If you’re an 21st century academic like me, you collect a lot of references, bibliography and electronic versions of articles and books. My hard drive has a hierarchy of folders for PDFs, and so forth, but it is hard to manage them. I’m multiplying folders according to subject, and that just doesn’t work very well.
Zotero is a browser plugin to FireFox. This is a great advantage for browsing: find something while surfing the web and a couple of clicks later it is bookmarked. You can add bibliographic information and annotations to the document entry.
To summarize the — to me — important features:
- bibliography and citation management
- able to annotate entries
- able to search entries
- able to handle web documents
- able to attach links to PDFs
- handles BibTeX format
There are many other features, of course. See the Zotero website for further details.
Sciplore is built on top of FreeMind, a mindmapping program. It adds bibliographic and citation management to FreeMind’s graphical representation of ideas. One could describe it as a “graphical Zotero.”
I have not (yet) done a complete feature comparison, but at first glance, the only thing Zotero can do that SciPlore cannot is to capture web documents and even capture references from some kinds of web documents. Both handle BibTeX and PDF links. SciPlore permits one to arrange the information in a visual way; Zotero uses lists.
I have only just discovered SciPlore (check out the introductory video on the website) whereas I’ve been using Zotero for more than a year now as a URL link manager. I have not — until now — felt the need to use Zotero’s bibliography management features. I am very happy with BibDesk on the Mac and JabRef everywhere else. The common element among all three is BibTeX. If I hadn’t discovered SciPlore to play with, I was planning on using Zotero more extensively to handle my every expanding list of PDFs. I’m a firm believer in “the right tool for the right job.” Every software package has its strengths and weaknesses. I try to use a program for its strengths and abandon it for a better tool when it is weak. The key to making this practice work is to insist that my software store and manipulate data in standard formats. In the case of bibliography managers, that format is BibTeX.
We’ll see how these programs will adjust to my workflow.