Via Ricardo Vidal: Mendeley seems to be a Windows (plus Mac/Linux) equivalent of Mekentosj Papers (which is Mac OS X only, and has been described as “iTunes for your papers”). In addition to handling your PDFs, it has an online component that allows sharing your papers and other Web 2.0 features (billing itself as “Last.fm for papers”).
Here, I’m reviewing the Mac beta version (0.5.6). I am focusing most on the desktop side and compare it to Papers, because I have a working solution in place and I would only switch to Mendeley if the experience is as good as with Papers. (I.e., my main problem is off-line papers management, Web 2.0 features are icing on the cake.)
By Mac standards, the app is quite ugly. Both Mendeley and Papers allow full-text PDF searches, which is important if you want to avoid tagging/categorizing all your papers. Papers can show PDFs in the main window, copy the reference of the paper and email papers. Mendeley in principle can also copy the reference, but special characters are transformed to gibberish in this beta version. Papers allows you to match papers against PubMed, Web of Science etc., while Mendeley only offers to auto-extract often incomplete meta-data. This matching feature is extremely useful as you get all the authorative data from the source, and most often Papers can use the DOI in the PDF to immeadiately give you the correct reference. Update: Mendeley also uses DOIs to retrieve the correct metadata, if available. (Thanks, Victor for your comment.)
Well, this is a beta being compared to a product on the market (and Papers is quite a good application). I would expect some of the rough edges to come off as it progresses. What will be interesting to see is how the Web 2.0 aspects turn out. They could provide a route for useful filtering of information as people’s paper databases build up. By having these accessible, it will be much easier to see which papers are really being read and used.
The links between literature libraries, online profiles and readership are potentially very interesting. Something to keep an eye on, particularly as the edges are evened out.