Zotero Review


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I’ve been a big fan of bibliography software and I’ve written before about how much I like BibDesk for this role. That said, my workflow just wasn’t complete until I gave Zotero another try recently. The software has come a long way since I first looked at it, and now I am happy to say that it is my primary tool for tracking resources while I’m searching through articles. Two features finally sold me on zotero: the meta-data is scraped correctly (identified and stored) from the web resource in all of the journals I have tried, and I can easily sync my library and my stored PDF files between multiple computers. File sync is free through zotero.org (up to 100 MB) but I have a WebDAV server at work so I use that for unlimited storage. As a major bonus, I also like the feature that will automatically download and link the full-text PDF file (if you have access to it). These three things combine to make a great tool.

The one thing I discovered that may help you find success is that zotero creates a button in the firefox address bar whenever it can save the article metadata. This button seems to do the right thing when you want to save a journal article with all the metadata and a link to the original abstract page. I had different (and sometimes wrong) results when I tried to “Create New Item from Current Page” using the button on Zotero’s toolbar. This may have been addressed in the latest version, but I just use the addressbar button (since you can click that without even opening the zotero application pane).

I haven’t had to write a paper yet after collecting these citations, but I will continue to use BibDesk for managing bibtex files since I write in LaTeX. Fortunately the intergration between zotero and bibdesk is fairly straightforward, especially with George MacKerron’s Zot2Bib.

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4 thoughts on “Zotero Review

  1. I had almost no luck using Zotero, on either my Linux or OS X systems – in my experience, Zotero’s primary function could have been as an error message generator. You should also note that Zotero leaves a set of files in the Firefox Profile that you were using, so if you need to uninstall for technical reasons (as I did) then you might want to uninstall the files it’s put there too.

    Reply
    • I’m sorry to hear that Zotero hasn’t worked well for you. I haven’t had trouble installing on any of the six computers I use. Macs and PCs and various versions of Firefox. Yes, you are correct that it leaves files in the profile, this is where it stores your information and bibliography files.

      Reply
  2. I had different (and sometimes wrong) results when I tried to “Create New Item from Current Page” using the button on Zotero’s toolbar. This may have been addressed in the latest version, but I just use the addressbar button

    That’s a confusing aspect that sometimes catches people– the Create New Item from Current Page button creates a Zotero Web Page item from the current page; it doesn’t use one of Zotero’s site translators, so it is saving metadata for the page itself, not for the article(s) that the page corresponds to. If you have any suggestions for how to make this more clear, please share.

    Reply
    • That makes sense. Perhaps an easy fix would be to re-name the toolbar item “Create Zotero Web Page item from Current Page”. I don’t think the extra words would be a problem, and it would certainly clarify the difference. I didn’t really know there were two types of items, and this would certainly indicate that more clearly.

      I continue to be very happy with Zotero. In fact, I’ve had my research students sign up so we can share discovered citations and access our group library. It’s a great solution, especially with the option of storing filed PDFs on a WebDAV server.

      Reply

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