Sebastian Pokutta's Blog

Mathematics and related topics

Mendeley revisited

with 5 comments

mendeleyAs promised roughly half a year ago, here is my opinion on Mendeley. I was reminded of writing my review two days ago after I downloaded the latest version of Mendeley. After the update I fired up Mendeley and I was shocked (at first) – ALL MY DATA WAS GONE. Although I started out to test Mendeley only, I got so used to it that I couldn’t believe that my data was gone. The desktop client just asked me to log in but all the categories, groups etc were gone. More or less out of desperation I logged in (again) and the software immediately synchronized with the web service which has a backup of all the references (I chose to just save the references and not the pdfs). After less than a minute all the references were transferred back to my machine and even the links to the files on my hard drive worked. I was quite impressed with this backup/synchronization feature so that I decided that it was time to keep my promise and write a few lines about it.

So first of all, what is Mendeley? From the FAQ:

Mendeley is a combination of a desktop application and a website which helps you manage, share and discover both content and contacts in research.

Our software, Mendeley Desktop, offers you:

  • Automatic extraction of document details (authors, title, journal etc.) from academic papers into a library database, which saves you a lot of manual typing! As more people use Mendeley, the quality of the data extraction improves.
  • Super-efficient management of your papers: “Live” full-text search across all your papers – the results start to appear as you type! Mendeley Desktop also lets you filter your library by authors, journals or keywords. You can also use document groups, notes and tags to organize your knowledge, and export the document details in different citation styles.
  • Sharing and synchronisation of your library (or parts of it) with selected colleagues. This is perfect for jointly managing all the papers in your lab!
  • More great features: A plug-in for citing your articles in Microsoft Word, OCR (image-to-text conversion, so you can full-text search all your scanned PDFs) and lots more new features being worked upon.

Our website, Mendeley Web, complements Mendeley Desktop by offering you these features:

  • An online back up of your library: Store your documents in your account and access them from anywhere through your browser.
  • Detailed statistics of all things interesting: You can upload your own publications to your research profiles, then track the evolution of your readership. How often are your papers downloaded? How often are they read? From which academic disciplines and geographic regions do your readers come from? Additionally, there are detailed statistics for each academic discipline and research topic. Who are the up-and-coming authors in your discipline? Is the interest in a research topic growing or declining? What are the most widely read papers on a specific subject?
  • A research network that allows you to keep track of your colleagues’ publications, conference participations, awards etc., and helps you discover people with research interests similar to yours.
  • A recommendation engine for papers that might interest you, but are not yet in your library! Based on what you know already, what should you read next? Coming soon

To be honest, in the beginning when I first started to use Mendeley in Jan 2009 it did not quite convince me. The interface of the desktop software was slow, the meta-data extraction was quite crappy, etc. For short, I just didn’t like the user experience. I knew Papers from before but it didn’t convince me either and so I stuck with the one that was free – Mendeley. Then, over time more and more updates for Mendeley were released. The user interface got better and also the meta-data extraction improved significantly – nobody wants to enter all the meta-data by hand… The current version of Mendeley is 0.9.xx. It is still beta but the latest version is really a great piece of software. Some of the features:

  1. Grouping and categorizing of your papers – you can slice and dice it in almost any way.
  2. Shared groups – you are collaborating with somebody and you want to share your papers. Mendeley can do that for you. One guy adds a new paper, the other guy gets it automatically the next time (s)he uses Mendeley.
  3. Full text search – search within all your papers. fast.
  4. Integrated pdf viewer that allows annotation, notes, etc.
  5. DOI / arxiv support – Add the corresponding references and Mendeley updates meta-data automatically. No need to enter anything.
  6. Statistics functions (via the web service) – you can get detailed statistics about the papers in your library. Most-read journals, more-read authors, etc.
  7. Every entry can have one or more pdfs (or other formats) attached to it – One click opens the paper in the built-in pdf viewer.
  8. It is free – according to the faq, the current service level will remain free. There might be some premium features coming up at some point that will be charged for extra.
  9. Backup/synchronization with the online service – all our references and notes are synchronized with the web service so that you can use your library on different machines and you always have a backup.
  10. You can log-in to your Mendeley account from all over the world and access your references on the web (part of the synchronization feature).
  11. Meta-data extraction – The extraction works quite well, conditional on the pdfs being somewhat reasonably tagged.

So if you are still looking for a great software for organizing your papers with a great overall concept then you should definitely give it a try!!


Written by Sebastian

July 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Hi Sebastian,

    Thanks for the great review. I was a bit shocked with the first part (DATA GONE!) but glad things sorted out after a quick sync (DATA BACK!).

    Thanks again!

    Ricardo Vidal

    July 19, 2009 at 12:48 am

    • Hi Ricardo,

      yes indeed. I could imagine that the reset of the software was due to the major changes from 0.8xx to 0.9xx. I came from 0.8xx on a Mac and the software changed quite a bit (the interface seems to be native now for mac os x).



      July 19, 2009 at 8:16 am

  2. Thanks for the nice writeup! I’m glad it’s working well for you. If you ever need anything, feel free to contact support or drop me a line @mrgunn.

    Happy Researching!

    Mr. Gunn

    July 19, 2009 at 5:13 am

  3. Hello. Thank you for this great info! Keep up the good job!


    August 7, 2009 at 7:58 am

  4. […] Mendeley revisited ( […]

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