Comparing Citation Tools: what to consider

  • How do you gather references?
  • Do you have a bunch of PDFs on your computer that need organizing?
  • Do you need to sync references and PDFs across different devices?
  • What types of materials will you be working with, generally?
  • What databases will you be using?
  • Do you work in languages other than English?
—Technical support
  • How much patience and skill do you have for troubleshooting technical issues?
  • How much money are you willing/able to spend?
—Ease of sharing
  • Are you working with collaborators?
  • Do you want your research to lead you to other researchers with similar interests?
  • Is this tool something you picture yourself using beyond your time at Harvard?

Commonalities of Recommended Citation Tools

The best citation tools should have the following features:

  • searchable storage of references
  • searchable notes
  • ability to create in-text citations, footnotes, and bibliographies
  • ability to share references with others
  • ability to store, search, and annotate PDFs
  • ability to transfer citation library to another citation tool
  • ability to find and remove duplicate references


One-time citation-maker websites such as Easybib don't offer these features. They are better to use to create a few quick citations that you won't need to use again in the future.

Citation Tools Comparison Chart




Storage Space

Unlimited with Harvard subscription

Unlimited with EndNote X8 and above

Unlimited with Harvard email address


Free with Harvard subscription

Student pricing; free FAS download (free 30-day trial options)






Technical Support

Technical support available

Excellent professional technical support

Good user community technical support


Supports entire science writing process, not just saving & organizing of references

Very robust; good search and storage capability; direct export option within library databases; works very well with PubMed

One-click import for metadata and PDFs; tagging capabilities

After Harvard


$200+ post-graduation if not already purchased as a student

Free - 300 MB storage (or more for a price)

Other Considerations

Can use to discover other papers in life sciences

Steeper learning curve; many customization features

Open source; not good for bulk downloads

Word-processing Options

MS Word; Google Docs; Manuscripts for Mac

CWYW works with MS Word; Format Paper works with Pages, Nissus, WordPad, and others

Plug-ins that work with MS Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs

Mobile Options

iPad, iPhone, and Android apps

iPad & iPhone app

Multiple options: see Zotero's page on mobile options, as well as their iOS app

Sharing capabilities

Multiple shared projects with up to 150 people

Can share 1 library with up to 100 people

Multiple public or private group libraries with unlimited members