Newsletter of the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona

Best Bytes: Accessing PubMed on the Go

Posted on December 5, 2011 by Amy Chatfield | 1 Comment

Contributed by Lisa Federer, Health and Life Sciences Librarian, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, UCLA

As much as we’d love to see our patrons in the library every day, the reality is that we as 21st century librarians often provide services to patrons we may never actually meet in person.  Whether it’s a busy clinician at the point of care, a stressed student studying at 3:00 AM, or a researcher in the lab, many of our patrons need access to high-quality information on the go.  Luckily, a multitude of apps and mobile sites make it easy to get information anytime, anywhere.  Several apps and mobile versions of PubMed allow users to perform advanced searches, access full-text articles, and email and save articles.


Users who need to access PubMed from their Android or Apple device may prefer to download one of several apps, with their easy-to-use interfaces and their powerful sharing and saving features.  Depending on your mobile platform, several apps are available for free and for purchase:

PubMed on Tap and PubMed on Tap Lite (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad)

Available through the iTunes Store, this app allows users to access PubMed from the iOS device using a simple, clean interface.  The advanced search interface is easy to use, allowing users to select a field to search, tap to select Boolean operators, and set limits.  Articles can be saved to the in-app library or emailed along with PDFs.  Users can also configure the app to work with their institution’s proxy server to give them full-text access to all of their library’s subscriptions.  The full version costs $2.99, but the free version, PubMed on Tap Lite, offers the same functionality with some limitations, like limiting the number of saved articles in the library.

PubMed Clip (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad)

PubMed Clip’s search and browse offerings don’t greatly differ from those of PubMed on Tap, but its integration with web services and other apps may make it a favorite among a social-media-savvy crowd.  Users can share links to articles on Facebook and Twitter or send citations to Evernote, a popular note-taking platform.  The in-app library also offers more functionality, such as folders and the option to sort articles by author, title, or tag.  The app can be configured for proxy access and is available for $2.99.

PubMed Mobile and PubMed Mobile Pro (Android)

Android users can also access PubMed using PubMed Mobile.  Its offerings are similar to PubMed on Tap’s, allowing users to perform both basic and advanced searches with limits, save and email citations, and read full-text articles.  However, PubMed Mobile does not currently offer proxy integration, so users will not be able to take advantage of their library’s subscriptions.  Like its iOS cousin, PubMed Mobile is available in both a free and full version; the fully functional free version is ad-supported, while the Pro version costs $2.99.

Mobile-Enhanced Sites

Even if your device isn’t supported by one of these apps, you can still access PubMed from your mobile device using one of PubMed’s mobile interfaces.  You’ll get the same access to PubMed that you would from any other computer, but these sites have been redesigned to be easily readable on your mobile device.  Most mobile devices can be configured for your institution’s proxy, so you’ll be able to get access to full-text articles available through your subscriptions.

PubMed Mobile (Beta)

This no-frills version of the PubMed website only allows users to perform basic searches, but does accept field tags in brackets and Boolean operators, so knowledgeable searchers may still find the interface workable. [Note from MLGSCA Link editors: at the time this column was written, PubMed Mobile was in Beta mode, but it became an official mobile app during the publication process.]

PubMed for Handhelds

Users who rely on search filters like Clinical Queries or Systematic Reviews will prefer the PubMed for Handhelds version of the site.  The askMEDLINE search allows users to enter natural language questions and incorporates an English-language spellchecker.  Its ability to interpret the question is passable, but not perfect.  For example, when I asked “What are the main causes of chest pain,” the first article in my results list discussed an unusual and rare condition – hardly one of the main causes.  The site also offers a handy PICO search interface that incorporates a spellchecker as well.

At this point, these two mobile-enhanced versions of the site are mainly useful for performing basic searches in PubMed in a format that you’ll actually be able to read on your mobile device’s screen.  Unfortunately, neither version currently offers integration with MyNCBI or allows users to email citations or otherwise save them.

What’s your favorite way to access PubMed on the go?  Tell us about it in the comments!


One Response to “Best Bytes: Accessing PubMed on the Go”

  1. Alan Carr
    December 5th, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

    PubMed Mobile has officially graduated out of “Beta” mode.

Leave a Reply

  • Scan this barcode to get the Link on your phone

  • Recent Comments

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Meta