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Some Alternatives to Endnote and CiteULike

At the beginning of this week I posted a question about alternatives to Endnote and other bibliographic tools on the Association of Internet Researchers list, as well as on my blog. There response from my peers has been very strong, with a number of options emerging. As a reminder, what I was especially keen on were tools which would allow me to store multiple quotations against a single source - something Endnote isn't very good at at all. Some people did suggest adding quotes into a customised notes field within Endnote, but I don't feel that this is a very effective solution; someone also suggested storing references and quotations simply in a Word document, which is in fact what I did with the research for my book Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production, but that's probably not a sustainable option in the long term - good tag, search and filter functionality would be very welcome. Another generic alternative would be to use a blog for storing references, but this means that you have to be connected to add new items, and (unless there's a conversion script available) also doesn't offer functionality for formatting references in different bibliographic styles.

So, here's a roundup of the tools which have been suggested, in no particular order but with some comments attached:

  • Jeremy Hunsinger runs the STS and Internet Research Reference System online reference tool; this builds on a Wikindx system. Looks very flexible and powerful, and allows for various forms of bibliography exporting as well as the direct writing of papers through the online environment. It also enables other users to browse one another bibliographies, which is a good idea from a philosphical point of view. Downsides right now may be that the interface isn't hugely intuitive yet (and requires a good deal of clicking in entering new references) - and of course as an online environment it relies on having access as you enter new references (I didn't see an option for importing references easily).
  • Elena Razlogova offers Scribe for PC and Mac. This stand-alone tool implements a system of interlinked reference cards (with separate cards for authors, references, and quotations) and has a nice user interface (very much Mac-based, and using Filemaker runtime libraries for the Windows version). Originally I had some problems with the Windows version - there are always some issues with unpacking Mac ZIP files on PCs - but I managed to fix them the second time around. It only does Chicago and MLA style at present, but Elena informs me that APA is coming soon, and enterprising users can also define their own output styles. Some remaining problems with exporting files still - it would be great to have some more user-friendly tools for defining export list formats, but what's there will certainly do for now - and there are a number of handy buttons for preparing references for pasting into the article body, footnotes, and reference lists.
  • Then there's also JabRef, a Java-based tool which builds on the BibTeX file format and therefore integrates particularly well with LaTeX. I must admit I didn't spend a great deal of time trying this - It didn't seem very easy to add quotations to bibliographic references (which really was the key point of this exercise), and entries for book, for example, didn't seem to offer a field for the place of publication. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough, though.
  • Joseph Reagle offers a tool for extracting bibliographies from FreeMind, an open source mindmapping tool. Nothing you'd want to try if you're allergic to command-line interfaces, from what I can tell so far - but FreeMind itself looks very much worth checking out!
  • Another suggested tool is Biblioscape - I didn't try this one as it's a commercial solution, but it does look very powerful; even comes in a librarian version which looks suitable for managing small research libraries.
  • Further, there's Reference Manager - looks like it could do exactly what I'd like it to do, but at US$300 it comes with a somewhat steep pricetag.
  • AskSam is another commercial option - might be overkill for my purposes, though, as it's a free-form database tool that can be used for organising emails and saved Webpages as much as for references and quotations. Looks very powerful, but as a more general tool it might not have some of the specific functionality which researchers would find useful (reference insertion into articles, etc.).
  • There are also a number of Mac-based tools which I couldn't check out:

Well, there you go - something for everyone... Me, I think I'll try both Jeremy's Wikindx tool and Elena's Scribe for a little longer, just to see which one offers the better workflow and output options for my purposes. Already, though, my thanks to anyone who responded to my inquiry!

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Hi Axel,

You have really come along way with your web log and it is one of the best that I have seen in the field of Media Studies. You are doing some good work up there are QUT. Thanks for your contributions to the online world and I will show your blog in class tomorrow in terms of 'online referencing' within an academic context.

I will think of some constuctive comments next time I visit.


Craig Bellamy

hi Axel,

I was following the AoIR bibliography software thread with some interest but i've been busy with other things and didn't think to respond until now.

there is a piece of open source software you might be interested in called "Bibus" [ ] which is available on a range of OS architectures (GNU/Linux, Windows, MacOS, and others). it has good integration with both openoffice and ms office, which is better than the basic bibliography feature in openoffice.

another bibliography program you may be interested in might be the "Pybibliographic" software, however this is for GNU/Linux only. This one is a little bit more raw in its use than most other programs i've seen for this kind of thing.

I hope that might be useful to you.


- adam m

So...... in the head-to-head challenge between wikindx and scribe, what's the result?

We also keep a shared bibliography. We use refbase to share references. It can import and export several formats.

DevonThink isn't a bibliographic manager, it's a database. Sente is another option on the Mac. BibDesk is another free Mac option