Skip to main content

Citation Management Software

What is citation management software?

A reference manager supports researchers in performing three basic research steps: searching, storing, and writing [...]. It helps researchers find relevant literature, allows them to store papers and their bibliographic metadata in a personal database for later retrieval, and allows researchers to insert citations and references in a chosen citation style when writing a text.1

Citation managers can save researchers a lot of time, help reduce mistakes, and help avoid plagiarism. For those reasons, they are highly recommended.

Click here for a comparison of different citation managers.

1Fenner, Martin, Kaja Scheliga, and Sönke Bartling. ‘Reference Management’. In Opening Science, edited by Sönke Bartling and Sascha Friesike, 125–37. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2014.

Comparison of citation management software


Zotero is a popular free and open-source option among researchers that offers many features as well as extensions.


Mendeley is a proprietary option from Elsevier. BI faculty and staff have free access via our partnership with BAU.

Source: Wikipedia (retrieved 04 Mar 2022)
Software Developer First public release Latest stable release date Latest stable version Cost (USD) Free software License Notes
Bebop ALaRI Institute 2007-11-08 2009-11-10 1.1 Free Yes BSD web-based BibTeX front-end (Apache, PHP, MySQL)
BibBase Christian Fritz 2005 2013-07 v3 Free No Proprietary centrally hosted website, intended for publication pages
BibDesk BibDesk developers 2002-04 2021-08-15 1.8.3 Free Yes BSD BibTeX front-end + repository; Cocoa-based; integration with Spotlight
Biblioscape CG Information 1997 2015-06-22 US$79-299[1] No Proprietary ODBC; web access in Pro ed; optional client/server; discontinued?
BibSonomy University of Kassel 2006-01 2019-12-11 3.9.2 Free Yes AGPLGPLLGPL[2] centrally hosted website
Bibus Bibus developers 2004-06-03 2013-05-23 1.5.1 Free Yes GNU GPL discontinued?
Bookends Sonny Software 1988 (Mac) / 1983 (Apple II+) 2021-01-23 13.5.1[3] US$59.99[1] No Proprietary Desktop & iOS synced via iCloud, integrated web search, PDF download, auto-completion, Word plugin, BibTex support, PDF annotations stored as notes
Citavi QSR International[4] 2006-02-13 2022-01-05 US$89-1947[5] No Proprietary data can be saved locally on the computer, or, for team access, in the Citavi Cloud or an intranet Microsoft SQL Server;[6] search databases from interface[7]
CiteULike Oversity Limited 2004-11 Shut down in 2019-03-30[8]
Free No proprietary[9] centrally hosted website
colwiz colwiz Ltd 2011 2016-05-09
Free / Online storage free up to 3 GB / Additional storage space available No Proprietary Now combined with
EndNote Clarivate Analytics 1988 2021-11-30 20.2.1 US$299.95[1] No Proprietary The web version EndNote basic (formerly, EndNote Web) is free of charge
JabRef JabRef developers 2003-11-29 2021-07-05 5.3 Free Yes MIT license Java BibTeX and BibLaTeX manager
KBibTeX KBibTeX developers 2005-08 2020-04-26 0.9.2 Free Yes GNU GPL BibTeX front-end, using the KDE Software Compilation
Mendeley Elsevier 2008-08 2020 1.19.8 Free / Online storage free up to 2 GB / Additional storage space available No proprietary (OS API clients exist) Account required, Desktop & Web components, Windows, Linux, macOS (not macOS 11 Big Sur)
Paperpile Stefan Washietl, Gregorgy Jordan, Andreas Gruber 2013 Continually updated online
US$2.99/month for academics, 9.99/month otherwise No Proprietary web-application, integrates with Google Docs, collaboration & sharing features, currently only on Google Chrome
Pybliographer pybliographer developers 1998-10-30 (0.2) 2018-04-03 1.4.0 Free Yes GNU GPL Python/GTK2
Qiqqa Qiqqa 2010-04 2020-10-04 v80 Free Yes GNU GPL From end 2020, Open Source
ReadCube Papers (now Papers) ReadCube 2011-10 2021-03-09 v.4.23.3 US$ 3/month for students, 5/month academics No Proprietary Web-app, Desktop (MacOS, Windows), Mobile (iOS and Android). Microsoft Word and Google Docs add-in. Browser extension (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari)
refbase refbase developers 2003-06-03 2014-02-28 0.9.6 Free Yes GNU GPL web-based for institutional repositories/self-archiving[10]
RefDB refdb developers 2001-04-25 2007-11-05 0.9.9 Free Yes GNU GPL network-transparent; XML/SGML bibliographies
Reference Manager Thomson Reuters 1984 2010 12.0.3 Not for sale anymore, sales ceased December 31, 2015 No Proprietary network version; built-in web publishing tool; discontinued
Referencer Referencer developers 2008-03-15 2014-02-27 1.2.2 Free Yes GNU GPL BibTeX front-end
RefME RefME 2014 Shut down in 2017
Free No Proprietary Web, iOS and Android; Chrome and Safari Extensions available; discontinued
RefWorks Ex Libris / ProQuest 2001 2018 3 Institutional subscription No Proprietary web-based, browser-accessed, Word & Google Docs
SciRef Scientific Programs 2012 2020-07-30 1.6.2 US$38.90 / Free trial version No Proprietary
Sente Third Street Software, Inc. 2004 Shut down in 2017 6.7.9 US$60–80[1] / Free for libraries up to 100 refs No Proprietary Desktop and iPad, centralized backup/synching; discontinued
Wikindx Mark Grimshaw 2004-02 2021-07-07 6.4.10 Free Yes ISC license web-based
WizFolio WizPatent 2008-06 Shut down in 2017 Avatara US$25 / Free Basic version No Proprietary centrally hosted website; discontinued
Zotero Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at GMU 2006 2021-01-11 5.0.95 [11] Free / Online storage free up to 300 MB / Additional storage space available Yes AGPL Multi-platform desktop version with connectors for FirefoxChrome and Safari. Web-based access to reference library also available through or through a personal cloud-based database folder on a user's computer (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.).