Mendeley Demos at Princeton, NYU, Cold Spring Harbor Labs, Yale, Dartmouth and the IEEE e-Science Conference

Oh dear, I’ve got a hard time keeping my eyes open, so I’ll just recount the facts. I’m sitting in my bed at the Latham Hotel, Philadelphia, where I arrived this afternoon (early-morning flight from London to Washington, then on with a regional jet). Not having slept very much last night, I felt like taking a nap right away, but I decided against it and took a 3-hour walk around downtown and Chinatown.

View from my hotel room

Chinese Friendship Gate

Chinatown Fire Brigade

Hello my name is… Jingumeicai??

City Hall

Rittenhouse Square

It was a good (if exhausting) start to the tour I’m about to take in the next ten days. Coinciding with the Mendeley beta 0.6.0 release early next week, I’ll be visiting a number of academic institutions along the East Coast. If you’re anywhere near and would like meet up, let me know!

Monday, Dec 1, I’ll pop in at Drexel University to talk to a librarian and hopefully manage to say hello to Jean-Claude Bradley.

Tuesday, Dec 2, I’ll be giving a demo of Mendeley at Princeton University. Afterwards it’s on to New York, where Thomas Krichel (founder of RePEc) has generously offered to let me stay at his place. Thank you, Thomas!

Wednesday, Dec 3, a demo at NYU, organised by Carol Hutchins (Head ot NYU’s Math Library) whom I got to know at the Science in the 21st Century conference a few weeks ago.

Thursday, Dec 4, I’ll take the Long Island Railroad to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories. David Crotty (Executive Editor of the CSH Protocols) has kindly offered to take me on a brief tour of the lab, and also invited me to do an informal talk on Mendeley. Afterwards (and this is something I’m especially looking forward to) I’ll catch a ferry from Port Jefferson to cross the Long Island Sound, then travel on to New Haven.

Friday, Dec 5, a Mendeley demo at Yale. I’ve never been in New Haven, so I’ll probably stay there for Saturday as well and take in the atmosphere!

Sunday, Dec 7/Monday, Dec 8, I’ll be in Providence to meet Brandon King (and perhaps a librarian or two) at Brown University. Then, get a rental car and drive up to Hanover, NH. Update: Did a demo at Brown University’s Library on Monday morning!

Tuesday, Dec 9, a Mendeley demo at Dartmouth College. One of Dartmouth’s librarians, Ann Perbohner, recently named Mendeley the “Best Bet” for PDF Management – despite our still-early beta status! As you can imagine, we were happy as clams.

Wednesday, Dec 10, back down to Boston to have lunch with Aaron Swartz of OpenLibrary.org. Then catch a plane to Graz, Austria for a joint PhD students’ colloquium of the University of St. Gallen and my alma mater, the Bauhaus-University of Weimar. Update: Also managed to squeeze in a demo at MIT in the morning!

And that’s just my bit of the trip! At the same time, Jan will be in the Bay Area first, then fly to Indianapolis to demo Mendeley at the IEEE e-Science conference, also on Wednesday, Dec 10. We’ll certainly try to keep you posted with updates during the trip.

Upcoming Features: Improved importers and folder monitoring

We have been working on improvements to the importing of information from your existing libraries and documents into Mendeley for our next release.  Highlights include:

Automatic import of PDF files from selected folders:

The feature most requested by our current Mendeley users is support for importing from whole folders (rather than having to select individual files) and automatically monitoring folders for new PDFs and any other format supported by Mendeley.

The next release will include this feature across all 3 platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Improved display of time since import:

In citation and table view, the time since a document was imported is now shown and you can now sort the document list by this field.¬† The ‘Recently Added’ folder now sorts by date added by default.

Smoother import:

The user interface is now more responsive during large import operations and the total import/automatic extraction progress is now shown in a single progress bar at the bottom of the screen.

Improved Bibtex import and export:

  • We now remember the citation key and document type from the imported Bibtex library and use it when exporting modified documents back to Bibtex, regardless of whether Mendeley has its own equivalent document type.
  • Better handling of the various author, editor and translator name formats supported by Bibtex
  • Support for cross-references and @string entries

Improvements to the RIS and EndNote importers and exporters:

Mendeley is now more tolerant in its input handling of these filetypes and is able to import documents to Mendeley and then export back to that format again with improved fidelity.

If you have any questions or comments about importing into or exporting data from Mendeley then let us know!

Donate your database to the migration cause!

As has been mentioned before, we’re currently hard at work on version 0.6 which is an almost total rewrite of the previous version. We’ve cleaned up the database structure to make it easier for us to maintain and add cool new features.

Of course, we want all your existing data to be kept totally intact. And here’s where you can help…

To help us ensure this goes smoothly, you can send us your mendeley.s3db database which you’ll find here:

  • Windows Vista:
    C:Users<Your Name>AppDataLocalMendeley LtdMendeley
  • Windows XP:
    C:Documents and Settings<Your Name>Local SettingsApplication DataMendeley LtdMendeley
  • Linux:
    /home/<your name>/.local/share/data/Mendeley Ltd./Mendeley/
  • MacOS:
    Macintosh HD -> Users/<your name>/Library/Application Support/Mendeley/

We’ll use the databases to test that data is migrated across successfully.

Please send your mendeley.s3db files to: support@mendeley.com

Thanks!

(If you don’t want to send us your data – that’s fine. After you upgrade to the new version it will transfer your data on your local machine. Right now, we’re just after data for testing.)

Interface development and shadow sculptures – essentially the same thing

I think I learned something today! As a non-software engineer, I was always puzzled beyond measure when I asked our developers to change just a minor interface detail – such as, “shift this icon up a few pixels, change the color of this frame” – and was told that this would take days upon days of work.

Today, Rob explained to me what the reason was. An interface element that you see on the screen, e.g. a toolbar, might look like it’s drawn up from a single, coherent piece of code. In reality, though, it could be cobbled together in the background from many different parts of the code that don’t have anything to do with each other. Thus, changing one pixel on the screen could require a rewrite of two huge portions of code to make them fit together.

So I said, “ah – now I get it. It’s like shadow sculptures!”. If you look at this picture, I think you’ll understand my point:

Shadow sculpture by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

If you’re a software engineer, of course this is old news. But I found it an interesting analogy! Nevertheless, as Mike pointed out in the previous post, our upcoming release (beta 0.6.0) has absolutely shiny, beautiful, well-structured code under its hood when you shine a light on it!

Mendeley Desktop: The About Dialogue (and the Refactor)


New About Dialogue and it’s even closable on Mac! How on earth did we get to this point?

Let me tell you a story…

Since my last post the Mendeley Desktop team has been very busy indeed!

Our “rewrite of some of the internal Mendeley code” has turned into a rewrite of almost all the code.

Why are we rewriting our code you may ask? Like many other small companies, Mendeley started with their software being written by external contractors. By the time I started in May 2008 a significant amount of code had been written which was then ported to Linux and Mac. What started life as a prototype had turned into a product which was then released to the world when we hit open beta. This means we lacked a solid architecture, any real documentation, coding standards or unit testing.

In the past few months the team has rewritten basically everything except the metadata extraction and the Citation Style Language parser (although these two have both been improved also and will probably be incrementally rewritten for further releases). As a result, we now have a much smaller, easier to read, unit-tested, documented, faster and just plain better codebase by any software engineering metric you would care to throw at it. My slightly obsessive insistence that the team meets the coding standards document and our continuous integration tool has resulted in a far higher quality product.

You might be asking why on earth you should care about everything I said above. Well the answers are in the features/bugfixes that you’ll see in the new release:

  • Better performance and lower memory usage
  • Adding sub-groups
  • Folder monitoring
  • Encrypted data transfer
  • Only uses standard HTTP ports (i.e. 80 and 443) and uses your system proxy settings
  • Less interface slowdown on network/import operations
  • A closable “About” window on Mac, as featured at the top of this post (No, I’m not joking. To close it in 0.5.9 or below, press Escape)
  • More native and more usable user interface
  • More traditional Mac packaging

Anyway, I hope that is enough to get you excited about the next release. We will be retaining feature parity with 0.5.9 (i.e. no features currently existing in 0.5.9. will be dropped in 0.6.0) and 0.6.0 will fix a lot of outstanding bugs with 0.5.9.

Mendeley Desktop 0.6.0: Coming soon!