Reference Managers

I am currently hesitating which reference manager should I use for my PhD thesis on Urban Sociology. I confess that so far I have been using EndNote X7 and I am kind of happy with it. Nevertheless, I dont feel confortable with it. Sometimes, when working with Word for Mac, it gets mad, and the quotations are not exactly what I expected. Maybe its because I have never been taught about how to use it properly… but I believe that the key for a good reference manager should be its intuitive use.

I have always loved EndNote’s search on external databases tool, and the sync with EndNote web and its app for iPad; but… now I feel is not enough. It is not as far as I am working a lot with my iPhone. Indeed… writing with it! Nothing better than one hour stuck on the transit to write “text mode” your thesis. Endnote app is not supported on iPhone, and it gets me kind of mad, as it means that -if I get sticked with this reference manager- I won’t be able to advance on my lectures. Obviously I use other apps for reading my awesome and endless library…. Ains…

Sometimes is better give a try to other softwares and check how green is our neighbor’s grass. It took my attention a comment posted on one of my favorite blogs ( where Dr Inger Mewburn explained her frustration due to a fail of Endnote and how she felt in love with many other reference managers.

Dr Catherine Pope in a recent tweet to me referred to be a huge fan of Zotero, and even she dropped a call to use it!

I hope that Dr Pope offers me a course soon of this software as she referred that was “the most handy and user friendly”. She even mentioned that her students preferred Zotero to any other reference manager.

Papers was the favored by Dr Mewburn (after Mr ThesisWisperer considerations and productivity analysis). She was using on the time of writing that post the same computer I use, 😉 and seems that was a good idea. It is a native application for Mac and seems that works awesomely. If they offer me a free account I wouldn’t say no… but as a poor student every penny counts!

Refworks is the one that is not really calling my attention and I admit that I am very tempted by Mendeley as it’s a very social, multi-platform, and integrates good resources web. It works with my iPhone and is friendly enough as much as aesthetically correct. Seems that is one of the best on importing metadata from PDF and let’s say the truth… we work with many PDF!

The following comparison table is kind of interesting, but there are values not compared as much as the No. of citation styles supported, No. of import filters…

Compare Products Mendeley Endnote Refworks Zotero Papers
Basic software package (includes all features listed below) Free $250* $100 Free $79*


Free web storage space (online backup of your papers) 2GB 1GB NA 300MB NA
Reference/Document Management
Organization of PDFs and other documents Tick Tick Cross Tick Tick
Citation Plug-ins for Word Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick
Citation Plug-ins for LibreOffice Tick Tick Cross Tick Tick
Annotations/Highlighting in PDFs Tick Tick Cross Cross Tick
Cross-platform synching across desktop, web and mobile devices Tick Cross Cross Tick Cross
Knowledge Discovery
Free and open database approaching 100 million documents Tick Cross Cross Cross Cross
Personalized paper recommendations Tick Cross Cross Cross Cross
Readership statistics & community tags Tick Cross Cross Cross Cross
Open Web API Tick Cross Cross Tick Cross
Full text search across all your papers Tick Tick Cross Tick Tick
Search across external databases Almost there! Tick Tick Cross Tick
Private groups Tick Tick Tick Tick Cross
Public groups Tick Cross Cross Tick Cross
Social network Tick Cross Cross Tick Tick
Collaboration newsfeed Tick Cross Cross Tick Cross
General Technology
Web app Tick Tick Tick Tick Cross
Desktop app Tick Tick Cross Tick Tick
Compatibility with all modern web browsers Tick Cross Tick Cross Tick
Compatibility with Mac/Win/Linux Tick Cross Cross Tick Cross
iOS Free Free Cross Cross Paid
Android Free Cross Cross Cross Cross
Product feedback forum Tick Tick Cross Tick Tick
Library systems integration/EZProxy Support Almost there! Tick Tick Tick Tick
Metadata Extraction Technology
Extraction of DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) from PDFs Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick
Extraction of PubmedIDs and ArxivIDs from PDFs Tick Cross Cross Tick Tick
Extraction of embedded metadata from PDFs Tick Tick Cross Tick Tick
Extraction of citation details from PDFs without embedded metadata Tick Cross Cross Tick Cross
Table by Mendeley
*Checked: student discounts available

What is behind them?

Accordingly with a Wikipedia comparison table…. we find this interesting information:

Software Developer First public release Latest stable release date Latest stable version Cost (USD) Free software License Notes
EndNote Thomson Reuters 1988 11/8/15 X7.4 US$299.95[1] No Proprietary The web version EndNote basic(formerly, EndNote Web) is free of charge
Mendeley Elsevier 2008-08 2015 1.15.2 Free / Online storage free up to 2 GB / Additional storage space available No proprietary(OS API clients exist) Desktop & Web components, Windows, Linux, OS X, iPhone & iPad
Papers Springer 2007 13/10/14 3.2.3 US$79[1] No Proprietary search repositories from interface; supports plug-ins, Universal iOS app
RefWorks RefWorks / ProQuest 2001 2013 US$100 per year No Proprietary web-based, browser-accessed, centrally hosted program
Zotero Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media atGMU 5/10/06 8/4/15 [9] Free / Online storage free up to 300 MB / Additional storage space available Yes AGPL Firefox extension or stand-alone with connectors for Chrome and Safari. Web-based access to reference library also available.
Wikipedia last modified on 5 January 2016, at 11:28.
Article includes other comparisons of good value

Basically… the bigger editorial houses are behind these projects. It is not surprise, obviously, but it help us understand as well their affiliations with certain universities or research areas.

This table is refers as well to the extensions and OS compatibilities, but I would have to add that Ref.ME as a good assistant on the road. You can be in a library, a book store and find a book or text that you want to review latter. You have just to scan and the quotation will be synch on line up to be exported and worked. I am using it so far, and I am very happy with it. I think that it is the scan recognition that is missing on the other reference managers. We do not always have the digital document or PDF and this tool helps a lot!

What Reference Manager would you use?


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