What collaborative reference manager to use for OpenOffice / LibreOffice?


This is about finding a software for these requirements (by priority):

  • Good integration with LibreOffice (practically identical to OpenOffice.org so far).
  • Free and open source software. If this is impossible, it should be a web service with good export options, to avoid vendor lock-in.
  • Collaboration on one bibliographic database by several users via web or desktop clients.
  • Cross-platform compatibility (Linux, Windows, Mac).
  • A project in active development.
  • Public read access on the Internet (a regularly auto-exported bibliography list would be sufficient).
  • Ability to attach full-text files to reference database entries; these should be accessible by co-researchers only, not the general public.
  • Ability to mark favorite quotations in full-text files via bookmarks, or extract them into another file attached to the database entry. This should also include the option to add notes and other meta data like a summary to prospective quotations.
  • Ability to have an online repository of full-text files and sync it to ones local system.
  • Simple data entry, ideally by auto-capturing of bibliographic information from web pages.
  • Various bibliographic output formats, ideally via Citation Style Language.
  • The exports in various output data formats should also be accessible by the general public, like for example in the StarTides Reference Library.


My favorite is Zotero [see also Zotero in Wikipedia] for the reference manager, in collaboration with Docear for PDF annotation organizing. See my separate post for instructions how to set up and use this duo on Linux.

Compared to Mendeley, Zotero lacks some features [source] but in contrast to it, it is free and open source software. The only set of requirements not met by Zotero is annotating PDFs and sharing these annotations with collaborators. Apart from that, it meets all of the above requirements (in some cases, with some hacking):

  • The project is in active development as of 2013-04, and backed and funded by scientific organizations which lets one expect this to be an active project way into the future.
  • There is a plugin for integration with OpenOffice.org / LibreOffice.
  • And it is said to include a feature for "online syncing" [source].
  • It supports Citation Style Language.
  • Full text files can be synced across collaborators using a dropbox.com account, for example. If necessary, the ZotFile Reader extension can be used to push files into this folder automatically.
  • There are also extensions for the Zotero Firefox extension. Search for "Zotero" in the Firefox extension directory, and you will find:
    • ZotFile – Zotero plugin to rename, move and attach PDF files to records.
    • SEASR Analytics for Zotero – Citation network analytics via SEASR.
    • Zotero Scholar Citations – Citation network analytics via Google Scholar.
    • Zotero autoexporting – Exports the bibliography database automatically in a desired format.
    • ZotFile Reader – Comfortably read the full text of a bibliographic entry on a tablet device.
    • ZoteroQuickLook – Mac OS X style "Quick Look" preview of full text files attached to bibliographic entries.
    • Zotero autotranslating – No idea what this is for.
  • Zotero is also recommended as the current best solution of bibliography management in OpenOffice.org, by the OpenOffice.org bibliography project [source].


My decision for Zotero was done after a close competition with Mendeley. In fact, an earlier version of this article did recommended Mendeley, until I noticed that it is not free software [source]. It has some better features and comes with more free storage space for papers [source], but closed software? Not my case.

Some other alternatives and why they were not chosen:

  • Bibus. It is possible to do collaborative work on the bibliography by means of a shared MySQL database [source], and this software also has great integration with OpenOfice.org / LibreOffice. However it still seems to lack capturing abilities for bibliographic information on web pages, and also still seems to lack features for attaching full text documents (I hacked a solution for that when using it in 2006).
  • Qiqqa. The features seem great but it is not free software. And doing more than just bibliography management in a proprietary software (in this case, note-taking and mindmapping) smells too much like vendor lock-in.
  • Aigaion. It's free software and completely web-based, which is great for shared editing and public access. However it seems to lack dedicated integration features for OpenOffice.org.
  • Jumper 2.0. Really interesting software: a knowledge / recommendation engine that allows to record metadata about all kinds of objects. However, we rather need just a good software for bibliography management, including producing bibliographic references in the correct format, and Jumper seems to be weak at this.
  • refbase. Interesting feature list, including full web-based environment and capturing of records from web pages. But the latest release is from 2011-08.

The best / most comprehensive sources of researching for a fitting reference management software have been:







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