I have a confession to make. Up until now, I haven't consistently used any citation management software. I despise EndNote and haven't found a good open source alternative that suits my OS and research needs. So, I organize my citations manually and have a master list by subject ... in a Word document. ... Stop looking at me like that.

I figured that perhaps I should alter said behavior when I came across Zotero. Oh how I wish I'd known of this while I was in the field. It beats EndNote to death in a single click and makes a fine online research tool/manager. Did I mention it's free?

I wouldn't say that Zotero is perfect, but so powerful is my attraction to this Firefox extension, that I've ended my silent war against the browser and embraced it wholeheartedly. Well, more or less. It's still frustratingly s l o w on my machine.

If your research is a seamless mix of on- and offline sources, I recommend trying Zotero. It's lightweight, relatively intuitive, and not at all invasive. The interface tucks away with slim precision and notification icons appear on the task bar when citation grabbing is available. The only faults that I can name are that the organizational tools leave a little to be desired in terms of categorization, and that some of the citations pulled are entered incorrectly and need manual editing. There aren't really enough supported sites, either, especially since I do a lot of research on non-English web pages. I hope the latter issue will be rectified in the near future.

For the time being, I'll be manually adding references as I work on my thesis, which is convenient considering I'm starting fresh with a new library, not importing from another program. JRAI style setting for export into a word processor is available, too. Which reminds me, since when are there a billion different varieties of Havard referencing?

You can pull citations from social bookmarking services as well, but that has already started to bother me intensely for one reason: you get other people's hastily written, sloppy citations. What is that about? I'd rather not import your citations if they look like they were written on the back of a napkin at 3:00am. Poor Zotero doesn't know any better, of course: garbage in, garbage out. I've already wasted precious minutes (those are like seconds, only longer) manually deleting dimwitted entries. A one-touch "undo import from web" function would be much obliged. (There might already be one that I haven't found yet).

Despite these more or less minor faults, adopting a citation manager makes me feel like I've got one less reason for people to look at me funny, and, let's face it, every little bit helps.

Alas, one problem arising from this illustrious FF extension is that it has opened up a whole new can of worms. Now that I have submitted to the beast that is FF, I can't help but browse for other modifications to tweak the once unimpressive browser into a conduit of excellence. Yeah, the Internet makes me fickle. I've gone from FF proponent to FF hater and FF lover in the space of less than a year (less than a week?), and that's a pretty regularly repeating cycle for me (vis à vis browsers, anyway).

I'm now going to play with Fission and Cooliris, turn some web pages into PDFs, mess around with slide shows of tabs for no productive reason whatsoever, and skin my FF to make it look like Safari. Mmm, browser add-ons.

Stop staring.


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