In search of a better tool…

I like citation managers. Their utility was impressed upon me when writing my M.Sc. thesis many moons ago. “What a time-saver,” I thought. And I was right.

However, I have an overwhelming desire to now use a merged citation manager and PDF annotation software. This started in about 2008 or 2009 with Zotero, but didn’t really take hold until Mendeley.

Mendeley looks polished, Mendeley lets you share libraries with collaborators, Mendeley has a lot of promise… And then one discovers that Mendeley lacks sorting search results. Lacks back-tracing and connecting citations to each other (something that Zotero permits). Lacks some very basic functions that are quickly becoming useful to me. And the support portal is just terrible; it’s where posts go to die. And there are two such portals: one geared toward support, and the other geared toward support.

However, quite recently, a fellow sufferer there pointed me to Qiqqa. Qiqqa isn’t nearly as polished-looking as Mendeley, but there’s an awful lot going on under the hood. I can automatically link citations to each other within Qiqqa. I can see other publications that one article’s authors have written. I can even do a kind of automated clustering analysis to see what broad domains and topics I’m looking at, and which articles fall into these categories.

It is incredible, and I might just take my money I was going to put toward Sente and buy a Premium membership to Qiqqa. I find the Sente forums two kinds of bad: first, they appear largely unmonitored, and a few questions I have asked have been left to rot; second, what might appear to be a private email to their support staff is actually a public post out on the support site–which can be disastrous. I would, however, rather pay a one-off license fee (Sente’s model) than an ongoing subscription fee (Qiqqa’s model, and Sente’s model for increased space). I appreciate the fact that Qiqqa is passing on Amazon cloud costs to the users of the cloud–and I actually think this aspect of pricing is more than reasonable–but I wish I could have a Premium-level experience, sans cloud syncing, for a fixed fee.

If you’re looking for a better tool, you could do an awful lot worse than Qiqqa. The time I do have invested in it suggests that there is powerful magic here.

I have a short overview of my own tool-use on my technology page, but what tools do you use? What aspects of each are most important and well-polished?


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