July 16, 2012

Guest Post by Karina Hilder: References on–the–go…

Karina Hilder is an Academic Support Officer in the Library at the University of Warwick. This guest post describes her thoughts on using Mendeley and EndNote Web on mobile devices.

After a comparison of reference management tools Mendeley (free) and EndNote Web (free to University of Warwick researchers) I posted here a few months back, I thought I’d follow up with a few thoughts on using both on mobile devices.

Mendeley have made it quite explicit on their blog that they won’t be developing any Android apps themselves, and you only have to read a few comments to see that this has not been well received by Mendeley users. However, several third party apps have been developed to allow you access to your Mendeley records, the best of which I’ve found to be Scholarley. The set up was startlingly easy in comparison with Referey; simply download and login and Scholarley quickly syncs with your Mendeley account to bring article details and attached Pdfs onto your android device.

Mendeley have developed their own app for the iPad; Mendeley Lite. This works in a very similar way to Scholarley, with the added bonus of being able to search your references rather than just sorting and browsing them. Mendeley Lite also allows to view your favourites or recently added documents, and you can manually add references to your library.

Unfortunately, neither app brings across comments or highlights you’ve made on your papers in the desktop version of Mendeley. I can’t seem make new annotations either, but you do have the option of opening the Pdf with a different app on your device, so you could potentially access more functionality this way.

EndNote Web doesn’t have an Android or iOS (iPhone operating system) app, but of course being the web-based version of EndNote, you can access your references as usual from www.myendnoteweb.com on any device with an internet browser; everything functions as you’d normally expect apart from importing reference data which you may have downloaded from a database. The mobile version of its website also displays fine on tablets and mobiles. This allows you to search and view your records, and of course if you have a stable link in the URL field, you can follow this through to view journal articles etc. in your browser, or potentially open a Full Text Pdf in another app if preferred.

Another research tool, Zotero has an Android app called Zotero Scanner. I didn’t download this as it wasn’t free (only £1.26 mind), but it allows you to scan the barcode on books to harvest its bibliographic information from Worldcat and send it to a Zotero reference library. I’m not sure how often I’d use this, as if I’ve got the books from my library, then presumably I’ve already visited the library catalogue and could have collected the bibliographic data from there. Then again, if you happen to spot another relevant book when you’re at the shelves, scanning it in to your reference library then and there could certainly be a big time saver.

I think the potential impact of these apps will depend on the way you use your reference library. Personally, I don’t use mine to manage my reading and papers; I use it because of the work it takes out of formatting in text citations and reference lists in Word, and if I plan on doing this on the go, I’ll definitely be taking my laptop with me. I think that’s why I’ve always stuck with EndNote Web. However, if you do use Mendeley for this reason, these apps may be an excellent way of keeping your Pdf library synced across your devices for easy access at all times. That said, if you’re interested more in Pdf reader functionality, you might be better off investing in a more capable app such as Papers (£10.49 – only on iOS), allowing you to sync your library across your devices and to annotate and highlight Pdfs. Of course, if you’re willing to pay out for your software, there’s a range of other possibilities you might want to look into including Sente (Mac and iOS). I’m sticking to free software here, but if you are interested, this blog post comparing Sente and Papers might be a good place to start.

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