BY BILL FERRIS

Back in my day we had to figure out arcane citation formats by poring through dusty old style manuals. This was during that awkward window after people started putting good information on the internet, but before the style manuals told you how to cite web documents.

Your students don’t know how lucky they are to have handy pieces of software to do this arduous work for them. Below is Instructify’s list of the five best bibliography and citation applications out there. Pass these on to your students and spare them the agony of building bibliographies the hard way.

5. Word 2007: Number five on our list really isn’t an application at all, as it’s part of Microsoft Word 2007. While not everybody has a copy of Word 2007, the folks that do don’t even have to leave their word processor to generate a professional-looking bibliography. If you don’t use Word, check out the next four apps.

4. OttoBib: OttoBib is like Saran Wrap — its best feature is its worst. If you know a book’s ISBN number, that’s all you need for OttoBib to build a citation for you in the format you need. If you don’t, or if you’re citing something that’s not a book, you’ll need to find another application. However, OttoBib’s simplicity is useful enough for you and your students to bookmark come term-paper time.

3. EasyBib: EasyBib goes far beyond the usual assortment of sources. It lets you easily cite federal testimony, photographs, emails, patents, paintings, executive orders, and literally dozens more types of documents. Unless you’re trying to cite something scrawled on the back of a napkin at Chili’s, Easybib has you covered. It too lets you search by ISBN. EasyBib loses points, however, for only citing MLA format for free — if you’re writing in APA or Chicago style, you’ll have to pay up nine bucks per year, which isn’t a lot, but you can find other apps to cite those formats for free.

2. Citation Machine: Though you can’t search by ISBN, that’s about the only thing Citation Machine doesn’t do. Just enter basic info like the title, author, publisher, type of work, all that stuff, and Citation Machine will give you your citation in whatever format you require. It’s simple, straightforward, free, and as a bonus, its name tells you exactly what it does (something that’s always worth a few points in my book).

1. BibMe: There can be only one number one, and BibMe is it. BibMe is the easiest citation app out there, incorporating many of the best features of its competitors. It lets you search by ISBN, title, or author. You can format your citation for books, journals, newspapers, periodicals, the web, whatever you need. It has an autofill function to save time. BibMe will format your bibliography for MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian, then export it all to Microsoft Word for easy insertion into a research paper. If there’s a better bibliography application out there, it probably does your taxes or something, too.

Are you an ardent user of one of these? Did we blatantly ignore the best citation app on the web? Make your case for your favorite app in the comments!

Photo credit: papertrix on Flickr.