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Reference management: Comparison of tools

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Some useful terms before you start comparing

• Direct: the search engine has a menu option to export directly to the reference management tool: this is fast, reliable and allows for exporting of not just the bibliographical data, but also abstracts and references lists.

• Man(ually): type in or copy/past all the bibliographical data by hand: slow and prone to errors. • Save&import: save the bibliographical data in a standard format (RIS, BibTex, Endnote etc.) and then import that file into the reference management system: relatively slow, but reliable.

• Scrape (aka web importer method): the reference management tool offers installation of a browser bookmarklet that can recognize and capture bibliographical information on any web page. This is easy initially, but does require that you check on the completeness and correctness of the data capture. It may be 100% correct or very incomplete and useless. When it is useless the option is placed between brackets in the table above.

• UBUlink: download is through an option in the Utrecht University library link resolver that shows up in search results. This uses OpenURL technology. It is relatively fast, but does not support batch import and extracts only the most basic data, that is also sometimes incomplete (e.g. only first authors or no author initials or missing titles - the UBUlink relies on how search engines construct their OpenURL). Search engines for which UBUlink import may be incomplete are indicated with an asterisk.

Comparison of reference management tools 1: general

Show columns:  Colwiz  Endnote  Endnote Basic  Google Scholar My library  Mendeley  MS Office ref. tab  Papers  RefWorks  New RefWorks  Zotero stand alone
  Colwiz Endnote Endnote basic Google Scholar my library Mendeley MS Office ref. tab Papers (3) RefWorks New RefWorks Zotero
supplier Colwiz (with T&F) Clarivate Clarivate Google Elsevier Microsoft Springer Proquest Proquest Open source
PC or web? PC + web + bookmarkl. PC + web web web PC + web + bookmarkl. deskt. PC + web web web + bookmarkl. PC + web + bookmarkl.
UU-license free yes free free free, no inst. license yes no yes yes free
on UU PCs? no, but web yes + MyWorkplace web web yes yes no, but web web web no
also for Mac? yes yes web web yes yes yes web yes yes
mobile (phone) ioS + Android iOS web web iOS no iOS mobile web web web
(free) web space 2 GB no limit 2 GB no 2GB no no set by admin set by admin 300 MB
basic workflow bibl. full text bibl. bibl. full text bibl. full text bibl. full text bibl.
built in reader / PDF-viewer yes yes no no yes no yes no yes no
citing support Word+OO Word+OO Word no Word Word Word Word Word Word
store PDF's yes, local + web yes, local + web yes, web no yes, local folder and web no yes, local folder + dropbox yes, web yes, web + dropbox yes, local folder and web
search stored PDFs no yes no no yes no yes yes yes option in prefs
deduplication no yes yes no yes no yes yes yes yes
export BibTex format yes yes yes yes yes no yes yes yes yes
export Endnote format yes yes yes yes yes no yes yes yes yes
export RIS format yes yes yes yes yes no yes yes yes yes
free groups yes, 5 GB per group yes,max 100p/group, no data limit no no (private:) 5, 100 MB, 25 p/group no yes no yes, unlimited yes
supports text file import (RIS / BibT. / Endn.) yes (desktop) yes yes no yes no yes yes yes yes
  Colwiz Endnote Endnote Web Google Scholar my library Mendeley MS office Papers RefWorks Proquest Flow Zotero stand alone
 

 

This table was last updated in December 2017

Some remarks:

Comparison of reference management tools 2: importing options

Show columns:  Colwiz  Endnote  Endnote Basic  Google Scholar My library  Mendeley  MS Office ref. tab  Papers  RefWorks  New RefWorks  Zotero stand alone
  Colwiz Endnote Endnote basic Google Scholar my library Mendeley MS Office ref. tab Papers (3) RefWorks New RefWorks Zotero
supports text file import (RIS / BibT. / Endn.) yes (desktop) yes yes no yes no yes yes yes yes
supports scraping with browser button (bookmarklet) yes no yes no yes no yes (yes) yes yes
supports direct search from within tool yes (desktop) yes yes no no no yes yes no no
supports extracting bib. data from PDF no yes no no yes no yes no yes yes
(best/easiest) import method from:                    
WorldCat (scrape) save & import (scrape) x (scrape) man. save & import save & import (scrape) scrape
Google Books (scrape) save & import (scrape) x (scrape) man. save & import save & import (scrape) scrape
Google Scholar scrape direct (1-by-1) (scrape) direct (1-by-1) scrape man. save & import direct (1-by-1) direct (1-by-1) scrape
PsycInfo (OvidSP) (scrape) direct (scrape) x scrape man. save & import direct direct scrape
PubMed scrape save & import scrape x scrape man. save & import save & import (scrape) scrape
RepEc (scrape) save & import scrape x scrape man. save & import save & import (scrape) scrape
Scopus scrape save & import (scrape) x direct man. save & import direct, with sync direct scrape
Web of Science scrape direct (scrape) x scrape man. save & import direct direct scrape
Worldcat (scrape) direct scrape x scrape man. save & import direct direct scrape
  Colwiz Endnote Endnote Web Google Scholar my library Mendeley MS office Papers RefWorks Proquest Flow Zotero stand alone
 

This table was last updated in December 2017

Some remarks:

  • The indication of the "easiest/best" import methods in the table above does not take into account the possibility to search databases from within the tool (because most people prefer the native interface). It also does not take into account the possibility to download a PDF and have the tool build up the bibliographic metadata from that. Please consider these two options in the light of your personal workflow when comparing tools on their importing abilities.
  •  Colwiz, Endnote, Reference Manager, RefWorks, Papers and EndnoteWeb also have the option to search literature databases from within the tool itself. This offers limited search functionality but makes for easy importing of references. There is much variation in which databases are supported.
  • Mendeley has the additional optiopn to save references by searching the combined library of Mendeley users' references 
  • Zotero has the additional option to add items by identifier (DOI, PMID, ISBN). Zotero does a lookup in Crossref, PubMed or Worldcat to get the bibliographical data.
  •  RefWorks (and expected also at Zotero) has the additional option to add items through RSS-feeds (e.g. of a search in Scopus).

 

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