EndNote X3

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EndNote goes from strength to strength, its development over recent releases consistent, restrained, and impressive. In this release, attention has once again focussed on increasing sophistication of the information management aspects concentrated in the left hand pane. In my own mind I categorise the changes in this release as organisational, operational and ideological. Since it’s an alarming word, and probably not one that publisher Thomson Reuters would choose, I’ll deal with ideological first. 

For some time, both the Cite While You Write (CWYW) approach and the ability manually to format citations and bibliographies within the generating word-processor were restricted to Microsoft Word (or Apple Pages 09 on a Mac). Users of other word processors were, until release 12, forced to export their finished manuscript to RTF file and then run EndNote’s formatting tools on that. While recognising and accepting the reasons for this (my own favourite word processor is not included because its publisher doesn’t supply EndNote with the necessary information), it did sadden me. Not because I have anything against Microsoft Word, but because plurality and choice of tools make for a healthier market. Then, in release X2, EndNote added option to format OpenOffice Writer (ODT) files as well as RTF, which was very welcome.

Now, with X3, both CWYW and live formatting within the word-processor have also arrived within OpenOffice Writer itself, providing a full alternative choice. If you haven’t already updated your installation to the latest version, save yourself a little time by doing it before installing EndNote since (unlike MS Office) OpenOffice doesn’t pick up the previous release’s EndNoteX3 hooks as it upgrades.

Moving on to the organisational developments, my favourite new feature is the addition of a new collapsible tree view layer, Group Sets, to the existing Groups. Groups (of several kinds, including bundled EndNote Web and the rule based and self maintaining smart groups) are sublists of references from a main library, used for corralling together only those materials needed for a particular purpose. The same reference can be in as many Groups as required, or none. Proliferating groups tended to clutter the left panel unless culled regularly; but Group Sets change that. Groups can now be subdivided so that, for example, I can have a Scientific Computing World set within which there is a reference group for each article.

I suspected that group sets would fall down when libraries were collaboratively opened in mixed environments still using older versions of EndNote, but I needn’t have worried. I haven’t done extensive tests but a library from X3 opened, edited, and saved in X2 returned to X3 with its group sets intact.

Looking to the future, a group subset (so that, for example, groups within the SCW set could be collapsed into archived, current and future subsets) would make this idea fully complete. Unlike references, sets cannot appear in more than one group; that, too, would nicely round off an already very satisfying state of affairs.

Other organisational tweaks include attachment copying, sectional bibliographies and grouped referencing with composite citations. While it was always possible to copy files attached to references (typically a paper, article, or associated supporting material), it was a multiple step process which has now been streamlined with an explicit menu or right click option. MS Word (not, thus far at least, OpenOffice Writer) users can structure bibliographies to appear at the end of each document section rather than the end of the whole document (other word-processor users can, of course, achieve similar results by file sectioning a master document).

Operational aspects range from 64-bit Windows compatibility through extended full text facilities to the usual extended provision of connections, filters and styles.

You think that a product has reached the limit of its niche, and can’t get any better; but then it quietly does.