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Zotero: Basics

Why Use Zotero?

Zotero allows you to collect, manage, and cite research sources -- especially those found or referenced on the web.  It integrates with your web browser, it is easy to use, and it's free.
Zotero makes it easy to create bibliographies, even very large ones, with a couple of mouse clicks.
Zotero allows you to attach Full Text PDFs, notes and images to your citations, and to organize them into collections for different projects.
Zotero will also save snapshots of newspaper articles and other web sources which can be saved along with their citations.
Ultimately, Zotero is a way to create a library of citations and full text which can be organized as you like and which allows you to output bibliographies of any size and in any citation format (MLA, Chicago, APA, and thousands of others).
Zotero provides some free cloud space so that you can have a local copy of your library on your own machine as well as a backup in the cloud.  This also allows you to use Zotero anywhere and on different machines while always keeping your data current.
Because it is free and open to all, you keep all your data and can continue to use Zotero after you leave Evergreen.

Getting Started: Zotero on your own laptop or desktop

We recommend that you use Zotero on your own device (desktop or laptop).  You can download and start using Zotero in less than one minute.

Step One:  Download Zotero :The Zotero download page will detect your OS and offer you the correct version of Zotero (Windows, MacOS, Linux . . .)

Step Two:  From the same Zotero download page, download the connector:  Again, the Zotero download page will detect your browser and offer you the correct connector (Chrome, Firefox, Edge).

If you want to use Zotero in multiple browsers, you need to download the connector in and for each browser you intend to use.
Safari is not working with Zotero as of Nov 2020.  Mac users should use Chrome or Firefox.  Advanced users might try the Safari beta.

How do I know that Zotero installed correctly?

At the end of the installation process, you should be prompted to launch Zotero.  If you do, you should see the Zotero panel.

Now, on every web page you visit, some sort of Zotero icon (known as 'connectors'  should appear in your url bar  (see Zotero Connectors for examples).

You should also be able to find Zotero in your list of Applications, and you may have a Zotero shortcut icon on your Desktop, Dock, and/or Taskbar.

How do I know that my connectors are working? 

Test this by visiting a page with a document type that Zotero recognizes:  For example, an article on the New York Times site, an article in JSTOR, a record for a book in our online catalog, etc.  When you are on the page of an individual document, the appropriate Zotero connector icon (see Zotero Connectors for examples) will appear in your URL bar.  A single click on one of these icons should create an item in your Zotero library.  For example, if you are on a page for an article from the New York Times, you should see the newspaper icon:  Newspaper Connector .  When you click on it, a new Zotero item of type "Newspaper Article" should be created, including info for author(s), article title, publication title, publication date, etc. While you are still on the web page for an item you will see a small popup window showing you that Zotero is saving the citation.  When you are looking at the Zotero panel, you'll see the new item highlighted in the central panel, and the bib details displayed in the right-hand panel.

 

More Info

Some Best Practices:

  • Download Zotero on your own machine at zotero.org(one time only)
  • Create a free account at zotero.org (one time only)
    • Gives you 300 MB of cloud storage 
      • This serves as a back up of your data
      • . . .  and allows you to access your most current data on any machine, anywhere
  • Either:  Make sure Zotero is set to automatically sync your data every couple of minutes (do this once and it sticks);
  • OR . . . 
    • Whenever you finish working with Zotero, synchronize your data to your cloud storage.  (Every time you use Zotero)
    • Whenever you begin working with Zotero, synchronize your data from your cloud storage. (Every time you use Zotero)
  • If you consider your Zotero data to be among your most valuable possessions, then you should make a true back up of your data on a regular basis (see Backing Up Your Data for details).

 Zotero is installed on all machines in the public labs at Evergreen.  We recommend that you use Zotero on your own machine, but the campus machines work fine too.  Academic Year 2020/2021:  Computing Labs are closed due to COVID!  Ignore this box until they open again.

Here is what you need to know if you are using Zotero on the public machines.

  1. If you do not have an account at Zotero.org and if you are not syncing, then while you are working on the lab machine your Zotero data will live only on that one machine that you are using. When you logout of that machine, your data will effectively be gone.  To reliably save your work, you'll need to set up a free Zotero account and synchronize your data with your Zotero cloud storage (see the Synchronize page for instructions).
  2. We strongly recommend that you have a Zotero account and synchronize your data in any case.  Zotero.org provides 300 MB of free cloud space for your data, and using it provides a data backup in case you drop you laptop in the ocean.  It also allows you to work with your data on any machine connected to the Internet anywhere in the world.
  3. The computing labs have a unique environment.  Zotero is already on every campus machine, but to get started with Zotero on a campus machine, you may have to do the following:

[We are awating specific wording from Academic Computing here:  they control the campus machines and only they can give a current and correct description of how to get Zotero working on campus machines]:

  • PC:
    • [Instructions TBA]
  • Mac:
    • [Instructions TBA]

 

Can I skip this entire guide and just use the extensive documentation at Zotero.org?

Yes.  In addition to the official documentation, you will find very active user forums.  Zotero programmers often respond to users there:  look especially for the highly informed comments from Adam Smith and Dan Stillman.

But still, there are two potential advantages to using this guide,

Advantage 1:  There is some information here that is specific to the Evergreen context.  But not very much.

Advantage 2:   I have included the things that seem most important to users based on years of teaching and supporting Zotero.  And I have excluded most of the things that rarely come up.  The official documentation has an obligation to be more comprehensive.  I can at least try to exclude the more marginal stuff.  And having seen many users make the same sorts of mistakes, I can highlight those issues.

A disadvantage of using any third party guide, like this one, is that it is likely to be out-of-date in some places at some times, depending on how busy or distracted the guide author is  when the Zotero folks change something.  There is a Last Updated date in the bottom left hand corner of this page.  Assume that everything on this guide is probably current as of that date.

Zotero was originally a Firefox extension, but this changed in Summer 2017.  "Zotero for Firefox" has been retired, and Zotero now works the same way on all three supported browsers.  The term "Zotero Standalone" has also been retired.  There is now just "Zotero", available for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

If you used to use "Zotero for Firefox" and if you haven't used Zotero in a long time, you may still have "Zotero for Firefox" on your machine.   If so, you should follow the standard download instructions to get the current version of Zotero.  Your citations, collections, libraries, etc will transition, and most features will function as before.

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