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  • Updated.jpg 16 May 2016


See also Altmetrics | Diigo | EndNote Web | Papers 3 for Mac or Windows | Research Portal for Academic Librarians | Utopia Documents | Zotero vs. Mendeley | Zotero

Mendeley is a free web-based reference management tool for researchers who need a tool to organize papers and access them via the web (see Mendeley help guides). Mendeley ( bills itself as "a free reference manager and academic social network. Make your own fully-searchable library in seconds, cite as you write, and read and annotate your PDFs on any device.." In addition to a "web" version, the desktop app lives on your computer after downloading. Sync both versions to access PDFs stored on your desktop or via the Internet "web/cloud" based version. Elsevier purchased Mendeley for $100 million dollars, which raised concerns about its future. Currently Mendeley allows free storage to 1GB but additional space can be purchased as needed. Mendeley combines citation tracking with social networking and sharing functionalities. It provides a way for researchers to highlight scholarship, and is regarded as a competitor to Zotero. Thelwall et al (2015) published a paper entitled Mendeley readership counts: an investigation of temporal and disciplinary differences which confirmed the value of Mendeley reader counts as early impact indicators. Mendeley maintains a research blog.

For some comparisons with similar tools, see Martin A, et al. The role of ego in academic profile services: Comparing Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Mendeley, and ResearcherID. LSE Blog, March 2016.

Mendeley Data, 2016

  • is an open-access research-data repository that is free to users and free to submitters, and it will even mint DOIs for deposited datasets

Mendeley "at a glance"

  • Mendeley is a free, multiplatform (desktop and web) social bibliography tool to manage collections, find links (citations, authors, ideas) among papers and setup social networks
  • Mendeley Desktop, based on Qt, runs on Windows, Mac and Linux; extraction of metadata from PDF papers when transferring pdfs into Mendeley
  • Extraction via powerful "metadata scanner" pulls author, title and journal name
  • pdfs can be annotated and text highlighted with "sticky notes"; iPhone/iPad app integration Back-up and synchronization across multiple computers and with a private online account.
  • full-text searching across papers; compatible with Microsoft Word, but with plug-in
  • Interdisciplinary and works for physics to humanities; academic librarians who promote and provide technical support for citation management programs should be aware of the strengths and potential problems that users will face in using Mendeley
  • Mendeley: from papers to productivity in seconds
  • Mendeley Guides


Mendeley secured funding in 2007 to build the " for research". Mendeley Desktop was created to organize researchers' work locally on a freely-downloaded client, called a "cross-platform desktop application". It extracted metadata, full-text and cited references from papers. Information could be synchronized with Mendeley Web, allowing access to your own Mendeley library from any computer. Similar to other reference management tools, Mendeley eliminated data input and enabled researchers to manage, tag, search, annotate, cite and share papers with others. Its social features were not found on other tools and included word clouds, trending topics, most-cited authors, and embeddable document collections. The Mendeley Research Library displays authors, journals and tags and includes quality rating metrics and recommendation mechanisms.


  • free, downloadable desktop client (even though a private company, Mendeley is in development and currently free of charge)
  • Mendeley is planning a premium subscriber feature
  • web-based component called Mendeley Web; allows syncing so you can access your pdf library from any computer
  • social networking tools within tool to connect to researchers
  • extensive list of citation styles
  • uses Citation Style Language (CSL) standard -- an open XML standard to format citations and bibliographies
  • automatic extraction of metadata from PDF
  • back-up possible across multiple computers
  • digital document viewer has sticky note functions, text highlighting and full-screen reading
  • full-text searching across papers
  • smart filtering, tagging and file renaming
  • citation formatting and bibliography generation for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice
  • imports documents and papers from external websites (e.g. PubMed, Google Scholar, Arxiv, etc.) via browser bookmark
  • extracts metadata (author, title, publication info, etc.) and creates a bibliographic record for each paper in your Mendeley library
  • document discovery enabled by search of Mendeley Research Library
  • programmatic access to research trend data is available via API
  • ~100 million documents and a million members according to counter on main page
  • crowdsourced research database with a unique layer of social information for users
  • leverage information generated such as trends in research so users can discover where fields are heading, and how individual interests are changing over time
  • as users share papers or load their bibliographies, Mendeley will show papers they may have missed
  • Mendeley continues to innovate; tags allow users to find related material faster
  • Supports the open source CSL (Citation Style Language) standard
  • freedom of information integrated with social networking tools and analytics; a valuable research tool for the new information age
  • Embeddable publication lists

Mendeley vis a vis Zotero

  • Mendeley grabs citation information from pdfs via Desktop client and citation information from webpages via browser bookmarklet, whereas Zotero grabs citation information from webpages and, where possible, XMP-based metadata from PDFs
  • online pdf viewer and other cool features that will make managing papers simpler
  • The sharing and collaboration features on Mendeley are superior to Zotero
  • there are notable differences in development philosophies
  • Zotero is ‘open source’ (developers share code, so many people can contribute) whereas Mendeley contains some proprietary code
  • Mendeley is still in beta so developers are constantly improving it
  • In Mendeley, create collections and even a second level of collection (sub collection) on the desktop, but see disadvantages
  • Store collections and their citations in a web/cloud so you can access them wherever you are on earth (but remember the last and first thing you do when opening up Mendeley is to synchronize with the web)
  • Share with other people even those not registered (though once invited they have to join to see citations)
  • Importing happens on the spot (without tedious procedure of saving into text files and using filters the way EndNote requires) and individual citations are placed in a collection (for serial importing, there are some disadvantages)
  • Occasionally (don't ask for percentage) if PDF is available (ex: Pubmedcentral) it will be picked up by importing
  • Citations can be exported to EndNote and Zotero (though a bit more difficult because RIS format does not match Zotero "stencil")
  • Synchronizing Mendeley (web /desktop) synchronizes citations and collections
  • Downloading Mendeley does not require administrative rights; cite while you write (requires word plugin)
  • Some disadvantages include: impossible to create your own bibliographic style
  • Plugins for Word and web importer are not easy to install and can evaporate easily
  • Check imported citations as mistakes happen even when importing from PubMed
  • Not compatible with Ovid and Cinahl; citations are tagged generically so some information is missing and citations can't be filed in particular collections
  • Not possible to create second level of collection (or sub-collection) on Mendeley web
  • When importing several citations, individually select citation for authorization
  • You need both Mendeley web and Mendeley desktop to be able to cite while you write
  • Storage 1GB of free online storage, not limitless; seems to be plenty of space

Similar tools

  • – collaboration platform designed for researchers in science, technical and medical areas
  • Papers: your personal library of research 4-star.gif
  • ScrapBook – similar capture features to Zotero but no bibliographic functions
  • Zotero – free easy-to-use Firefox extension to help manage and cite sources
  • Cite-U-Like – Social Bookmarking service for academic literature
  • WizFolio – online research collaboration tool for knowledge discovery

See also Bibliographic citation software


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