Good Reference Manager

What makes good Reference Manager?

It should provide at least three important features:

  1. Seamless Import
  2. Intuitive Organization
  3. Precise Export

Important are the end-user ergonomics, which can be independent of the platform. A laggy webapplication or desktop application can adversely affect your research productivity.

Seamless Import

It should be very easy to add research articles to the reference manager. Direct PDF import is a must-feature. After the import all relevant metadata such as title, author and journal should be extracted automatically by the reference manager. A useful feature is import via a webbrowser. This can be useful if one is looking at a research article directly on the website of the publisher. Then using a bookmarklet or browser extension the import into the reference manager should take no more than a few clicks.

Intuitive Organization

A good reference manager provides an intuitive user interface to organize the collected research articles according to projects o topics. Often a hierarchical organization is useful. Manually editing of the metadata of a research article is a common task. There should be an easy and uncluttered interface to correct the occasional mistakes from the automatic PDF import.

Precise Export

Importing and organizing a collection of research articles is only half of the work. When writing a research paper, easy access to the used references is imperative. For this a good reference manager should provide easy and auto updating export into BibTex or a Word plugin.

Which Reference Manager is the best?

Many reference managers provide the core functionality as outlined above. You can find a detailed review for some of the most popular reference managers here.