quosa, ovid

I went on a multi-day jag of installing software programs on my work computer, including reinstalling Quosa.  Quosa is an Ovid product that is kind of a combination of EndNote, Papers, and a file drawer.  The cool thing that it does is fetch PDF and HTML articles en masse–from results of a search or an existing EndNote library.

I had Quosa installed on my computer before, but I found it really annoying. For one thing, it only worked with IE, and I am a Firefox girl.  Secondly, it claimed that it could get stuff from Ovid, so I would do a search through the Quosa interface and then be told AFTER I completed the search that the functionality wasn’t there yet.  Argh.  What I ended up doing was doing my searches as normal in precious, lovely Firefox and saving them to EndNote.  I then imported the EndNote library into Quosa, had it fetch all the PDF and HTML files for as many articles as my library has access to, and then went through several convoluted steps to save all the PDF’s/HTML files to a folder on whoever I was doing the search for’s network drive.  Then, I’d send them the EndNote file.  Basically, it was a very tedious practice that I rarely engaged in.  It was so user-unfriendly that I actually have a set of directions scrawled down so that I remember how to do it–I found myself spending ages re-figuring out how to do what I wanted each time otherwise.

Anyway, I got an invite from Ovid to attend a Quosa session at MLA, and I jumped at the chance for free breakfast (which was pretty tasty…) and to see if there were better ways I could be using Quosa.  About 25 other people had the same idea we did, and we all packed in the room and precariously balanced pastries, fruit, and hot coffee on our laps.

The first thing I learned was that my version of Quosa was hopelessly outdated (why, may I ask, doesn’t it have a built-in updating service a la every other software program on earth?).  The current version not only worked with PubMed (the only “channel” mine worked with), but also Web of Science, Scopus, and, lo and behold, Ovid.  (I found out from today’s experiments that it also works with “branded” PubMed versions now, too–so I can see those SFX links if I need them!).  This was very good news, indeed.

The guy giving the demo ran through some of the features, a couple of which he attempted unsuccessfully.  Such features included the whole downloading of full text thing, organization of references, creating folders, saving search alerts, etc.  Still a bit on the user-incredibly-unfriendly side–okay, really, really not user-friendly…but powerful none the less.  One thing that it does that I didn’t know about, for example, is that you can import a PDF library (a folder full of rogue PDF’s, basically)–Quosa will take those PDF’s and find the citations for them so that you can organize your PDF collection.  That was pretty cool–EndNote should work on building that feature.  Of course, if your PDF library largely consists of scanned documents, you are out of luck.

There is apparently a toolbar for Firefox in the works, though it doesn’t exist at the moment.  I hope this means that they will look at making the Quosa tool itself use Firefox as an option as well (my guess is not, but who knows).

The annotation capabilities are incredibly primitive.  You can’t highlight anything on your own in your full-text library–only Quosa can highlight stuff based on your search terms.  You can’t annotate directly in the document, just in a seperate window that’s like an attachment.  After using Scrapbook, Google Notebook, diigo, and who knows how many other tools that can do this (Papers, maybe?), this was a bit shocking to discover.  What’s the point, if you can’t mark up the text?

Another point the demo highlighted was Quosa’s compatibility with EndNote.  After the presentation, the woman next to me asked why compatibility with EndNote was desirable–wouldn’t it make more sense to have the capabilities of EndNote built into Quosa?  Here’s my answer: yes.  That’s pretty much the same issue I had with Zotero when it first came out (it has some citation capabilities now, plus limited built in Word support, I believe)–why should we have to use 2 programs?

Quosa is frankly unbeatable when it comes to grabbing full text.  In a matter of seconds this afternoon, I did searches in Scopus, PubMed, and Ovid and grabbed every article in my results that we have online access to.  That is really a nice feeling.


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