Today, Digital Science announced an investment in startup Labtiva. And Labtiva released a “community preview” of their reference manager ReadCube. The community preview is a free download for Windows and Mac, and this is the summary of my first impressions.
You could write two different reviews about ReadCube. The first version would mention the really slick interface, and the fun you have using the program. ReadCube is doing a good job importing the PDFs on your hard drive and adding bibliographic information to them. In addition to PDF import you can also search PubMed and Google Scholar. ReadCube helps you find related papers by listing the references and citing papers of the paper you imported. ReaderCube also gives recommendations based on the papers in your library.
ReadCube includes an integrated PDF viewer that also allows text highlighting and note taking.
The community preview is free, so please download ReadCube to find out whether you like it.
The second review would take a different approach. It would ask what problem ReadCube tries to solve, and why researchers should start using ReadCube rather than the tools they already use, maybe for many years. ReadCube is a reference manager with a particular focus on organizing the PDFs of scholarly papers. There a number of programs out there that can do the same. Papers for Macintosh for example is a very similar program, but the first version of it has been released four years ago. Even more traditional reference managers now include inline PDF readers with annotation support, including the latest version of Endnote. Mendeley and Zotero are two other alternatives, and they are both free and available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s difficult to see what is unique in ReadCube, and on the other hand some important features are missing (e.g. no bookmarklet to import from other sources, no reference type other than journal articles, no group sharing feature, no integration with Microsoft Word). And ReadCube is based on Adobe Air, a cross-platform development environment that you either love or hate.
It will be interesting to watch what direction ReadCube development will take. They started a few years later than their competitors, and it will be a lot of work to catch up. I wish the Labtiva team good luck.