Introducing Mendeley

If you’re a researcher, you may have been in this situation: you have a folder full of research papers; all PDF’s with random numbers and letters for filenames (the way many online resources catalogue the files), meaning you have to open each and every PDF until you find what you want. I realised that something needed to be done, so I went onto Google and searched for research paper organisation software.

I quickly came across Mendeley. I signed up and logged into the site, and found what I was looking for: a desktop app. Normally, with relatively niche software, there’s just a Windows version and sometimes a Mac version, and almost never a Linux/Ubuntu version. Well I can happily say, folks, that there is a desktop app for every OS I just mentioned, and even one for iOS! All they need to do is release an Android app and they’ll have the whole set!

So once I installed it, I imported the folder full of PDF’s, and BOOM – Mendeley picked out the titles, authors, publishing body, year, abstracts, journal name, volume, issues, pages, DOI’s, whatever you can think of, and displayed them all in a list with the authors, titles, year and the time you added them. Okay, it didn’t get one or two really ancient papers, but I can forgive it for that since its really simple to manually type in all the information (it even tells you what needs to be reviewed). Here is a screenshot of the main page (running the Ubuntu client, but it is identical to the Windows client):

Screenshot - 141214 - 10:22:09

The left hand side gives you all the folders that you can sort papers into, the middle lists the papers in those folders, and on the right hand side is a column showing you all the information of the currently selected paper. There’s a handy URL box at the bottom which has a link to the publisher’s page for the paper, so if you use RefWorks or something like that, you can click the URL link and get to the publisher where you can export references like you usually do.

Screenshot - 141214 - 10:30:48

When you double-click on a paper, it opens it in a tab as a normal PDF, except with a few tricks. On some papers, you can click on the references in the text and it’ll take you to the bottom where the full reference is. You can highlight text and make notes, too.

In the Tools menu, you get the option to install a Word plugin for the referencing tool, which lets you pick the PDF which you got it from in Mendeley. The Ubuntu version even has a LibreOffice plugin! One of my favourite features how you can right click on papers and rename the PDF’s to much more sensible formats, with the titles and authors so you can find them on a different PC! If you are, for example, on a computer in the library, you won’t be able to install the desktop app, but there is still the online system. Papers you add to Mendeley get uploaded to your personal storage space (you get 2GB free, and there are upgrade plans too). This means you’ll never forget to copy a paper to a memory stick or external hard drive if you’re out and about, the desktop app automatically syncs everything for you (plus you can force-refresh with F5 to make sure).

So, in conclusion, Mendeley has solved one of the most frustrating issues I’ve had to deal with the last good while. There are probably other solutions to this problem too, mainly good organisational skills ;). If you had the same problem as me, you owe it to yourself to give it a go! Let me know what you think!

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