This is so hard. I am talking about committing yourself to a database of some sort, and this time it’s the reference database I am worrying about.
If you collect a lot of music or movies and catalog them extensively, you know what a drag it is when you figure you have chosen the wrong database or cataloging software. (So far I have been pleased with Mediamonkey (http://www.mediamonkey.com) for the music and it seems XBMC (http://www.xbmc.org) will do the trick for flipping through your movies with style. But I digress.
Now I want to catalog, sort and search my references, so what software should I commit to? I used to be an EndNote user as long as I got it for free, but no more. I had to look for free options (I AM the cheap researcher). First to come along was zotero (http://www.zotero.org), and believe me, it is still excellent. It is a Firefox add-on which allows you to add references from bookstores and article bases with ease. It then integrates with Word for easy use when referencing in your writing. The coming (now in beta) version includes sync to web, so that you have your references at hand at all times. Great. Converting from EndNote was a nightmare, but most of my thousands of references went along with the swap after some tinkering.
Then I got Word 2007, which had a built-in reference manager. This might have been the best option, but I found the managing capabilities a bit wanting.
Finally I have tried Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com/), a manager with a sync’ed software and web version, with capabilities to store and extract information from pdf-files.
But what to choose? This is almost a lifetime commitment (ok, it is not, but it would be nice if it was) so it’s important to chose right! Heeeelp….