Handling references and bibliographic information is an essential part of all research. If you are writing just one article or just your diploma thesis maybe you don't need to use this kind of software because you will not have a lot of references. BUT, if you are writing A LOT of articles, reports, master/diploma/phd thesis then you definitevely will need a good software to manage your bibliographic database.
Here is how a bibliographic manager works. An author creates a document and cites his document with entries form a bibliographic database created earlier. After the author completed writing the paper he passes the document and the database through some application and the application incorporates all the references cited in the document from the database. This produces a final version of the document containing the text, graphics, etc. the author created along with the references he cited in a specific format.
I will not try here a comparison of free and non-free software available, just I would like to point some interesting links which I found when I started to use bibliographic management software. So here are the links:
- Reference management software from Wikipedia
- A comparison of management software
- Comparison of free bibliographic managers
- Finding the right bibliographic/reference tool
- Bibliography Management Software with a Detailed Analysis of Some Packages
- Evaluation of Reference Management Software (comparing Papyrus with ProCite, Reference Manager, Endnote, Citation, GetARef, Biblioscape, Library Master, Bibliographica, Scribe, Refs
I hope that the above links will be useful.
What do I prefer? I am using LaTeX for everything (presentations, posters, reports, letters, ... ) and BibTeX, so I need something which can use plain bibtex file. I am searching and download references from ISI Web of Knowledge. The naming convention for citation key (for the bib-keywords) which I am using (thanks to my supervisor for the suggestion) is the following:
- One author: First four letters AND last two digits of publication year (Prot08)
- Two authors: First two letters of both authors AND last two digits of publication year (TePr05)
- Three or four authors: First letter of each author AND last two digits of publication year (TRPS07)
- More than four authors: First four letters of first author AND last two digits of publication year
- If a key already exists: the next entries get a small letter behind the publication year, starting with b. (RoTe07b, RoTe07c)
I've been using KBibTex and KBib for a while now since I use linux. For me it's quite useful because it has a simple, no bloat GUI that does one thing - let's you add and maintain references. The minor point here is that they are available just for linux/bsd. Now, I played in the last weeks with Jabref (it is writen in Java and it can run on every platform: bsd/linux/mac/win). I still didn't find how to use it in order to search in ISI Web of Knowledge, but I thing I will change to it anyway, to have the same software on all platforms.
That's all and good luck in managing your bibliographic database.