Citation Managers

What is a citation manager?

Citation managers (sometimes called reference managers) are tools that allow you to:

  • Import citations from databases and Find It! as you research
  • Save and organize citations
  • Attach pdfs of articles and chapters, when available
  • Create bibliographies in a variety of formats
  • Insert footnotes and parenthetical citations as you write
  • Collaborate with others using shared folders

Which tool is right for me?

There are many factors involved in choosing a citation manager. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What are your colleagues, peers, labmates, advisors using?
  • Is there a preferred or dominant citation manager in your field of study?
  • Are you always working where there is reliable Internet access, or do you need a manager that you can sometimes access off-line?

Binghamton University Libraries provide support for the following citation managers:

  • Zotero is a free, open-source citation manager that can be used online or through the desktop program. Zotero has a robust user community and tends to be more popular in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Mendeley is a free, web-based citation manager that can be used online or through the desktop program. Mendeley tends to be more popular in the sciences.
  • EndNote Basic is a free, simplified version of EndNote that is only available online.

For a more detailed comparison of these tools, see the table below.

Detailed Comparison of Tools

  Zotero Mendeley EndNote Basic
Tech Requirements & Storage
Cost Free; option to pay for additional cloud storage Free; option to pay for additional cloud storage or additional private groups Free
Online access (web platform) Yes Yes Yes
Offline access (desktop program) Yes Yes No
Mobile app 3rd party iOS and Android apps iOS app and Android apps No
Cloud storage 300MB cloud storage 2GB cloud storage 2GB cloud storage
Maximum number of records Unlimited records Unlimited records 50,000 records
Attachment limits No limit on attachments per citation; no limit on file size No limit on attachments per citation; Attachment file size limited to 250MB No limit on attachments per citation; no limit on file size
Import & Export
Transfer data between citation managers Yes Yes Yes
Direct export from databases Yes, via web translators Yes, via web importer Yes, via Capture Reference importer
Direct search of databases No Can search the Mendeley database (papers in the libraries of other users) Limited
Retrieve citation information from PDF Yes (uses DOI or other extracted information from PDF; matches in Google Scholar) Yes (PDF text analyzed for information, DOI, Arxiv, PubMed, Crossref ids, and Mendeley database all used to check citations No
Citations
Creates formatted bibliographies and in-text citations in a word processor Yes Yes Yes
Edit or create citation styles Yes (via Citation Style Editor) Yes (via Mendeley CSL) No
Number of reference types 38 pre-defined 20 pre-defined 51 pre-defined
Organize & Edit
Global find/replace editing No No Yes
Duplicate detection Yes Yes Yes
Auto-complete data entry Yes for author(s), journal title, tags Yes for journal title, tags, keywords No
Journal abbreviation lists Version 4.0 and later can automatically abbreviate journal titles in Index Medicus/MEDLINE format Abbreviations based on citation style selected; can be edited None
Sort by Any field Any field Author, title, year, and more
Field search Yes (by any field) Yes (by author, title, publication names, year, notes) No (searches entire record only)
Full-text PDF search Yes Yes No
Annotate PDFs No, but will sync PDFs annotated with 3rd party software Yes No
Add notes to references Yes (notes can stand alone or be attached to references) Yes (via “notes” tab in desktop version) Yes (in “notes” field)
Sharing
Collaboration Create public and private groups; automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers Create public and private groups; automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers; one private group of 3 members free (costs for private groups)

Share with other EndNote users (cannot share file attachments); create shared groups that all users can edit

Read-only sharing Yes (via member settings within groups) Yes (by “follow” option through web interface) Yes (in sharing options)

Adapted from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries' comparison chart.