Reference Management with the iPad

The iPad was released six months ago, and we already have several reference managers available for the platform. Reading the PDF of a scientific paper on an iPad is a positive experience, and to me very different from reading the PDF on a regular computer. While this could also be done with generic iPad PDF readers such as iBooks or Goodreader, reference managers make it much easier to organize a large collection of PDF files.

CiteULike is a browser-based reference manager and works on the iPad as expected – and this includes the bookmarklet. CiteULike is a good tool to collect references when browsing with the iPad. CiteULike doesn’t allow offline reading of PDF files. While you can read the HTML versions of papers with the iPad web browser, this requires not only online access, but often also access through a paywall.
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Papers for iPad
This was the first reference manager specifically designed for the iPad. Papers for Mac owners can synchronize all their references and fulltext PDF files. The functionality is similar to the Mac version and also includes a good PDF reader and searching for references in PubMed and other online databases. This makes Papers a good stand-alone solution that doesn’t depend on syncing to another applications.
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Mendeley Lite
Mendeley Lite syncs with all references you store in your Mendeley web account. I personally prefer this approach as I don’t particularly like syncing between iPad and desktop computer. Just like Papers, this application works both on iPad and iPhone. You can’t directly add references to Mendeley Lite. Mendeley is currently the only application that has both a web-based and an iPad version. This increases the options, but probably also adds to user confusion. Add reference with the web-based version, sync, then read PDF in Mendeley Lite?

Sente Viewer for iPad
Last Friday Sente Viewer for iPad was released. Similar to Papers and Mendeley, Sente Viewer for iPad synchronizes with the desktop version of the application. The application allows browsing of all synchronized references and reading of the associated fulltext PDF papers. The Sente for iPad application will be released later and will also allow adding and editing of references. I’m looking forward to “targeted browsing” which will capture both reference information and fulltext PDF files using a built-in web browser – another variation of reference manager integration with the web browser.
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Further Reading
Roderic page has done a lot of writing about reading scientific papers on the iPad, including reviews for Papers for iPad and Mendeley Lite. Wizfolio is another web-based reference manager that works on the iPad.

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5 Responses to Reference Management with the iPad

  1. Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

    I’m always a little surprised at how excited I get when I hear about reference manager developments – I’m obviously far nerdier than I wanted to admit.

    I’m still using a basic e-reader (the Kobo, Canada’s answer to the Kindle), and I love the fact that it’s as easy on the eyes as paper, but it’s absolutely horrible with pdf’s of journal articles. I wish there were a device as user-friendly as the iPad, but with a screen that worked well in the sunlight, and that didn’t destroy my eyeballs by the time I’m through the Methods section. As it is I find that I still need to print papers off if I’m going to be reading for any length of time (I’m doing the background readings for my comprehensive exams, so this has been a recurring issue the past few weeks).

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  3. Sam says:

    I suppose Firefox hasn’t been ported to the iPad (yet), which would keep Zotero off this list – for now. Once Zotero runs in Safari, is it naive to think it’ll be available on the iPad?

  4. Martin Fenner says:

    Travis, I like the iPad for reading papers, because many of those have color figures. To me personally that is more important than the ability to read in the sunlight.

    Sam, after the Zotero Everywhere announcement, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an iPad version at some point in the future. But I don’t have any inside information.

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