Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mendeley- An Endnote alternative for Linux

Let's take a look at an Endnote alternative today. As you scholars out there should know, Endnote is a great citation manager and bibliography author. It's quite easy to take stock of your references from various scientific websites and cite while you write in Microsoft Word. However as I'm now on a Linux Mint box with no Windows partition, that is no longer an option. Wine is an excellent program but sadly research showed that it's not possible to reliably get Endnote going on Linux and even if it's done, it's impossible to get it working as a native Windows install. So I wondered what my options were. Then I realized that to my good fortune (and also a fair bit of paranoia) I had saved all the Endnote references in my library (.enl file) as a .xml should the opportunity to import the library come by. What foresight!! If I hadn't exported the library as an xml file, I would have been stuck with the .enl file alone and no access to the Endnote program (we used the Endnote program at our computer clusters with no access to our own copy).

Enter Mendeley. I visited their website and downloaded a .deb file of their standalone desktop software for my Ubuntu-based Mint box. Then I used the default package installer to install the file. Alternatively you can use sudo dpkg -i <path to file> to install.

Then after starting the desktop application, I signed up for a free account using my Gmail id. Then the helpful start-up menu asked me if I wished to import any citations from Endnote. I clicked on it, navigated to the .xml file and hit OK. Then voila, all my citations were listed alphabetically.

Now I could use Wine 1.5 to install Microsoft Word 2007 on Mint 13 (regular install with a riched20.dll native dll over-ride under winecfg) but I would prefer to use the native Libreoffice suite with Writer (Word 2007 equivalent).

So I installed the latest Libreoffice suite (version stable) and then tried using Mendeley's inbuilt citation exporter to do the needful. However, Mendeley advertises on its website that it supports Bibtex,  Word for Windows and Mac and Openoffice. Nevertheless we can use it for Libreoffice Writer but when we try to activate the Openoffice plug-in from within the application, it will say that unopkg cannot be found. Click OK to navigate to the file. If you've installed Libreoffice via a repository it should be at /usr/lib/libreoffice/program/unopkg  As mentioned here.
If you've downloaded the Libreoffice suite via .deb file from the official website and unpacked it using sudo dpkg -i, you can try looking in /opt/libreoffice3.5/program/unopkg.

Now, open Writer and you should see a toolbar for entering citations and bibliography. Try inserting a citation and it will give you an error message. Ignore it and close Writer. Reload Writer once more and Mendeleydesktop's cite while you write for Libreoffice Writer should be set to insert citations and bibliography.

I've yet to take it for a full spin, but it seems somewhat promising. I have been used to Endnote for a whole year and it will be a while to get used to this freeware, but nevertheless it feels liberating that I don't have to go back to Windows or run a virtualization just for this purpose.

Read the manual at Mendeley and let me know if this article helped!

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