So, I’ve been using the Zotero add-in for Firefox for my bibliographic and referencing needs for a couple of months now, and I can safely say it is AWESOME.

I don’t quite understand how EndNote and Reference Manager can survive when faced by the pure amazingness that is Zotero.

Essentially, Zotero is an add-in for Firefox. That means it runs as a little bar at the bottom of your web-browser. It’s also visible as a little symbol in your address bar. When you click that button, it will make a new reference based on the information on the page you’re viewing, and in cases like Jstor, it’ll download the pdf associated with the article you’re looking at, along with a full bibliographic entry.

Pretty amazing. In addition, you can use it to take snap-shots of websites, which it saves and you can access at any time. You can attach PDF files to your bibliographic entries, and Zotero will index them, so they all become fully text-searchable within Zotero.

As well as all this, Zotero looks a bit like ITunes. You can create ‘folders’ (I think of them as playlists), where you can put articles of a particular type. But you can put articles in any number of folders, so if you have a complicated article covering both copper and gold, you can put it in folders for each of those subjects. As well as this, Zotero uploads the ‘tags’ or ‘keywords’ associated in a reference’s metadata, and you can also add your own tags. This is another really good method for searching through your library.

And if you’re worried about compatability, Zotero will save a copy of your library in a number of formats, including those that work with EndNote and Reference Manager.

AND IT COSTS NOTHING! How amazing is that?

Oh, and if you upgrade to version 2.0, you can set up an online profile, and sync your  library with an online version and any number of pcs/macs/etc. If you log in, you can therefore see your library anywhere in the world. And if you want, you can set it to be visible to everyone else to, just as I have done. You can see my library here at

http://www.zotero.org/ruthft

[edit – I should mention that the 100MB it gives you free isn’t enough for my groaning library so I can’t actually upload everything. I assume this largely the result of Zotero being a bit bloated file-size-wise. However there’s no way I’m going to pay money to upload my stuff – and I don’t imagine many other people will either!]

Now I can watch other people in my discipline and see what they’re reading, hopefully find some interesting leads.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a go. It’s easy to import your libraries from other programs, and the interface is pure beauty when compared with the hideous clunky piece of 1990s Access-based programming that is EndNote or Reference Manager. I can’t recommend it enough.

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