EndNote X2 is annoying and the vendor response is maddening!

Oct 30 2008 Published by under Science Publication

SciBlog10Mcomm-DM100.jpgEndNote and competing bibliographic software packages are an awesome contribution to the scientific enterprise. Let's just get that straight. I am a huge fan. I've run across colleagues as recently as the past 2 years who do not use such products and I absolutely. cannot. believe. they. are. such. Luddites!
Endnote version X2, however, pulls a Microsoft-esque blunder in screwing with one of the fundamental features dear to this user. And they have the nerve to tell others who complained that it is the user who is just not giving this kewl new approach a chance! 'sclowns...

The fundamental feature change is this. In prior versions of Endnote, one pulled up a little dialog box to perform a PubMed search. Now, it was a bit annoying that you had to put a comma after the last name prior to the initials (because your highly established search behavior on PubMed itself doesn't require the comma to get it right) but that was small stuff. So you'd do a search and EndNote would pull all the retrieved citations into a temporary window. From the temp window, you had the option to dump all, or a selected subset, of the citations into any of your open EndNote Libraries. I don't know about you but the ability to select a subset of citations for importation was a default part of my use of this software feature! I hardly ever have the need to dump all the retrieved citations.
Version X2 removed the temporary window step and just dumps everything into your open library automatically. FAIL!!!!!!
In trying to figure out if there is a setting or something that would restore the old functionality, I ran across this discussion forum over at Thomson Reuters, the parent company.
After a number of user comments to the same effect as mine, above, company flack JasonR posted this comment:

- First, the old, Temporary library model caused much confusion for new/novice users of EndNote. One of our most common Technical Support calls involves users downloading records (into a temp library) and then inserting these into a Word document. Once the temp library is deleted, these references become orphaned. We needed to do something to minimize this on-going confusion.
- Second, last year we spend a lot of time and money on a large-scale usability study leveraging industry-standrad methodologies and involving many users. The Onlines Search worflow - multiple windows, copying between databases, etc. was looked at closely and earned miserable test scores - again, we needed to do something to try to improve this. As part of this study, we asked users to point to other software that they use in their daily work. We did this and tried to based EndNote work flows on this.
A few questions for the group that might help us improve this workflow further:
- Is the reaction to this change simply that it is different than it has been?
- Is there a search model or other software that has a similar work flow that we should look to as a model for EndNote?
With EndNote X2, it is still very easy to create temporary library to use for remote searching and then copy records into your main library. This is exactly how EndNote used to work - this is just no longer the default behavior.

Typical, absolutely maddening computer software developer response. Screw all you old users and your hidebound ways, we know what is good for you! Whatever. Luckily, the constant drumbeat of complaints (no doubt) caused them to rethink. JasonR again:

We are currently working on adding a Preference to allow one to choose between the EndNote X2 Online Search model and the old "Temporary Library" model. We plan to include this in a free upgrade patch for both Windows and Macintosh this fall.

Okay, the patch is here or you can open the program and select "Endnote Program updates" from the Help menu.
Let's see here....while I'm waiting I might as well review this new forum thread for the update. [Ok at this point I'm live-blogging so I'm hopeful the outcome will invalidate the post title which I wrote when I started this draft about ten days ago.....]
1) hmm, first time I tried to click on a PubMed online search the whole program crashed. Not good. Okay, computer reboot time....
2) finally got it to work. Hate the new integrated window thing that they are so proud of. Doing a PubMed online search disappears your library. The prior multi-window was difficult on a regular screen I acknowledge but at least you could have your windows overlapped and still see some of the authors. Annoying but not super critical. Still, since the search window has been integrated below the regular library view and provides a submenu to specify searching entire library or some three additional options having to do with "showing reference" would it have killed them to simply add "Search PubMed" to that dialog so you could do it directly from the original library window!??!!? I mean, that was actually my biggest problem with the prior versions in that you had to make sure that the Library window was below the online search window or else you'd search your library instead of PubMed.
3) Okay, from the PubMed search window, I can select individual references like before, so far so good. Now, hmm, how do I send them automatically to the open library? Dammit!!! You still can't do it. Why, why, why???? There is a "Copy references to..." on right click or through the References menu but the only options it gives are "New Library" and "Choose library..." which brings up a directory (Windows level) dialog. WTF? More clicking and waiting. Why, o why, couldn't they just have added the capability of listing all of the open libraries (or recent libraries) to the first level after "Copy References to...."?
These things seem so simple to the casual user. The complaints seem overwhelmingly clear in describing the function users would like restored. The vendor goes out of its way to actually respond to the users...and then completely fails to fix the problem.
I don't get this.

20 responses so far

  • Somewhere between Endnote 6 and Endnote 8 I got disgusted and stopped paying for new versions. Now we use Bookends, a Mac-specific alternative from Sonny Software.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Platform specific is a big ol' fail too if you do collaborative work or want to allow a little personal freedom in the lab.
    What was your frustration between v6 and v8 if you don't mind sharing?

  • Odyssey says:

    I hadn't got around to upgrading to X2. Guess I'll stick with X1...

  • Becca says:

    I understand the problem users might have with using a temporary library, but why can't they just program it so that EndNote can sense when a reference has been used in Word, and saves everything that is used in a particular document to a new library with the same name as the Word file?
    I have no sufficiently patronizing response for the lemming argument "we were trying to be like all the other software" (I think that's what the second point amounts too, right?).

  • I am so fucking happy my lab is still using Word 2000 and Endnote 7.

  • Nat says:

    Gawds, that's an awful and ridiculous initial change, and then a pretty pitiful response. I'm with Odyssey, sticking at EndNote X1. Still, overall it confirms my worry that the move by Thomson to near yearly upgrades is bound to fail.
    Which is a shame, because EndNote was a great piece of software that I was quite loyal to for a long time. Now I feel that loyalty is tying me into a crappy product (a la DM) or tying me to static programs (CPP). That latter path will work for some time, but how long is the question.
    If anyone knows of other cross platform solutions to this, I'd love to hear them.

  • perceval says:

    That's what you get for using M$ Word. For me, it's BiBTeX, the LaTeX bibliography component, all the way. Do your search, save to file, import, done. Easy to annotate, easy to maintain. Software independent. With lots of open source solutions. (I feel like I'm channelling Meg Ryan here)
    Nat @ #6, LaTeX is the best cross-platform solution I know of. There are even some nice graphical front ends now.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    that save to file/import bit sounds rather similar to my problem with X2, actually

  • yolio says:

    Endnote always drove me batty. They never seem to do things in the obvious or intuitive way, and then they are always moving things around. So, once you learn one non-sensical work flow, then they change it up and you have to learn a new one. I was so happy to jump ship to Bibdesk once I got a chance. What I am really waiting for is Papers to improve the bibtex integration and reference management tools. That is going to be sweet.

  • bsci says:

    I never take all the references from an pubmed search. I'm not rushing to get X2 after this note, but I do think they have a point. If I understand correctly, you can set up one library called "search results" and a pubmed search automatically dumps all references there. Then you can put your references anywhere else you want. This involves a minute amount of overhead work.
    The key annoyance is that the new system will create a library that is constantly exploding in size unless you actively trim it (or just manually delete everything at the end of each search session).
    There are several advantages:
    1. Although I've never done it, I'd never accidently paste a reference from a temp library.
    2. If I'm in a middle of multiple searches and Endnote crashes, the results of those searches will still be there when I restart. Similarly, don't need to keep Endnote always open when I'm doing a lit review on a topic over days.
    3. I could theoretically have a super-library of references if I remember seeing a citation during a search that wasn't interesting to me then.
    None of the advantages are overwhelming, but the might balance out the annoyance. Am I missing something in your description of how X2 version works?

  • Kevin says:

    I have been using endNote for a while now and upgraded to X2 last week when I got a new computer. I noticed this problem and got quite frustrated when I did a search and added 40 papers to my library. I am anal with my library and keep in it only papers that are printed or in pdf and stored for future retrieval. So this was a bit of a mess. I used to search for somehting general that would include the article I was interested in (to save time typing in specifics) then grab the article I wanted.
    Thanks for this post, because I wasn't sure that it wasn't just a problem that I was having. I did the update, but it still isn't the best solution. Turning off access to local libraries when you search isn't a great option, though it is better than the original X2 plan.
    I wouldn't call myself a conservative, but I am a firm believer in 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' EndNote broke this rule in the newest edition.
    I still think that it is one of the better options out there. I would use tek if it was a bit more widely accepted in my field and a little more user friendly.

  • sciencegeek says:

    Try Zotero:
    It is a great way to organize papers and reference them in manuscripts. And it is free.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    yeh, i've been giving zotero a spin. I'm not really all that sure it is "great" although it is indeed free. Free is not so important when you have an institutional site license for other products....
    EndNote is really quite a useful product despite my complaints about this little feature change. There are also compatibility issues. Most people I collaborate with that do use a product like this use EndNote. My initial attempts to cross-import between endnote and zotero were not all that promising, I'll note.

  • I've tried BibTeX, Zotero, Bookends and Endnote. Endnote's overall functionality is best, but I have moved to, and paid for myself (the Uni buys EN) Bookends, because the writing's on the wall - EN is suckier by the minute. As soon as my current publications are through the door, EN is gone.
    Bookends reads Pages files natively too, so that means I can stop using Word altogether...

  • leigh says:

    i still use x1, and even that version makes me want to throw things. i always individually select the papers i'm interested in- why the hell do i need the other stuff too?
    personally i've always viewed endnote as a pain in the ass, but a much lesser one than manually formatting all my references.

  • Nat says:

    perceval: I have felt the siren song of LaTex many times, and as of yet haven't heeded it.
    I tried Zotero too, and I definitely like the idea. But it totally choked on importing my endnote library, and was slow as molasses when I last used it.

  • scicurious says:

    You know, I was screaming at my screen in exactly the same way last week. And I couldn't even get Endnote to import my references to my document. I ended up having to switch to Reference Manager. It also has its issues, but works better for me (and the IT guy knows Reference Manager here). Might be worth a try.

  • human says:

    I tried Zotero too, and I definitely like the idea. But it totally choked on importing my endnote library, and was slow as molasses when I last used it.
    Oh, the irony. You guys know the Endnote people are suing George Mason University, which developed Zotero, for including the ability to read Endnote libraries? They are claiming that the Zotero developers "reverse engineered" Endnote in violation of the university's site license for Endnote, and they're demanding $3 million and an injunction against further distribution of Zotero.
    Google "zotero lawsuit" for much more.
    For my purposes Zotero has always been much, much more useful than Endnote. But I can't stand this kind of corporate bullying. So I'm glad I've never used Endnote. I'd have to switch out of principle. Which I encourage you all to do, if you can!

  • Anonymous says:

    dude thanks for posting this.... I am extremely anal about my references as well, as I use the record number to correlate to articles that i have actually read. The response you got from them was rather inane.... will try the patch but having used Endnote since version 3.0, I am losing faith quickly.
    thanks again.

  • Imants says:

    Do they have a web version? I would love to have Delicious type search and bookmarking/networking for scientific literature. Has somebody else created something like that?

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