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Reference management software: Home

Reference management software is software for scholars and authors to use for recording and utilising bibliographic citations.

Reference management softawares

What is citation management software?

Citation management software or reference management software allows you to organize, store, and retrieve information, such as citations for books, articles, and Web sites. You can simultaneously import records and PDFs from databases. You can add abstracts, keywords, and other functions that enhance and improve the efficiency of your project. The citation manager then works with word-processing software to insert properly formatted footnotes or citations into a paper and create a bibliography.

What it won't do:

It will not always create a perfect bibliography or reference list according to your favorite style. For example, you will still have to know APA, MLA, Chicago, or Vancouver and check over your results. It will not correct errors or omissions that were in the database from which you retrieved references. It will not always know what type of material you are putting into it from a database (e.g. it cannot always distinguish a proceeding from a book).

What are online citation builders?

These are free, online sites that allow you to quickly create citations and bibliographies but not to store information or link to word-processing software.  Please check out the list of online citation builders below.

How do I know which tool to use?

There is no one program that currently works best to support everyone's needs. Online citation builders are helpful when you are in a rush and have a small number of sources to manage. Citation software is more time consuming but extremely useful for handling larger. more complex citations and for its word processing compatibility. There are a variety of citation software tools available and each has its own strengths.  KRC offers support for Zotero and Mendeley. Please see the comparison table of citation software below. 

Reference management softaware capabilities

The widely used reference management software are Zotero, Mendeley and Endnote.

I Need to:



…work from multiple computers or locations.



Zotero saves your citation library to your local computer, but syncs with multiple computers so you can work from home, work, or school.

Mendeley is a program that lives on your local computer, but syncs with a web account.

…work without an Internet connection.




Zotero, Mendeley and EndNote store your citation libraries locally on your computer.

…archive web pages and import citations from sites such as Amazon, Flickr, and ArtSTOR.


Zotero allows you to easily save snapshots of web pages and annotate them within your citation library. It is a great tool for scraping citation information from web-based publications and some commercial and social networking sites.

…work on a group project or share my citations with others.

Zotero           Mendeley      EndNote Basic

Zotero allows you to share your citations through shared folders -- you can give individuals or groups permissions to add and edit the citations in the shared folder. Mendeley allows you to share citations and documents with a group of up to 2 other users, or create a public reading list that is open to all. with unusual or complex citation styles, cite unusual document types or create my own document type


EndNote has more citation styles than any other program, more flexibility, ability to customize styles. extensively with PDFs


Menedeley has better ability to extract citation information automatically from PDFs, PDF full-text search-ability, and a social networking component to see what others in your field are reading and commenting on (particularly in the sciences).

 adapted from Penn State University Libraries

Online citation builders

There are MANY online citation builders with varying available options. Here are some of the most well known:

Adapted from AU Library

Reference manager comparison sheet






Web based?

Yes, works with Firefox browser and can sync with online account; connectors for Chrome and Safari available

Not primarily, but can sync with an online account which is editable

No, but can transfer library to EndNote Basic (Web)

Operating System

Windows, Mac, Linux

Windows, Mac, Linux

Windows or MAC


Free for basic account, some cost for more online storage space

Free for basic account, some cost for more online storage space

$$, AU community may download for free through portal

Word-processor compatibility

MS Word, Open Office, Google Docs

MS Word, Open Office, LaTex

MS Office, Open Office, iWork Pages

Mobile Device Application

3rd party iOS and Android apps, web interface

iPad, iPhone, 3rd party Android apps, web interface

iPad, web interface

Number of citation styles

About 16 pre-loaded, "thousands" available for download from Zotero

Over 1180

Top 100 downloaded, over 4000 more available

Number of import filters

247 "translators;" other sources captured as web page

About 50, + COinS, + integrates with Zotero's "translators"


Import from databases



Direct export from specific databases

Import citation info from web pages

Yes, also archives the page and you can add annotations

Yes, with a bookmark for a limited number of sites (mostly publishers or databases)

only with EndNote Basic (Web)

Storage capacity

Unlimited local storage and data syncing; 100MB free Zotero file syncing (larger syncing plans available for purchase); or can use WebDav

Unlimited local storage and data syncing; 1GB personal and 100MB shared online space (larger online storage plans available for purchase)

Unlimited local storage

Attach associated files (PDFs, etc.)

Yes, with option to attach automatically

Yes, and can highlight and annotate PDFs

Yes, and can highlight and annotate PDFs

Search full text of PDFs




Duplicate detection



Yes; fully customizable

Create group or shared libraries


Yes, free for up to 3 group members (larger group plans available for purchase)

No but EndNote Basic (Web) can

Create bibliography with different styles




Automatic citation extraction from PDFs




Other features

Sync library with multiple computers
Use tags to organize/search

Sync library with multiple computers
Sync with Zotero library

Insert figures and charts using word processor integration

 adapted from Penn State University Libraries