Game on: Mendeley versus Zotero

zotero versus mendeley

Reading research articles is the core of any researcher and writer. Managing all literature reviews in terms of their storage, retrieval for future reading and most important for their citation is key. I’m sure we agree on this.

There are many reference management software but perhaps the most widely used by the academic community are Mendeley and Zotero, with a deserved mention for Endnote. This is where the controversy begins. The rivalry between Mendeley and Zotero’s fans goes back a long way and is comparable to the division caused by the pineapple on pizza.

In this article, we break down the main differences between the two. Read on!





​Mendeley (mendeley.com) is a reference manager and academic social network developed by Elsevier that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.

Mendeley’s new reference management suite consists of three integrated applications: Mendeley Reference Manager, Mendeley Cite, and Mendeley Web Importer.

Mendeley Reference Manager – Installed on your desktop or as a web application, it allows you to organize all your references in one library using collections and tags, and find important references quickly with keyword search and filtering. The built-in notebook helps you keep your thoughts organized in one place. Create notebook pages for different topics and use them to collect annotations and highlighted text from PDFs as you read them. Create and participate in private groups from within the app and share resources and annotations efficiently with a team. You can switch between desktop and web versions of the reference manager for convenient access to your research on any computer. It is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and iOS devices.

Mendeley Cite – This is an add-in for Microsoft Word that allows you to insert references from your Mendeley library into your Word document, change your citation style and generate a bibliography – all without leaving your document.

Mendeley Web Importer – This is a browser extension that allows you to import citations, PDF’s, webpages, and more directly to your reference library from academic databases, Google Scholar, and publisher pages. According to SaaS’s own warnings, while the Mendeley Web Importer works with most databases, it does not always bring in the PDF article with the reference. The Mendeley Web Importer generally works best to bring in the PDF from the article page, rather than the search results page.


How to use Mendeley, explained by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco)


“A lot of people have recommended Zotero (which I have tried and didn’t love because I found the interface clunky, but I absolutely admire because it is open source and a labour of love, so I do recommend it to other researchers) but I settled for Mendeley, which is the software most of my coauthors use too”.

📌 This scholar, writer, speaker, and educator has written a short guide to using Mendeley as a reference and citation manager that you may find interesting.




Zotero (zotero.org), pronounced “zoh-TAIR-oh”, is an open-access, easy-to-use reference management tool that serves as your personal research assistant and helps you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.

Zotero allows you to save references from library catalogs, research databases, and the Web, add PDFs, images, audio and video files, snapshots of web pages, and more. But not only that, you can also write annotations, attach them to citations, and create bibliographies using most major citation styles. Zotero is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

This tool has no institutional customer support service, but the Zotero website provides extensive information, including instructional screencasts, troubleshooting tips, a list of known issues, and user forums. Questions and issues raised in the forums are answered quickly, with users and developers suggesting solutions. Many academic institutions provide Zotero tutorials to their members.

What about extensions?

ZotFile – PDFs or other files can be synchronised from Zotero to other mobile apps through the ZotFile plugin.

Juris-M – Juris-M is a fork of Zotero with additional features supporting legal research and multilingual citations. It allows for multilingual citations, and translations and transliterations of citation fields and provides additional support for needs of scholars in fields of law.

ZoteroBib – In May 2018, Zotero’s creators launched the web-based bibliography tool ZoteroBib where users can generate bibliographies on the web without installing Zotero or creating a Zotero account.

Any mobile apps?

The Zotero website provides a full list of recommended iOS and Android apps that allow you to view your Zotero library and save items to your Zotero library.


How to use Zotero, explained by Mushtaq Bilal, PhD (@MushtaqBilalPhD)


📌 We are big fans of Mushtaq’s content on academic writing. If you want to learn the basics of Zotero, take a look at his latest posts because they might interest you.
Which one to choose?



If your research content is primarily contained in PDF files, Mendeley has an integrated PDF viewer and can create citation records by using the browser extension. Mendeley has the strongest website and community platform.

If your research content is diverse, Zotero is the easiest method to gather citation records for non-PDF content. Zotero’s single-click capture works with more databases, catalogs, and websites than Mendeley’s browser extension. You can also enable the retrieval of PDF metadata, which allows you to create citation records just by dragging a PDF into Zotero. Zotero is open source and cannot be acquired by a company.

Difficult decision, we know. For those of you who want to make a more detailed comparison, we recommend this citation manager comparison chart published by the University of York.

Now, it is up to you to decide which one best suits your needs.


Keep striving, researchers! ✨

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A powerful tool that enables researchers to save time and organise their knowledge


A powerful tool that enables researchers to save time
and organise their knowledge

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