I often find myself switching between computers with different operating systems, so I try to use free tools on the web as often as I can. The purpose of this post is to make you aware of two free options that I’ve had success with.
Bibliography Management – Zotero.org
Zotero is a free bibliography management resource that works as a plug-in for Mozilla Firefox along with plug-ins that work with Microsoft Office and Open Office. You edit your citations within Firefox, and insert them into documents using the Office plug-ins. You can import and export BibTeX into or out of Zotero and it is compatible with the RIS format, so you can move your citations back and forth between Zotero and Endnote. When you sign up for Zotero, it will ask you to create a user account. Your web account serves as an online backup for your citations, as well as a collaborative space. You can create a profile based on your area of expertise, so you can search for users with similar research interests as you and share your citations with them. (Perhaps this would be a good way to create a Pat Reed Group citation database?)
If this piqued your interest, I recommend checking out the quick start guide which shows some of the cool stuff you can do with Zotero.
My only warning is make sure you’re running the latest version of Firefox or you might have some compatibility issues with the plug-ins, especially with Word and Open Office. According to the website, there is a beta release for standalone Zotero as well as plug-ins for Safari and Chrome, but I haven’t used any of those options. It is also important to note that there is a 100MB limit for free Zotero service. I have about 2,000 citations total stored online and I’m only using about 1.0MB according to the website, so I imagine that the free service will be sufficient for everyone. It is $20/year for 1GB of Zotero storage.
LaTeX – Latexlab.org
Latexlab.org is a Google Docs based LaTeX editor. You sign in using your Google Docs account, so all your files are stored on your Google profile. Those familiar with WinEdt or other LaTeX editing software should have no trouble using the LaTeX Lab interface. You can upload images to your Google-docs account to insert them into your LaTeX document. I’d recommend using this if you’re on the go and need to put together a LaTeX document quickly.
I’ve never tried to compile anything complicated within LaTeX Lab, but if you need to put together an equation-heavy document quickly, this is a good alternative. I certainly wouldn’t try to put your thesis together using LaTeX Lab. You can compile different documents together into a project, but I’ve never used that functionality. Again, I would shy away from trying to put together complicated documents in LaTeX Lab.