Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks, and Endnote (Oh My!)

Hi All!

I just wanted to drop a line to share my experience today- I have spent the last four hours researching and testing the various source management tools out there, and I have to say that my classmate, Paula is my hero.  She suggested Mendeley, and Mendeley won for me.

Here is my two cents (take it or leave it, obviously):

icon2_zoteroZotero: A little over my head.  The learning curve is steep, and the interface isn’t as user-friendly as I would like.  When I tried to import my pdfs, they did not come with the source information.  No app support.  If you start fresh with Zotero, I think you will be very pleased.  Everything is in the cloud, which is vital these days.  For me, I had a ton of pdfs saved in Dropbox that I wanted to be able to drag and drop into whatever program I chose, and have that program recognize the files.  I couldn’t figure out how to make Zotero do that seamlessly.  You can create folders for different topics, which is good.  If you are a Firefox user, Zotero might be the best choice.  They have a plugin.  I use Chrome, so it wasn’t a feature I would use.

8322ade9fa513f6511f643c0066a87a7Endnote: Not free.  Expensive (which is even worse than not free).  Not as user-friendly as the other options.    I couldn’t figure out how to download the info I was looking for (although, according to their promo video, it IS possible).  They do have a 30 day free trial, so you can try it for yourself.  And they have cloud support and an app, which is good.  I got frustrated with the desktop program, so I didn’t try those.

images-1Refworks: Even more expensive than Endnote.  Twice, actually (Endnote costs $113 for two years of access, Refworks costs $100/year).  No free trial.  End of research. 🙂


imagesMendeley: Free.  Drag and drop and everything is there: the journal, issue, volume, pages, stable url, abstract- everything.  Most of the time, at least.  When it isn’t, you can search Google Scholar right from the record.  If that doesn’t work, you have to do it manually.  Out of the 200 I imported, I need to enter about 30 manually.  The interface reminds me of Evernote Desktop, which makes it really user-friendly and idiot-proof, which is good for me.  It has a little bookmarklet like Zotero, too- so when you are doing new research, it’s easy.  I tried it, and it works.  You can also create folders to keep things organized.  App support is there, but reviews say it tends to crash.  The one thing I wish I could do is annotate right in the app.  It will let you highlight and annotate, but only on a computer.  I don’t see that feature available in the app.  I will say that so far, it hasn’t crashed on me.  It’s in the cloud, so you can access it from anywhere, although, obviously the desktop version has many more features (true with Zotero as well).

So… there’s my opinion.  Like I said, take it or leave it- but I thought it would be really sad if four hours of work was wasted on just me. 🙂  Obviously, no one thing can give you everything (why???).  Mendeley had the most bang for the non-existent buck for me.  Oh- there was one other one that might look good- qiqqa- BUT they don’t support Mac.  Who does that anymore?  And why do they all have red and white logos? Oh, dear, I need to go to bed.  Four hours of researching research tools has gone to my head.



9 thoughts on “Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks, and Endnote (Oh My!)

  1. Christine Brown

    You can get a free trial of RefWorks, on this page: http://www.refworks-cos.com/refworks/ there’s a link on the right hand side that says: ‘Request a Trial’, which takes you to a form, if you scroll toward the bottom there is a link to ‘Request a RefWorks Individual Trial’ and it steps you through the process to get an account set up. You should see which subscriptions, if any your university library has to these tools, they may have a RefWorks subscription and if so, then it is actually free to you. It’s worth checking out.


  2. Cameron W.

    I found a video awhile back that helped me choose between Zotero and Mendeley:

    I ended up going Zotero, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that Mendeley does not have an Android App (I mean, why would they? Its not like Android owns ~83% of the world market or anything).

    I do my annotations in a program called Okular (http://okular.kde.org/download.php) that are saved to Zotero when I open pdfs from inside it. It might be a complicated install for non-Linux machines(?). Otherwise, “sudo apt-get install okular” from the terminal.


  3. joeranb

    I am one of the founders of Docear, which is a new software for organizing, creating, and discovering academic literature. Today, we released version 1.0 of Docear after a ~2 year beta phase. If you are interested in reference management, you might want to have a look at Docear. The three most distinct features of Docear are:

    1. A single-section user-interface that differs significantly from the interfaces you know from Zotero, JabRef, Mendeley, Endnote, … and that allows a more comprehensive organization of your electronic literature (PDFs) and the annotations you created (i.e highlighted text, comments, and bookmarks).

    2. A ‘literature suite concept’ that allows you to draft and write your own assignments, papers, theses, books, etc. based on the annotations you previously created.

    3. A research paper recommender system that allows you to discover new academic literature.

    And Docear is free and open source and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. More information can be found in our Blog, including a detailed explanation of what makes Docear superior to Mendeley, Zotero, etc. (at least in our opinion 🙂 ). If you don’t like reading, there is also a 6 minute introduction video on our homepage http://www.docear.org 😉

    In case you are using a BibTeX based reference manager such as JabRef (and you don’t want to switch to Docear), you might at least be interested in Docear4Word http://www.docear.org/software/add-ons/docear4word/overview/. Docear4Word allows you to insert references and bibliographies from BibTeX files to MS-Word documents. Hence, it makes writing papers much easier, since e.g. JabRef has no own MS Word add-on.

    Finally, I would like to point you to a recent Blog post I wrote about what makes an evil reference manager. Maybe the post helps you deciding which reference manager to use (even if it’s not Docear). http://www.docear.org/2013/10/14/what-makes-a-really-really-bad-reference-manager/


  4. Nan Hudak Frost

    Hi Kristina, I know this post is a few years old but just thought I would let you know that you can get a free trial of RefWorks. I don’t know what the policy was before but you can certainly do get one now. Nan



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s