SCIENTIFIC DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
30 October 2006
Reviewed by Felix Grant
There are a number of mature solutions which, in different ways, address the need of scientists for referencing management, and development tends now to focus on polishing of usability, and on value added. One of EndNote’s most useful features, enhancing its integration into larger mix’n’match research information management (RIM) régimes, is undersold in my opinion. A file can be dragged onto the ‘PDF’ field, giving an icon which, when double clicked, opens the file.
The really interesting bit is that although the EndNote consistently refers to linking PDFs in this way, it can equally well be any file – or files, for that matter, including zip archives. Programs with the increasingly common workbook or project file structures are in their element. This makes EndNote just the thing for tying together information under a single reference heading at the individual user level.
As an illustrative example, a bibliographic record for a report might contain in the PDF field a 72-sheet Excel workbook of raw data, a zipped folder of WAV sound recording files from which the data was extracted, a compiled website, a word processed copy of the report text, a Statistica workbook of analyses and an Origin Viewer file of visualisations.
Files can be absolutely linked (in its original location) or relatively (a copy is made in a data subdirectory below the EndNote library location). There are pros and cons to both methods. Relatively linked copies travel with the library when it is transmitted or moved, for instance, while absolute linked originals remain live with edits being reflected in the EndNote record.
Talking of transmitting or moving reference libraries, the simple and efficient facility for packing up both library and associated data directory in a compressed form is a very welcome addition. The archive is created through a ‘send to’ file menu option (defaulting to the same name as the library with extension .enlx); reopening it in the same way as any other library decompresses it on the fly. Compressing and a 7,500 reference (7·46Mb) library and associated data directory (9·63Mb) on a bog-standard, entry-level laptop took just over six seconds, yielding a 3·84Mb archive (roughly 78 per cent saving in size). Reopening the file took less than a second.
Other developments of relevance to science users focus on streamlining of normal use – the sort of improvement that will be gratefully received and then forgotten, because they work exactly as they ought to. Empty fields can now be hidden (and restored) with a single mouse click, which greatly speeds up visual reading or scanning of a record. Searches gain three very useful comparison operators and there are four new reference types whose utility will depend on the user’s field of work.
Accreting additional functions to a product focussed on a narrow task, without succumbing to bloat, is a delicate balancing act – but EndNote has so far managed it. As a personal or small team tool, where only one user at a time need open the database in a mixed software environment, it is the market leader and takes some beating for combination of capacity with usability.