Papers2 v. Medeley v. Zotero

If you’re like me, you have a lot invested in managing sources. For many years, I was an fan and heavily used Endnote. Over the years, however, the high cost of maintaining a license for Endnote (typically $99 per year) and how I use the application meant that the costs were increasing given how much I actually used the software. Eventually, new players hit the market. Zotero (a Firefox plugin), Papers (mac only), Mendeley and many other smaller players in the market began to appear. I started off working with Zotero. I really like Zotero. However, I liked the PDF viewing and management much better in Papers. That set up a problem for me… Papers to manage PDFs, but since Paper’s citation system left much to be desired, I kept using Zotero for the citations. Unfortunately, I’ve had to admit that this approach was untenable. Worse, I don’t yet see a good solution to resolve the problem.

Here are the few things I want

1) Good word processor integration. I think all three have varying levels of quality, so for now I’ll say this is even…
2) Manages PDF files will with a clear directory structure and file naming convention – Papers win this one. This is important if I have a copy of this stuff somewhere and want to navigate the files by hand.
3) Web browsing/Google Scholar integration – Zotero wins this
4) Nice interface – Papers/Mendeley
5) Clearly open source database – Zotero… Papers and Mendeley probably also use an open source db, but it’s not as clear in terms of access.
6) Mobile interfaces – all 3
7) Offline mobile interface – Papers and Mendeley… Zotero, IMO, suffers from GNU licensing models which actually prevents it’s use on iOS platforms, at least that’s my interpretation
8) capacity for spacial data – Zotero… This one is extremely important to me. As a geologist, I want the ability to embed spatial information that I can later tease out and use to make maps. Most of these apps could be used for this, but I find Zotero’s interface much more adaptable.

So, given the above, none of these solutions fit me perfectly. Indeed, unifying to any one of these apps will cost me in terms of time and, if I choose Papers at least, money. My sad conclusion is that I think I’ll have to unify my solution to Zotero. For my mobile needs, I think I’ll probably start using exporting from Zotero and importing into Mendeley. Sadly, I think I’ll have to cut Papers out despite it’s power.