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One citation manager to rule them all?

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We describe and compare different citation managers to help you choose the ideal one for your references!


Citavi is a reference management software published by the Swiss Academic Software, exclusively for Windows operating systems. The software can be used for free to manage up to 100 citations. A wide range of institutions, including JGU Mainz, have a campus-wide license.


  • Incorporates knowledge-base and task manager
  • Can manage multiple projects; “Cloud Projects” to work on a project from different computers
  • References can be sorted into groups and sub-categories and tagged with keywords
  • Picker plugins for your browser allow to import references from PubMed and other databases
  • Picker Adobe reader: imports your PDFs directly into your project, fetches papers’ metadata and links them to your references
  • Plugins for LaTeX editors; BibTeX and biblatex export
  • 9000+ citation styles


  • Windows only; no OpenOffice or LibreOffice plug-in for the current version
  • When you reach 100 citations in the freeware Version 5, the project becomes read only


It is a reference management software from Clarivate Analytics for Windows and Mac operating systems. Several institutions, including JGU Mainz, have a campus-wide licence.


  • Online search mode integrated in EndNote to search citations
  • “Send to citation manager” function to import articles directly from Pubmed
  • Libraries can be structured in folders
  • PDFs can be attached to the corresponding references, viewed and annotated
  • Add-ins to cite when you are writing with Microsoft Word, Libre Office and Open Office
  • 6500 pre-defined citation styles; possible to download more


  • The online search mode performed by the locally installed software is not intuitive
  • Not compatible with LateX
  • No apps available on iOS and Android


Mendeley Desktop is a reference management software developed by Elsevier. It is free and can be downloaded by anybody with an Elsevier account. Its web counterpart can be synchronised to the desktop version for a direct update of entries.


  • Can manage multiple projects, each with different references
  • References can be sorted in folders
  • Browser bookmarklet to import references from Pubmed and other databases
  • PDFs can be imported directly into the project, viewed, tagged and annotated
  • Possible to import directly the citation when there is no free-access to the PDF
  • Automatic extraction of metadata from PDF papers, including DOI
  • Back-up and synchronization across multiple computers via the private account
  • Free plugins for Microsoft Word, OpenOffice and LibreOffice
  • Sharing in private groups to collaboratively tag and annotate research papers
  • Online community with tutorials and how-tos, suggestions based on your bibliography
  • BibTex export; apps for iPhone, iPad and Android


  • Encrypted database does not allow the export of data
  • Sharing of files only with a maximum of 3 users
  • Currently not supported by Mac OS 10.14 (Mojave)

ReadCube Papers

Reference manager by Readcube that supports Windows and Mac operating systems, also has web access and apps for Android and iOS. The subscription costs 60 USD/year, or 36 USD/year with a student discount.


  • Several integrated search engines; possibility to connect to institute proxy
  • Easy PDF-import; web import via browser also possible
  • Metadata of the articles are automatically resolved (enhanced PDF)
  • Personalized recommendations based on your complete library, or just on certain folders
  • Libraries can be organised in folders; articles can be color-coded and commented
  • On demand: copies of PDF-files can be automatically renamed according to a predefined template and organized into folders on your PC
  • “Cite while you write” plugin for Microsoft Word 2016+
  • 8000+ citation styles, possibility to export citations (i.e. to EndNote), easy copy-paste of selected citations
  • Unlimited cloud storage, synchronization of the entire library across all devices


  • The Cite-Faster plugin supports only Word 2016+



An open-source reference management software produced by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and available for Windows, Mac and Linux. The free version offers 300MB storage. Storage for synchronizing bigger projects can be rented from


  • It integrates with the interface of your browser; allows an easy synchronization of the collection from different devices when you are online
  • Shows an icon on the webpage of the database, e.g. PubMed, to click for reference import
  • Libraries can be organized in folders and subfolders
  • Full text PDFs can be attached to the reference; PDFs can be annotated
  • Add-ins for Microsoft Word, Open Office, Libre Office and LateX
  • 6750 pre-defined citation styles
  • BrowZine: non-official app working on both iOS and Android, can send citations to Zotero


  • More appropriate for a small or medium collection of references
  Cost Access Sharing Citations OS
Citavi Limited free version; full version, 119€ Desktop Yes Import from online database Windows
Endnote 200 to 250 € Desktop Yes Import from online database Windows, Mac OS X
Mendeley Free up to 2GB Desktop & Web Yes Import from online database Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Readcube 5$/month (for students, 3$/month ) Desktop & Web Yes Import from online database Windows, Mac OS X
Zotero Limited free version; storage plans cost 20$-120$/year Desktop & Web Yes through a group Import from online database Windows, Mac OS X, Linux

Have you found your ideal citations management tool? We hope this overview helped you. If you prefer working with another tool, let us know!

Written by Isabelle Arnoux, Heiko Endle, Chiara Galante, Margaryta Tevosian; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured image: NGC/Design.

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