After years of painful shifts between them and months trying to find the holy grail of reference managers, I decided to take the plunge. I have made a choice and decided to write about it, hoping that my advice will allow you to never have to go through all this.
I’m a lover of desktop apps and I’m at the moment running macOS. For that reason, this text will talk about solely desktop reference managers out there on macOS. When you’re glad together with your internet based mostly one otherwise you’re operating Home windows/Linux, this submit will not be for you and deep down I envy you!
4 years in the past, once I bought a placement as a analysis assistant in a analysis lab, I used to be launched to the idea of reference managers. On the time, having had no expertise in any way with this sort of software program, I simply adopted what the pinnacle of analysis advisable: Papers 3.
Papers at the time was a great piece of software. Even though it was not free (If I remember correctly, I paid £30, taking advantage of an educational discount) it had everything I needed. It was a sleek macOS-style app that worked seamlessly with Word. With a double tap of the [ctrl] key, I was able to call the Papers 3 assistant, type the name of the paper I wanted and place a properly formatted in-text reference. Once I was done with the document, I would compile it and Papers 3 would magically generate a bibliography at the end of the file.
It was simply good.
Everybody–particularly Nelly Furtado–is aware of that all good things come to an end. With the advent of the Readcube Papers App, a newly updated version of the same app that shifted to a subscription-based model, Papers 3 was slowly forgotten and was quickly sunset. The lack of maintenance lead to bugs that made the software unusable. In the last weeks of use, underlining a paper would always cause it to scroll back to the beginning of the article. Papers was not serving me well anymore and I had to abandon it.
Not prepared–and economically unable–to maneuver to a subscription-based mannequin for a reference supervisor software program, I began searching for free options. To be utterly sincere, I don’t bear in mind how I stumbled upon Mendeley, however that was the reference supervisor I selected to maneuver to subsequent.
Mendeley was by no means enjoyable to make use of. Whereas Papers lured me in with a modern app and failed me over time, Mendeley’s enchantment was primarily its freeware standing. The interface was dangerous, the decision was horrible on retina shows, the bugs have been pervasive and it was not nice to make use of.
But it surely did the job.
At the moment, 2 years in the past, I had simply began utilizing LaTeX an increasing number of usually. The power of Mendeley to output a bibtex file and always replace it with out being prompted was one of many area of interest robust factors of Mendeley, and the one which bought me to keep it up.
Unfortunately, this period didn’t last very long at all. Mendeley’s bugs kept getting in the way of my work: UI scaling badly when searching through the library, random crashes on a daily basis, highlighting issues, metadata issues. But nothing disturbed me majorly, so I powered through.
It was with the Elsevier scandal that I knew the time to alter had come. This scandal made me critically rethink Mendeley as a instrument combating in opposition to the idea of open analysis. Apparently sufficient, in the identical time frame, two colleagues of mine had main points with their PhD submission on account of Mendeley screwing up their references on the final minute.
That was the second once I knew that I needed to transfer away from Mendeley.
The Remaining Transfer
In that moment, I had just started writing my PhD dissertation, and I was in desperate need of a reliable reference manager. I was determined to spend money again to get a reliable software, but I was not willing to spend it on something that would have been sunset anytime soon. This time, I had to do some research. The alternatives were:
- EndNote — Academia’s favorite. Costly however famend and thought of a normal.
- Bookends — The area of interest various. A throwback to Papers 3.
- ReadCube — The corporate that purchased Papers.
- Zotero — The actual Mendeley various.
Whereas ReadCube’s internet app appeared modern sufficient to make me wish to strive the desktop model and make investments some cash, the desktop app had seemingly been in beta for the previous century. The corporate had been silent on social medias for months, and the net help wasn’t of a lot assist. As a result of I wanted a reference supervisor, and I wanted it quick, ReadCube was dropped instantly as a attainable various.
After ReadCube, I went straight to EndNote. I used to be prepared to pay a premium to get a dependable software program, however after a fast trial model of EndNote X9, I used to be confronted with an entire bunch of issues.
First and foremost: an amazingly unintuitive interface. Menus in menus hidden within menus. An overall bad UI, amazing features hidden instead of being highlighted: needless to say, I was not impressed.
Nevertheless, I powered via. I contacted the client care a number of instances to have some options defined, I setup the atmosphere to tailor my private wants and I used to be prepared to present it a correct strive.
Ding ding ding — EndNote needs to replace!
Feeling robust about my newly set atmosphere and enthusiastic about new options, I made a decision to replace my trial model of EndNote. All the things broke. All of the LaTeX options that I wanted from EndNote weren’t working anymore: bibtex customisation — not working, menu objects — not working, bib file key enhancing — damaged.
Googling didn’t help either. Turns out, EndNote hadn’t been treating its customers very well. Since version X7, the customers felt that with every update the software became more and more buggy. Moreover, the 32bit nature of the app and the inability of the company to make it 64bit compatible was a looming prediction of future problems. I couldn’t spend £100 on a software that was trailing on the edge of being obsolete.
Replace: on the twelfth of November 2019 Clarivate, the corporate behind Endnote, determined to launch a 64-bit model of Endnote to allow macOS customers to run their software program on the most recent macOS Catalina. For sure, however releasing a 64-bit model of the software program 1 month after the official abandonment of 32-bit apps from Apple doesn’t scream confidence and up-to-date software program.
Bookends was one guess that I used to be not prepared to make.
Not free, but low-price, I saw Bookends as an ‘independent’ alternative. The app was… ok. The menu system was cluttered and at times incomprehensibly complex, but nothing I couldn’t have learned with a bit of practice.
The actual drawback with Bookends was that I used to be not prepared to pay for an app that was not recognised within the area. I had no assurance that the app would have stored updating via the latest OS variations, and that it will have listened to clients when it got here to bugs, fixes and options. Whereas Bookends appeared like a good suggestion, I used to be simply not prepared to spend the cash on it.
I discarded Zotero from the start as a result of I had this bizarre concept in thoughts that if Mendeley failed me, so would have Zotero. Each being free, there was no probability that Zotero was higher.
However Zotero is higher.
Initially, it’s actually open. Open supply, open analysis; open. It is rather customisable: the flexibility so as to add plugins makes it superior for individuals who wish to tailor the reference supervisor to their very own wants. It outsources what it doesn’t wish to do: and that’s an excellent factor! Zotero doesn’t care about coping with your pdfs and how you can view them, it enables you to use no matter viewer you need, outsourcing attainable issues and bugs.
Zotero does ONLY reference administration and output and it does it properly!
The open supply nature of Zotero offers me hope: I belief neighborhood pushed tasks, and I belief the openness of Zotero. The power to develop and set up plugins makes it a extremely highly effective instrument, and with the Higher BibTex addition it turns into a useful asset for LaTeX paperwork.
I feel I’ve discovered an excellent reference supervisor, and it has been in entrance of me all alongside.