Mendeley is a free program to manage your references and PDFs. It is multi-platform (like TeXworks). Once you have downloaded Mendeley and created an account, there are three ways to add references in Mendeley.
- Using the web importer: This is useful when you want to add a reference from a paper on IEEE Xplore or a google scholar search. You can install the web importer from this page. It is a simple bookmark. For example, let’s say we perform a search on google scholar and get the following hits:
Then, by clicking on the web importer, a popup window shows up, from which you can import single hits from the list or all of them.
You can read more about the web importer on this page.
- Adding PDFs in the desktop application: If you have a PDF file, for example a report, that you want to add to Mendeley, you can do that directly in the Desktop program. Mendeley should be able to extract most of the information from the PDF (title, author, year), but you can edit this yourself once the PDF is added to your library.
- Manually adding a reference: If you want to add a reference manually, you can also do that by selecting “File -> Add Entry Manually”.
How are your references managed?
After you have created a Mendeley account, all your references will also be stored online. In addition, you can choose to also upload your PDF files associated with the references to Mendeley servers. In that way, you can have all your PDFs online and synced between different computers. Once your PDF files are added in Mendeley, you can let it automatically organize them in some folder (“Tools->Options->File Organizer”).
Exporting the citations
One important point is how to get your references out of Mendeley and use them when you write a paper. I will here assume that you use Latex and want to get some Bibtex file with your references in it.
There are plugins for Word and LibreOffice, too, but I haven’t tested them.
First, you need to give bibtex citation keys to your references. You can do it by hand, or let Mendeley do it, in which case the citation key are [AuthorYear], and “a”, “b”, “c”, … are appended if you have several references from the same author and same year.
I personally prefer [AuthorYearTitle], where “Title” is the first meaningful word in the title, for example “Hamon2012Stochastic”.
Then, to get your citations out of Mendeley in a bibtex file, there are several cases:
- You want to get only some of your references out of Mendeley: select the references that you want to export, right-click on them and choose “Export”. Then save the Bibtex file where you want to have it.
- You want to get all your references out of Mendeley. In this case, you go to “Tools->Options->BibTeX” and enable “BibTeX syncing”. This will create BibTeX files at the location that you choose in the field “Path”. These files will be automatically updated by Mendeley with all the references in your library. The update is made when you press “Sync” in Mendeley.
A possible workflow
When I run across an article that looks interesting, I add it to Mendeley and tag it with “to-read”. I also have created collections for different topics, e.g. “Wind power forecasting”, “Voltage stability”, and so on. When the reference is added to Mendeley, I download the PDF, rename it according to my bibtex citation key and add it to the reference in Mendeley, which then moves the PDF to a specific folder (in my case, a folder on my Skydrive account). Hence, all my papers in that folder are named after my bibtex citation keys, which is really convenient when I am looking for something (and also because I keep my notes in org-mode, using some workflow similar to what is explained here, there and there).
When I have some spare time to read, I search for “tag:to-read” in all my documents in Mendeley, which brings up a list of all articles waiting to be read.
Note that there is a “read” flag built-in in Mendeley, but I don’t use it.
I don’t use the built-in annotation feature, but put my notes in separate org-mode formatted text files.
Mendeley keeps a bibtex file updated with all my references.
When I am writing an article, I simply copy this file to Latex working directory.
This was a succinct presentation of Mendeley. There many features that I don’t use (for example, you can create groups with other people and share papers inside these groups). Overall, I have found it to fit quite well in the rest of my workflow. There are some glitches, though. I had some problems with bibtex syncinc for example. Some fields were not properly formatted and displayed badly in the resulting bibliography in Latex, but these were special cases, and it works smoothly in most cases.