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!
Martin Fenner said:
I’m glad you like my chart. It obviously includes a lot of subjective judgements, but at least I am in contact with the developers of these reference managers, and I regularly update the chart.
Zotero and most of the other products can grab reference information directly from a web page. This is the bookmarklet category under “Search”, even though the implementation in Zotero is obviously not a bookmarklet.
Mr. Gunn said:
Great post, protoscholar! I think Google Docs would be a good opportunity, but I’ve seen a lot more businesses lately just using Office + Dropbox instead for doc sharing & editing.
A few points:
Mendeley is the correct spelling. The link to Mendelay is probably sending your readers somewhere they really don’t want to go.
The database import functions of Zotero and Mendeley are represented in the read column, under the import item.
Again, grwat post and if you have any follow-up questions about Mendeley I’m happy to help.
I can’t believe I spelled it correctly in one place and wrong in the other! My apologies. I’ve updated the links and corrected the spelling wherever it appears. Thanks for the heads up!
Thanks for this post. I just got a new computer–reluctantly moving to PC from a Mac because I need more processing speed for SAS/Stata than Parallels would allow–and have been debating about what citation system to establish before getting too much further into my proposal writing. I really loved Papers, and have liked RefWorks for being able to work from multiple computers. I’m going to check out Mendeley asap!
Definitely check into Mendeley – it is the closest I have found to Papers in the PC world.
I pine for the day when Zotero integrates seamlessly with Google Docs. That will be a real game-changer, making an already-great Zotero even better. Plus, now that Google Docs is going to be editable on the iPad (http://www.fastcompany.com/1690220/google-docs-coming-to-ipad-in-the-next-few-weeks-to-slap-iwork-around) that could make research and writing on that device even better.
Thanks for the useful post and link to that chart.