7 ways to add documents to Mendeley

[Editor’s Note–We thought you’d like to know: this 2011 post is a bit dated. Find current info on Mendeley’s importing abilities here, and in the Mendeley Guides.]

We want to make it as easy as possible to get your documents into Mendeley so you can get on with your work. To that end, we have developed a number of ways to add documents to Mendeley. You can now add documents via Desktop and Web in 7 different ways. With so many options, there’s a method to suit any workflow.

Add directly from the Mendeley Research Catalog

Why spend time searching other research catalogs for the paper if you’re importing it into Mendeley? The Mendeley research catalog is now one of the world’s largest open databases of research, with nearly 80M papers indexed. Chances are, you can find the paper you’re looking for on Mendeley and add it to your library with one click. Looking on Mendeley first also means you can use our advanced search features, open access filter, OpenURL fetcher for licensed content, and more. If the author himself is on Mendeley (like this guy), you may be able to get a copy from him directly. You can also easily share the paper with your social networks via handy tools on the page. Because the catalog entry shows papers related to the one you’re viewing, you might even find something you didn’t know you were looking for!

While browsing web pages

Install the Web Importer bookmarklet to save references to your library directly from the page of the database you’re browsing. This is definitely one of the easiest ways to add documents. Just click the toolbar button as you come across a paper you’d like to save. Supporting 47 common research databases and repositories, the bookmarklet also works on any page which contains the reference information embedded in COinS format. For open access sites which support it, the bookmarklet will also fetch the full text, with OpenURL support for licensed material to come soon.

The Watch Folder

Setting a watch folder in Mendeley is one of the most versatile ways of getting your documents in. All you have to do is drop PDFs in the folder and Mendeley will import them automatically. I’ve put my watch folder on my desktop for easy access and set the file organizer to copy my PDFs to a new folder & rename them by Author-Date-Journal.

Drag & Drop

If you’ve got a loose collection of PDFs that you’d like to quickly add to Mendeley, you could add them to the watch folder as described above, or simply drag & drop them onto the open Mendeley window. Easy access to recently added files is provided by the “Recently Added” smart folder.

The File Menu

Another way to add files is to simply use the file menu option to select the file or folder containing your documents. If you’re working with the Mendeley window maximized or doing an import of a large number of files, this is a good option. Once you’ve specified the file or folder, Mendeley will go to work importing your selection while you work.


Use information exported from another program

XML, RIS, and BibTeX are common formats used to export reference information. Mendeley can import these formats and some others, so wherever you’re getting your reference lists from, Mendeley can handle it. If you have the choice (i.e., you’re exporting from local software) BibTeX and XML are the preferred choices to make sure all the information you may have added to the reference in the other program transfers accurately.

Syncing with other apps

Many modern web applications provide programmatic interfaces to their data, allowing Mendeley to just go fetch it. The big advantage here is that you only have to set this up once; New items are added automatically. Sync currently only works one way and is enabled for Zotero and Citeulike, but if you know of a service that you would like to sync with, let us know. To set this up, open the Zotero / Citeulike tab in Mendeley Desktop. Of course, you can also sync with Mendeley’s apps for the iphone and ipad (Android coming soon!)

How do you get documents into Mendeley? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments and check out Chris Holdgraf’s /a> short video at Youtube.

UPDATE: Here’s a 9th way!

18 thoughts on “7 ways to add documents to Mendeley

  1. A pseudo-eight way might be by DOI/PMID. From the file menu, add document manually, paste in the doi and hit the magnifying glass icon to have Mendeley look up the article.

    And of course number 9 is the easiest way — when someone adds an article for you through a Mendeley group. Guess you’ll need to drag it from the public group to your own collection for it to be indexed as being in your library?

  2. it’d be nice if i could search pubmed within mendeley and add papers from the results.

  3. A very interesting feature of the “Watch Folder” is to define Dropbox (= folder online) as “Watch Folder”: your pdfs are not only available for Mendeley, but also if you want to get the pdf from another location.
    This is great!

  4. Michel – I wouldn’t recommend putting the Watch folder on Dropbox, because the watch folder is just the input. It will contain all the files before they’re renamed and organized by the file organizer, so it’s not the place you’ll go looking for files. Mendeley will sync your organized folder on every computer where you have it installed, so there’s really no need to sync that through a separate service either and it could lead to problems if you have two services syncing the same files in the same folder.

    Matt – You’ll probably want to vote for this here: http://feedback.mendeley.com/forums/4941-mendeley-feedback/suggestions/83349-in-program-pubmed-search-metadata-retrieval The feature is currently under active development and should be available soon.

    Carl – Great additions. I hadn’t thought of dragging from a group to your library, that would indeed be an additional way.

  5. Actually, Michel’s idea is the one I currently use because I use shared computers in the lab. Ideally, I would like to have a portable version of Mendeley so that I may use it from my USB drive and have it organize the papers in the same USB drive.

  6. I quite often have a pdf of the full text article open in my web browser, and if I get to a point where I decide that I want the pdf in my library I have to save the file, find it on the desktop (hard with the default names that they are often give, like ‘science.pdf’!) and then import the file via drag and drop.

    Why can’t there be a button in firefox that just grabs the pdf and dumps it straight into mendeley? I read this article specifically to check if there was a way to do this.

    Hopefully I’m doing something wrong?

  7. Roberto, I would suggest the following setup for the case of shared computers. Install Mendeley on each computer that you’d like to access your library from and enable syncing of full text in the settings for any group you have created that you would like to access. Each person using the shared computers should register for their own account at Mendeley.com. When you sit down at the computer, just open Mendeley and select Tools>Option and enter your login details under the General tab. This way the full functionality of Mendeley will be available to you, as opposed to just the PDFs, as with Dropbox.

  8. Rory, there is an easier way. Open Mendeley Desktop and select Tools>Option, then the File Organizer tab. Check Organize My Files and choose the options you’d like. I recommend using a folder name such as DocumentsMendeley as the destination for copied files. Subfolders aren’t necessary because search is a more efficient way to find things, but a naming scheme such as Author-Year-Title is useful.

    Next, go to the Watched Folders tab and pick the folder into which your PDFs are downloaded (I use desktopMendeley Watch but you can make it whatever you want. Now Mendeley will automatically pick the PDFs out of that folder, import them, and organize them for you. All you have to do is click Save in your browser. Here’s a post on how the organizer works: http://www.mendeley.com/blog/hard-research-life/an-organized-folder-is-a-sign-of-a-file-organizer/

    Make sure that the watch folder only has academic pdfs in it, because Mendeley will import everything that’s in PDF format that is in the folder (don’t use your general download folder or your desktop or you’ll end up with flyers and other unrelated stuff being imported to Mendeley).

    Another way to save items to your library is to use the web importer bookmarklet. This gives you a button on your browser’s bookmarks toolbar that you can click to import items directly into your library. In many cases, it can retrieve the full text, but for journals that are subscription only, you’re better off using the watch folder method above until we enable proxy support (coming soon).

  9. The problem with the WebImporter is that it doesn’t import the PDF itself.
    I use it not to forget about the paper that I’ve found and want to read later (e.g. cannot download from home).
    However, when I get to downloading a PDF and put it into Watched Folder, a separate (duplicate) entry would be created in the database (because only the file hash and not the DOI is verified when checking for duplication).

  10. Alex – The Web Importer does import the PDF itself for many open access repositories, and we’re working to add the OpenURL feature to the importer so that it will be able to get a copy of any content to which your institution has licensed access as well. As you know, DOIs aren’t universally applicable, so we do have to reply on the file hash to cover everything, however, you can avoid duplicates by attaching the PDF to the entry once you have it. Of course, we’re continuing our duplicate recognition efforts and have made some significant strides recently there.

  11. Hi, how do you add an author in Mendeley as “Control Flow Management Unit”? I would like it keep the name as “Control Flow Management Unit” and not as “Unit, Control Flow Management”.

    Anyone knows how to do it?

  12. Hi Luis,

    You should supply the names of each of the members of the unit. If you like, you can include the unit in a separate field that doesn’t do automatic name formatting.

  13. Hi William,

    Thanks for your answer, but it’s not what I need. In that example the “Control Flow Management Unit” is like an enterprise, so I can not put individual members. On the other hand, it’s the same problem with authors that have compound surnames as for example “John von Neumann”, Mendely will store it like “Neuman, von John” while it should be “von Neuman, John”.

    Finally, the “Getting started with Mendely” document that is given by default with Mendeley has as author “The Mendeley Support Team” and it works. It doesn’t stores it like “Team, The Mendeley Support”. But if I make a new entry with the author “The Mendeley Support Team” it is stored as “Team, The Mendeley Support”. How can I “force” Mendeley to group the word in the author name?

    I hope this post clarifies my problem…



  14. In that case, you’d want to select “Institution/Organization” from the dropdown that appears while you’re typing, once you’re done adding the entry. The organization name should be preserved in that case.

  15. Thanks for your answer. It works perfectly, for institution select it while typing the name and for the authors write directly the “surname, name” as desired.

  16. Hi,

    I have successfully imported many pdfs, but I have a few ‘old’ ones containing scanned text. They are all Phys. Rev. A/B/Lett., and downloaded with their standard filename, e.g. PhysRevLett.23.880.pdf. Would it be possible for Mendeley to guess the proper info from the filename or to write a plugin (myself) to do so? Once I enter the DOI (found on mendeley.com) it works fine, so it seems like it would be relatively easy to have a filename field in the online database as well.

    Thanks, Reinier

  17. Here’s something I’m struggling with — can anyone help?

    I have a Mendeley Watched Folder where I put new pdfs. I also use File Organizer so that the pdfs can be saved by author-year. But sometimes Mendeley makes mistakes reading the new pdf (doesn’t pick up the right author name for example). I can correct the “details” in Mendeley, but it doesn’t automatically update the file with the new info in File Organizer. Should I be deleting the external file in the details pane, and hope that Mendeley will generate a new one?

  18. I typically search for medical articles on pubmed and the pdf’s of the articles open, on my mac, in “Preview”. Is there a plugin for Preview or a better way than saving the articles? I may be having the same problem as Rory…

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