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Monday, February 14, 2011

Reference and PDF management

Organizing and Managing PDFs and References
Organization and administration is an ever increasing part of any academic's or researcher's life. It begins as a small piece as an undergraduate and initial master's student but grows almost exponentially over time. Luckily there are numerous programs to help manage the academic's electronic life. Below is a list of programs and some useful links. Here is a link to one rather negative review of a variety of programs. You can find another summary of programs here. Also see these recommendations and this link for a nice comparison of the programs.

Papers - organize your .pdf files like iTunes does for music (mac only). Here is a video showing how to integrate Papers and Endnote.  I love this program but have not figured out a smooth workflow (or combination of existing files) for Papers-to-Endnote.

Mendeley - A great reference manager that I recommend for people who aren't Mac uses and therefore can't use Papers. It is better at linking to PDFs than Endnote.

Zotero - another excellent reference manager. I have less experience with this than the others but it seems very nice.

Endnote - citation manager that has been the standard for academics. Excellent for citations and you can link to the PDFs but it's not great for managing your PDFs like Papers or even Mendeley.

Bibdesk (Mac only, oriented for LaTeX)

Refworks - no experience with this one

Labmeeting - I haven't tried this yet since I just came across it but it looks interesting. Drop me a note if you have any experience with this.

*There are so many citation/reference management programs available now it is difficult to choose one. Here is a Wiki with info on dozens of options. Personally, I am using Papers and Endnote. I love papers and started with endnote nearly a decade ago and haven't had the time/energy to fully migrate to another program. If I were to start now I'd probably try Mendeley for all of my reference management needs because it's free, open source, available for multiple operating systems, and can sync online so as to avoid being tied to a single computer. There is also good sharing options for lab meetings and collaborative projects. They group at Mendeley also seem to update frequently and really make an effort to improve the product. The only downside is that I've heard it can be slow and the server is unavailable at times.

Please join the conversation and tell us about your experiences with these or other programs. Let's not all suffer in silence.