Which Citation Tool Should I use?

All three types of software to be considered here - EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero - are great ways of saving references and PDFs, organizing them and generating bibliographies, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. (RefWorks is not discussed because Columbia will eventually cease subscribing to RefWorks. Additional workshops will be offered to help RefWorks users migrate their data to another program.)

EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero can all be used on your desktop, without an Internet connection, if necessary, and they all have an online version that can be synced with the desktop version.  You can transfer citations between EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero.  However, the more you become accustomed to a certain citation manager, and the more file attachments you collect, the more cumbersome it is to make a switch.  Here are some points to think about before deciding which one to use. 

Reasons to choose EndNote:

  • If you work extensively with Web of Science databases or PubMed, EndNote is probably the best tool, since it is made by Thomson Reuters which also makes Web of Science and is optimized to work with it.  It also works very well with PubMed.
  • If you need access to many different citation styles, EndNote provides the greatest number (more than 5,000).
  • It’s easier to edit existing citation styles or create your own in EndNote.
  • If you don’t want to use Firefox as your browser, it might be better to use EndNote or Mendeley, because Zotero works best as a Firefox extension.
  • If you work on large research projects and need to download thousands of citations, EndNote is probably the best tool.
  • EndNote offers sophisticated, flexible tools for organizing your citations and for creating bibliographies, using a combination of different fields to search.  Mendeley and Zotero do not enable such complex searches of your citation library.
  • If your colleagues want to share EndNote libraries with you, it would be easier to use the same citation manager, but not essential.
  • Use EndNote if you don’t mind paying for your EndNote account and upgrades after you graduate and can no longer access the University’s subscription (but you'll still be able to use the desktop program on your computer without a subscription).

Reasons to choose Mendeley:

  • It’s free and open source, and has a large user group, user forums and a developer community. If you want to continue to use a citation manager after graduation, when you’ll no longer have access to the university’s EndNote subscription, Mendeley and Zotero are free to use (although there is a possibility that Mendeley will be acquired by Elsevier, and may not continue to be free).
  • If you have a huge number of PDF files in your computer that you want to import into a citation manager, Mendeley works the most smoothly for this purpose.
  • If you want to save citations of web pages, Mendeley and Zotero allow you to capture a screenshot of the page as well as other data about the page.
  • If you don’t want to use Firefox as your browser, it might be better to use EndNote or Mendeley, because Zotero works best as a Firefox extension.
  • The Mendeley web interface is probably the most intuitive, out of the three citation managers.
  • Mendeley was created as a collaborative tool and has more social media features than the other two tools.  Mendeley is probably the best choice if you want to share your research with a network of people, find out what citations other people are compiling in their libraries, or search Mendeley’s crowd-sourced research catalog with millions of papers.

Reasons to choose Zotero:

  • It’s free and open source, and has a large user group, user forums and a developer community. If you want to continue to use a citation manager after graduation, when you’ll no longer have access to the university’s EndNote subscription, Zotero and Mendeley are free to use (although there is a possibility that Mendeley will be acquired by Elsevier, and may not continue to be free).
  • Zotero is probably the easiest to download and learn.
  • If you want to archive web pages, Zotero and Mendeley allow you to capture a screenshot of the page as well as other data about the page.
  • Syncing your citations to your online Zotero account is easier and works more smoothly than syncing EndNote Desktop with EndNote Web.
  • Zotero's single-click capture works with more databases, catalogs, and websites than Mendeley's Web Importer.
  • With Zotero, you can import citations from sites such as Amazon and Flickr.
  • Zotero offers the best interface for both tagging and writing notes to accompany your citations.

Feature Comparison Chart

Features

EndNote

Mendeley

Zotero

Documentation and help

Barnard Library
Guide to EndNote
;

EndNote Tutorials; EndNote Tech Support

Barnard Library
Guide to Mendeley
;

Mendeley Getting Started Guide

Barnard Library
Guide to Zotero;


Zotero Quick Start Guide

Type of software

Desktop client; also has web interface.

Web interface; also available as Mendeley Desktop, which can sync with online account.

Firefox extension (IE, Chrome and Safari can be used with Zotero Standalone). Can sync with online account, but web library not editable.

Cost

Free to Barnard/Columbia affiliates via Columbia subscription.

Free to all users (there are costs for upgraded storage).

Free to all users; open source (there are costs for upgraded storage).

Storage/maximum number of records

100,000 max. records, 5GB for attachments on EndNote Web.

Unlimited on desktop (size restricted by local storage capacity); 1 GB free web space.

Unlimited on desktop (size restricted by local storage capacity); 300 MB free web storage.

How to get the software

Download desktop version from CUIT EndNote download page.  Sign up for an EndNote Web account at myendnoteweb.com.

Sign up for an account and download the desktop version at mendeley.com.

Sign up for an account and download the Firefox extension or Standalone version at zotero.org.

Can be used on both PC and Mac?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mobile app?

Yes; iOS only

Yes (see mendeley.com/#mobile)
iOS; Android (beta)

Yes (see zotero.org/support/mobile)
iOS, Android

Updates

User must download and install updates.

Updated on the Mendeley server.

Firefox checks by default for updates of extensions, including Zotero.

Export data to and from other citation management programs?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Direct export from databases?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Duplicate detection?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Extracts metadata from PDFs to create citations?

Yes; queries DOI and PubMed database for matches.

Yes; queries PubMed database for matches.

Yes; queries Google Scholar database for matches.

Creates in-text citations, footnotes and bibliographies in word processor?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Number of citation styles

EndNote initially installs about 500 output styles, although more than 5,000 are available here.

Mendeley comes with 12 of the most popular styles, but allows easy download of other styles.

Zotero comes with 18 of the most popular styles, but more can be downloaded here.

Can the user edit or create citation styles?

Yes

Yes (using CSL Editor).

Yes (see tutorial)

Create bibliographies from citation library using a variety of data fields?

Yes. You can search your library by combining multiple criteria, and generate a bibliography from the results.

More limited functionality for searching the citations library, as compared with EndNote and Mendeley.

You can search through your citations (only on the web version) using Publication, Author or Keywords/Tags.

Collaboration with other researchers

Traveling Library within a word processor document. To share a library, save as compressed file with data subfolder.

Create public and private groups. Automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers. One private group of 3 members is free; see costs for private groups.

Create public and private groups. Automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers.

Screen capture of web pages?

No

Yes

Yes

Spell check?

Yes

No

No

RSS feeds?

No

No

Yes