Zotero Review


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.

 

  1. Automatic capture of citation information from web pages
  2. Flexible notetaking with autosave
  3. Playlist-like library organization, including saved searches (smart collections) and tags
  4. Runs right in your web browser
  5. Storage of PDFs, files, images, links, and whole web pages
  6. Fast, as-you-type search through your materials
  7. Platform for new forms of digital research that can be extended with other web tools and services
  8. Formatted citation export (style list to grow rapidly)
  9. 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.

 

– Tagging

 

– 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.

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Author: Balachandar Radhakrishnan

I work in Project Management and love music, photography & more.

15 thoughts on “Zotero Review”

  1. “I also know the fact that there aren’t many people from academia using Firefox! They’re unfortunately still stuck in IE world.”

    From statistics I’ve seen, Firefox adoption by .edu is quite a bit higher than from .com.

    “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).”

    Again, reality differs–AFAIK, the automatic update mechanism updates to the latest version of 1.5 & so 2.0 is still not being used by everyone by a long shot.

    “useful features like linking to PDF files was only available in Endnote from version 10 onwards.”

    This isn’t true. You’ve been able to do this AT LEAST since Endnote 6 & probably before. The method of linking has changed over the years.

  2. Thank you keith for the input.Well as far as i’ve seen around in labs..i find it hard to believe that Firefox has fans in big numbers!..probably academics dont find time to look for better browsers 😉 Regarding your idea on Firefox update, well what i meant was the number of people using a portable version of Firefox as their primary browser would be less..and atleast version 2.0 would be thrust upon them pretty soon.I was’nt aware of linking to PDF files offline in previous versions of Endnote, strange that they advertised this feature as an important development in version X..!!??

  3. Until now I have used Endnote for references and Evernote for notes. I was excited about Zotero as I could store notes and refs in the same app. However, importing my 1000 odd Endnote refs, whilst being easy, also meant that some info was not imported perfectly. For example, when there are multiple entries in Endnote’s ‘keywords’ field, it imports them as one entry into the ‘tags’ field. This has meant that I have had to go through every reference in Zotero and make corrections which is a big job. Also, Zotero cannot import from Evernote at the moment so I am having to do this manually as well.
    I still think it’s worth it though. And let’s not forget that Zotero is still in its early stages.

  4. I tried Zotero in 2006 and found it lacking. I was working on my dissertation so I returned to Endnote (now at X1). Now that I have finished, I have been looking for a program to manage all of the PDFs and other documents I have collected.

    I was leaning toward ScrapBook, but I decided to look at Zotero again (version 1.0). So far, it seems to have all the features of ScrapBook, but much greater import/export features for researchers. Too, with the backing and development support of George Mason University it might be a better long-term choice than ScrapBook.

    Here are the big problems/issues I see with Zotero:
    (a) Can’t annotate or link to specific locations in PDF files.
    (b) Can’t save sub pages, only single web pages.

    My biggest concern with Zotero is their overall model. I wish they had used a model that involved a platform-independent (e.g., Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.) standalone application that interfaced with Firefox, IE, Word, etcetera rather than relying on a specific browser or even being a part of a browser. By using a browser-add-on model they limit the application’s ability to work with PDFs and other non-Web-based media.

  5. I have used Zotero for some time. I liked it because I can grab the citations directly off webpages. That really saved me lotsa time.

    But after a while I realised it started to give me problems. Specifically when i rename or move PDFs around in my collection, the metadata disappears. Personally, i found that quite annoying.

    Instead now i use WizFolio Web 2.o. it also has pretty useful tools, like a feature that imports whatever I have copied onto my clipboard into the collection. but what i like about it is that it is web-based. i access it just like an email account and use it as a place to store all my PDF collection. And it doesn’t give me the problem gave when i move may PDFs around.

    Maybe Zotero’s next release will be better, but for now i’ll stick with WizFolio.

  6. I have uninstalled zotero because originally used Jeteye, which stores all links you want to save in a self-organised structure, but only links. Then I found scrapbook which is much superior, and it also saves links/bookmarks. It appears Zotero saves complete pages by default and I found no method of saving collections of urls/bookmarks which to me is most useful as a designer/web programmer. Collections of full pages are wasted space to me, but also scrapbook does that as well. Also, I found scrapbook to be more attuned to my search requirements than zotero. So in my case, I find scrapbook far superior to zotero!

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