Review of Unbound MEDLINE for iPhone, iPad, and Android

Unbound MEDLINE is next up for review in our series on apps for searching PubMed on your smartphone or tablet.

Free to individuals, Unbound MEDLINE offers a simple and straightforward PubMed search. There are two ways to search for article citations: Keyword (the default) and Clinical Search.

Keyword search

This is the default search screen when you open the app. The keyword search retrieves the same results as the search terms would get in a search in PubMed on the web. That’s a good thing, as PubMed utilizes many sophisticated behind-the-scenes features, and this takes advantage of them. For example, search terms are automatically mapped to PubMed’s MeSH index system.

69649-1 kw search

Choice of limits include full text options: you can choose free full text or any full text. If you do not have an institutional subscription to uCentral (see more info under pricing below), these might be good choices. Free full text means the full text is available in PubMed Central or without subscription through the publisher.

Full text will retrieve anything that the publisher has made available online – usually for a cost. If you are affiliated with a library and are on the campus network, you may be able to get into “publisher full text” content because your library has already paid for that journal.

Additional limit choices include language (English only), subjects (this option allows you to limit to humans only, not to topics as I expected this meant), publication type, and publication date.

Clinical Search:

69649-2 clinical search

Clinical Search allows you to add the Clinical Queries, which are validated search filters designed to narrow your results to the best articles to answer questions of therapy, diagnosis, etiology, prognosis, or clinical prediction guides. This is a great tool in particular when you’re in clinic or on the wards, with a specific question for a patient you’ve just seen.

Two levels of filters are available – Precision (known as narrow on the PubMed website) and Completeness (labeled broad on the site). Generally, I recommend the precision option. If you get too few results, repeat the search with completeness.

You can also narrow to free full text or publisher full text and to English language citations only.

Viewing citations:

69649-3 result list

Results are in the traditional chronological display of most recent at the top.

69649-4 result buttons

Once you click on a citation, links to free full text or the publisher’s full text (again, usually for a fee) appear at the top.

Also prominently displayed are Related Articles, which uses PubMed’s algorithm for identifying citations that share common terms with the selected article, and Unbound Medline’s proprietary “Grapherence” display.

69649-5 grapherence

Grapherence is a visual display of the citation patterns of the selected article and the articles connected to it. In this view, the selected article is at the center. The 27 in the circle represents the 27 articles that this article cited in its reference list.

69649-6 grapherence cited

Arrows connect the various articles: outbound arrows point to cited articles (i.e. those on the selected articles reference list), inbound arrows point from citing articles (i.e. those that cite the selected article), and other arrows connect articles that are related.

69649-8 grapherence timeline

You can view all these connections over time by switching to the Timeline view.

69649-7 grapherence highly cited  69649-7a grapherence highly cited grapherence

Grapherence can help you identify prominent articles on related topics because you can see how many times that article has been cited. However, depending on the topic, highly cited articles from a reference list may not be helpful in answering clinical questions, such as this highly cited methods piece on reporting the results of randomized controlled trials. Keep in mind that new articles may be less cited as well.

Grapherence does not appear on all articles, only those for which there is enough data to create the display.

69649-9 citation more fields

Additional options in the citation include the ability to run searches on any of the authors, the journal name, or any of the attached tags / MeSH terms.

69649-10 citation save

Want to share or save an article? You can easily share the citation via Twitter or Facebook.

69649-11 citation save more

The save options for Dropbox and Email include numerous options, including PDF (when available), abstract, and MEDLINE format (for EndNote and other citation management tools). You can also favorite an article if you just want to view it again within the app.

  • Price
    • The app is free for individuals. Available for a purchase is uCentral, a product sold to libraries and institutions that integrates multiple mobile content sources and adds locally subscribed journal holdings into the Unbound MEDLINE search interface.
    • Uses the usual PubMed search logic and algorithm
    • Clinical Search makes it a more relevant tool for bedside use
    • Multiple options for saving PDFs in Dropbox or email
    • Free to individual users
  • Dislikes
    • Hard to determine what is available in full text: free full text links are sometimes missing, and users with an institutional affiliation (but not a uCentral subscription) cannot customize their app with their own proxy server settings.
  • Overall

    Unbound MEDLINE offers a streamlined and intuitive PubMed search. The visual Grapherence feature enables some additional discovery of relevant articles.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface
  • Multimedia Usage
    • N/A
  • Price

    The app is free to individuals, but institutional customization is not.

  • Real World Applicability

    This is a great tool for quick searches of PubMed. Easier access to full text through the ability to add individual proxy settings would make this even better.

  • Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPad