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Mendeley Basics: Mendeley Desktop

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.

Getting Started with Mendeley Desktop

Terms you should familiarize yourself with:

Mendeley Desktop : Mendeley Desktop is the downloaded part of the software installed onto your computer. Download Mendeley Desktop if you haven't already.

Mendeley Web : This is the Mendeley website where you can access the web version of your library, edit your profile and search for papers, groups or people.

Sync : The process of synchronizing your Mendeley data across devices.

Web Importer : The browser bookmarklet that lets you quickly import documents from anywhere on the web.

Citation Plugin : A plugin you can install that allows you to create and format your citations and bibliography according to your chosen style.


Library View




PDF Reader View





Import and Organize Articles

Create a folder on your computer for PDFs you want to download and add it to Watch Folder.

Everytime you download an article to that folder, Mendeley Desktop will grab it and import it (and in most cases be able to read the bibliographic information, too).



Add PDFs you already have on your computer to Mendeley by dragging and dropping the file onto Mendeley. Or, add them to your Watch Folder and they'll be imported automatically.


 Mark articles as read or unread, and star your favorites. 


Organize your files and have Mendeley rename your PDFs to make files more findable. 

Tools --> Options --> File Organizer 

or for Mac choose: Mendeley --> Preferences --> File Organizer


1. Organize my Files: to make a copy of all documents added to Mendeley within one folder.

2. Sort files into subfolders: to create a folder structures based on selected document details.

3. Rename document filesto rename the often nondescript names of your PDFs to file names that are meaningful including the author, journal, year, and title. 


Subject Guide

Meghan Salsbury's picture
Meghan Salsbury
MSU Library, Rm 117C
(406) 994-4989

Why use Mendeley?

Best Uses for Mendeley Desktop:

  • Import and organize existing PDFs on your computer.
  • Set up a Watch Folder so downloaded PDFs will be imported automatically.
  • Annotate and highlight PDFs for yourself or your group.
  • Install and use the plug-in for OpenOffice or Microsoft Word to cite sources and generate bibliographies.
  • Create public and private groups to share resources and updates.
  • Find and join or follow groups, too.

Citation Workshops

Library Services