Categories
research Science technology

Open Source: Zotero (reference manager)

Zotero is a free and open-source reference management software to manage bibliographic data and related research materials (such as PDF files). Notable features include web browser integration, online syncing, generation of in-text citations, footnotes, and bibliographies, as well as integration with the word processors Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, and Google Docs. It is produced by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, January 8). Zotero. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Now that Mendeley is encrypting all of your libraries on your own computer, it might be worth looking for an alternative reference manager. Zotero has everything that you’d expect from a reference manager:

  • Importing of all kinds of resources (not just PDFs) via a browser plugin.
  • Automated extraction of resource metadata during import.
  • Notes and tags for resources.
  • Exporting of libraries in multiple formats.
  • Citation management in MS Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice Writer.
  • Cross-platform (i.e. it runs on different operating systems) with the ability to sync between devices.
  • A browser-based version of your library that you can access when you’re not at your computer.

In addition to the standard features listed above, Zotero also has the following:

  • It’s open-source, which means that you’ll always have a version available for you to use, regardless of what happens to the current developers.
  • A plugin database that enables developers to create custom features that most users probably won’t need but which might be valuable for some.
  • It supports more than 30 languages.
  • Ability to create relationships between resources.
  • The developers are always working to figure out how to make your life easier as an academic and researcher (see Tweet below).

Here is a more comprehensive overview of what Zotero offers (including some of the main differences with competing software), here’s the blog where you can stay updated with development of the programme, and the Wikipedia page with some additional background and context.

If you use Mendeley, Paperpile, Endnote or any other reference manager and aren’t quite happy with any aspect of it, you might consider giving Zotero a go.


Note: This is a new experiment on the blog where I’ll share some of the open-source software that I use. Partly because I believe in the idealogy that drives open-source project development but mostly because I actually think that the open-source alternatives are better and would love for more people to use them.