As longtime readers know, I’m a huge fan of Zotero, although had Mendeley been available when I started working on my dissertation I might have been tempted to use that instead.    The power of a good reference manager cannot be understated when writing a thesis or dissertation, however, and it is important to find one that works with your system, tools, and process.

Recently a chart came to my attention that lays out the competing capabilities and compatibilities of the top reference management software products out there.  It includes commercial products such as EndNote and RefWorks, Mac-specific products like Papers, as well as my favorite Zotero and runner-up Mendeley.  It also includes a couple I hadn’t heard of before, specifically Citavi and JabRef.

If you are unhappy with what you have now or don’t have one at all, I suggest taking a look at the chart.  The author has also made it available in a PDF at this link.

My only complaint about this chart is that I don’t feel the Search section does justice to Zotero’s (and possibly other products) ability to directly grab the bibliographic information off a web page from most major databases.  A click of a button and, without changing pages in your browser, Zotero can suck the citation information in so that you can move on with your work seamlessly. Of course I have no doubt that fans of other products can come up with areas in which they feel the chart doesn’t do their product justice. *** Update: And I was correct – that feature is available in the bookmarklet features listed for some of the other reference managers!

One interesting thought from looking at this chart; it appears that none of these products directly interfaces with Google docs.  That may be an opportunity for some ambitious programmer out there!