The past decade has witnessed the modern advances of high-throughput technology and rapid growth of research capacity in producing large-scale biological data, both of which were concomitant with an exponential growth of biomedical literature. This wealth of scholarly knowledge is of significant importance for researchers in making scientific discoveries and healthcare professionals in managing health-related matters. However, the acquisition of such information is becoming increasingly difficult due to its large volume and rapid growth. In response, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is continuously making changes to its PubMed Web service for improvement. Meanwhile, different entities have devoted themselves to developing Web tools for helping users quickly and efficiently search and retrieve relevant publications. These practices, together with maturity in the field of text mining, have led to an increase in the number and quality of various Web tools that provide comparable literature search service to PubMed. In this study, we review 28 such tools, highlight their respective innovations, compare them to the PubMed system and one another, and discuss directions for future development. Furthermore, we have built a website dedicated to tracking existing systems and future advances in the field of biomedical literature search. Taken together, our work serves information seekers in choosing tools for their needs and service providers and developers in keeping current in the field. Database URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/CBBresearch/Lu/search.