Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself.
I was pretty excited when Zotero was released. It was one of the extensions that would be a worthy extension for academic Firefox users. I also know the fact that there aren’t many people from academia using Firefox! They’re unfortunately still stuck in IE world. May be the availability of a significant research tool like Zotero would bring some of these users to the Firefox camp. So if you’re planning to try Zotero here are my views on this extension for Firefox.
Zotero is available only for Firefox 2.0 (I doubt if there are any users of Firefox 1.x – other than portable Firefox users for whom the Firefox 2.0 is still in beta).
For a basic overview of Zotero you can check out the demo movie available at www.zotero.org. I’ll just run you through the advantages and features list of Zotero.
- Automatic capture of citation information from web pages
- Flexible notetaking with autosave
- Playlist-like library organization, including saved searches (smart collections) and tags
- Runs right in your web browser
- Storage of PDFs, files, images, links, and whole web pages
- Fast, as-you-type search through your materials
- Platform for new forms of digital research that can be extended with other web tools and services
- Formatted citation export (style list to grow rapidly)
- Free and open source
Yes I have tried all the above features and they work seamlessly. When compared to commercial equivalents like Endnote and Reference Manager, Zotero fares pretty well. It is well planned software, useful features like linking to PDF files was only available in Endnote from version 10 onwards. Also the feature wherein Zotero recognizes the content on the page and brings up the little button on the address bar which makes adding stuff to the database/library is pretty cool. Yes it does not work on all sites, there’s a list of compatible sites available, mainly University Library sites. However I tried using Zotero on scientific journal sites such as PLOS, Nature,Science, Elsevier’s Science Direct and it works perfectly. You can import references by clicking on the ‘export citation’ link as you do generally for any other bibliographic software like Endnote and Reference Manager. Just select the Reference Manager (RIS) format for exporting the citations. Exporting to the Endnote format also works, but not on all sites. This way you can make Zotero to work on several unsupported sites.
Other Exciting features about Zotero:
– Zotero has native support for promising new web technologies, including OpenURL, embedded microformats, RDF, and a variety of XML data-exchange formats.
– Ability to expand Zotero with digital tools for visualization, text analysis, document classification, and translation
Some features to be expected in upcoming versions of Zotero:
– Save metadata via text selection on web pages
– Ability to browse collections by tags
– Ability to attach multiple files at once
– More citation styles and import/export formats
– RSS support
The only limitation that I could find was the 3 citation formats that Zotero exports (APA, MLA and Chicago Manual of Style). Of course its Beta software and am sure with time that list will grow (as mentioned in the planned features section).
So is it time to throw away your existing bibliographic software and take Zotero, well not so soon. Right now as I had mentioned it’s in Beta, there aren’t many citation styles available and also no MS Word integration (you have to export citations to the clipboard/RTF file). But if you have never used any other bibliographic software before and are planning to choose one, there is no doubt Zotero would be an obvious choice. Its simple to learn, not bloated with features and intuitive.