Sharing reference libraries

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Thomas Zucker-Scharff
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.
Let me first state that I am no expert when it comes to reference manager software.  I have used several different ones and have come to certain conclusions.  Further, I am in NO way associated with the company(s) that produce this software or the project that keeps up the public domain software.  I am a user and technical support person for all these applications.

I work in a research institution and it often comes up that people want to share their reference libraries with their colleagues or other persons.  The problem is that the actual sharing of said library/database is not always simplistic or straightforward.  And the drawbacks can be disastrous.  

So I wrote a step by step guide to how to share any program's given library/database and the probable drawbacks.  I found when writing this that the product our institution has a site license for is not the best choice for sharing (hopefully this will change).

So if you want to know how to share your reference library/database with others follow the steps that coincide with the software you are using, but always backup and take into account any cons stated.

I looked closely at 3 different packages, Endnote x6.01, Reference Manager 12.03, and Zotero (desktop version).  Both Endnote and Reference Manager are by Thompson Reuters, Zotero is public Domain.  Reference Manager has by far the easiest way to share one or many libraries among many computers in either read-only or read/write modes.  Endnote has NO decent built in way to share libraries and Zotero says it can, but the setup is not as easy as Reference Manager (as a matter of fact it failed twice on me) and the way in which Zotero requires you to share databases involves syncing them to their website, but they only allow you 300mb of free space.

How do I share a reference Library using Reference Manager?

1. To check which version of Reference Manager you are using open RM and click Help -> About Reference Manager … You will see the version and the build at the bottom of the resulting screen.
reference manager version screen2. To start the process of sharing your library, make sure the library you wish to
share is completely closed. If it is open in RM, click File -> Close Database…,
your screen should look like this:
RM Web Publisher option3. Click the Tools menu and then the Web Publisher… option
RM Web Publisher option4. In the Web Publisher Dialogue we will set up which database(s) to share, how we wish to share them, and what options the other computers/users will have.
RM Web Publisher dialog5. Click on the Browse button to locate the database you wish to share. An Open dialogue will appear. Navigate to the database, highlight it and click the Open button.
RM open database dialog6. Once you have chosen a database file you will see the Web Publisher screen again.
This time the select database section (area that is colored blue above) will be filled in with the database you just selected. Click the Add button to add it to the list of databases you wish to share (up to 15).
RM attach datadase7. Make Sure you click on the database you just added, and then click the Display tab. In the Display tab you will need to set what will be seen remotely, what fields will be accessible and if blank fields will be seen during editing or otherwise.
RM Display Tab8. The Set-up tab lets you change the look and feel of the final webpage hat others will
a. The Website name will be seen in the tabs of the webpages (if you are familiar with HTML – it is the

RM Setup tab9. Finally, the last tab is the configure tab.
a. The Configure tab will capture your IP address (the numeric address of your computer) and suggest using port 80 to serve the webpages.  For security purposes you should change this to port 8080.
b. Click the Radio button “Enable Web Publisher”.
c. In the URL text box, delete the letters at the end and put in something meaningful.
d. If you wish you can also set a username and password by checking the “Enable Authentication” checkbox and entering a username and password needed in order to access the database.
RM Configure tab10. You have set up your database to be shared! The resulting screens in your browser should look something like this.
Initial screen when you type in the URL listed in the Configure tab
RM initial Browser screenAfter clicking the "Create a new record" link
RM edit browser screenTo share a library using Zotero, follow these steps:
1.  Download Zotero and install if you have not already done so (this example uses the standalone version).
zotero downloadWhen/if you see a security warning click Run to start the install (windows 7)
zotero install security warning2.  Once it is downloaded you will see several warning dialogues click Run, Yes or Allow. The Zotero installer itself will prompt you several times as well. Click Next or install and take all defaults. The screen you should see at the end is this one (click Finish):
Zotero finish install3. When you open Zotero desktop you should see this window (this has a test library in it)
zotero test library4. Note that to import an existing library in Endnote or Reference Manager into Zotero,
you will need to go into one of those programs and export to RIS format first. (This
is NOT failure proof as Thompson Reuters keeps changing their formats). Then you can
open Zotero and use the File -> Import function.
5. To set up Sync in Zotero, click on the Tools menu and select Options.
zotero tools options6. In the Sync tab, if you have an account on the Zotero website already, enter you username and password, if you don’t have an account click the “Create Account” link.
zotero preferences7. Once you have completed this and clicked the OK button, Zotero should start to Sync with you web account.
8. You can now access the web account from any computer with internet access.
9. Note that this process seems to work SOMETIMES. One time I tried it, I had no problems, but the next two times I tried I saw the screen below for a few days before finally deciding to force it to exit.
zotero processing updatesSharing an Endnote library is a different story. Endnote is specifically designed as a single user piece of software. There are several ways more than one person can use the same library, but only one is endorsed and supported by Thompson Reuters and that is their own somewhat limited solution of Endnote Web.

There are a few ways to share an Endnote library, and all have their drawbacks.

1. Use a centralized library on one computer and share it out to other computers.

2. Use Endnote Web to sync your library to the web interface and connect other libraries to the same web account.

3. Use a USB thumbdrive to carry your library with you.

4. Use a cloud option, like Dropbox, to share your library among several computers

Steps for implementing each option:

Option 1:

1. If you are not going to use the current computer you have the library on as the share computer
a. open the library
b. Click on the first reference
c. Click the File menu and choose “Compressed Library (.enlx) …”
d. When you see the figure below, make the same choices, then click “Next”
endnote_compress librarye. You will need to choose the compressed file’s name and where you wish to save
the compressed library, then click “Save”
save compressed library dialog2. Copy the compressed file (.enlx) to a thumbdrive in order to move it to another computer or copy it over the network to that computer.
3. Make sure the latest version of Endnote is installed on the target computer.
4. Copy the compressed file from the thumbdrive to the target computer, if you didn’t copy it over the network.
5. Open Endnote and then use the File menu -> Open Library command to open the compressed library (enlx) file as your library.
6. Once the file is open and you can see the references, use the File -> save a copy… command to save the library into the folder that will be shared (you will notice that the original library you opened has a size of 0kb and the copy should have the correct size).
7. On a windows machine, right click on the folder you wish to share, go to “Share with …” and choose “Specific People”
shared folder dialog with specific people sharing8.  The file sharing dialog should appear next:
File sharing dialog9. This share requires that the other users be in the same Workgroup or Domain as the computer hosting the library.
10. The main drawback to this method is that only one user can open the library in write mode at a time (this will be true of any method you choose to share an Endnote library). Many can open it as Read-Only at the same time.

Option 2:

Endnote Web is Thompson Reuters’ answer to this problem. It is by no means the best answer. MAKE A BACKUP OF YOUR LIBRARY BEFORE ATTEMPTING THIS. To use Endnote Web, follow these steps:
1. Open the library you wish to share in Endnote
2. To establish the sync to Endnote Web, click Edit -> Preferences
edit preferences3. Once you click on Preferences navigate to and click on “Sync”
preferences sync4.  You will need to fill out the appropriate information in this dialogue. If you do not already have a web account for endnote, you will need to go to https://www.myendnoteweb.com and establish an account there before continuing.
5. Enter your web credentials under the section “Endnote Web Account Credentials”.
6. The Library you currently have open should appear in the library to sync.
7. The last section allows you to choose when to sync.
8. Once you click Enable Sync the database should start to sync to your web account. NOTE: ONLY regular groups, references and attachments will sync. Groups with the same name, smart groups, groups based on groups WILL NOT SYNC.
9. Once you have synced your library to Endnote Web, you can set up as many other computers to sync to the same web account. (There is also an application for the iPad that will sync with endnote web for 99 cents).

Option 3:

To use a library from a thumbdrive, simply copy the .enl file and the .data folder to the same directory on the thumbdrive. It might be better, in the long run, to open your library on the desktop and make a compressed copy on the thumbdrive as delineated in Option 1-step 1, then open the compressed library and save a copy as delineated in Option 1-steps 5-6.

Option 4:

Using Dropbox for this may be the easiest way of sharing a library, but it is expressly NOT supported by Thompson Reuters. So this is a “Use at your own risk” option. The main reason TR does not support integration with Dropbox is that if more than one person attempts to open the library for writing at the same time, there is a good chance that the library will be corrupted. So if you do decide to use Dropbox, be sure to keep daily backups.

Copy your .enl file and .data folder into a new folder on Dropbox.
1. To do his first make a compressed library file
2. Copy the compressed library file into your Dropbox
3. Open Dropbox web
4. Create a new folder to house it using the new folder icon and to share
5. Set sharing for the folder by clicking on the share icon in Dropbox web
6. Copy the .enlx file into the new folder
7. Open Endnote
a. Open the compressed library in Dropbox
b. When it is open use the save a copy option to save it
8. Invite the people you want to have access
This is a good walk through on using Dropbox to share an Endnote library:



Official statements from Thompson Reuters are as follows:

EndNote, Reference Manager, & ProCite: Compatibility with Dropbox and other cloud storage
Dropbox is a cloud based file sharing service. Our database products (EndNote, Reference Manager and ProCite) were not designed for compatibility with this service or other cloud storage. While you can use the service to keep a backup copy or share a compressed copy of your database file(s), we do not recommend opening and/or using the database from that location. If you have your database files saved to Dropbox or any cloud storage, we recommend you copy the files to another location on your computer or remote drive before you open them.
Some of the other cloud storage services that would cause this issue include Sharepoint, Google Drive and iCloud.


Sharing Libraries Thomson Reuters EndNote can be used on a network to share libraries—including networks with Macintosh® and Windows® workstations. Multiple users can access an EndNote library simultaneously in read-only mode. This allows users to search for references, cite them in their papers and create bibliographies. EndNote does not allow multiple users to edit a single library at the same time.
On Windows networks EndNote can be deployed with MSI installer technology using scripting or via Group Policy. Requirements: Windows 2000/2003 Server with Active Directory installed MSI Installer 3.x on the Server and the workstations.


NOTE: For all options: There are 3 folders that Endnote automatically sets up for you when you install it. These folders reside on the machine that the software is installed on, unless their location is expressly changed. The 3 folders are:


folder locationsIf you wish to have similar installations be sure you move these directories to your shared folder (Dropbox or otherwise) and set up each computer to point to these directories (the above screen shot is accessed by going to Edit -> Preferences -> Folder Locations). Also if you have set up any personalized searches you will need to copy the folder C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\EndNote\Searches or C:\Users\\AppData\EndNote\Searches on Windows 7 machines to your shared folder or the equivalent on a MAC.
Note that the example below is with Dropbox. I have put the necessary files/folders in the folder I wish to share:
dropbox example
The library file (.enl)

The .data folder associated with it

The connections folder

The styles folder

The filters folder

The searches folder from the user’s directory (which will exist if you have created and saved any searches)

The edited output styles, endnote prefs and reports are optional and will only exist if you have already created them.

I have created a presentation on how to do this with prezi at:  

For a complete PDF of this tutorial click here Sharing-a-reference-library-betw.pdf .

I also have a wink interactive tutorial for this, but it can't be uploaded here since it uses .jsp files.  If anyone wants to look at it just leave a comment with your email and I will send you a link (34mb zip file).

UPDATE: If you are still using a version of EndNote prior to X7.x,  then nothing has changed. But starting in version X7.2, sharing among up to 14 people had been implemented.  Sharing is robust and athough not completely intuitive the first time it works well.  I shared a library to myself  and it worked fine (each invitation must be answered by someone who either has or is willing to create an EndNote Online account).  The invite can be sent to any email address of that person, not necessarily the one associated with the myendnoteweb.com (AKA EndNote Online) account.

If you are at all interested in sharing Endnote libraries, this is the way to go.  One caveat though - When you share the library you are giving complete read/write privileges to each person you share with.  They could essentiall delete all the references in your library and if you didn't have a backup you would be out of luck.  Possibly worse someone could make changes without telling anyone else.  So the bottom line is, ALWAYS make a backup of your library using the Save as Compressed file (.enlx)... command from the file menu (I do this daily and have a script I use, it is limited to saving to a specified drive, but you can always map the folder to a drive letter like I do)you like to use to a drive letter like I do).

Backup Script (written for PCs in AutoHotkey - if you want to use it download AHK and you can compile it (right click and choose compile or just click and choose run script)

; ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
; ----- This script performs the following actions                                                                         -----
; -----                                                                                                                    -----
; -----     1. Sets the title matching mode for a partial beginning string                                                 -----
; -----     2. Checks for the existence of the window for EndNote X7 -, then activates that window                         -----
; -----     3. Isolates and puts in a variable the name of the open library                                                -----
; -----     4. Backs up the current library to an endnote library folder                                                   -----
; -----     5. Names the backup file (with extension .enlx) with today's date and time and the name of the library         -----
; -----                                                                                                                    -----
; ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
; -----                                                                                                                    -----
; -----                                This script was written by Thomas Zucker-Scharff                                    -----
; -----                                                                                                                    -----
; ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

#b:: ; assign [Win]+b to backup script
MsgBox, Have you opened your library yet, if not please do so, then click Okay.
FileSelectFolder, MyFolder,,6,Select a Destination Drive for the Compressed library ; ask for preffered destination folder
MyFile = %A_Year%%A_MM%%A_DD%_%A_Hour%%A_Min% ; variable contains yyyymmdd_hhmm
basefilename = %MyFolder%%MyFile%
SetTitleMatchMode,1 ; title must begin with String
IfWinExist,EndNote X7 - ; Endnote must have a library open to display the - after the title name
   WinGetActiveTitle, title
   mytitle:=substr(title, instr(title, "[]"), -1) ; -1 is to end of line
   libname:=substr(mytitle, 2) ; basename of library
   Destination = %basefilename%_%libname% ; get GuiVar variable basefilename and put into variable destination
   msgbox %destination%
   Send !f ; send alt f to access the File menu
   Send {UP 2} ; send 2 up keystrokes to access the compressed file function
   Send {ENTER} ; send enter key to choose function
   Send {ENTER} ; send the enter key to continue with no changes
   sleep 1000
   ; MsgBox, In the Save Compressed Library dialog, slect the folder you wish the compressed file saved to, then position the cursor in the filename field.
   ; sleep 10000 ; wait 10 seconds
   ; Winactivate, Save Compressed Library (.enlx)
   ; Sleep 2000
   ; WinWait, Save ; wait until save window closes
   ; WinWaitClose ; wait until save window closes
   ; ask for user input for where to save compressed file
   ; ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   ; ---- need to ask for user to indocate which folder (s)he wants to save resulting file to ----
   ; ---- once folder is indicated need to capture name and send it as the working directory  ----
   ; ---- to replace the two send lines above the dotted line below.                          ----
   ; ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   ; The following commands access the endnote library on my computer in windows 7
   ; SetTitleMatchMode,1
   ; Send +{TAB 5} ; send shift tab 5 times to get to folder selection
   ; Send e ; go to endnote library entry
   ; --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   ; Send {Enter} ; choose endnote library folder
   ; sleep 1000
   ; Send {TAB 5} ; to get to file name field
   ; Send {Delete} ; in filename field delete anything that is currently there
   ; sleep 1000
   ; MyVar = %A_Year%%A_MM%%A_DD%_%A_Hour%%A_Min%_%libname% ; variable contains yyyymmdd_
   ; Send %MyVar% ; send this variable as the beginning of the filename
   Send %Destination%
   Send {ENTER}
    MsgBox, Please open One Library, No Open Library was found or more than one library is open. Please rectify the situation and rerun the script.


Check this video out for instructions.


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