Today Thomson ISI ResearchSoft released EndNote X1 for the Mac. EndNote is a bibliography program that is used by many scholars to format citations, search online databases and manage reference libraries. The Windows version of EndNote X1 was released in June.
I’ve been using EndNote since the very first version was developed by Richard Niles at Niles Scientific. The early versions of EndNote were such a pleasure to use, as they were clearly and simply designed to provide quick access to references while writing. I remember writing most of my journal articles and convention papers in the early 1990s with EndNote, and building up a massive library of references “the hard way” by entering in the data myself. While manually entering references took a lot of time, the process helped me feel much closer to the articles and authors I was citing.
My early love affair with EndNote started to fade about eight years ago. I used to be a regular upgrader, buying every new version as soon as it was released. But when EndNote was acquired by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in 1999, the product started to gradually deteriorate. Like many other software ventures started by a small group of passionate individuals, EndNote lost a lot of its charm when it was gobbled up by a large company with widely divergent interests.
Philadelphia-based ISI was a big company with a long history in the reference library industry, perhaps most famous for the Current Contents series of bibliographic indexes, and of particular note for communication researchers, the Social Sciences Citation Index. ISI had been purchased by publishing giant Thomson in 1992, which added another layer of management on top of an already large company. ISI had developed its own bibliographic software, Reference Manager, which used to compete with EndNote. The year before ISI acquired EndNote, it bought another popular reference program called ProCite from Personal Bibliographic Software.
So when ISI added EndNote to its software stable, the company had three different bibliographic programs: Reference Manager, ProCite, and EndNote. Rather than merge the three programs together, ISI has continued to market them as separate products to this day. During the last eight years, development of EndNote has become slow and incremental. Upgrades have became more expensive, while the value of features added to each upgrade has declined. And the Mac versions of EndNote have been particularly lackluster, consistently lagging the Windows versions.
I may begrudgingly upgrade to the latest version, if for no other reason than to see if it is any better than the rather buggy EndNote X. But sometimes I wish I could just turn back the clock to the early days of EndNote, when the program was such a joy to use, and just plain worked.