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Mendeley: Mendeley Desktop

Features of Mendeley Desktop

Mendeley Desktop is useful for storing, editing, and viewing PDFs on your computer and automatically creating citation data from the PDFs.

Import PDF documents — When you import a PDF into Mendeley, it will try to extract information from the PDF to create a citation – author, title, year, volume, etc. You can do this by:

  • Using the Add Documents button.

Add documents icon

  • Go to the File menu and select Add Files.
  • Drag-and-drop PDFs from your computer to the Document Pane (the middle part of the window).

You can also create a Watched Folder on your desktop. Mendeley automatically adds citation information for PDFs in a Watched Folder

Manually add a citation. This is useful if you don’t have a PDF to add to Mendeley. If you manually add a citation but later have a PDF, the PDF can be added to the citation.

Manual entry option

Choice of citation style. Mendeley comes with some citation styles, but it has hundreds of additional styles you can download by following the instructions on the CSL Citation Styles website.

Folders/Collections of documents. You can create collections to organize your documents in whatever groupings make sense to you. Documents can be in more than one collection.

Tagging of documents. This is in addition to the keywords, which could be pulled from journal databases. Tags can be more informal words that help you arrange your documents around concepts that make the most sense to you.

Ability to quickly mark documents as Favorites, Read, or Unread. Stars indicate your favorite sources, and the green dots indicate that it is unread.

Favorites, read, and unread icons


Reading of PDFs from within a Mendeley PDF viewer. In the viewer, you can highlight text, create notes, and select text.

Desktop PDF reader, with highlights and note

Plug-ins to connect to Microsoft Word (PC and Mac), OpenOffice (Mac), and NeoOffice (Mac). Plug-ins allow access to your Mendeley Library from Word to create citations and bibliographies in your Word document.

Citing Items in Word with the MS Word Plugin

1. Open Mendeley Desktop and select "Tools" and then "Install MS Word plugin." If the plugin is already installed, this option will be changed to "Uninstall MS Word Plugin."

2. Open Microsoft Word and click on the "References" tab.

3. You should see a box titled "Mendeley Cite-O-Matic." This is the Word plugin.

4. If you click the "Insert Citation" button within this box, a window pops up with options to search the Mendeley Library or "Go To Mendeley".

If you search for an item directly from this box, you'll see a list of results appears below the search bar. Select the one you want, click "OK" and you'll see the citation appear in your paper.

If you choose "Go To Mendeley," Mendeley Desktop will pop up, allowing you to select an item from your library. Once you select your source, click the Cite button.

5. If you choose not to insert a citation, make sure to click cancel. Otherwise Mendeley will think you’re still trying to insert a citation and won’t let you insert another.  

6. Automatically generate a bibliography or works cited page by clicking "Insert Bibliography." This tool will create a full citation for every source used in your paper. 

Search Google Scholar for additions or corrections to the citation.

When you import a PDF Mendeley gathers as much information as it can, but some information may be missing. The citations for all imported PDFs are marked with a Red Question Mark, suggesting that you should review the information. You can edit the information by hand, select "Details are Correct" to confirm the information there is right, or click "Search" to search the Mendeley catalog.

Mendeley Needs Review options

Sync your Library with your Mendeley Web account.

This will allow you to access to your data on your Mendeley Web account. If you want to have the desktop application installed on more than one computer, syncing through the Mendeley Web account will keep the information up-to-date on all of your machines.  

File Management


By default, when you import a PDF, Mendeley does not move that file; it just creates a reference so it knows where to find that file on your computer. If you later move or delete that file, Mendeley will not be able to access it.

There are two ways to address this:

  1. If you already have a folder system on your computer that you use for research documents (and you're happy with it), just move the PDF into the correct folder before importing it to Mendeley. Then, leave the PDF there.
  2. Turn on automatic file organization. If turned on in Options/Preferences, this feature will move files from wherever they are imported to a designated Mendeley directory on your hard drive. You can choose if the files are automatically placed in subfolders (based on such characteristics as author name) or even whether the PDFs are renamed.