Citavi is considered the Porsche among the literature management programs. However, with 119, – € per license for students and doctoral students, the software is also one of the most expensive solutions on the market. The individual case of application and the personal expectation of functional scope, usability and profitability of reference management software determine which alternatives are suitable. What makes Citavi, Mendeley, Endnote and Co. stand out? Insights on the 5 best Citavi alternatives for students in 2018 can be found here:

What is a bibliographic management program and what are its basic features?

In times of online library catalogs and plagiarism software, proper citation is a top priority at universities. In order not to lose track of the jungle of literary sources and citation styles, bibliographic management programs – also known as reference managers – support academic writers in archiving and structuring academic literature as well as in their own scientific work, such as term papers, bachelor and master theses, and dissertations.

Citavi and all the Citavi alternatives introduced in this article offer the following basic features against this background:

  • Archiving references based on bibliographic data
  • Management of stored references, eg. Eg via search and structuring functions
  • Import of references from literature databases
  • Creation of automatic bibliographic entries (bibliographies, bibliographies, short references) and output in user-defined citation style (eg APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, etc.)
  • The all-rounder: Citavi

“Citavi supports your entire work process” is Citavi’s promise to its users. The complete list of the functions offered, which are grouped under three core areas (import – processing – export), is truly long. Here are the key features at a glance:

  • import
  • Search function directly from Citavi out in
  • Specialist databases such as EBSCO, Ovid, ProQuest, Elsevier, Thomson Reuters
  • the world’s largest online catalog WorldCat
  • Catalogs of National Libraries, Library Associations, University and Institute Libraries
  • Book trade catalogs (eg Amazon)
  • Automatic collection of bibliographic data
  • by ISBN, DOI or PubMed ID
  • via barcode scanner (for the recognition of print media)
  • per picker (for direct import of online media)
  • from PDFs
  • from other bibliographic management programs
  • from literature databases
  • processing
  • Save research and import operations for later (re) use or as a reminder
  • Editing and commenting on documents (eg PDFs) directly within Citavi
  • Capture content from print media via
  • line scanner
  • Digital Photo
  • Flatbed scanner
  • speech recognition
  • Organization of notes, structure of scientific papers and scripting
  • Project organization via integrated task planning as well as collaborative working in a team
  • export
  • Formatting and outputting references, quotes and bibliography entries in more than 7,500 citation styles
  • Interfaces to word processing programs (eg Word add-in)
  • Export of lists, scripts and literature data
  • Reasons to use Citavi alternatives
  • costs

Citavi is the leader in bibliographic management programs. The large range of functions, however, also has its price. Happy are students whose universities have campus licenses. For them, working with Citavi is free, as long as they work from their user account in the university. Who wants to use Citavi from his native computer, pays for the students and doctoral students license currently 119, – Euro.

But not only for cost reasons, students opt for alternative offers.

Range of functions, usability and training time

A common argument for the use of Citavi alternatives is that the software is less intuitive, especially for newcomers. Scientific writing projects vary considerably in scope and duration. For example, the undergraduate, who organizes the literature for his thesis, may face quite different challenges than the author of a dissertation. It is therefore only clear that the market for reference management software also reflects the diverse requirements for organizing scientific literature. In particular, undergraduate and graduate students value offers that require little training, even if their preferred alternatives to Citavi do not have the same rich features. Which program is most suitable for which application is summarized below.

The 5 best Citavi alternatives

The budget saver: Zotero

Zotero is the reference manager for all those who want literature management without a lot of bells and whistles – but for free.

Zotero organizes sources of literature in collections or tag categories and outputs bibliographic data in over 8,000 different citation styles. For this, advanced functions such as research are missing directly from the program. The import of literature data from the net as well as the connection with word processing programs nevertheless works by plugin. Zotero does not support advanced knowledge organization functions known from Citavi and other more complex literacy management programs. For example, within Zotero no notes can be managed or PDFs can be edited. The creation of structures or scripts must be done outside of Zotero. After registration, it is possible to synchronize literature data and access it from multiple devices or from the browser. Also collaborative work is made possible in this way.

Cost: 0, – Euro

Operating systems: Microsoft, MacOS and Linux

Installation: Optional download or use in the browser

Especially suitable for: Bachelor students and anyone who simply wants to manage relatively small collections of literature

The Intuitive: Auratikum

Auratikum relies on the intuitive combination of literature management and knowledge organization. The cloud-based writing companion links every note and quote directly to the corresponding source. The required bibliographic data can either be entered manually, imported as a file or automatically extracted from the reference database Crossref. Auratikum publishes bibliographies in over 8,000 different citation styles as Word or LaTeX files. In contrast to Zotero, knowledge organization is one of the core functions of Auratikum in addition to reference administration. The idea behind the software is that notes, quotes and thoughts within Auratikum are linked in such a way that even extensive scientific writing projects such as bachelor and master theses as well as dissertations can be structured intuitively. A feature highlight is therefore also the integrated structure function, in which notes including the associated references can be conveniently dragged and dropped in an outline order (and arbitrarily move again) and can be titled and commented. The first script of the scientific work arises as if by itself.

Cost: 6.99 euros per month or 49.99 a year

Operating systems: Microsoft, MacOS and Linux

Installation: not needed, because browser application (all popular browsers are supported)

Especially suitable for: From undergraduate to postgraduate students: Anyone who wants to manage notes and references in one place and wants a reference manager, outline editor and personal writing companion all in one

The specialist for natural scientists: Endnote

Even Endnote is one of the more complex solutions among the Citavi alternatives, but especially popular among scientists. The software of the information service provider Thomson-Reuters manages bibliographic entries as well as full texts (for example in PDF format) and supports the search in online databases (eg in the Web of Science) and the direct import of literature data from specialized databases and library catalogs. The connection to Microsoft Word is realized via the “Cite While You Write” plugin, which can be used to generate automatic bibliographies. PDFs can be marked and annotated within Endnote and all imported files are structured in categories and searchable. File sharing in workgroups is also possible. Usage works through the desktop version as well as the browser-friendly Endnote Web. Due to the large range of functions, the training in Endnote requires a little time, which is why it is hardly intuitive to use for beginners. Also in the cost factor, the application is similar to Citavi strong. The student license is currently available for 110, – Euro, but is only available for Windows and MacOS.

Cost: once 110, – Euro

Operating systems: Microsoft, MacOS

Installation: desktop application and web version

Especially suitable for: Master students and PhD students (especially scientists)