I have had the the EndNote iPad app for a couple of months and out of frustration I am writing this post. I have recently and reluctantly returned to using EndNote X6 and X7 for my work as a grad student. I returned to EndNote because that is what my advisor uses and I have to use it also, in spite of my misgivings. My university (Virginia Tech) licenses EndNote, for which I am very grateful. I have tried using two of the popular alternatives, Mekentosj Papers 1 & 2 and Sente. Both of these programs have their own advantages and shortcomings. I see their principle strength is their ability to work with the iPad (which I think EndNote could easily match or surpass).
My sole reason for purchasing an iPad when they first came out was their obvious potential for revolutionizing the use of academic literature. I am a chemist and because of my circumstances I must commute to my university every day on a bus for approximately two hours of total travel time. To use the iPad to read literature would be a good way to make use of this otherwise wasted daily commute time. Of course, ‘reading’ includes highlighting and other annotations of documents and these tasks are where the iPad EndNote app comes up miserably short. True, it can approximate these functions, but if the annotations don’t synch back to the desktop EndNote library the whole effort is wasted. The ability to synch annotations and documents between the iPad and desktop are where Mekentosj Papers and Sente surpasses EndNote. I don’t need a convoluted workflow where I have to open documents in other apps and save them back to a web file service like DropBox, SkyDrive, or even EndNote Web followed by individually copying them back to EndNote on the desktop. I should be able to simply annotate documents on the iPad and synch the changes back to my EndNote library on my MacBook when I arrive at work (or home in the evenings). These are not huge requirements and Mekentosj Papers and Sente have both had these functions for years now. Why can’t Thompson Reuters see the advantage in this simple ability? I know that EndNote for iPad is geared towards operation through the EndNote Web service, but that approach doesn’t meet my needs and I suspect that I am not alone. I don’t always have high-speed wireless internet access and I don’t know in advance which papers that I am going to want to read. My questions are:
When can we expect to see annotations (notes and highlightings) fully synch back to the desktop? Others have made this happen, so it can’t be impossible or necessarily a huge challenge. Thompson Reuters has better resources (people, money) than either Mekentosj or Sente so there really isn’t any excuse for not already having this ability. If I can’t see the work that I do with the iPad app on my desktop EndNote, then what was the point of the iPad app in the first place? Now, I just print out papers and carry around piles of manually marked-up literature which is a giant step backwards. The iPad presently serves as an attractive, though expensive, paperweight for these piles of literature on my desks.
I purchased an iPad with the largest possible memory available (64 GB) so that I could carry around all of my research library. Yet, I have no wish to individually download and save over 5000 documents as ‘Favorites’ to ensure that the pdf is stored locally on the iPad. We need the option to download and locally store all or most of our documents on the mobile device. I could do this with Mekentosj Papers with room to spare. When I am in transit or otherwise have odd moments to read, I don’t always have wireless internet available to me for downloading a document. We need the option to copy an entire library to the iPad, by methods other than EndNote Web (cable or local wireless). Is this planned for future versions of the iPad app? When (approximately) can we expect to see it?
It took Thompson Reuters a long time (far too long in my opinion) to come up with anything for the iPad and what eventually was developed has been a great disappointment for me. I am a non-traditional (i.e… middle-aged) grad student with decades of computer experience. While I don’t shrink from working with computers and programming, when I want to use the computer as a tool to accomplish something else (like reading scientific literature) the tool shouldn’t get in the way of the task it is being used for. It is a cliche’, but the Apple marketing slogan that their products ‘Just Work’ has some validity. I switched back to Mac OS after years of Windows experience just because I wanted a computer that didn’t have to be constantly tweaked and fiddled with to keep operating smoothly. Along similar lines, EndNote should have the option for moving annotated literature between the desktop/laptop and the iPad without the user having to tweak either device or resort to complex routines where a lot of manual movement of pdf files are required. If working with printed paper was as complicated as working with pdf files over multiple platforms using EndNote, we would still be stuck in the dark ages!