Zotero

I first mentioned Zotero a while ago but didn’t go into very much detail in that post.  Since then, I’ve been experimenting with it a bit and am really starting to enjoy it.  It’s a Firefox extension that facilitates the research process by streamlining the collection of information accessed through the browser.  With more and more academic content becoming available online through open access journals, it’s an innovative method of aggregating and managing content for research.

Zotero has a decent set of content management features that really do a good job of making it easy to work with the information you save.  I won’t go into the specifics here because the quick start guide makes it really clear.  As well as the content management features, it’s also very good at recognising semantic content on the web and giving you options to import that content into it’s database.  For example, if you’re browsing PubMed, Zotero is able to import citation information and then to export it in many different formatting styles, including APA.

I actually don’t use Zotero for any academic content at the moment.  What I find it really useful for is annotating and working through ideas I come across in blogs.  I find that I can clarify my own thoughts around educational technology, using Zotero as a scrapbook to develop those ideas.  Which brings me to my only problem with Zotero.  I only use it for blogs right now because it’s only really useful for content you access through the browser, which is a major limitation for me.  While it’s true that most of my literature is accessed through the browser initially, I still keep local copies that I prefer to work with.

Although I think the application is great in it’s current form, I’m really hoping that the developers expand it’s scope.  Maybe make it a standalone tool that I can use to manage all my articles, no matter if they’re on- or offline and no matter what format they’re in.  I also need more space within the app because sometimes it can feel crowded (especially the right hand panel), and making it standalone will free up a lot of real estate by taking it out of the browser.  Note: you can run Zotero in a full tab, but I like to be able to read the blog while making notes.

Those things aside, this is a great browser extension that I’d definitely recommend checking out.

Screenshot of Zotero
Screenshot of Zotero

5 thoughts on “Zotero”

  1. Hi Rick. Thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in my reply to Bruce’s comment, unless I’m missing something, I don’t think Zotero can actually manage my offline resources, only link to it. I take your point about running Zotero maximised within a window and having my content open in another window and will try working with it like that. However, as i suggested, I like to see the content while using the detached note window and set to be above all other windows (I’ve added a screenshot to the original post to give you an idea of how I use it).

    I’m probably just being picky about what I want and expecting it to do things it’s not designed for.

  2. Hi Bruce. Thanks for your comment. I realised when I went back over the post that I wasn’t quite clear in how I phrased my problem. Of course Zotero can be used offline and yes, it can associate local files with saved content in it’s database, which is useful to some extent. I was suggesting that I’d like to be able to, for example, browse PDF’s from within Zotero and then associate the notes I make with specific paragraphs in the document. Also, I’m familiar with the ability to manage citations, and like I said, Zotero is very good at identifying that semantic content and extracting it from academic databases like PubMed. However, I need something to manage my resources, not just my citations. If I could use it to work through my local PDFs like I use it to work through academic blog posts (and open access articles online), it would be perfect. Unless I’m missing something. Do you think I’m unrealistic in my expectations? I hope this clarifies my initial thoughts.

  3. Maybe make it a standalone tool that I can use to manage all my articles, no matter if they’re on- or offline and no matter what format they’re in.

    As Bruce remarked, Zotero can do this already.

    I also need more space within the app because sometimes it can feel crowded (especially the right hand panel), and making it standalone will free up a lot of real estate by taking it out of the browser. Note: you can run Zotero in a full tab, but I like to be able to read the blog while making notes.

    How would this be different from running Zotero it a single browser window, tweaked to optimize real estate for it & read your blog in a second browser window?

  4. Can you clarify your comment that “I only use it for blogs right now because it’s only really useful for content you access through the browser, which is a major limitation for me”? Zotero can, after all, be used off-line, and it has support for a wide-range of resource types, with no necessary presumption about whether they are online or offline.

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