The unavoidable iPad thread

I'm surprised that this hasn't been brought up yet … ;)

A disclaimer: I know that Zotero depends on Firefox, I know that a port to WebKit is not planned or likely, which means that we wont see an iPad version of Zotero in the foreseeable future.

Still, I wonder whether the iPad might not be a really interesting device for working with bibliographic data. At least for one task, reading and marking papers, the iPad seems ideal. Imagine having all your PDFs on your iPad, reading through them, taking notes and syncing this back to your bibliographic app, be it Zotero or something else. The iPad seems also nice for browsing, searching and collecting bibliographic data.

If well implemented, this could really be a killer application for the iPad. But one essential part would be syncing/communicating with a desktop app. You certainly don't want to write your papers on the iPad, so you need a way to sync everything back. I guess, in the end this would mean writing a new Zotero client from scratch. As it stands now, I don't really see how this happening, but one is allowed to dream …

  • wait - you can't run Firefox on the ipad thing? oh Apple...
  • That's about as useful as complainin that Zotero runs only on Firefox …
  • edited January 28, 2010
    I personally have a pretty visceral reaction against the closed-stack path that Apple is going down, and so have zero interest in the iPad myself. But I think examples like the new third-party Gnotero app might be a good model for this sort of thing: a completely different client code base, written by third-parties, but interacting with Zotero (though you'd want it to sync with the server; not the local client).
  • My understanding is that Papers is supported on the iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad platform, so it's probably not worth the effort to duplicate their offering. Perhaps we can hope for robust integration between Papers and Zotero data as the latter's server API matures.

    Alternatively (and preferably), or a third-party site could implement a web application using local storage and other HTML5 goodies to accomplish the same thing without being limited to the Apple stack. I hope that Zotero doesn't make this a priority-- I want hierarchical items first!
  • I also think that focussing on Ipad is not helpful. But some kind of e-reader integration is clearly going to be important (and note that iPad is not based on e-paper and thus, at least in my view, worse than readers based on proper e-paper).
    This year will see a lot of large e-readers (Skiff, Asus, Que) that finally allow to read A4 pdfs and thus are targeted to the needs of scholars.
    also check this thread:
  • sorry, I was really surprised that the thing doesn't run Firefox - I just kind of assumed it would be able to do most things that a regular computer does.
    Any reaction from the Mendeley folks? They're pretty high on all the trendy stuff and afaik have much better interaction with Zotero than papers- that might be a viable option?
  • I can see that the zotero dev are not going to do that which is understandable. But why not get someone else to do it who can charge some money for it? I don't know whether this is against the whole zotero idea but there are so many iPhone/iPad entrepreneurs out there that someone can make an app and actually get paid for it by selling it for $5 or $10.... I am sure zotero users would be happy with that solution...

    Reading, highlighting and adding notes to your files (especially pdfs) which are also added as notes in Zotero is just the most natural thing to do with the iPad for any scholar.... missing that with zotero would be bad.
  • Since Zotero is free and open-source, it's not actually necessary to "get someone else to do it." If someone wants to develop a 3rd party tool to interact with Zotero, they are welcome to do it.
  • Sean - correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be hard to write a Zotero-derived app for an apple product that conforms to GPL? Are you even allowed to open source your iwhatever apps?
    Or would the maximum possible be some app that "talks" to Zotero in some way?
    This just as a thought.
    Greg - there is nothing in open-source software that is against making money with it (one famous slogan is "free as in speech, not as in beer"), but part of the particular software license Zotero uses is that all derivative software must conform to the same license. That might not be possible in apples application framework.
  • edited January 31, 2010
    A closed-source proprietary app could not borrow anything of the Zotero code, and so any such developer probably shouldn't even look at it. But so long as the Zotero API is documented (is it??), they don't need to.
  • Well, was just a thought - I am not familiar with all the license stuff. I still think that it would be an opportunity to extend zotero to a different platform which is probably (and maybe I am wrong about that) not going to be supported by the zotero dev team, IF it's legally possible. And I am also sure that it would make a difference if something like this is encouraged and supported by the developers...
  • yeah, nothing wrong with that - generally the zotero-dev list tries to be helpful when people develop zotero extensions of any form and there is some initial documentation for third party programs interacting with Zotero:
  • The Firefox people said they weren't going to do an iPhone app pretty early on, when Apple was not allowing any 3rd party browsers. Now there's dozens of 3rd party browsers for iPhone. They also state that they are focusing on the linux-for-phones market (i.e. Android).

    But now the iPad is not a phone, it's a full-screen device, so I guess Firefox will eventually get ported.

    I have tried 'Papers' (paid for it on my iPhone) and removed it after 2-3 days. It's a closed-box model, very few translators, impossible to get about 80% of my papers onto the iphone. Zotero is vastly better.

    So I think Zotero should take 2 routes :

    1) stick with Firefox
    2) investigate how to live in a standalone product.

    Yes, you can write open source stuff (even GPL) for iphone. See
  • We aren't likely to commit to writing an entirely new version of Zotero for the iPhone/iPad, but if XULRunner (the platform upon which Firefox and Zotero are based) is ever ported, we might be able to port Zotero as a standalone product while maintaining the same codebase. Unfortunately, there are currently only XULRunner ports for the Nokia N900 and Windows Mobile. Rumor has it that there will be a XULRunner port for Android sometime later this year, but given that Apple would probably never approve a third-party browser for the app store (which is the main reason that Mozilla is porting XULRunner to mobile platforms), I doubt that there is much interest in porting to iPad or iPhone.
  • Just to restate what is often getting lost in the Ipad-hype: Ipad has a normal LCD-display, as a reading device, it is as good/bad as any laptop. For academics who read a lot, e-paper diplays are much more promising and thus porting to Ipad/Iphone in my view is less important that porting to other devices.
  • I don't agree... One single device would never fullfill all of our contradictory needs. It's like requesting for only one book format. e-Ink is nice for long texts you wouldn't need to much interactivity with. Taking active notes in an e-Ink device is still a pain. And will be for the next couple of years. iPad like devices are much more appropriate for highly interactive reading and work on documents. So yes, porting Zotero on iPad would be nice.
  • I actually think that it should be pretty easy to READ AND HIGHLIGHT YOUR PDFS on the iPad using iAnnotate. Currently it's pretty bothersome to copy all your pdf to the iPad an especially to copy the annotated version back to your pc/mac. But two simple iAnnotate features would make the integration pretty smooth. It might even be relatively easy to create Zotero notes from your highlights!

    I am trying to convince Aji to implement these two required but simple features in their next release. Anyone who is interested in this should support my effort to convince them:
  • I can go to my Zotero account page and view all of my PDFs from safari. I know I can't file or sort them or add more references there but for me a simple option to add notes to the PDFs from the web interface would be really nice and support moving the reading phase of the workflow off paper.
  • Zotero is a beautiful app/add-on/tool - - it has helped me immensely with gathering, organizing, and writing. There are apps on the iPad that, working together, duplicate some of the functionalities of Zotero. But whoever does write the app that offers even a majority of the capacities of Zotero and runs on an iPad will be doing us all a service.

    In re iPad: there is just no comparison between the iPad and current ebook readers. The iPad is far superior in terms of readability and functionality. (Even the iPad battery life squashes the competition.) E-textbooks have never taken off - - for a variety of reasons. But, as the iPad price drops, which it will, and as developers start exploring the possible really rich formats - - the iPad will begin to offer a platform that will challenge paper-based textbooks. Imo. Take a look at the Elements app - - it's only the beginning.
  • I don't know about the specifics of the coding regarding Zotero and the iPad, but I am looking for a way to read the pdf files I have in Zotero on my iPad, keeping all in sync with my Zotero library as I take notes on them as well. This would make the iPad and Zotero into a killer combination for scholarly research.
  • ECHO! Academic literature heaven = iPAD + Zotero linked to cloud storage of academic pdfs + web browsing (google scholar) to add to Zotero + pdfs. This will be better than any other method for working with the literature, a true killer app.
    Mendeley is working on this already- but I'd rather use Zotero!
  • Just to support the request by jremold (11 apr 2010): while there's no 'app for that', it would be great to just have the option to add notes to pdf files from the web interface. Is this hard to code? (I really don't know...)
  • edited June 28, 2010
    Just to share my thoughts in the issue.

    I bought an iPad just to read articles (and books). However, my expereince with importing articles from Zotero to iPad is far from ideal. It is a painful process. First, I open Zotero, save the PDF to DropBox folder, connect iPad to the internet , open the 'GoodReader' application, connect to DropBox servers and finally download the PDF file. I also have to rearrange the PDF files into folders as I do with Zotero.

    Instead of waiting for Apple to give away Safari's API or to wait for a FireFox version on the iPad, I imagine the first Zotero version for iPad is a small application that import SQLite database of Zotero to iPad along with its storage folder (one way synchronization)as a reader only to minimize the required code.

    This is might be a very good start to lets us utilize Zotero contents on the iPad and seems relatively easy IMHO. I wish I know how to program with Obj-C and do it for the community.
  • A somewhat end around - I use Zotero for my refs, and keep them synced to Mendeley desktop. I can then sync Mendeley Desktop to Mendeley web, then sync to the iPhone/Ipad version of Mendeley. The iPhone version is still a first pass, but it should improve. It sounds complicated, but once it's set up, it takes clicking two sync buttons to get your data on the iPad.
  • I use iAnnotate from Aji. I sync my zotero storage folder of over 1000 PDFs. Although the interface is different from zotero, I have all my PDFs on my iPad and if I annotate one, they get uploaded back to my zotero folder. iAnnotate also has a search feature so I can search any author, text, title, etc. It is not a perfect mirror of zotero on the iPad, but pretty functional on a daily level.
  • My main interest is not is managing my PDF's but in adding to my references database from the iPad. (it was a gift... I agree with most of the critiques; it is a crippled machine; the OS is really bad.)

    As Zotero syncs to the cloud it shouldn't be impossible to develop clients that write to that database?

    @jwendolo, if you add an item to Mendeley on the iPad, can you do sync in reverse: sync from iPad app to Mendeley web, back to Mendeley desktop and then to Zotero?
  • As Zotero syncs to the cloud it shouldn't be impossible to develop clients that write to that database?
    It should be possible, but only once an API with write access is documented / developed.
  • edited September 19, 2010
    I believe the API is there (isn't it what runs against?); just need to get it opened up and documentation finalized. This really needs to be a very high priority, in my view.
  • I know a bunch of interested post grad students, residents, researchers etc that are itching to find out if Zotero and iPad can ever be fused. Any comments from the Zotero developers reading these forums? Is it likely to happen?
  • edited September 22, 2010
    I'm pretty allergic to Apple these days. But I am an Android user, and would love to see better cross-platform mobile support. Today's announcement mentions mobile briefly, but there are no details. Certainly opening up the write API (finally!) would help for mobile-specific solutions (like in my case, to sync starred items from my feed reader to my Zotero library; should be easy to do), but not sure that's enough.

    Perhaps one of the Zotero people can clarify.
Sign In or Register to comment.