There is no one citation management software that is objectively "better" than another, when considering the major players. All of the citation managers listed here share the same basic functionality: storing bibliographic information, generating citations, integrating with web browsers and word processing software, and allowing for collaborations / group projects.
You will need to choose the option that makes the most sense for you. If you are collaborating with others and they are already using a citation management program, it would be a good choice to use the same system.
The Library supports EndNote Basic (formerly called EndNote Web), Mendeley, and Zotero.
Compare your options: Here's a good, if somewhat outdated, list that compares EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero, done by librarians at Penn State Library.
- It's no longer true that when you graduate and leave an institution, you will lose your EndNote Basic account. You will still have access to your account and be able to use it! So, that's no longer a reason to choose Mendeley or Zotero instead.
- Zotero no longer exists primarily as a Firefox add-on. As of version 5.0, Zotero is primarily a standalone, desktop application that connects well with all major browsers.
Regardless of what you choose, don't expect the software to be perfect. You will almost certainly need to clean up various citations or do some tweaking at some point.
Of these two, EndNote has the greatest functionality (probably more than most researchers would ever need to use) but you have to buy the software.
EndNote Basic is cloud-based and totally free online. Due to your ISU affiliation, you will have access to many citation styles and tons of storage - again, more than most researchers would ever need. You can also share references with collaborators. If you have both, you can sync them together. However, there is no need to have / use both - they are independent of each other.
If you frequently use Web of Science, consider using EndNote or EndNote Basic. Since Web of Science and EndNote are owned by the same company, they integrate seamlessly.
We hold workshops for EndNote Web each semester.
Mendeley also has both a desktop version and a cloud-based version. Unlike EndNote, Mendeley's desktop version is free and must be downloaded onto your computer. The cloud-based version of Mendeley is also free.
Mendeley's desktop version has the greater functionality, while its cloud-based version provides some social network features. You can sync your records also. Unlike EndNote, there is a greater need to use both Mendeley's desktop version and its cloud-based version together.
For many people, a major pro of using Mendeley is that you can drag and drop all those PDFs you've been saving into the desktop version, and it'll do its best to pull out metadata and turn those PDFs into usable citations. (Note: you will probably have to do at least some cleanup, but it's often better than tracking all the articles down again to use the web plugin or trying to add dozens or hundreds of citations manually.) It also lets you annotate and highlight the PDFs right from Mendeley.
If you are an ardent collector of PDFs, or if you want to use your citation manager to track down papers related to your research, consider using Mendeley.
We hold workshops for Mendeley each semester.
Unlike Mendeley and EndNote, Zotero is an open-source citation management program. Zotero exists as a desktop application, which connects seamlessly with Word, and a "connector" for each of the major browsers that allows you to gather citation information from the web. Zotero also does a fairly good job of pulling metadata (citation information) out of PDFs for you, however, you will have to install an additional plugin to do this.
Zotero integrates very well into the most commonly used browsers for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It can collect better, more complete citations than the other options in some cases, especially from web resources. Like EndNote Basic and Mendeley, it can be seamlessly integrated into Word and other word processing programs such as LibreOffice. Library support for Zotero has historically been pretty limited, but that has changed!
If you are interested in open source alternatives to the mainstream citation management programs, consider using Zotero.
We hold workshops for Zotero each semester.