|Arrrgh! | Pirates by Joriel "Joz" Jimenez on Flickr|
Reference management tools was possibly the topic I was looking forward to most in Cam23. Not only because I'm the sort of boring person who thinks that bibliographies are fun, but also because I've recently agreed to compile lists of recent publications of interest for a quarterly academic journal. This new responsibility has forced me to realise that now is probably the time to embrace technology and to reject lovingly hand-written references. Without Cam23 to spur me on, I'd probably still not have made the switch, so thanks you to the team.
But nothing is simple, is it? I'm a make-do-and-mend sort of girl at heart, and my computing resources are a tad limited. No laptop. No smart phone. At home - one six-(and-a-bit-)year-old PC running Windows and Office 2000; one communal linux-running box that I don't much understand. Elsewhere - modern, fast PC at work, but no admin rights so ability to download and add-on somewhat hit and miss; my chap's moderately modern laptop; UL Digital Resources Area computers, which don't have Firefox, and on which customisation almost prohibitively restricted (no bookmarks toolbars, even, so far as I can see).
So I need a pretty specific set of functions in an ideal reference management programme:
- database of references should be storable and accessible online, to allow for working from multiple machines.
- should work with windows and linux, IE and Firefox, and Very Old Word.
- must be able to export in MHRA style.
- should be able to deal with obscure journals and references, even if only by manual addition of citations.
- That's pretty much it. Can't be too hard, can it?
And here, as they say, are the results:
|1. database storable and accessible online||Yes, but 'Mendeley desktop' required to create citations (desktop can be synched with web).||Yes, but citations generated from within Firefox plugin (library on individual machines can be synched with web).|
|2.1 windows and linux||OK, so I've not tried either on linux:||I might be brave, but I'm not stupid.|
|2.2 IE and Firefox||Yes. 'Import to Mendeley' bookmarklet saves to bookmarks/favourites either menu or toolbar, 'in every browser'.||No. Firefox add-on only.|
|2.3 Very Old Word||No, plugin only compatabile with Word 2003 and 2007. There is option to copy a citation to the clipboard (and then paste it wherever you like), but I can't work out how to change the style of this citation. Help documentation only refers to changing style from within the Word pluigin.||Not necessary. Can create bibliographies of multiple citations in any available style in RTF and other formats (including copied to clipboard) directly from browser.|
|3. MHRA style||Technically, yes. Practically, not that I can figure out (see 2.3).||Yes.|
|4. obscure references||Smaller range of recognised websites than Zotero. Manual entry available online and on desktop .||Larger range of recognised websites than Mendeley. Manual entry only possible from add-on, not online.|
It would seem that in an ideal world, Zotero would be the tool of choice for my particular need. The Firefox add-on was pretty painless to install, Zotero seems to extract information from more websites that Mendeley (so far as I could see), and it will actuall produce the bibliography I want on my own computer at home.
But, I can't use it from the UL. This is a big sticking point (and I'll be emailing the UL shortly to find out why no Firefox in the DRA). It looks like I shall have to keep two accounts - Mendeley for the UL and anywhere else without Firefox, or where I can't install the Zotero add-on, and then Zotero at home for actually compliling bibliographies. Importing and exporting articles between Mendeley and Zotero in .ris format has worked well enough in my trails so far. This isn't an ideal solution, but might be better than writing all down (or cutting and pasting) by hand, if only for the auto-formatting.
If you're reading this, and you know more about these tools than I do, and you've noticed any errors in what I've written, I'd really love to hear from you. I'm planning to go to Monday's drop in around lunchtime, or you can just post a comment below.