How-to series: How to search your notes (and other fields) [part 10 of 12]

Search has become such a fundamental part of our daily routine. Everyone uses search tools, everyday. Google, spotlight, file search, etc. There is just too much information to properly organize, memorize and store in a structured fashion. But that is ok.
Mendeley Desktop provides you with a multitude of ways to organize, filter and search your documents. Many of these task are context based, meaning that if you search while looking at your library or a collection in your library, you only get results from the currently selected folder. If you happen to be reading a PDF in Mendeley Desktop, the search tool will show you results only within that paper.

Now, one thing you, and many Mendeley Desktop users, probably don’t know is that you can constrain your search to specific fields such as the Title, Authors and even your own notes. Yes, you can search for the text contained within your notes!

Mendeley Desktop search box options

  1. Go to the search box in the top right-hand corner of Mendeley Desktop
  2. Click on the little arrow pointing downward and select “Notes”
  3. Type in your keyword of interest
  4. You should start seeing your results update in the middle pane in near real-time

Here’s a quick view of the search box in action on Mendeley Desktop (Mac)

How cool is that? We think it’s pretty cool (and useful!).

Here are the previous eight entries in our How-to series:

7 thoughts on “How-to series: How to search your notes (and other fields) [part 10 of 12]

  1. Whilst it is handy to search notes, regrettably I would have to argue that overall Mendeley’s search functionality is relatively weak.

    This has been discussed on your feedback forum for around 3 years:

    Examples of functionality that I would expect in reference management software, but are unavailable in Mendeley are:

    author:smith year:2010-2012 (i.e. year range search)
    author:smith NOT author:doe (i.e. boolean operator support)

    Also there should be more search fields (e.g. surname, title/abstract) and it should be possible to sort the search results and save searches as smart folders.

  2. osm: Mendeley support have informed me that they no longer pay attention to

    It is disappointing that Mendeley has abandoned their own feedback site without informing their customers.

  3. Hello David,

    We do pay attention to, it is for suggestions and feature requests though. What the support folks meant is that technical support requests (eg. something is not working) should go to Please continue to use to vote or comment on things that are important to you.

    Hello osm,

    There will be some improvements to search in the next release, mostly focused on performance/robustness and consistency of how searches are handled in metadata, full text and the citation editor. Regarding the two examples you gave:

    > author:smith year:2010-2012 (i.e. year range search)

    We haven’t implemented year range search yet, but prefix search handling has been made more consistent, so ‘author:smith year:201*’ would match papers from 2010 and later. The ‘*’ is not required if the term is the last in the query and there are no trailing spaces or quotes.

    > author:smith NOT author:doe (i.e. boolean operator support)

    There is some support for boolean operators. The syntax though is: ‘author:smith author:-doe’ or ‘author:smith,-doe’. We’ve fixed a number of bugs in the handling of boolean operators for the next release.

  4. Rob,

    Thanks for reply. Good to hear there is some support for boolean operators and you will be improving their handling and consistency in next release. When you do, please clearly document the syntax. I had been trying author:smith -author:doe instead of author:smith,-doe because there does not seem to be any documentation that explains the expected syntax.

    Also year:201* does not work for me.

  5. Rob,

    Could you please let us know how to search documents authored by Smith (Author:smith) AND that contains the word ‘cancer’ in the full text? Tried: ‘cancer Author:smith’ but does not seem to work.

    Besides, I regret that Mendeley Ltd. does not invest more means in developping their desktop application. Using Mendeley for more than 2 years, I have to admit that I have not really seen new major functionalities. That’s a bit sad when I see the recent progresses made by other developpers of reference management softwares.

  6. > Also year:201* does not work for me.

    That will only work in the upcoming release.

    Hello Gaston,

    That example query should work in the upcoming release. I believe there is a bug in the mixing of full text and field-specific terms in the stable release.

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