EndNote X4

With the recently released 14th version, EndNote continues its highly successful trick of evolving as an information manager without compromising its core rôle as a bibliographic reference handler. There is new material in several areas, major additions have been made from a functional viewpoint, and a signpost erected to future expansion potential.

The existing structure of custom groups, smart groups and group sets is expanded by the addition of 'combination groups'. Making good use of these involves a bit of thought (and perhaps a quickly sketched Venn diagram), but it's time well invested.

Suppose you have accumulated a considerable number of references to (for example) mammals, and have subdivided them into custom or smart groups for large mammals, small mammals, carnivorous mammals. Clearly, the large and small groups will be mutually exclusive, but some entries from each will also be in the carnivorous group. Now you have a need to write about mammals that are not carnivorous.

Solution: create a new combination group, specifying its membership to include large mammals OR small mammals, but NOT carnivorous mammals. Hey presto: a new group automatically containing references to noncarnivorous mammals, regardless of size. It sounds simple, and in essence it is; but its real and extensive usefulness grows on you with time and usage.

The other big addition, to my mind, is automatic import of PDF files containing DOI (digital object information) references, with the relevant bibliographic details automatically retrieved from CrossRef.org and entered into the EndNote database form. This can be done either for individual files or, to save even more time, a whole folder of them at once, and with some prior organisation works very well with the groups and sets facility.

In a test run, EndNote took a shade under two minutes to import 250 DOI referenced PDFs scattered among 1,500 other files across 150 subdirectories. The results do need to be checked, especially if you mix documents from different cultural origins in one folder import, but with intelligent use of settings the need for manual edits is minimal and the saving in time (not to mention entry errors) considerable. Each PDF document is attached to its record and its contents can be included in EndNote searches (which now allow wildcards).

Editing of records has become quicker, easier and more intuitive with the arrival of a Quick Edit tab (alongside the existing Preview and Search) in the lower pane. Using this is almost like opening the record and working in it directly, the most obvious difference being a smaller canvas to work on: an advantage very often, though the full record editing screen might be preferred for extensive changes.

Looking to the future, EndNote now offers access to an API. This opens up a prospect of third-party extensions whether for new internal functions or extended external communication with other programs in the software ecology where it is used. I can immediately think of three useful examples that would not be economically viable for the publishers, but might arrive from other quarters. Automation of frequent tasks is also a likely use, as is tweaking of the user interface for particular usage patterns.

Other additions include expanded EndNote Web facilities and new ways to fine tune formats.

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