Docear – The Visual Citation Manager

Citation managers are incredibly helpful tools for organizing the work that we do as researchers. The ability they give us to search, sort, arrange, annotate, and create bibliographies serves as a great time-saver when it comes to the research process. We spend a lot of time carefully highlighting and annotating our resources, so wouldn’t it be nice if we could easily extract those annotations as we begin drafting our papers? Earlier this month, a patron alerted us to a new citation manager that allows you to do just that!

Born from a PhD project and supported by the University of California, Berkeley, and the DKE Group of the OvGU, Docear helps users organize, create, and discover academic literature. Docear was first officially released to the public in 2012 and its latest update included a new Microsoft Word add-on.This open-source (FREE) software is the first of its kind to offer a feature that allows you to begin drafting your paper right in the user interface.

Features:

There are three main features that distinguish Docear from other citation managers.

Single-section user-interface While it does offer a classic three-section interface, Docear’s single-interface setting is what sets it apart. This interface allows users to browse multiple documents of multiple categories at the same time as well as multiple annotations of multiple documents at the same time. This could allow users to locate particular annotations very quickly rather than scrolling through an entire list of annotations for one document. Users can also create sub-categories within PDFs in order to search “key terms” within annotations. The downside to this approach is that it is not very intuitive and could take some time to master.

Literature suite concept (academic suite) Docear combines several tools into a single application by useing a technique called “Mind Maps.” This unique approach to organizing references and PDFs is a visual learner’s dream.

Here is a break down of the hierarchy of a Mind Map: The root node typically represents the title of your work > Nodes in the first level represent chapter headings > then follow sub-headings > paragraphs > finally users may create a node for each sentence. Here is an example of a Mind Map.

The enhanced formatting capabilities of Docear allow users to format text, add icons, change colors of the categories, and add visual links between papers in order to better distinguish between sources.

Docear also offers a “recommender system” (similar to the Mendeley’s recommendation feature) that suggest papers that may be relevant to your research. All papers that Docear recommends are available for free in full-text.

Document Drafting and Outlining — Drafting your own papers, assignments, books, theses, etc. is the defining feature of Docear. To get started with this, users have the option to copy PDFs, annotations, and references to drafts. As users write, this will enable them to click over to the PDF they need and immediately access the page and annotation they wish to use.

Keep in mind that Docear is a very new product with a few bugs to work out. For example, there is not currently a web-importer. Click here for some instructions from Docear on how to import documents. It also doesn’t have the capability for integrated synchronization of data, but it does allow for users to synchronize data with 3rd party tools such as Drobpbox. As it grows, it could be the tool you’ve been waiting for to help streamline your workflow. Docear is free to download, so give it a try! There are constant improvements and updates being made to Docear. You can track those on the Docear blog to stay up-to-date. There is no such thing as the perfect citation manager, but there is such a thing as the perfect citation manager for you. Docear could be the one!

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