Mendeley vs EndNote – Back to the Tranquil Hegemony of Thomson Reuters

In my daily researcher life, I need to have access to a good referencing manager. A referencing manager looks after the sources (pdfs of articles etc) you cite in research papers, lets you make research notes, and generally takes care of the bibliography.

The king of the hill is EndNote – it’s expensive, but UQ has a site licence.  

I used EndNote throughout my PhD, and when I started the postdoc with UQ they bought me a Windows machine rather than the Mac I used throughout the PhD.  That was OK – the reference manager moved across to Windows just fine.


The Mac came back.  I cracked and bought my own damn machine (2015 MacBook Pro 13”, thanks very much) since the uni would only buy a Mac for someone with a three year contract, not a two year contract.  Anyway, I was appointed to an ongoing role last year, and so the Dell (whose battery life was just forever awful) went back and I got a second Mac provided by the University.  I did try to make the Windows work for a year!

Anyway, since I was sick of carting a laptop home each day, I continued to use my own MacBook at home and the uni Mac at, well, Uni.  Unfortunately, this is when I came across a pretty big problem with EndNote.  I use unformatted citations – Cite While You Write is the work of the devil.  

Now, unformatted citations use Record Number – a unique record number in the database.  Unfortunately when you sync – such as when you when EndNote is being synced to a second Mac at home – that Record Number gets replaced.  With the result that your manuscript with the record numbers now is completely unusable.  Something of a problem.

I tried and tried to fix this problem but in the end I thought, why bother?  EndNote is the work of the devil anyway, so let’s get with the cool kids.  Zotero and Mendeley are popular choices for people that are used to interfaces not designed around a DOS Screen (sorry, EndNote, but really?)  Let’s give Mendeley a try.  

So I paid the money over for Mendeley disk space (I have 2500 sources, too much for the free bit of kit) – but in hindsight I should have gone with a month or two subscription only.  I have found a few problems with Mendeley.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a great piece of software.  It is fantastic at the social side, importing references from the PDF only (truly, it’s terrific!), and its styles seem fine for me.  It also suggests the papers that make sense – its AI is truly terrific there too.

There’s another ‘but’ coming.

It doesn’t do RTF scan.  Which means I can’t do Scrivener (one of the reasons I wanted the unformatted citations to work in the first place).

It seems to have a disturbing habit of losing PDFs occasionally.  Not frequently, not often, but still.  That’s kind of what it is for.  I’m very good at losing PDFs under my own steam.

Using it is a pain – the interface, while sexy and down with the cool kids, is a bit fiddly.  It’s easy to drop a paper into the wrong folder and – in a hierarchical folder – it’s hard to know which is where (the folders show what’s in the folder as well as all the subsidiary folders).  

It often just gives a beach ball on the Mac, at least.  It’s kind of slow and annoying and argh.

I’ve now discovered how to use EndNote with Scrivener and unformatted citations in a synced environment (give the label a citation key – like Bibtek does and use that for the temporary citations, not the dodgy record number).  You do, though, have to go through and give 2500 sources their own unique citation key… blurgh.

So I’ve managed to make EndNote do most of what I want; can’t say I’m entirely happy with the choice of going back to EndNote (it’s clunky, like a Volkswagen Beetle’s clutch, and it’s got an interface that is busier than a three-armed economist).  I will probably get itchy feet again and go back to Mendeley, one day, maybe, but for now it’s back to EndNote.  I’m not quite sure if I’ve done the right thing – maybe as I use it I’ll be reminded of the ‘hidden painful’ things, as there seems to be in all software.

A table with which I am far too obsessed

We are undergoing major renovations at home at the moment (kitchen and deck) so we donated some things we don’t use (what IS a tajine and why would I want one?) to St Vinnie’s. 

While we were there, I saw this fantastic older table and chair set for a mere $260,  just the right number of second hand scratches.  I have nowhere to put it, especially during renovations, but it just looked so good and useful. If I had my deck covered in I would have bought it I think. 

This counts as workstreaming as I had to go and pick up my motorbike yesterday morning and I popped in again on the way back (my phone was flat on Sunday) ‘to take a photo for a friend’. 

On another note, St Vinnie’s at Jindalee is looking really terrific.  And they have a never-used tajine for sale at $12.

Liveblogging Rostrum Convention 2016

Might live blog today’s Rostrum convention, I think.

Started with a Facebook live with Marcela Ramirez from MRPR.

Marcela has the first session on ‘Selling the Sizzle’ at the Convention.  Marcela (@tweetmrpr) does a ton of good work in the community is very socially aware, and is a great presenter as well.

Oh, and just a terrific person.  Catch her podcast at

Then, after I was Chairman of Adjudicators of the Rostrum Freeman Frank Smith speaking competition – for novices – and that of course was a good competition to see fro Rostrum novices.

The next speaker was Maree Clancy of Say It Now Voice Consultancy.  Now, I have to say it’s the sort of thing I sometimes think is a litle fluffy.  A little woolly.  But Maree grounded it in the science and gave actual takeaways for the audience.  A very good speaker, and a very good understanding of what it takes to be a good speaker.  Very useful I think…

Presentations and public speaking for managers

Last week I did a morning session with practice managers with the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health through UQ Executive Education.  A very switched on group of of women who are doing terrific things – if perhaps drinking a bit too much V to get them through the day.  Anyway, it was a really good half-day – they were presenting their work later that day – and we got to discuss things like what to watch in an audio-visual presentation as well as those five magic things that are important in the world of Rostrum:  Purpose, Content, Structure, Voice, and Body Language.  


This was in the city – and I don’t get to go into Brisbane too often, so here are a few photos of me returning to my old haunts:

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And finally, here’s me with the graduating class.  The ladies are (L-R):  Imogen, Marti, Julie, Camile, Alison, Ray, Cassie, Noelene, Leila, Belinda and Samara.  A wonderful group – though it might be time for me to get a haircut and lose some weight.  Hmm.  

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Launch of the new PowerBI Community group in Brisbane

So I thought I’d do up a small blog, as it’s pretty interesting and relevant.  Tonight I am attending the Microsoft BI user group in Brisbane, and we’re meeting at the Microsoft offices in George Street.


There has been a release overnight of ‘publish to the Web’ for PowerBI.  Recently there was a competition held in the UK, and we have there a visualisation of M25 accidents that won Best Report in the UK.  It’s all  interactive.


There are open source visualisation templates available as part of the new PowerBI toolset.

We heard also from Peter Ward, who advised that there’s a PowerBI executive group targeted at business groups and sharing about the strategy meeting on the third Friday of every month.  Welcome to attend either or both groups.  Bring that ‘PowerBI goodness’ back to your own organisation.

Ron Dunn from Wardy’s IT gave the main presentation for the evening, and the overarching theme is practical implications of PowerBI.

One key point is the vision for Microsoft BI reporting.  Here, the vision is on interactive reports – that’s Power BI Desktop.  Then there are spreadsheets – and of course, that’s Excel.  Report builder is good for Paginated reports, whereas mobile reports use Datazen.

PowerBI is Microsoft’s competitor to Tableau and Qlikview.  Tableau is kind of expensive, and possibly better at Infographics.  Power BI is a maximum of $12 per user per month – though there are free versions available – whereas say Tableau might be $2,000 per seat.

PowerBI is moving away from ‘cloud only’.

Power BI Desktop is a free download.  It does geospatial representations a map.  Connects via data source connectors to data sources.  Lets you pick a number of visualisation sources, and drag-and-drop to build an interactive dashboard.  The visualisations are linked to each other.

In many ways, some of the functions are moving out of Excel into Power BI as a tool.

Does have visualisations in reporting services, although its integration with Sharepoint is somewhat limited.

Noted that Microsoft is moving its releases of PowerBI to more monthly releases rather than yearly.

Works with both on-premise and Cloud data.  So, you can have some of your data on-premise; proper support for this seems to be coming later.

Need to check out – this is a forum run by Microsoft where ideas can be voted on.  This is actively managed and communicated on.

This really creates problems for organisations that run with locked desktops and such like.

Ron has some thoughts on these matters to close.

  • Power BI is unbeatable value (free is quite good if it’ll do what you want)
  • Power BI is designed for millennial freedom (i.e. locked down desktops?  Pfft)
  • Power BI is not a complete BI solution (need the BI stack for that)
  • Power BI is a rapidly evolving work in progress
  • Power BI is for people, not applications
  • Power BI is amazing
Question and Answer sessions
In the wrap up at the end, one point was ‘How does Power BI deal with data governance?’.  And of course the answer here is that it doesn’t.  This means that Power BI does not follow data governance rules in its implementation – you can end up having your data that is subject to rules that Power BI completely stomps over.  So no, it doesn’t do that.
What about Excel and Power View?  Answer – it is going to continue to be supported.  As noted in the vision, there’s PowerBI Desktop, Excel, Integrated Reporting, and mobile reporting (Datazen).  Tonight’s discussion focussed on PowerBi Desktop.