Citation Management Software


Citation management software makes mining and using information resources easier and more effective, supporting the following tasks:

  • Capturing bibliographic and full-text information as you explore online resources
  • Organizing, evaluating, annotating, and searching within your information collections
  • Citing or listing those resources in a wide range of bibliographic styles
  • Accessing your information from your desktop or online
  • Synchronizing your data across several machines and sharing your research with others

The benefits are far greater if you use the software on an ongoing basis, so the time to get started is NOW!


The Libraries provide full support three different programs:



ZOTERO a free software, is probably the easiest to learn, with straightforward procedures for directly capturing citation data and often full text from most of Columbia's bibliographic databases, basic metadata, capturing page images from websites, and capturing bibliographic data for individual pdfs or books using DOIs or ISBNS.  Another special strength is its support for the creation of granular notecards with their own tags.  Available as a FireFox plug-in as well as a standalone capable of importing from Chrome, FireFox, or Safari. Synchronizes data through the George Mason server, but will store only 500 MB of attached files free of charge. Among the few minuses: a fairly cramped editing screen for individual citations, and the lack of technical support (which is rarely needed) except through a user forum.

Download   --  Documentation -- Discussion and Support Forums -- Columbia Workshops -- Ask a Librarian


MENDELEY another free software, although recently purchased by the Elsevier corporation.  Similar in layout and ease of use to Zotero, although capture from bibliographic databases is perhaps slightly less intuitive and comprehensive. Mendeley excels in capturing pdfs en masse and annotating and highlighting that content. in a manner reminiscent of Adobe Acrobat professional.  Supports team collaboration and unlimited storage space (for a modest fee).  Particularly popular among researchers in the sciences and engineering.

Download -- Help Guides -- Ask a Librarian


ENDNOTE a licensed software available for free to current Columbia students, faculty and staff. Learning to capture data and import full text have a slightly steeper learning curve and the processes are less automatic than in the case of the other two programs, but EndNote tends to do the most thorough and accurate import from other bibliographic sources, and hence can sometimes serve as a supplement for harvesting records when the other two programs do not support a particular database. Endnote is also the most fully customizable, and is therefore often favored by dissertation writers who need to cite a wide range of reference types.  It also supports the largest number of citation styles, and provides the largest amount of free attached full text content online (5GB).  Works particularly well for researchers in the health sciences.

Download -- Help Guides -- Columbia Workshops -- Contact EndNote Tech Support -- Ask a Librarian


The following software packages are also available on many Library workstations, and librarians can give you some basic guidance in using them as well.

  • BibDesk
  • Papers


Overall, each of these programs addresses the same functions more or less effectively, so choosing between them is often as much a question of taste, familiarity, and what one's colleagues use as it is one of objective differences in quality.  It is also worth noting that transferring bibliographic data (if not always the attached files) from one program to the other is quite easy.

In addition to the information provided by the brief descriptions above, you may want to consult our more extensive survey of the functionality of these and other programs, and a more detailed comparison available from Barnard library.


In using these and other bibliographic software, you may occasionally be asked for Columbia's "Open URL" settings, which are necessary to enable the software to access the databases directly and harvest information from them.  That information can be accessed here.