2 tricks to make Mendeley EPIC

What is Mendeley?

Most people will at least know about Mendeley. It’s one of several referencing managers applications out there, and it’s free… Sort of.

Mendeley looks similarly (if not exactly) like the interfaces of EndNote, Zotero, and others.  It’s simple in nature, but actually offers some under the radar features.  When you sign up you’ll receive a Mendeley social account, and you’ll get 2gb of space (link to other post about workflow).

So, it’s pretty basic, right? Here’s how I’m making Mendeley EPIC!

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.49.55 PM.png

Connect in the cloud(s) like a ninja

I really believe that the beauty of technology is that it works behind the scenes and does all the hard technical/functional thinking for you.  That’s one of the reasons I’m still, and probably will be for the rest of my life, an apple user.

The first thing any researcher should do, even if you’re using a different manager, is figure out how you’re going to SEAMLESSLY store your references. And I don’t mean just storing them to read, but how are you going to “archive” your shit?!

As I’ve written about before, I dump all of my “to-be-read” PDFs in a Dropbox. I organize this by topic/theme. Which works really well when I’m reading, but doesn’t work as well when I’m writing.  

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.51.03 PM.png

With Mendeley connected to my annotation file (boringly titled: Reference Manager), pulls everything into Mendeley, where she (Mendeley) goes through the first tier of organizing it all.

If you can’t be bothered with renaming and sorting articles all the time, then one of the best things about a multiple connection approach with Mendeley is it’s easy of connectivity, thanks to the watch folder feature (which comes with the FREE version… I’m looking at you Zotero).

When Mendeley watches this folder, it also makes a copy of the PDFs and stores it in its own cloud. AND guess what? If you go back and add more notes to that PDF, Mendeley will notice that it’s changed and override the first version to its cloud server.

So, boom! Like a stealth ninja, your references are stored in two separate cloud servers, without you really having to do much of anything.

I pull all of my references from my Dropbox library and move the ones I’ve annotated to a folder dedicated to my reference manager (it’s boringly titled: Reference Manager, but hey it’s easy to find if I need to do a spotlight search…which happens more often than not)

Mendeley is connected to that folder. So, when I put a file into the folder.  Mendeley does what any good reference manager does best: It pulls the meta text from the PDF and creates an organized list of PDFs with filterable (sure, it’s a research word…) categories: author, year, title, type, journal, last opened, added date, etc.

It also does a wonderful side bar of the information, which is easy to change just in case Mendeley messes up the metatext or the file doesn’t have any (why is that even a thing…!!). What’s even more epic about Mendeley at this point is that if the app pulls the wrong information, you can search for the just the title from the research databases and choose the right one.

But, this next part is like magic.

Definitely going to need those copies


Somewhere along the lines of stealth cloud ninja pdf storing, Mendeley, like your own executive assistant, can also make copies to yet another storage area.  (Yes, this is a thrice stored operative were working with).  

This feature is kind of hard to notice if you’re not really looking, and you haven't seen any of the tutorials on Mendeley’s website. Honestly, I overlooked it myself.


But, you can keep a copy of your PDFs on your computer in yet another, separate folder where Mendeley can (based on your configuration, of course) rename the file and place it in a file by author’s name.  And, if you’re clever, you’ll set up the folder on either a cloud storage or an external hard/flash drive (which is what I did).

This is actually one of the most epic parts of using Mendeley for me. And it’s so easily done it’s stupid to not do it. When you think about all of that time you’ve spent researching, annotating hundreds of PDFs, writing papers from those articles, it makes a lot of sense to keep a second, “backed-up” copy of those PDFs in an organized way. Mendeley does this for you. It DOES IT FOR YOU.  

I should note that this function will take up space on your computer (even if using a cloud storage that’s planted on your computer), UNLESS you set the file in an external hard drive that is connected to your computer. I haven’t tried it with a hard drive that’s connected via Bluetooth or wireless (like an airport time capsule), but I imagine it’ll work as long as the device is connected and you can see it’s little, ejectable icon on your computer somewhere.

So those are the tricks that have made my use of Mendeley epic, so far. Do you have any tricks that you use when conducting your research? Share in the comments.