Endnote: Interview with Jason Rollins

Reference management is a frequent topic on this blog. The last few years we have seen both a large increase in the number of available tools, but also big changes in how we use reference management software. But for many of us the first reference management software was Endnote.

I first used Endnote as a medical student in 1990 (Endnote Plus at that time, published by Niles Software), and I’m still a regular user. I can’t say that for many other programs (probably also Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, Adobe Photoshop, SPSS and until recently Freehand). The latest version – Endnote X4 – was just released/is about to be released (Windows in June, Macintosh in August). This is a good opportunity to look at how Endnote has changed over the years and why it is still such a popular application. For this I interviewed Jason Rollins, who is leading the Endnote development team.

Members of the EndNote development team: Jason Rollins, Jiaquan Ma, David Pedrick, Rachel Hubbard, Mayra Aguas, Paul Patanella, Lisa Epps, Lynette Grabow, Howard Harrison, Jennifer Melinn, Bill Colsher, Tilla Edmunds, Gandalf Sollenberger (with the Philadelphia in the background).

1. What is EndNote?
Researchers around the world depend on EndNote to simplify collaboration, reference collection, and bibliography formatting. It is these researchers who have molded the EndNote you see today, allowing us to address the pain points as technology evolves. While EndNote originated on the Macintosh and Windows desktops, users now have the added combination of the Web where they can transfer reference groups and share them with colleagues easily. EndNote connects to many parts of the research landscape including online resources for both basic bibliographic information and full text, word processors, ResearcherID for uniquely identifying personal works that will dovetail into the ORCID initiative as well as decreasing time to publish when submitting EndNote formatted documents into publishing systems.

2. How is EndNote different from other reference managers?
EndNote defined reference management software for generations of researchers and continues to offer the highest quality formatting available in any tool. Today some variation of the core functionality – searching, organizing, sharing, and citing of scholarly reference material – is available in many competing tools.

Two key differences between EndNote and other reference management tools include gathering and formatting references. First, EndNote is far more accurate and flexible when it comes to the variety of publishing styles it supports. EndNote not only provides over 4,500 formatting styles but it also allows for the most control and customization of this formatting. Our EndNote team works closely with leading publishers and editors across many academic disciplines to ensure that EndNote offers the formatting control our users need to meet exacting publisher specifications. Most of the power of this formatting is built-in and achieved automatically by EndNote – without the user having to think about it. Of course there are many customization options too; these allow users to easily make changes and tweaks to the way EndNote formats citations, footnotes, and bibliographies.

Second, EndNote offers the best options for easy import and export of user data. The Online Search, Find Full Text, importing, and Web capture options are all features that make it easy to obtain accurate bibliographic information and manage full text data in EndNote. The “RIS Tagged Data” format has become a de facto standard for hundreds of databases and software tools. Plus, the EndNote XML specification is something that is openly shared with partners and competitors alike in hopes of making it easier for our customers to move their data into and out of any system they may need to use.

3. What is new in EndNote X4?
There’s a longer list of new and improved features, but a few of the key features are new PDF functions, better support for collaborative writing and more robust footnote handling.

EndNote X4 can create records from PDFs using metadata and a DOI, attaching the original file to the newly created reference. Then, PDFs are further incorporated into users’ libraries by indexing the attached files and making them searchable along with the reference data.

The connection between EndNote and a word processor is more visible by incorporating cited references from documents right into the EndNote interface. This way, users can work with their references in a word processor, and focus on the references in a particular paper while managing things in EndNote. Editing and managing individual citations in Word now combines all the functionality in one place which is a big help for people working on large projects, or collaboratively. The “Traveling Library” sharing feature in Word has also been significantly improved to help people work together. The APA 6th style is fully supported and EndNote X4 offers much more customization and intelligence to the way footnote formatting styles are handled.

The full list of features, online videos, and a free trial version of EndNote X4 are available at www.endnote.com. EndNote version X4 was released in June for Windows with the Macintosh version available by the end of this summer.

4. How does EndNote handle PDF management? Can you share PDF files with other users?
With version X4, we have added more PDF-related functionality to EndNote. Now, you can import PDF meta-data and search the full text of attached PDF files. You can share EndNote library files that contain PDF attachments easily – or any other file type. EndNote Web does not currently support direct file attachments but this is something we are currently working on.

5. What is EndNote Web, how does it relate to EndNote?
EndNote provides EndNote Web to users for easy sharing and collaboration features. Transferring references up to the web provides extra flexibility to work with EndNote references anywhere. There’s a browser plug-in available with EndNote Web, that captures and saves references from web pages and allows users to send references to a desktop or web-based library. The web version has some features that the desktop doesn’t, and vice versa; each is complimentary to the other. EndNote Web is also integrated into the Web of Knowledge database platform and a limited version of EndNote Web is provided to ResearcherID users for managing their personal publication list.

6. Can I use EndNote with collaborative writing tools such as Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live?
While we do not have any custom built plug-ins or similar tools for Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live, as always, it’s easy to drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste in EndNote citations. If you look closely at other products that claim to be compatible, you’ll see that they are offering a simple copy and paste function as well. Based on our research thus far, these writing tools do not yet offer the right APIs to build more robust integration. This is something we hear from customers quite often so we will keep an eye on developments and hope to offer something more once the APIs are available.

7. How does EndNote help with reference management beyond writing manuscripts, e.g reading lists for students, writing blog posts, etc.?
You can easily use EndNote to include citations, hyperlinks, or any other reference data into nearly any type of document in almost any format and customize the output for your specific needs. You can share groups of references with both read only and read-write access; this supports sharing reading lists and more involved collaboration. But, reference management has evolved into so much more than just finding things to insert into a document. With the grouping, searching, and file attachment options, EndNote is a way to organize the majority of your research. These features make EndNote robust and flexible at handling a huge volume of items. Plus, you’ve always been able to store files of any type with EndNote, therefore making it possible to utilize much of the organizational capabilities for non-traditional sources like video clips or datasets.

8. EndNote has seen many updates since its initial release more than 20 years ago. What do you see as some of the most significant changes during that time?
EndNote started out for the Mac Plus and DOS; so clearly a lot has changed along with many of the major developments in personal software technology since the late 1980′s. EndNote introduced online searching and direct export to simplify the movement of references from discovery to a personal collection for citing in papers. Cite While You Writeâ„¢ is often imitated but never duplicated for ease of use when citing references in Apple Pages, Microsoft Word, and OpenOffice.org Writer. The fundamental problem that EndNote has been solving for our customers has morphed over the years. While keeping up with changes in formatting rules and reference types, which have always been the core strength of EndNote, we have also evolved EndNote into a more complete reference management solution. Where at one time the majority of our users worked alone on a single computer writing a static manuscript, today most customers interact with a global network of collaborators on multiple projects that might be delivered in several formats. Now with EndNote Web and ResearcherID, EndNote users can easily promote their work and connect with others. Another area that has significantly changed over the last twenty years is the means by which users access research material, and as our user’s focus has shifted from basic reference data and description to inclusion of the full text of sources and supporting documentation, EndNote has too. EndNote supports this with OpenURL linking, proxy and open source authentication, browser plug-ins, and other functions.

Many of the developments we currently have underway will further support online sharing and connectivity and should prove to be some of the most valuable including mobile functionality and more.

9. What are your responsibilities at Thomson Reuters?
My team is responsible for the development of bibliographic management tools. This involves leading the development teams for EndNote and Reference Manager, listening to customer input, and coordinating partnerships.

10. What did you do before working at Thomson Reuters?
I joined the EndNote team in 2001. Before that, I was completing a PhD in Educational Technology from Drexel University and working for two different consulting firms and a small web start-up.

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19 Responses to Endnote: Interview with Jason Rollins

  1. John Wilkins says:

    Endnote in Pages is excellent, but buggy. I once had all my references shift one in-text citation on for no apparent reason. I would much rather the team spent time debugging their product than extending it.
    Also, the editing Output Styles feature is pre-1990. It is time to fix that.

  2. Martin Fenner says:

    Shifting citations must be the worst nightmare. And I have reviewed at least one paper that had duplicate citations in the references.
    Editing output styles is one of the strong sides of Endnote. Some of the newer tools (e.g. Mendeley, Zotero) are still working on providing that functionality. I personally hate the sheer endless number of output styles (why do journals do that), but it is an important requirement for some people to have custom styles.

  3. Heather Etchevers says:

    Martin, this interview series is really fantastic and a great resource. I think I will write a sort of meta-post about all the gems sort-of-hidden in your blog.
    Like you, I started using Endnote back in 1991. When I went to Berkeley in ’92, I knew the developers were right around the corner!
    Given that I know _how_ to edit Output Styles, I’d almost rather that not change, you know, John? Just like I’d encourage them to keep the visible possibility of cut-and-paste citations with later formatting (not like that would change, but).
    However, for PDF and other file type management, I’m just as happy with other programs. The expense of moving to a new version of Endnote in order to combine manuscript bibliography functions with those other functions is still too high a barrier. I’m on a rather old version of Endnote and will stay with it. Product loyalty, but I’m not bringing that particular money to Thomson Reuters soon.

  4. Tom Webb says:

    I think I still have an old version of Endnote on my computer somewhere, but haven’t opened it for some time now. I just really like Papers for organising my PDFs – it makes me feel like I’m on top of the literature, even if I haven’t read much of it! Of course Papers doesn’t have Endnote’s integration with Word etc., but I found that the more I used Endnote to automate referencing, the more problems I had – and that these problems magnify when you’re sending round versions of manuscripts between coauthors. Given that I always manually check through every reference anyway (because I’m picky like that), I’ve found that in fact, it’s not much more of an effort to do the whole thing manually. I suppose it would be if I wrote more papers – and I would definitely consider it again if I was writing a book or something. Regarding specific journal styles – I have to say I pay lip service to them, maybe once the paper is accepted I’ll try a bit harder, but I do (arrogantly) feel that it’s more my job to produce content, rather than fiddle with formatting.

  5. Martin Fenner says:

    Heather, thanks. I like interviews as blog posts. Last month at the Lindau Laureate Meeting I did two interviews not published on this blog, incidentally both with French scientists. Edmond Fischer (his mother is french and he talks about Napoleon) and Francoise Barré-Sinoussi (together with Lou) were both very charming and fascinating to talk to.

  6. Ken Doyle says:

    I still use EndNote, but it seems like the upgrades over the last few years are more gratuitous than anything else…of course, it could be because I use mostly the core functions, and those haven’t changed since EndNote 6 or so. EndNote XII, which is the most current version that I own, was horribly buggy, so I went back to EndNote 9.

  7. Martin Fenner says:

    Tom, I personally wouldn’t do references manually – it is a nightmare to keep track when you change the text, especially if the output styles requires that the bibliography is not sorted alphabetically, but by occurence in the text.
    PDF integration and reference sharing with other users for me are the areas where Endnote could do better compared to other tools, and Endnote X4 has improved in these areas.

  8. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Good to see that the EndNote folks are working on interoperability with other systems. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it since I jumped to Zotero, so my last experience was with EndNote X. The great advantage I see with Zotero (and with Mendeley if I remember well), is that I can have my collection both at work and at home synchronized, including PDFs. Does EN allow that now?
    Tom, I’m glad to hear you pick though references carefully, it can take us a lot of time to sort them out! I would agree with Martin though that if you need to reformat an entire paper or two to a wildly different style, the automation is a life saver. From my experience, a lot of the journal styles are copies of each other, so a handful of styles actually cover most bases. I know that at my end at the big N, we don’t really care if the format isn’t exactly matched to our style, because we have tools to edit it relatively quickly anyway as I mentioned here. It is more important to us that all the data is there, i.e. author list, title, vol. no., pages and year, and that all references are there and in the right order. For anything that isn’t a journal citation, just put in as much info as possible and we’ll sort out what we need according to our style.

  9. Martin Fenner says:

    Nicolas, Endnote Web is similar to the web part of Mendeley or Zotero (but no PDF syncing). And thanks to the link to your blog post that explains the journal side of reference formatting. An interview about eXtyles, the software used by Nature and other publishers for that, “appeared”:http://blogs.nature.com/mfenner/2009/05/01/extyles-interview-with-elizabeth-blake-and-bruce-rosenblum on this blog last year.

  10. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Thanks for the info Martin. Personally, the ability to have my library synced between computers (and thus protected from crash hopefully!) far outweighs the more advanced formatting capabilities of EndNote (where I must say they are by far the market leader). And I said PDFs, but I could sync anything I like, as far as I’m aware there is no file format/size limit as long as your cloud storage can take it. Although a movie collection might no be the best of ideas…

  11. Bruce D'Arcus says:

    Should have asked them why they sued the State of Virginia and George Mason when the Zotero developers figured out how to read Endnote’s style files ;-)
    Also, I grant Endnote does allow editing of styles, but a) their style language isn’t very good, and so frequently requires people to edit the styles for them to work correctly, b) their editing interface isn’t very intuitive when I used in the mid-1990s (and given their history, I don’t expect it’s changed significantly since then), c) those of us in the CSL world (in this case, Mendeley) are working on an online editor for citation styles that I hope will make it even easier to edit, create and share styles, and d) see my above note on the lawsuit; does Thomson Reuters still believe that they alone own all Endnote styles? E.g. are they still not OK with their own users being able to use the styles they create in other applications?
    Sorry; couldn’t resist.

  12. William Gunn says:

    Thanks for a good interview, Martin, even if you did miss the obvious question Bruce mentions above ;-) I agree that the bizarre proliferation of styles is annoying, nonetheless, it remains a requirement for many these days.
    Nicolas – Yes, Mendeley does indeed support syncing of your library across multiple computers, even running different OSes and thus using different word processing software.

  13. Martin Fenner says:

    Bruce, I agree that CSL is making good progress. I was listening to a “nice presentation”:http://www.slideshare.net/rintzezelle/zotero-innovations-in-reference-management about CSL 1.0 given by Rintze Zelle a few weeks ago.
    I think an interview is a good way to start a discussion. Some important questions are difficult to ask in a blog post. For example I think that many people have difficulties to accept that there are several good reference managers and that they could coexist. Software companies, but also sometimes librarians and researchers often seem to think that there is only one good product. This makes it impossible for three researchers to work on one manuscript, but using different reference managers: the word plugin architecture of Endnote, Refworks, Mendeley and Zotero is incompatible.

  14. Sebastian Karcher says:

    Martin – yes, the incompatibility between different citation managers’ word processor integration is annoying – but I think that’s one thing where you could have pressed the Endnote folks – they continue to do this in an entirely black box and it’s going to remain incompatible.
    Mendeley and Zotero, on the other hand, are already using the same language, will soon be using the same citation processor (citeproc.js, developed by Frank Bennett together with Rintze and Bruce) and overall Mendeley, while for-profit and largely closed source – has behaved much more like a team player, which makes me think that a compatible citation option between the two is not out of reach in the medium run.
    Also, if there is indeed a degree of log-in, then a company’s behavior is certainly relevant. Zotero is open source, Mendeley is open-minded and community spirited – and Thomson Reuter/Endnote is playing the big-bad corporate bully…

  15. Nicolas Fanget says:

    William, thanks for confirming Mendeley’s sync capacities. For some strange reason, I have never been able to make it run properly on my PCs, so cannot compare directly with Zotero and Endnote…

  16. Alejandro Correa says:

    Exist a fungus would be ending the Darwin frog and this is an African clawed frog has invaded the fields of Chile and is the main transmitter of the disease that kills the amphibians on the planet.

  17. antonio brito pic brazil says:

    nice interview, and the developpers photo. I guess one great improve from version 12 is the Full text. It saves a lot of time. The key factor to shift for version 13, import pdf document and extract bibliographic info, it hard to be done. As Mendeley, EN X3 is unable to read most of PDF papers even on text version and convert the data. I guess there is no a pattern inside the papers with a clear ID of DOI , each magazine has its own way to appoint DOI. May be in feature just DOI will be a perfect ID for any document, as ISBN is today for books. EN X3 looks for this DOI key, Mandeley tries to figure out how to extract info from pdf text. Most of the times this is one unavailable task.

  18. William Gunn says:

    Antonio – would you send some of the PDFs that Mendeley can’t find the DOI in to support@mendeley.com? We’d love to try to see if there’s a pattern and figure out why they’re not being recognized.
    Nicolas – You may want to email support@mendeley.com as well. It’s quite unusual for PC users to have trouble running Mendeley, so send them a good, descriptive email and they’ll get you sorted out.

  19. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Hi William, thanks for the interest, unfortunately I don’t really have time to experiment right now. I am happy with Zotero for now, but Mendeley would be useful to have as well so I will try again in the future, hopefully with a Linux laptop this time!