Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Zotero: Zotero "in the cloud": First-time Users

Why use Zotero "in the cloud"

Zotero works best for most people when you download the desktop app and use that as your frontline Zotero, then syncing to your online library.

However, there may be circumstances in which you have no choice but to work online only, without the desktop app.  Being a Chromebook user is one of those circumstances for most people -- Chromebooks generally don't allow installation of desktop apps.

If you are working remotely with a significant number of students (during the COVID era, for example), getting everybody on board and troubleshooting individual machines with Zotero desktop app may be difficult -- you will probably be better of using Zotero in the cloud.

So this page will walk you through the process of using Zotero without the desktop app.  If you are using the desktop app, you should not bother with this page.

First-time Users Part I: Register for an account at zotero.org

  • Goal 1:  Register for a free account at Zotero.org
    • Steps:
      • Go to Zotero.org
      • Click on “Log in”
      • Click on “Register for a Free Account”
        • Create your own username and password for Zotero.
        • Type in a legitimate email address where you can receive email.
        • If you are integrating Zotero and WordPress with an Evergreen program, please use your official Evergreen email!
        • Click the Register button.
      • Check your email and follow instructions there.
      • Check to see that you are logged in at Zotero.org
      • If not, log in to Zotero.org with the username/password you just created.
      • From now on, when using Zotero, keep Zotero.org open and remain logged in.

First-time Users Part III: Test Your Connector

  • Goal 3:  Save a real live citation to your new Zotero library
    • Example:  saving a book citation from the Evergreen catalog
      • Go to the library site (library.evergreen.edu)
      • Do any search you want that gets results
      • Click on the title of any Print Book.
        • Ebooks often have bad data
      • When the page for that book is fully loaded . . .
      • . . .you should see the “blue book” connector in your add-ons toolbar.
        • If instead you see the Zotero “Z” icon
          • Zotero Generic Z Icon
          • ,. . . click on that and follow the prompt – hopefully that will fix things.  Or see the Troubleshooting box.
      • Click on the blue book Zotero connector.
      • Each time that you are newly logged into zotero.org, the first time you try to use the connector you will get this message:
      • Click on "Enable Saving to Online Library".
      • The very first time that you ever do this (and never again thereafter) you will see this message:
      • Click on Accept Defaults.
      • Now click on the blue book Zotero connector again, and . . .
      • . . .A small pop up window should show that your book info is being saved to your account at Zotero.org
        • Don’t leave that page until that pop up either disappears, or the text goes from grayed out to black.
      • You should never have to set a private key again.
      • And you won't have to Enable Saving to Online Library again so long as you stay logged into Zotero.org.  When you do log out, the next time you log back in you'll have to Enable Saving to Online Library one more time.
      • If you want to see the results of your work:  refresh your page at Zotero.org
      • The citation for the book you chose should appear in your My Library.

Saving Citations to the Cloud

[This page assumes that you know the basics of saving citations in Zotero]

Saving and Organizing Citations

All citations will always be saved to My Library by default.  This is true for both the desktop app and Zotero in the cloud.  However, there is an important difference.  In the cloud, citations will always be saved only to My Library.  In the desktop app, you can indicate that you also want the citation to be saved to another specific collection.

To move a citation from My Library to another collection, you can drag and drop, or use the icon for moving items to different collections:

Saving Full Text PDFs

In the Zotero desktop app, you can set your preferences to capture full text pdfs (where they exist) along with your citations.  In the cloud, it appears as if this happens by default, but so far as I can tell, the full text PDF is not actually saved, only a placeholder for it is.  You can easily upload a copy of the PDF that will become an attachment to your citations, though.  Just be aware that you will rather quickly use up your free server space on zotero.org if you begin collecting pdfs.

First-time Users Part II: Install Your Zotero Connector

  • Goal 2:  Download the Zotero Connector browser extension
    • Steps: 
      • Go to https://www.zotero.org/download/connectors
        • Googling zotero connectors will also get you there.
      • You should see the download button for the connector specific to your browser (chrome, edge, or firefox)
      • Download the connector for your browser
      • Mac Users:  Safari is not working with Zotero as of Nov 2020.  Use Chrome or Firefox instead.
      • Chrome Users:  Sometimes the Zotero connector is successfully downloaded, but it is sort of hidden in your toolbar under an icon that looks like a jigsaw puzzle piece (this is where your Chrome add-ons are listed).
        •  Click on the jigsaw puzzle piece, find “Zotero Connector” in the list, and click on the push pin icon next to it.  It should turn blue, and your Zotero icon should show up in your toolbar forever after.

First-time Users Part IV: Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting:

  • Each time you login to you account at  zotero.org, you will see the following when you use your Zotero connector the first time:  

    • IF so, confirm that you have Zotero.org open, and that you are logged in. Then click “Enable Saving to Online Library”
    • If you are asked about a Private Key, then click “Accept Defaults”

    • If anything is going wrong, check to see if the ‘Zotero is Offline’ message or the ‘Private Key’ message are open in another window.  If so, follow the troubleshooting advice I just provided above.
Daniel J. Evans Library - MS: LIB2300 - 2700 Evergreen Parkway, NE. Olympia, WA 98501 - 360-867-6250