RefWorks Transition FAQ

Cornell University Library’s subscription to RefWorks will expire at the end of December 2015, and will not be renewed. We have carefully reviewed the pros and cons of the library’s site license and have concluded that the high cost of the annual subscription can no longer be justified when there are other free or low cost citation management programs available that are as good or better than RefWorks. The following questions and answers are designed to help you in planning for that transition. And feel free to contact us with any questions you have that are not addressed here.

How do I know who is affected in my user community? How will they be contacted?

The Citation Management Working Group will send a series of messages to Cornell RefWorks users notifying users of the transition, with instructions to consult this FAQ and contact the Citation Management Group for answers to any questions. The first all-user email will be sent in April 2015.

I am a RefWorks user. What software should I use instead?

Cornell University Library provides support for three other bibliographic/citation management systems: Zotero, Mendeley and EndNote. All three offer the same basic set of functions as RefWorks, although each has its own strengths, which may guide you to one or the other of them.

  • Zotero is a free, open-source, web-based tool for managing citations and pdfs, and creating bibliographies. It is highly customizable with a robust user community, and works online and on your desktop.
  • Mendeley is a free, web-based tool for managing citations and pdfs, and creating bibliographies. Also has desktop and in-the-cloud versions.
  • EndNote is a highly customizable tool that has an excellent desktop version and an online version that is less easy to use. Endnote offers a free 30-day trial, and software can be purchased at the Campus Store. CHE faculty, staff and students may download a free copy of Endnote.  CALS faculty, staff and students may also download a free copy of Endnote.

View a comparison chart of RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero, Papers, and Mendeley.

What if I just want to stay with RefWorks?

If you still want to continue using RefWorks, you may purchase your own individual license for $100 a year and transfer your library to a new account, but please note that an individual license DOES NOT allow for the attachment of PDFs to citations.  You will be limited to storing only citation information in the new account. 

To obtain your own individual license:

1)    Sign up for a new account by creating a 30 day trial without a Cornell group code.  You'll need to use a different login name, as you're creating a new account. 

2)    Once you’ve created the new account, visit this page and sign in with your new account to complete the purchase transaction.

3)    Sign into your old account. Select Tools, Backup/Restore and make a backup of your database.  You will be prompted to save a .zip or . rwb file to your computer.  In your new account, select Tools, Backup/Restore and use the restore option to add the .zip or . rwb file to your new account.  You can also export your reference data in several formats using one of RefWorks Export options.

How can I learn more about exporting references and selecting new software?

General instructional workshops on Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley are regularly offered by Mann and Olin/Uris libraries. Additionally, each of these software programs has excellent online tutorials: Zotero's Start Guide; Mendeley's Videos and Tutorials page; and Endnote Training.

And of course, you can always contact us for help via email or by setting up a consultation.

How do I transfer my RefWorks library to new software? Can I maintain my folder system and attached files?

  • To download records from RefWorks, first view the RefWorks folder that you wish to export. If you wish to preserve your folders, you will need to export each folder separately.
  • Go to the Quick Access menu, and select “Export.”
  • To import into Zotero, select the export format BibTeX. A new tab will open with the references as plain text. Save as a .txt file.  Import it into Zotero using Actions (gear icon)> Import. You can also import the plain text into Zotero using Settings (gear icon)> Import from Clipboard.
  • To import into Mendeley, choose the export format Bibliographic Software (EndNote, Reference Manager, ProCite). Copy and paste the resulting file into Notepad, then save as a .txt file. Import into Mendeley using File>Add Files.
  • To import into EndNote, choose the “Bibliographic Software (EndNote, Reference Manager, ProCite)” format or "Refworks Tagged Format."  Copy and paste the resulting file into Notepad, then save it as a .txt file. Import into EndNote using “File - Import - File..." The filter to use is "RefWorks Import."
  • To download attached files, you must display them on the screen, save, and reattach them to the new records. RefWorks does not provide any way of automatically downloading attached files.
  • Note:  if you have used any of RefWorks' custom fields (user 1, user 2, etc.), these will only be exported using the RefWorks Tagged Format.  However, neither Zotero nor Mendeley can import these files; to get RefWorks citations with custom fields to import properly into Zotero or Mendeley, you will need to import into Endnote using the Refworks filter (which may need to be modified to import all your custom fields), and then exported from Endnote in the RIS export format.  Contact us if you need help with this process.

How do I export items from databases? What if there isn’t a direct export option?

With very few exceptions, every database that exports to RefWorks will also export to these other programs. Most databases that offer automatic export to RefWorks also provide the same type of direct export to EndNote. Mendeley and Zotero have browser-based import functions that allow you to import from your database of interest. Many databases also provide the option of direct export in RIS format. However, data can usually be exported and re-imported from one program into any of the others.

Can I access my references from any computer?

All three programs offer both a desktop version and an online account where you can store references, and to which you can sync the data you have saved in the desktop version.

  • You can download Zotero either as an add-on for your Firefox browser, or as a standalone program that works in Chrome or Safari. Data is saved locally. But you can set up an account on Zotero and sync your bibliographic information and attached files (up to 300 MB for free, and more for a modest fee) to your online account.
  • Mendeley offers both Mendeley Desktop and an online account (attached files up to 2 GB for free, as well as citations).
  • EndNote offers a desktop and online version. Online storage is unlimited if you own a copy of desktop Endnote.

How can I collaborate with others to create folders and libraries?

All three programs also provide the possibility of collaborative work, through “groups”on Zotero and Mendeley, or “shared folders” on EndNote.

How do the other programs handle different character sets?

While this was once a problem, all three of the proposed alternative programs now do a very smooth job of downloading and handling any Unicode-based data.

Can I still export a list of Library Catalog citations into other software?

Yes, with Endnote and Zotero, but not Mendeley. In the Classic Catalog you can save the records and import into Endnote using the Cornell library filter, while Zotero's web translator reads catalog results and will import. In the new Library Catalog, you can directly export results to Endnote, and Zotero's web translator reads catalog results and will import. Mendeley's web importer does not work in either catalog.

I liked the fact that there was Get it! Cornell link automatically embedded in my RefWorks records. Can I get the same functionality with the other programs?

All three programs offer this functionality, but it must be set up in each program's preferences by supplying the OpenURL resolver link:

  • In Zotero, go to gear icon > preferences > advanced > open url, and put http://resolver.library.cornell.edu/net/openurl/? in the OpenURL box where it asks for the resolver. To access the Get it! link when looking at a Zotero reference, click on the green arrow above the right-hand column and select "Library Lookup."
  • In Mendeley, Get it! link is only available when viewing references online in the Papers "research catalog" and not for references you have saved only in your own library. To set up Get it! link, go into your account settings on mendeley.com by clicking on "My Account " in the upper right-hand corner. Select "Account Details" and then the Sharing/Importing tab. Click on "Add library manually" at the bottom and fill in Cornell University and http://resolver.library.cornell.edu/net/openurl/? as the base URL. Click on "Add Library Link."
  • In EndNote, go to Edit - Preferences - Find Full Text, and put http://resolver.library.cornell.edu/net/openurl/? where it asks for the Open URL Path. To access Get it! link when looking at an EndNote reference, right click on the reference in the middle column (without opening up the reference) and select URL -Open URL link.