Impressions of RefWorks

The first time I logged in to the RefWorks trial I was impressed. The user interface is clean and response times are surprisingly good, such a change from the complexity of EndNote. I like the RefWorks menu system and the layout. The keywords are simple and meaningful. Yes I can happily work with RefWorks. I tried importing and exporting EndNote libraries and after a few experiments all worked smoothly. I was pleased to see that Absracts and Notes migrated both ways well, annotation preservation is so important.

I wasn’t able to try Write-N-Cite (WNC) which processes citations and reference lists in Word much like EndNote. The successful deployment of WNC would be critical to any adoption. I did look up the tutorial and it seemed straightforward. Indeed the online tutorials generally were useful if a little slow going.

Of course the biggest benefit by far is that all your references are in one place. You can access them from anywhere on an internet-connected machine. No more synching of EndNote libraries between multiple workstations. The biggest benefit brings the signficant potential downside, what if RefWorks messes up your data of the company is no more? No need to worry, RefWorks allows you to backup your complete reference list as a .rwb file. What if you can’t access the Internet? Well you can export your references to EndNote from time to time

As opposed to EndNote itself, RefWorks knows about the range of journals in computing–it’s so comforting to see ACM journals in the default dropdown lists everywhere, and even IEEE is there. So called ‘direct’ importing is available from the ACM and IEEE digital libraries which is where I source many of my references. The process actually involves generating BibTeX/RIS references in a new browser window, copying, and then importing to RefWorks by pasting in a text box. This works well but is a little clunky.

I pointed my PhD student at RefWorks because he uses BibTeX on his Linux systems. From my perception this works well, but he was not enthused. I liked the idea of RefShare and looked up the tutorial but I don’t think our trial included that?

All in all I like RefWorks very much. If a web-based version of EndNote was not on the horizon I would be putting my hand up for a RefWorks/RefShare purchase. If the incremental cost is not too great I would still say let’s have RefWorks if only for the computing bias (and particularly for the medics). My two pennies worth.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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