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My Library is already partially organized (manually) with regular filesystem folders. But it is pretty messy right now and getting unwieldy. Also several files should be renamed to something meaningful (right now paper titles-author-year is best for me). I am wary of pulling the trigger, Mendeley may make things worse, not better.

Any opinions? Experiences? Thanks.

closed as primarily opinion-based by vonbrand, Brian Borchers, Enthusiastic Engineer, Wrzlprmft, gman Jan 15 '16 at 18:47

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I find the MS Word plugin for Mendeley invaluable time saver for citations. Mendeley can automatically gather citation data and organize citations and bibliography in word. You will pay for not using it. – The Thrifty Engineer Jan 15 '16 at 18:43
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I've personally used this feature, and I really like it - though honestly, part of the value I get from Mendeley is that I stop worrying about my files and folders and just use the software itself most of the time. As I have it sync them up I'm not even really concerned with where it stores them any more.

My recommendation is just to copy-paste your directory of files to a separate area "just in case", then fire away. File naming is (was) a pet peeve of mine, and I really like to have the files nicely named so I can search them - then I usually also sync that folder to Google Drive so I can access my documents anywhere (phone, guest account, etc).

It's a useful and nice feature, but honestly I found less value from it than I expected precisely as I began using Mendeley more. I still use the feature, but the other things the program does make it almost redundant - but still nice and I'm glad its there.

  • Thank You, a trial run is the best idea. it is difficult to let go of control. I need to separate & recategorize files: one set of files just papers (Mendeley maganged), the other set for all other academic files. For remote access I would expect you to be able to login to your Mendeley account via web. – vv111y Jan 15 '16 at 18:06
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Mendeley has always like to describe themselves as "Opens up Science for Everyone", but their EULA is very restrictive (e.g,. see my question on Open Data.SE). Mendeley is now owned by Elsevier. Many people felt betrayed by the move (cf. this article in the New Yorker).

Academic careers are long and I would be very hesitant about putting my library of articles in a closed source system with a restrictive EULA that is owned by one of the major for profit publishers. While Menedely might be better than your current system, it is unlikely to remain the best system over the next 30+ years. You might be better served by developing your flexible system for keeping track of articles.

I am not aware of a FOSS clone of Mendeley (see Free, open-source substitutes for Mendeley?), but FOSS projects like JabRef and Zotero might meet many of your needs and provide better flexibility going forward.

  • Interesting. Do you know of any cases where someone uploaded their own paper and it was removed? – Bitwise Jan 15 '16 at 16:29
  • Thanks for mentioning that background on the company and other considerations, I hadn't heard of any of it and I never used Mendeley in any of those ways, so wasn't even aware of the politicized issues that surrounded it. I've just been happy it helps me find meta-information on the paper and help me cite it, as I tend to save interesting articles and then forget how hard it can be to reverse-search and get a proper citation for it later. Still, it's important to be aware of and gives some validation to my paranoia - always backup things to multiple places! – BrianH Jan 15 '16 at 17:04
  • Agreed. I downloaded FOSS options to try and searched here for recommends, academia.stackexchange.com/questions/5352/…. – vv111y Jan 15 '16 at 18:08
  • I think I need to use Mendeley until other options are ready for primtetime and/or have the same feature set. I use Zotero in tandem with Mendeley right now. We'll see how it goes. – vv111y Jan 15 '16 at 18:14
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Mendeley does this quite well. The options for folder organization are any combination of author/title/journal/year, in any order you want. The options for file names may also include any of author/title/journal/year, in any order, where you can separate by underscore, hyphen, comma or period.

One thing which could be improved is that Mendeley will not let you change the format of individual fields. For example, for author names, if there are up to 3 authors it will have all author names (e.g. "Johnson, Cohen, Livingstone_Nature_2013.pdf") but if there are more it will write it as "Johnson et al._Nature_2013.pdf". Also as you see it uses spaces and commas. So if the exact formatting is very important to you this may be a problem.

Note though that Mendeley has a special site where you can ask for new features and follow up on their progress. It works pretty well, though the timelines can vary (took them ages to get an android app).

As BrianDHall mentions, there are many other better reasons to use Mendeley - I definitely recommend it.

  • Good info, appreciated. – vv111y Jan 15 '16 at 18:16

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