers of PDFs at once

• Expensive • Limited collabo-

ration • No PDFs stored online • No I-Pad App • Not as userfriendly

free library • Excellent for col-

laboration • Apps available for I-Pad and IPhone

• Most databases

do not have an “export to Mendeley” button

resources • Best for tagging

and cross referencing

• Limited Storage

space • Limited annotat-

ing abilities • Most databases do not have an “export to Zotero” button • No I-Pad App

Research Tools Review  

This is a review comparing Zotero, Mendeley and Endnote.

Research Tools Review  

This is a review comparing Zotero, Mendeley and Endnote.