Millsaps College


What Zotero Does

Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") is a Firefox addon that collects, manages, and cites research sources. It's easy to use, lives in your web browser where you do your work, and best of all it's free. Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies.

It automatically updates itself periodically to work with new online sources and new bibliographic styles.

It is similar to Endnote.

See also this great guide published by the Zotero developers themselves. Also available as a PDF.

Installing Zotero

Zotero will run on any operating system. It requires Mozilla Firefox 3.0 or greater.  If you don't have Firefox, you need to download and install it.

After confirming that you have Firefox installed, you can add Zotero.

To install, go to http://www.zotero.org/ and click the red "Download" button. Click "Install Now" and follow the instructions.

If you see the message “Firefox prevented this site from asking you to install software on your computer," click "Allow".

Restart Firefox and you're all set! You'll see a small Zotero button at the bottom of your Firefox window.

If you have any problems, check the Zotero installation page.

You'll probably also want to download and install the Microsoft Word citation plugin (or the OpenOffice plugin if you're using OpenOffice). These allow you to easily cite items from your Zotero library in your papers.

Mac users: The Zotero 1.0 plugin doesn't work with Word 2008 for MacOS. If you're using Word 2008 on a Mac, you should probably use Zotero 2.0. More info here.

Collecting References: Books and Articles

Zotero provides the ability to save references from most library catalogs (including Millsaps') and databases, and even some regular web pages, with one click. (Zotero publishes a list of compatible sites, and many sites not on this list also work.) If Zotero detects that you're looking at a book or article on a catalog, database, or a site like Amazon.com, LibraryThing or the New York Times, you'll see a book or page icon appear in the address bar of your browser. Just click the icon and Zotero will automatically save the citation.

If you're on a page of search results with many items, you'll see a folder icon instead. Click this to get a list of all the items on the page, and check off the ones you want to save.

Collecting References: Other Web Sites

 

Other Web Sites  

Zotero can't automatically capture citation info from some web pages, but you can still add them to your Zotero library.

Click the Zotero button at the bottom of your browser to access Zotero's controls. Click the page button (to the right of the green plus sign) to save a link to the page. This will save a new "web page" item to your library. You can add information about the author, etc., if you wish.

This will also attach a snapshot of the page to the citation. Taking a snapshot saves a copy of the page to your computer. It includes the page's text and images, so if the page is removed later, or if you're offline, you'll still be able to view your copy.

 

Attaching Files

It's easy to attach files (like PDFs) to items in your Zotero library.  Just drag the file into your Zotero pane.  Dropping a file onto a collection, or in between library items, will copy it into your library as a standalone item.  Dropping it onto an existing item will attach it to that item.  This is the easiest way to attach a copy of an article to its entry in your library.

Each item also has an Attachments tab in the right column.  You can attach files by clicking the Attachments tab and then the Add button.

Organizing Your Library

Click the Zotero button at the bottom of your browser to open your library. At the top left is a folder button with a green plus sign. Click this to create a new "collection."

Create collections to organize your references. Collections are like file folders on your computer, but a reference can be in more than one collection at a time. In other words, a book on the Civil War could be filed in your "Civil War" collection, your "Georgia History" collection and your "19th Century America" collection without having to make three copies of the reference.

Creating Your Bibliography: From Zotero

It's easy to create a bibliography from your Zotero library.

Select the references or collections you want to include. Hold the control key and click to select multiple items. Right-click one of the selected items and choose Create Bibliography. Choose the bibliographic style you want, and select the output format: Save as RTF or HTML, copy to clipboard or print. (The RTF file format is compatible with all word processors.)

Or you can just drag and drop references from Zotero into your document! They'll turn into fully formatted citations. This works with any word processor including Google Docs. Change the default style under Preferences on the "gear" menu.


Creating Your Bibliography: While You Write

Zotero offers word processing plugins for Word and OpenOffice. The plugin adds a Zotero toolbar to your word processor that allows you to add citations to your document while you write.

To add a citation, click the first button ("Insert Citation") on the toolbar. Select the reference you want to cite and click OK. Zotero will add the citation at your cursor.

At the end of your paper, click the third button ("Insert Bibliography"). Your bibliography will appear, and new citations will be added automatically. Change bibliographic styles with the last button on the toolbar ("Set Doc Prefs").

Zotero comes with only a few bibliographic styles, but many more are available to download.

Zotero Sync

(This feature requires Zotero version 2.0)

If you're regularly using more than one computer in your research, Zotero's sync feature can keep your library up to date on all of them.  Zotero can store a copy of your library on the Zotero.org server and check it for updates whenever you open your library on a different computer.  All your computers must be running the same version of Zotero.

First, set up a (free, of course) Zotero.org user account. Then:

  • Open Zotero preferences (via the gear menu) and select the Sync tab. 
  • Enter your Zotero user name and password. 
  • Check the "sync automatically" box.
  • Check both boxes under File Syncing and choose Zotero storage for My Library. This will sync your PDF attachments as well as citations (more info).
  • Zotero will upload your library to the server.

Repeat this configuration on each of your computers.  Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others.  This even works to synchronize your library among Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero site.



Portable Zotero

Photo by Your Zotero library is stored in your Firefox profile on your hard drive. How do you bring it with you to use the library's computers?

Install Firefox and Zotero on a USB drive and you can take your library with you to use on any computer.

First: download and install Portable Firefox for Windows or Mac on your USB drive. This is a special edition of Firefox designed to run entirely from a portable drive. It keeps its own settings, bookmarks and Zotero library separate from the settings installed on your computer.

Second: copy your Zotero library from your computer to your USB drive.

One way to do this is to open Zotero on your computer, click the gear button and choose Export Library (as in the image below). Save your library to a file anywhere on your computer. Then close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive, open Zotero, click the gear button and choose Import. Import the file you just saved.

Another, perhaps easier, way to copy your library is with the Zotero sync feature. Follow the instructions on this page to set up Zotero sync on your computer. Then close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive and set up Zotero sync there too. If you use the sync option, any changes you make to your Zotero library will update themselves in both versions of Firefox.

Just take your USB drive to the library with you, plug it into one of our computers, and run Portable Firefox.

Indexing PDFs

 

(This feature requires Zotero version 2.0)

It's easy to add PDFs to your Zotero library and automatically import their citation info.

First, enable PDF indexing on the Search tab of Zotero's preferences.  Zotero will download and install a small plugin.

Next, just drag your PDF files into the Zotero pane.

Right-click the PDFs and choose "Retrieve Metadata for PDFs."  Zotero will retrieve their citation data from Google Scholar and turn them into citeable items with PDF attachments.

If Zotero can't find a match on Google Scholar, don't worry -- you can still save the citation from another catalog or article database, then drag the PDF onto the citation to make it an attachment.

Adding items by ISBN

(This feature requires Zotero version 2.0)

Have the book in front of you and want to add it to your Zotero library without having to search for a citation?

If you have a book's ISBN, an online article's DOI or PMID number, just click the magic wand button: "Add item by identifier." Type in the book or article's number, and Zotero will automatically download its information and save it to your library.

Zotero Groups

(This feature requires Zotero version 2.0)

Zotero's new Groups feature allows you to share references with other Zotero users online. It's a great way to work on collaborative research projects.

First, set up Zotero sync as described on this page.

Next, log in at Zotero.org. There's a "Log In" link in the top right corner of the page.

You can search for existing public groups or create a new group. Groups may be public (searchable, and anyone can join) or private (users can only join if invited).

You'll now have two sections in your Zotero collections pane: My Library and Group Libraries. You can drag items back and forth between them at will.

How to Videos from Zotero

Zotero has produced several great how-to videos on their site that demonstrate step by step how to use Zotero's features.

This is a quick overview of how to save citations from the web.

More Zotero Screencast Tutorials

Research Help
Picture: Library / Main Desk

Library / Main Desk
librarian@millsaps.edu
Tel: (601) 974-1073

Thanks!
This guide is created by Jason Puckett and licensed by Georgia State University Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.  It was edited by your librarians for use at Millsaps.