Mendeley: Try It

Mendeley is pretty cool.

I’ve been using it for a week or so and it’s definitely integrated itself well without being obtrusive.

Some things I really like:

  • Cross-platform: OS  X, Linux, Windows
  • Drag-and-drop your PDFs and it figures out the metadata as best as it can.  If it gets something slightly off, you press a button and a Google scholar check usually fixes it all up
  • PDF viewing is quite speedy and natural for me with their tabbed interface
  • Notes, highlights, etc: syncs with the cloud and can be integrated with other users that you share your documents with
  • I find storing associated URLs to be a very handy feature (links to the web site, supplementary info, etc.)
  • Cleanly store your PDFs in a directory of your choice (e.g. I use Dropbox to view them on my iPad)

Requests (maybe I can request some of these?):

  • iPad app (supposedly on the way)*
  • Sometimes highlighting/selecting text isn’t as accurate and intuitive as it is in OS X’s Preview application, which does selection brilliantly
  • Parse PDFs for their citations and do *cool* things with this.  What can you tell me about papers I may be interested in by looking at the citation network of my collection?
  • If Mendeley is like iTunes for music, it would be nice to have a slick storefront to browse related papers of interest and import.

* Related posts

5 comments

  1. Bob · July 14, 2010

    I gave it a shot and imported 10 PDFs for a recent research paper I was writing.

    The score:
    4 had correct information as soon as I dragged them in.
    2 were recoverable by clicking “search by title”.
    2 imported with corrupted information, but I was able to delete them, use google to search for the citation, import the citation and then add the pdf to the citation manually.
    1 (a thesis) refused, under any circumstances, to import correctly. I added a new entry manually, entered the information by hand, and then added the pdf file to it.
    1 imported with corrupted information and did not flag itself as “needs review” (and thereby not allowing me to “search by title” or correct the information). I corrected the information manually, but later found that there were hidden inaccuracies in the bibtex citation that were not displayed in the interface (as a result of the corrupted import).

    Bibtex sync’ing is unusably bad. Correcting information manually can cause the program to create several different entries for the same document. Deleting files does not delete them from the bibtex library (and therefore deleting a pdf and re-importing it causes duplicate entries).

    PDF rendering for older PDFs (converted) is extremely slow, sometimes on the order of 20-30 seconds before the first page shows up.

    I have not found a situation where the “web importer” tool can actually import both a PDF and a correct citation from a website at the same time. Moreover, because it relies on just the content of the webpage (and not links from it), it does not capture PDFs that google finds through IEEE Explore, which account for a large fraction of the papers I’m interested in. I stopped using web import altogether because it is usually more accurate to google the citation and PDF independently and then stitch them together manually afterwards.

    Overall? I’m missing the only real feature I look for in a citation tool: hyper-linking (or searching) from the references section of a paper. Without that, this seems like a GUI interface to associating bibtex entries with PDF files. Given that it doesn’t do either bibtex bookkeeping or PDF rendering particularly well, I think I’ll stick to my primitive sharpened sticks and bone clubs (text files and directories of PDFs).

    P.S.- I am, however, jealous of your iPad. Reading papers on paper is *so* 2009…

  2. Geet · July 14, 2010

    Yup. My pre-Mendeley method was Google Scholar a paper and use its ‘Export to BibTex’ as a template for the citation I want (in the ‘Scholar Preferences’ section, you can tell it to allow a citation to be exported to BibTex). I haven’t tried the web importer or BibTex syncing yet — good to know that I probably shouldn’t.

    I totally agree about the hyperlinking/citation parsing. It seems like this ‘citation-hopping’ is core to literature reviews and would be a major feature. I was reading through the forum posts and apparently they had links to citations at one point (for papers they knew they could get decent citation info), but they removed it.

  3. Dr. Gunn · July 15, 2010

    Geet, Bob – The citation parsing is coming back. It was taken out because it created a lot of data overhead for a feature it didn’t seem like anyone used. As Mendeley adds capacity and scales up their operation, it will come back.

    Bob – I’m sorry to hear you had trouble with the Bibtex syncing. I’ve passed along your comments to support.

  4. Geet · July 15, 2010

    Hi Dr. Gunn,

    Thanks for addressing these thoughts and props for noticing them in the first place.

  5. Dr. Gunn · July 15, 2010

    Thanks for writing the post in the first place!🙂

    Support will most likely follow up directly with Bob on his issue, but if you’ve commented or voted on the Feedback thread linked above, you’ll also get a notification when it’s done. Of course, you and any of your readers are welcome to email me directly with any questions as well.

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