8 reasons I love Zotero

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A couple of years ago for a class assignment our group evaluated Zotero and liked it a lot, but found the fact that it could only be used on one computer to be extremely limiting. Version 1.5, currently in Beta, allows you to sync your references online. This means you can easily access your references from more than one computer and you can share your references with other people. Yay!

Like other citation management tools, you can use Zotero to easily save different types of sources like journal articles, books, conference papers, reports and websites. You can tag, search, and add multiple notes to each citation. When writing a paper you can use a citation management tool to insert references, quickly reformat your references to a different citation style, and automatically generate a works cited list. I’m always surprised when I meet an academic who doesn’t use any form of citation management tool. Zotero is really easy to use and would save them heaps of time managing their references, formating citations, and generating a list of works cited.

I’ve been using Zotero for a few weeks now, and I love it. Even though I could use EndNote through the university I’m working at, I chose Zotero as it has more functionality and a better interface than EndNote. I would highly recommend it to librarians, students, researchers, and professors.

Here’s why:

  1. Zotero is free, as in freedom. It is open source software that is licensed under an Educational Community License. The theory and practice of open source software fits with research and knowledge production as they both use a peer review process. You can take your citation library with you when you leave the university you’re at. With a licensed product you will likely not have free access once you graduate, or your job ends.
  2. Zotero is free, as in it doesn’t cost anything. If you use RefWorks it’s possible to export your citations when you leave your university. You can choose to pay $100 USD ($122 CDN/$176 NZD) per year for an individual license. A regular license for EndNote is $250 USD ($305 CDN/$450 NZ). That’s a lot of money. If I had that type of money to be frivolous with I’d buy these shoes from Fluevog or these boots from Minnie Cooper instead of purchasing a license for a proprietary citation management tool. I’m curious about how much universities are paying to license these products.
  3. Zotero is robust and reliable.A   I’ve been using 1.5, which is still in beta, and haven’t come across any bugs or glitchyness.A   Zotero has won numerous awards.
  4. The interface is intuitive and easy to use. After watching a 5 minute screencast I was able to start using Zotero. The last time I used RefWorks I went to 2 hours of library instruction before diving in, and I still found the interface awkward and difficult to use.
  5. There is great user documentation, I especially like the bite sized instructional videos. These could be used by the library to save on training and instruction costs.
  6. Zotero is able to search Google Scholar for the metadata for a PDF. If there is a match on Google Scholar Zotero creates an item with the relevant bibliographic information and attaches the PDF.A   I tested this today and was gobsmacked at how quick and useful this is.A   Watch this 45 second long screencast to see this functionality in action.
  7. You can save a copy of a PDF of an article in Zotero, thereby creating your own small digital library.A   It’s possible to do full text searches on your Zotero collection
  8. Zotero can duplicate entries.A   This saved me heaps of time when I was manually entering a bunch of reports from the same conference.

Still not convinced? Read 10 Reasons Your Insitution Should Adopt Zotero on the Zotero blog.

7 thoughts on “8 reasons I love Zotero”

  1. Hi Tara,
    So pleased to see that you are having lots of fun in New Zealand. Always enjoy reading your tweets. Thank you for writing up this post and answering my question about Zotero vs Refworks. You are right that Refworks has an awkward interface and steep learning curve. I was concerned that my colleagues are somewhat technology averse and dread the introduction of “yet another application” but it seems that Zotero is worth taking a long and hard look at. In any case open source social media are the way to go. Thank you again – Sheba

  2. I hear you about trying to introduce another application to people who are already overloaded. I think Zotero is useful, easy to use, and time saving. It’s definitely not gimmicky. I’m confident that there’s enough backing behind it, and enough of a user community that it won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

    Good luck!

  3. Kia ora Tara!

    One question: does it have a field for permalinks, the ones that more and more databases and eJournals are creating?

  4. There’s a field for DOI (I think that’s the same thing as a permalink) as well as a different field for URL.

    The fields that are available vary slightly by the type of content. For example the fields are slightly different for journal article, book, and conference paper.

    Does that answer your question? What are you currently using?

  5. Hi Tara, I have seen that Zotero does not work with Internet Explorer, and that one needs Firefox. My organziation would rather NOT let me use firefox, and I’m wodnering if you know if Zotero can be used with IE.

    many thanks, anne

  6. Hi Anne–Zotero is a Firefox plug in, so it won’t work with IE.

    What are the reasons that your organization would prefer you not to use Firefox?

    Firefox is faster, safer and more standards compliant than IE. I love that I can easily customize Firefox with add-ons.

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