Rec me your fav biblio tool. Difficulty level: No downloads
September 20, 2018 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting my master's degree and need bibliographic management software. Here's the catch - my new laptop is a pixelbook and so downloading software is a no go. (Only chrome extensions and apps are possible. Not even Google Play apps are allowed on this machine.) What's the best bibliographical management tool that's entirely cloud-based?

The focus of my research is linguistics. (I know, I know. I learned from this ask. I don't plan on working in the field, it's just for my own enjoyment, and work is paying, so... here I go!)
I've signed up for trials for Endnote Basic (the online version) and ReadCube. Anyone have an opinion on which is better? Or is there a better option entirely? I really don't want to start using one and have to switch. This seems like something I want to get right from the beginning.
What should I be looking for, or concerned that a web-only tool might lack and I should check on? It's been 20+ years since I've needed to worry about this stuff. And I was using paper back then. I'm pretty sure it was all on index cards!

Thanks in advance, mefites!
posted by greermahoney to Education (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't recommend any software in the field, but as a note, the Pixelbook is one of the Chromebooks getting Linux support, which may widen your options a little.
posted by Candleman at 7:50 PM on September 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Zotero and Mendeley are the ones recommended within my grad program. From what I can see the real value of mendeley is what it can do in the desktop version so I think that’s less helpful for you. I’d give Zotero a look as it apparently works well with google docs.

Do you have school librarians you can ask or other students? They’ll likely give the best insight.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:53 PM on September 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

With the caveat that I’ve never used any of its paid or organizational features, I am fully converted to Paperpile for citation management, because it just works so well with Google Docs, including with multiple collaborators who’ve never used it before. I should probably give the bibliographic management side of it a look for my own purposes...
posted by deludingmyself at 8:01 PM on September 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not to threadsit, but yes, I should have mentioned that I anticipate using Google docs to write most of my work.
posted by greermahoney at 8:04 PM on September 20, 2018

I'd say Zotero. Here's info on how to use it with Google Docs
posted by kbuxton at 8:15 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry to ask for clarification, but for those of you reccing Zotero - is there for sure a web-only version? I have been looking for a while, and I can't find one. I see the Zotero connector, which appears to be a plug-in that allows you to save articles to your library, but it still seems to work in tandem with the downloaded software that I can't use. A forum answer I have found says:
"Zotero is a desktop computer (or notebook computer) program that works in Linux, Mac, or Windows and is independent of your Chrome browser. It appears that you have only installed the Chrome connector (an add-on to chrome and Zotero). You also must install the main Zotero program.
This doesn't look like an online-only tool. If you know differently, please share. Thanks!
posted by greermahoney at 8:41 PM on September 20, 2018

Not one of the most common ones, but I thought Paperpile was pretty good. If you're okay with keeping all of your documents on Google Drive it works quite well. I'd recommend using a totally different Drive account from your personal stuff though, because it does auto-sort your documents into its own folder system. Should integrate especially seamlessly with your Pixelbook and it's pretty affordable, too!
posted by thebots at 8:55 PM on September 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Actually, you don't even need a different Drive account - looks like it just autocreates a dedicated "Paperpile" folder and then sorts them alphabetically. In retrospect, I think I just preferred keeping my articles separate from my personal stuff but it's not a necessary step at all.
posted by thebots at 9:00 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

For zotero, if you go to and create an account you will get access to an online library. You can configure the zotero connector browser plugin (if you can install that much) to work with the online account rather than a local app.
posted by kbuxton at 9:04 PM on September 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

RefWorks is the main web-based competitor to EndNote and Zotero. It has more options, database-wise, for direct exporting than EndNote Basic does (though if you're fine with downloading RIS files from everywhere, maybe EndNote Basic would be okay for you). It works great with Google Docs. It's worth checking whether your institution subscribes? That said, I wasn't aware you could configure the Zotero plugin to work with online accounts. That would be my first pick, probably, if you can install it. Their Google Docs integration is in beta, currently. I haven't tried ReadCube at all because it seems publisher-specific, and I hate their stupid PDF-alternative.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:29 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hmmmm, I thought that RefWorks already had (or was coming out with?) a non-institutional version, but I'm not seeing that option now :(
posted by unknowncommand at 9:35 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do you think your new laptop may be limiting your choices unnecessarily? Can you return it?
posted by oceanjesse at 3:22 AM on September 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

You want Paperpile - it's essentially the only program that has good Google Docs integration
posted by chrisamiller at 6:17 AM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do you have school librarians you can ask

Absolutely this. My university's library system has all sorts of citation management experts who lead workshops and can even arrange one-on-one consultations. Even after you decide on what option you are going with, they can probably teach you how to use it better.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thirding Paperpile. It's made for Google Docs and it's very, very easy to use.

I've been a Zotero person since damn near day one, but I'm an avid Ipad user and there's no real way to do that with Zotero.

Paperpile has an ipad app in beta, and it's amazing and exactly what I want it to be.

But for you, you can capture and organize your PDFs and other sources in Paperpile, read & annotate your PDFs in PaperPile and then write in Google Docs with the PaperPile add on and insert citations as you write.

Trust me. This is the citations management system you want.
posted by teleri025 at 3:13 PM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

It’s worth doing a search on your university library’s website to see what’s commonly used there (you might have access to something for free because the university pays for it), and also ask other students in your program what they use. Makes collaboration easier. Getting help, too.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2018

Thanks for the advice, all! I signed up for and looked into a bunch, and I'm going to give Paperpile a whirl, since it appears to be the most integrated with gdocs. But will keep the other recs on hand if it doesn't work out.

posted by greermahoney at 8:02 PM on September 22, 2018

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