Zotero is an open-source reference and research management tool that you can use to organize, add, and share citations and references. Once you download it to your computer and go online, you can then easily synchronize all your data across different devices.
Its Connector Browser extension is what allows it to easily organize and save these references and citations online, and what helps make the extension even better is it works well with all the popular browsers.
Available for Linux, Windows, and Mac, this citation management tool has a minimal and clean user interface that allows users to easily catalog important data to incorporate into their projects.
However, Zotero may not be for everyone. For starters, one of the main reasons why most people might want to consider an alternative to Zotero is that it’s designed for people who mainly use a desktop or laptop. You can’t use all the features if you’re not using either one.
If you’re someone who primarily uses Chromebooks, tablets, or Android mobile devices, you may want to strongly consider something else because you won’t be able to get the best out of Zotero.
Another major downside of this reference management tool is that if you have huge storage needs, you’ll need to pay extra because the platform offers users free cloud storage up to 300MB only.
Lastly, with Zotero, you won’t have access to professional customer support services and if you’re an Android user, you won’t get any first-party mobile application either.
So with that said, if you’re looking for the best alternatives to Zotero, here are a few options you may want to strongly consider.
Like Zotero, Mendeley is a downloadable reference and citation management software that allows its users to easily add references and citations to a library. Users can import their information from the desktop/laptop or save it directly from all the popular web browsers.
However, unlike Zotero, one of the best things about this alternative is that you can access both the paid and free options across all devices. This means you don’t necessarily need a laptop or computer to get the best out of the tool.
It’s excellent at collecting information from PDF sources because it automatically extracts metadata and creates library entries as well. It even has a great in-built PDF viewer too.
Another great thing about Mendeley is that it offers its users more upfront cloud storage compared to most of the other alternatives on this list, including Zotero. It offers about 2GB of cloud storage for free, no matter whether you’re on the paid or free version.
Currently, this reference management software is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows machines. All major web browsers also support its web importer application, allowing users to save their references and citations to their personal library from anywhere on the internet.
Its Microsoft Word plug-in feature allows users to cite their sources without having to force them to open the Mendeley tool on their laptop or desktop. In fact, they don’t even have to install it for that matter, which is pretty cool.
Furthermore, so that you can always keep track and up-to-date with your ideas, Mendeley allows you to both annotate and highlight any PDF sources within the platform.
Another fascinating alternative to Zotero, which has been in play for quite a while now is EndNote. This reference management software is very interesting because it has this unique and innovative ability to search databases, like PubMed, from right there within the software.
EndNote is also known to be immensely helpful to those people in the STEM space because it makes it very easy to share references and citations with collaborators. Not only can it help you create bibliographies and citations, but it also allows you to manage, store, and compile references.
Like many other citation management tools, EndNote has an online option you can use across all your devices as well as a standalone desktop option. However, while you can use EndNote Basic (its online version) for free, its paid option is where you will find most of its more robust features.
EndNote’s paid version provides users with unlimited storage space, which makes it ideal for people who are looking to manage huge reference collections. Furthermore, it’s available for both Windows and macOS.
In addition, the platform has an online search feature that makes it easy for users to do research from right within the tool itself. Users can search databases like Web of Science, PubMed, and LISTA from inside EndNote and they can import references from these sites much quicker than in a web browser as well.
This professional bibliography management tool allows its users to manage their references while they collaborate and research their academic writing tasks.
It’s a great Zotero alternative because it also allows one to share, store and organize their reference sources, and create in-text bibliographies and citations as well in both Google Docs and Microsoft Word.
However, unlike Zotero, this platform’s paid option requires the user’s institution to subscribe to RefWorks before the user can gain access to its features. With that said, there’s also a web-based legacy version, but this option isn’t as efficient or intuitive as the paid one.
The latest paid version offers unlimited storage space and with it, you can quickly import information from catalogs, online databases, and other reference tools.
Additionally, like other reference management software, users can tag their references and citations for better organization within the platform itself.
Furthermore, it also comes with an in-built reader that allows you to easily add comments collaboratively and annotate full-text documents.
You’ll also be able to synchronize your information to the cloud storage platform, DropBox, which lets you keep local copies of your documents without having to go online.
This LaTeX-compatible bibliography management tool for Mac offers BibTeX file management services. Just like Zotero, BibDesk is a free, open-source platform that lets its users compile files or web references, automatically file PDFs, and easily edit their reference databases.
Users can import references in several different formats, like Marc, Refer, or PubMed, as well as search web-based databases from inside the platform itself.
BibDesk also allows its users to use keywords and smart groups to organize their references whilst still being able to format in-text bibliographies and citations for word processors, like Microsoft Word, Pages, and TextEdit.
Unlike Zotero and the other alternatives on this list, this bibliography management tool was solely designed for macOS users and can seamlessly integrate with LaTeX.
Although, that doesn’t mean it’s still not one of the best Zotero alternatives out there because you can still use it to both edit and manage citations and export this data as .bib files.
For those people who know what LaTeX is all about, it allows you to generate in-text citations and bibliographies in a document using your preferred format style.
However, if you’re not familiar with LaTeX, then you may find this reference management tool a little harder to use, so keep that in mind when considering this Zotero alternative.
Citationsy helps more than 300,000 researchers and students annotate references, create in-text citations, import existing references, and collaborate and cite sources in more than 5,000 citation styles.
Furthermore, this alternative to Zotero via its Android and iOS applications allows its users to create and cite references directly from their smartphone devices.
Unlike Zotero, this platform doesn’t have a completely free version. It only has a free three-day trial plan and when this expires you will need to pay for either a non-student or student plan to continue using the tool.
With that said, this reference management tool allows its users to easily export and import references in LaTeX/BibTeX format, and save them online with its Safari, Edge, Firefox, or Chrome browser extensions. All citation information is stored in the cloud, which means you won’t have to worry about losing any of your data.
Lastly, one of the ways Citationsy separates itself from most of the other reference management software in the market is with its innovative mobile application. Its mobile app has an in-built scanner feature that allows users to cite books on the go.
This reference management tool was ideally designed with the academic researcher in mind. So if you’re an academic with a lot of citations you want to keep track of, this alternative to Zotero will make it easy for you to do so.
Just like Zotero, this reference management tool allows its users to import references from a wide array of different sources, including Web of Science, PubMed, and Google Scholar.
Furthermore, not only can users store PDF files for their research, but they can also store Excel or CSV files from their desktop/laptop and automatically place them into a well-organized library.
Another great thing about Paperpile is that it allows you to create shared links and files and share these with other users who aren’t on the platform.
It also works extremely well with Google Apps, letting its users synchronize all their information to a particular Google Drive account, which they can then access from anywhere.
Paperpile also provides several different journal-specific styles to help give its users a chance to format their work and research how they want.
Additionally, because you can use a Google Drive account for storage, you can store as many sources as you want and you can also easily share and collaborate these references with others within Google Docs.
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This all-in-one research management tool is perfect for both the professional and the student alike. With Flowcite, not only can its users categorize and collect their resources but they can also format, write, and spell-check their research papers.
Unlike most of the other reference management tools out there, Flowcite’s main goal is to enhance its user’s productivity and encourage deep research habits by putting all the tools and features they’ll need in one place.
However, just like Zotero, this citation management software has both a paid and free version, real-time syncing across devices and browser extensions.
This is a great alternative to Zotero which has many interesting features that give the user everything they require to write a paper from beginning to end.
Users will have access to over 259 million free, open-source journal articles from right there inside the platform, can integrate with their institution’s library for source searching, and can proofread their work before they publish.
Lastly, Flowcite offers storage of up to 3GB on its free option, which is one of the biggest free offerings on this list. Furthermore, it allows its users to collaborate with a limit of three people.
This next-gen reference management tool is another great Zotero alternative that’s perfect for academic researchers. Just like Zotero, Sciwheel allows you to easily manage your references, notes, PDFs, and ideas.
This platform also has an incredibly powerful search engine that allows its users to easily find any documents they may need for their work. It also lets them create groups for their documents which then helps make it easier for them to keep track of their work.
It has a user-friendly interface that has no real learning curve and is very easy to understand and use. Sciwheel also has integrated search features that allow its users to search for information both outside and inside the platform.
9. CiteReady (Formerly Wizfolio)
If you are in search of a reference management tool that will help you efficiently and effectively manage your references just like Zotero would, then you’ll definitely want to strongly consider CiteReady.
This cloud-based reference management tool was specifically designed with the academic researcher in mind, just like most of the other options on this list.
Not only does it allow its users to easily and quickly collect and store all their information in one place but it also lets them organize this data according to their personal preferences.
CiteReady is a cross-platform that supports all the latest Linux, Windows, and Mac versions, so you’re probably using an operating system that will work just fine with this reference management tool. It also has good web browser extensions for Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer and, of course, Chrome.
You can import bibliographic information directly from more than 150 scientific publishers, including Science, Nature, Springer Wiley, and IEEE, as well as online databases, such as Proquest, JSTOR, ISI, Scopus, and Google Scholar. You can also automatically import PDF files and documents into your own personal library.
This Zotero alternative is a very versatile reference management software that has become quite popular in the academic research space.
Just like Zotero, you can use Citavi to manage and organize references for all kinds of academic research work, from theses and essays to articles, papers, and books.
It’s simple and easy enough to use that even beginner researchers should have no problem quickly learning their way around the platform.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful piece of software. Even the more experienced researcher will greatly appreciate what it has to offer in terms of features.
For one, its LaTeX support and MS Word Add-on make sure you get accurate citations.
Additionally, users can select the style of bibliographies they want automatically inserted into their work. The platform has more than 9,000 professional citation styles for literally all academic disciplines.
Docear is another incredibly powerful and unique reference management software that allows its users to manage and organize their references and PDF files.
This is a great Zotero alternative that integrates many different interesting features, like note-taking, mind mapping, PDF management, and, of course, reference management.
This reference management software is perfect for professionals, students, and academics because of how versatile it is. Not only does it help you manage references well but it also automatically includes your comments and citations in PDF format in your Word docs.
Papers is a Windows and macOS reference management tool designed for Ph.D. students and academic researchers who want to manage their references and bibliographies for their articles, essays, and papers.
It is mainly designed to maintain PDF files in their library and collect and organize references.
However, it also provides a unified user interface for full-screen viewing, metadata editing, document repository searches, and a wide array of document export and import options.
EasyBib has a citation generator application that you can use to create bibliographies. You will need to follow a few questions while you input your data so that you can create the final citations and references that will be incorporated into your work.
You will start by choosing the kind of resource you intend to use in your work and then proceed to the title. After you verify all your resources, the reference data will be changed into MLA style, which is the only style you can use if you’re on the free version.
As you work on your research paper, book, or article, guiding questions will prompt you to complete your citations. EasyBib has a Citation Guide that will show you what information you need to include in your work and also where all these details can be found.
Like Zotero, EasyBib has both a free and paid version. The free program provides users with only five suggested grammar checks and access to the citation generator while the paid one gives them access to all the platform’s citation styles, unlimited grammar checkers, and no adverts.
The creators of this reference management tool specifically designed it to help make it easier for you to create bibliographies, which can sometimes prove to be a very grueling task. The citation generator will guide you through how to create reliable citations, plus it will give you hints whenever there’s any data missing.
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JabRef is a freely downloadable, open-source reference management software. It has a graphical interface that allows you to easily search, organize, edit, and import citations and references in the BibTex format.
Besides all that, it also gives users access to an automatic key generation feature.
However, it doesn’t have its own unique citation styles. Instead, it uses LaTex to generate BibTeX file-formatted citations.
The style file you pick is what will determine each style’s specifications.
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This reference management tool has modules that allow you to interlink and record references, tasks, notes, and categories the same way Zotero does. Furthermore, you can link any of this information to websites or other external resources.
You can also organize your references in a library or folder and tag them with categories. The modules on this platform allow users to import references from online databases like PubMed and from journal websites as well.
When writing a thesis or paper, you can input temporary citations and the tool will not only generate a bibliography but also convert this data into formatted citations. Additionally, you can pick from more than 1.500 output styles or create your own new ones from scratch.
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Zotero is no doubt one of the best reference management tools out there. However, if you feel that it’s not for you, then the next best thing would be Mendeley.
A huge reason why it’s the top choice is because there’s a lot you can do with the free version, which means you may not necessarily need to get the paid version.
With that said, all the tools mentioned on the list are great alternatives to Zotero. Hopefully, you now have an idea of what will best suit your needs.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.