Text: Karin Clavel

What is Mendeley?

Mendeley is a (free) web service for online reference management & reference sharing. With Mendeley you can easily store references to papers, books or even websites. You can work with the web-based version, which comes with a handy bookmarklet to instantly add references to your Mendeley Library without typing. Alternatively, you can install Mendeley and add references by simply dragging and dropping PDFs. You could also create a watch folder; any added to the watch folder will be imported into your library.

The references and even the PDFs can be backed up online, with 1GB storage for free. This also allows you to access your library from any computer and even from your or iPad. If the storage is not enough, you can move to a paid premium account, or you could set up Dropbox as your storage file.

Mendeley automatically fills in important information, such as authors, titles, journal, abstract, keywords and also the URL or the full text PDF.

Collaboration and academic networking

You can create a public or private group and invite the people you work with to share your references, but also annotations, tags and notes. The service will keep track of the activity within the group. You can join existing public groups and get in contact with people with a similar research interest worldwide.

Based on your profile and your own publications, Mendeley suggests new contacts. Just like any other social network, you can be as anonymous or as public as you choose.

Searching with Papers

You can also search the “Papers” catalogue with (references to) over 30 million papers. Add TU Delft Library’s link resolver as library access link (My Account -> Sharing / Importing > Add library manually: http://sfx.tudelft.nl:8888/sfx_local) and quickly find the full text, if we have it.

What is good about it?

The most useful feature for me is having all the PDFs in one place where you can search, sort and tag, but also add notes and highlights. With the highlight tool, I can mark the interesting bits & pieces, so when I come back to the paper, I can easily skip to the highlighted parts. I also like the fact that when I read a long thesis in Mendeley, it automatically remembers where I was when I can’t finish it in one go.

I like the way you can let Mendeley change the filenames of your PDFs in something meaningful.

Any downsides?

Yes, unfortunately. I did not get the functionality to work on my Mac.

The iPhone app crashes a lot, especially when accessing a group folder.

Something else I don’t quite get is the Dashboard. It shows some (group) activity, but not all of it. ?? (check NL versie)

Is it for me?

If you are not using a reference management tool now, you should give Mendeley a try. Also, if you are unsatisfied with other reference management software such as (web) or , take a moment to set up an account and import your references and see how you like it (and tell me about it using the comments option below).

Do you have a large, unstructured collection of PDFs? Try putting them in a watch folder and see if you can use Mendeley to organise the bulk.

Mendeley supports co-discovery, co-reading and co-annotation, but it does not support co-writing. If you are looking for a collaborative environment to write papers, Google Docs or Sharepoint might fit the bill.


The desktop software is available for Mac, and Linux. There are plugins for creating citations in and Open Office. Import works for , and EndNote™ XML files.


Zotero used to be only a Firefox plugin, but has a beta desktop version out, also targeting group use. EndNote and the still somewhat old-fashioned looking Reference Manager, both by Thomson Reuters are available for free for TU Delft students and staff from the software distribution server on Blackboard. Papers and Sente are much liked but paid tools and for Mac only. For an extensive comparison, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software

Let us know!

Have you tried Mendeley? Please leave a comment with your experience.