Another year, and another Endnote release. Its developers have announced a new feature: what they call groups. This is basically user-defined folders.
Here’s the thing: Zotero has had this feature from the beginning. Zotero also still goes way beyond Endnote in its support for notes, tagging and so forth.
So let’s see … you can pay $99 upgrade fee for a generally more limited application, or you can get a superior application for free, and contribute to a genuine movement.
That movement is one where users fully shape the direction of the application. Indeed, most of the people involved in coding or designing Zotero and related pieces are scholars; users who know what they want and need, and want to create something better than existing alternatives like Endnote.
A second principle that flows from the user-led orientation of Zotero is that data must be free.
Finally, a consequence of the open data and open code approach to Zotero is that it creates new opportunities. One simple example is word-processor integration. As a start, one of the Zotero developers added support for Word. Then a Zotero user came along and improved that, and then still another outside developer who wanted to add equivalent (and compatible) support to OpenOffice (to be released soon). I expect to see a whole ecosystem of similar innovations build up over time.
A few years ago I actually gave up the Endnote ghost. I had been beta testing the first version that ran natively on Mac OS X, and been really frustrated by the poor quality of what I saw. As I was starting work on a book manuscript, I was finding Word crashing regularly, and I knew it had something to do with Endnote. So I complained; about that, and a whole lot of other things.
A project lead actually told me at the time something like “if you don’t like Endnote, use something else.” So I did! Not finding any good alternatives, I asked the question “what would it take to create a better and more open alternative to Endnote?” When enough people start to ask the same question, the answer is something like Zotero.