Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Mendeley is essentially (for me) a software that saves the following data:

  • A file
  • Tags associated to the file

In practice the files are research papers and the tags are things like author, title etc. Is there any software (preferably open source) that allows one to do the same thing in Ubuntu?

In Mendeley the data is stored online (on their server) and therefore I can access the research papers from any computer. I would prefer if the suggested software could the same thing (but I get to choose where it should be saved). But maybe if I'm only able to store things locally I could be able to simulate access-from-everywhere using Git and a web server?

share|improve this question
Are you looking for a general solution, or one specific to managing a research library of PDFs and generating citations? – amc Jun 22 '13 at 19:46
I'm not sure I understand your question. So let me rephrase my question. I want a reasonable way (it may - or may not - use a single software) of being able to save multi-tagged files such that I can: (a) search for a file by tags, (b) being able to access this database from any computer and (c) having the freedom of choosing where my files should be saved. "reasonable" and any are intentionally vague since I don't want to restrict things too much (and miss out of a good solution). For example any could be restricted to "*nix computer", that's fine with me. Sorry for any confusions. – dr octopus Jun 22 '13 at 20:08
What I meant by my question is whether you want an answer based ONLY on managing PDf/citations or are you looking for an all-purpose program that will manage all sorts of files (eg docs, PDFs, mp3s, video, etc)? If you only care about PDFs and citation management (ie functional equivalent of mendeley) then some good answers are being provided below. – amc Jun 22 '13 at 20:15
Oh, I see! I think I have to say all sorts of files since I'm also saving .djvu, .ps and (rarely) .jpg files. – dr octopus Jun 22 '13 at 20:19
Maybe this question is better suited as a "community wiki"? – dr octopus Jun 22 '13 at 20:24

Whay an alternative, when you can use Mendeley. In comparison, it comes on top.

Try Mendeley Desktop for Ubuntu. It Save time managing PDFs, instantly share thoughts on papers with colleagues and automatically back up and sync your files between different computers.

To download ans installation instructions visit their website.

This has been tested to work on Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10, and 13.04

If you still want an Alternative, try Zotero.

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension or standalone program to help you collect, organize, manage, search and cite your research sources directly in your favourite word processor, with 100 MB free online storage. To download and installation instriction, visit Zetero.


share|improve this answer
LOL did you just suggest mendeley as an alternative to itself? – amc Jun 22 '13 at 19:47
@amc Why use an alternative when the application is available to Ubuntu. – Mitch Jun 22 '13 at 19:48
I agree that if they want mendeley they should use it. But post specifically asks for an alternative, and my comment asks for clarification about what they want it for. – amc Jun 22 '13 at 19:51
@amc I've added an alternative, but I still think use Mendeley Ubuntu Desktop. – Mitch Jun 22 '13 at 19:56
Hi Mitch! My biggest issue with Zotero and Mendeley is that the file sync is done through their servers. The issue with this is the restriction of space (unless your are willing to pay) and that I prefer to be in charge of the files (and hence avoid suddenly losing all my files just because some government decided to immediately shut down their services (cf. Megaupload)). – dr octopus Jun 22 '13 at 20:13

I recommend Referencer. You can download it using apt-get. It supports tagging files with fields such as author, title, journal and publisher, etc. For many research papers it will automatically download the data for you provided there is a DOI identifier inside the file. It can also generate BibTex files automatically.

However, it does not store your references online. I use it with git myself, and it works nicely.

share|improve this answer
Presumably Dropbox, ubuntu one, or equivalent will also keep things synced between computers and online. I haven't heard of Referencer before (thanks!) -- how nicely does it play with Dropbox? – amc Jun 22 '13 at 20:08
This looks like what I am looking for. Thanks! – dr octopus Jun 22 '13 at 20:16
It should be fine with Dropbox or anything. It creates a file with all the information inside, so all you need to do is share the file with yourself and open it in the remote instance. – SMeznaric Jun 22 '13 at 20:26
thanks, I'll check it out. – amc Jun 22 '13 at 20:43

Do you know Docear? It's open source and has lots of features with regard to PDF management (however, it does not yet support Tags) (btw. I am one of the developers).

share|improve this answer

We have developed an open source solution, downloadable from or from GitHub, that allows users to collaboratively share and refine their scientific bibliographic metadata.

The system relies on a "peer-to-peer" and "open-data" approach as well as on a "clone-and-refine" algorithm. It can import data from external web services.

The more the system is used, the more the information that flows on the network become clean.

Moreover, using Scientilla, any user can obtain the whole metadata shared through the network.

share|improve this answer

Zotero is an open-source citation manager and has a plugin for LibreOffice. It is not currently available from the repositories but the packaging process for it has started. Meanwhile, you can use the ppa:smathot/cogscinl PPA to install it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.