Mendeley is dead, long live Zotero!

When I started out on my PhD two years ago I found Mendeley and thought it a perfect reference manager: Free to use, integrated with both MS Word and my browser and a generally easy-to-use GUI. What’s not to like?

Fast-forward two years. One of my papers was rejected and in the process of re-submitting it I needed to re-format the bibliography (more on that frustration in another post). Then Mendeley started acting up: “There was a problem setting up Word plugin communication: The address is protected”. Wtf? I re-installed the Word Plugin, I re-installed Mendeley itself, I tried some hints from this blog, I even watched a couple of YouTube videos. All to no avail. The Mendeley Word plugin did not work!

So I did what I usually do when life is mean to me: I took to Twitter. And complained. The Mendeley team was quick to answer, but their troubleshooting as nothing more than what I already had tried, plus encouraging me to “turn it off and then on again”. Nothing worked. A bit frustrated I replied:

Ok: how do I migrate my data away from Mendeley, and what is the best alternative to Mendeley?

The next day I had no reply and send a more official support request, and was met with this gem:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for submitting your question. This is to confirm that we have received your request and we aim to respond to you within 24 hours.

However, please note our current response time is 5 days.

Ok. Fuck this. I then remember hearing about Zotero, an Open Source reference manager. It seemed to offer both a Word-plugin and browser extension, as well as a method for importing my Mendeley data. Upon installation I chose “import from Mendeley” and found that it was not possible, due to encryption. I then found this site and found yet another reason to migrate away from Mendeley. Luckily my latest backup lacked only 20 items or so, so after 10 minutes of wrangling I had imported all of my data.

And I was impressed: Zotero understood that my Word doc was previously managed by Mendeley, and I did not have to change out all my references and rebuild the bibliography. So, in 30 minutes or so I had a working reference manager again, and I’ve moved from a closed platform incapable of providing adequate support to an open alternative that seems to work great!

So: if you are having trouble at all with Mendeley I would strongly suggest to migrate to Zotero!

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