Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley

Oh my days, how did I ever get through 4 years of full-time academic study without reference management software? I actually typed out each reference, one by one, from my handwritten notes? Madness!

This has been the most eye-opening Thing on CPD23 so far, by miles. I’ve been aware of Mendeley for the past two years at least, but never really got around to it because I was quite happy working in my own, old-fashioned way. It has taken this 23 things programme to force me to try out these programs, and I am so happy that it’s happened; this knowledge will be invaluable for helping organise my own work, AND I can now help library users in a new way.

I tried out Mendeley and Zotero very recently, and must say that they are both excellent, offering different advantages and disadvantages.

The new Zotero supports Chrome as well as Firefox, and it’s much more efficient at clipping websites. I also found it easier to use when importing references from databases like Jstor, and the Word plug-in was slightly easier to use.

While Zotero is quite clearly just a file management system, Mendeley offers more functionality. For one, I quite liked how PDFs could be opened in the program itself, meaning that there is less flipping between windows; notes and bits of text can also be highlighted in this way. I wish annotations were fully searchable, though.

In terms of importing and organising documents, I am super impressed by how clever Mendeley is. I like the ‘watched folder’ function, which automatically adds new files in a particular folder to the Mendeley database. It also automatically organises PDFs into folders, and obtains metadata more efficiently than Zotero does (I had to click ‘obtain metadata’ on each PDF in Zotero… there may be an easier way to do it, but I haven’t worked it out, and it’s not super intuitive).

I guess overall Mendeley wins, for me, because there are many more options; this flexibility means that users will be able to adjust the program to suit their own personal working habits and research needs.

The best thing about both pieces of software is that they are COMPLETELY FREE. This is just wonderful. I can’t wait to use one or the other on my future MA in Librarianship!