How Do I Choose a Citation Manager?

Citation management (aka reference management) tools enable you to:

  • Import citations from databases, catalogs, PDFs etc., often through a browser plug-in
  • Store and organize references and/or PDFs in either a desktop or online account
  • Find duplicate citations; add notes or annotate your citations
  • Create bibliographies and in-text citations in Word and sometimes Google Docs using different citation styles
  • Share your digital library and collaborate with colleagues
With so many different types of citation managers, how do you decide which one is right for you?  Below you will find a comparison between several citation management tools. If you would like more information on which one to use for your project, contact us via the Ask Us service.


Cost: Free to all
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, browser add-on
  • Freely available to all; can continue using it if you leave UVA 
  • Good option for collecting many types of literature, including web resources, through direct import or browser plug-in
  • Can easily import PDFs automatically
  • Easy to share citations with other users
  • Support available at the Health Sciences Library
  •  Limited free storage space (300MB)
  •  No dedicated tech support (help is through online forums)

Read more about Zotero


Cost: Licensed to anyone affiliated with UVA
Platform: Web-based
  • Web-based, so very portable
  • No storage limit
  • Additional features like article recommendations
  • Automatically removes duplicates
  • Sciwheel provides online support and troubleshooting
  • Support also available at the Health Sciences Library
  • Subscription-based, so full functionality will be lost if UVA cancels subscription.  Free Basic version would still be available.

EndNote Desktop

Cost: EndNote 20, a $249.95 one-time purchase price for faculty and staff. There is a discounted price for students of $115 - see to purchase a licensed copy.
Platform: Windows, Mac
  • Good option for major research projects; can handle a large number of references
  • 7000+ predefined bibliographic formatting styles and ability to create styles
  • Sharing options for your citations ("libraries") with up to 100 people
  • Can configure to retrieve PDFs
  • Dedicated customer support staff
  • Requires purchase
  • Browser plug-in to import citations from articles or other Web documents is available, but has limited functionality
  • Learning curve to utilize EndNote's full functionality

EndNote Web (also known as EndNote Basic or EndNote Online)

Cost: Free, and, while you are at UVA, EndNote Basic accounts have additional features due to our Web of Science subscription. See this comparison chart.
Platform: Web-based
  • Web-based, so can be accessed from any computer 
  • Storage capacity since UVA subscribes to Web of Science
  • Very limited citation styles available
  • Browser plug-in to import citations from articles or other Web documents is available, but has limited functionality
  • Limited capabilities compared to EndNote Desktop


Cost: Freely available to all, with upgrades available (additional storage space)
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux; has a Web syncing option
  • Designed as a PDF manager (ability to create a citation from PDF)
  • Social networking capabilities, find researchers in your field 
  • Easily share citations with other users
  • Need to check on the accuracy of citation information
  • Free version has limited storage space for PDFs 
  • No database search from within the program
  • Lack of dedicated tech support


Guidance for UVA Health faculty, staff, and students is available by appointment:

  • Help with choosing the right citation manager for you
  • Basic guidance on citation management features and getting started (for Zotero and Sciwheel only)

Just Ask Us via the link at left - we are happy to provide help via email, phone, or in-person.

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