Reference Management Software

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Choosing Reference Management Software

Handwitten text on a green background: What citation manager should I choose?! A decision tree for busy folksThe University of Alberta Library does not recommend or endorse any particular product, but we have gathered information on some of the popular options suggested by many academic libraries. 

We have done our best to identify relevant features and concerns; however, software features change regularly, so if you find additional or conflicting information, feel free to email refworks@ualberta.ca and we will try to incorporate the information. 

You can also visit our blog posts on MendeleyZotero and EndNote to learn more about what they have to offer. 

 

  Endnote X9
 
Endnote basic Mendeley
ACCESS / COST COMPARISON        
Product/Vendor

EndNote X9 Desktop

(Clarivate)

EndNote Basic/Online

(Clarivate)

Mendeley

(Elsevier)

Zotero

(Open source)

Where to get it UAlberta IST OnTheHub EndNote Online Mendeley download Zotero download
Costs

$135 via UAlberta OnTheHub (one-time cost)

Free

Free up-front (cost to upgrade storage)

Free up-front (cost to upgrade storage)

Operating system
  • Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • ​​​​​macOS 10.10 or later
  • Windows 7 or later
  • ​​​​​macOS 
  • Linux
  • Windows 7 or later
  • ​​​​​macOS 10.11 or later, including Catalina and Big Sur 1 
  • Linux
  • Chromebook
Main access (web/cloud or desktop/laptop)

Mainly single desktop/laptop. Can sync to cloud through Endnote Online/Basic.

Web/cloud only

Desktop/laptop and web/cloud. Can sync with multiple computers.

Desktop/laptop and web/cloud. Can sync with multiple computers.

Mobile version (phone, tablet) Yes (iOS, not Android) Yes (iOS, not Android) No Yes (in beta, or 3rd party options)
Registration/account required? Only for cloud sync and collaborator sharing. Can use locally without an account. Yes Yes Only for cloud sync and collaborator sharing. Can use locally without an account.
Manuals, How-to, Tutorials, FAQ EndNote Training Resources EndNote Online Training Resources Mendeley Reference Manager Guide

Zotero Support

Support options

Email or phone

Community forum

Email or phone

Community forum

Email or chat DIY support only, via user forums
Accessibility ADA Compliance ADA Compliance Accessibility Accessibility forum posts
PROS / CONS EndNote X9 EndNote Basic Mendeley Zotero
Best features

Highly customizable

Best for managing large record sets (e.g. for a systematic review)

Very user friendly

Cloud based, so option to work away from main workstation

Very user friendly

Easy to add references

Great for frequent use and annotation of PDFs

Very user friendly 

Integrates with multiple word processors

Possible drawbacks

Costs $135

Steep learning curve

Importing references can be complicated, especially “non-traditional” references such as webpages 

Limited storage capacity 

Limited citation styles

Auto-merge of duplicate records can be challenging for use in synthesis review record-keeping

Difficulty importing accurate metadata for some types of sources

Limited free cloud-based storage

Highly dependent on one “home” workstation

Can be challenging to manage large number of records

Limited free cloud-based storage

REFERENCE MANAGEMENT FEATURES EndNote X9 EndNote Basic Mendeley Zotero
Storage (references and file attachments) Unlimited 50,000 references or 2GB Unlimited on local computer, 2GB in cloud (can pay to upgrade) Unlimited on local computer, 300MB in cloud (can pay to upgrade)
Reference import methods
  • Manual
  • RIS file
  • Direct from many databases
  • Manual
  • RIS file
  • Direct from many databases
  • Manual
  • RIS file
  • Direct from some Elsevier databases
  • PDF drag & drop
  • Identifier (e.g., DOI)
  • Manual
  • RIS file
  • PDF drag & drop
  • Identifier (e.g., DOI, ISBN)
Browser import

Capture Reference Tool

  • Chrome 
  • ​​​​​Firefox 
  • Safari

Capture Reference Tool

  • Chrome 
  • ​​​​​Firefox 
  • Safari

Mendeley Web Importer

  • Chrome 
  • ​​​​​Firefox 
  • Edge

 

Zotero Connector

  • Chrome 55 or later
  • ​​​​​Firefox 52 or later
  • Safari 10-12 (beta version available for Safari 13–14)
  • Edge
Duplicate record detection Yes Yes Yes

Yes

Customizable metadata fields Yes No, but can add notes No, but can use tags and add notes No, but can use tags and add notes
Search within own records  Simple and advanced Simple search only Simple and advanced Simple and advanced
Search external catalogues or databases Yes (7000+) Yes (5) Yes (Mendeley Web), details are unclear No
Annotate PDFs Yes No Yes In beta
Collaboration tools  Share full library Share folders Groups for sharing ideas and references. Private groups only. Share folders. All collaborators must have Zotero account.
Export records Yes, but doesn't transfer attachments Yes, but doesn't transfer attachments Yes, in desktop version, but doesn't transfer attachments Yes, but doesn't transfer attachments
CITATION GENERATION FEATURES EndNote X9 EndNote Basic Mendeley Zotero
Word processor integration (e.g. MS Word, Google Docs) 
  • Cite While You Write plugin for MS Word
  • LibreOffice (not Google Docs)
  • Cite While You Write plugin for MS Word (Optional)
  • LibreOffice (not Google Docs)
  • Mendeley Cite plugin for MS Word (Optional)
  • LibreOffice (not Google Docs)
  • Windows Word 2010-2019 or Office 365, excluding Word 2010 Starter Edition
  • Mac Word 2008–2019 or Office 365
  • LibreOffice 5.2 or later
  • Google Docs (automatically installed with Zotero Connector plugin)
Number of citation styles 7,000+ predefined Top 21 most commonly used styles 9000+ pre-defined 9000+ pre-defined
Custom style editing Yes No Yes Yes
DATA MINING FEATURES

EndNote X9

EndNote Basic

Mendeley

Zotero

Frequencies (e.g. most common author, journal, tags)       Export CSV to spreadsheet and use pivot tables
Export to spreadsheet       Yes, CSV
Other       Timelines feature

Other considerations not yet determined:

  • Security/privacy/personal data concerns
  • Business model: how does tool make money to support the product
  • Citation style specific issues
    • Chicago Footnote/Bibliography style (does it recognise different note vs bibliography format?)