Backup but not only the data folder

I know that the best backup of the Zotero database including files is a backup of the data folder. Which is fine.

But we are looking for a backup which is

1. in an interoperable format with other reference managers
2. includes attached files and preferably annotations
3. can be imported back into Zotero as accurate as possible

The usage would be a backup of a Zotero closed group and deposit on e.g. Zotero (in this case obviously without the attached files).

We are using Zotero RDF at the moment, but what about interoperability and the completeness of the metadata?

Thanks for any suggestions,

  • No, the only actual backup is a copy of the data directory. That's what you should make. Zotero is open-source and runs on any platform, so you'll always be able to open that and export to some other format if you need to.

    Of the export formats, obviously Zotero RDF is the one that's going to give you the most complete copy of your data, but that's not a true backup and not importable into anything else.
  • Thanks dstillman.

    The point of interoperability is not only to be able to run it on another platform with the same program, but also running it on the same or different platform using a different program.

    So a different format should also be used. I am inclined to go with in addition to Zotero RDS with bib(la(tex for the interoperable aspect?

    One additional question: When I export to `Zotero RDF` with files and to `bibtex` or `biblatex` or any other format with files, will the folder structure be the same if the library does not change between the exports?
  • I mean, Zotero supports like a dozen standard bibliography metadata formats — vastly more than any other similar tool. You can obviously export to any of those. But that's not a backup. If you want to back up your data, you need to actually back up your data the way we say. My point is just that, since Zotero is open-source and cross-platform, you'd always be able to export to some other tool if you wanted to do that. It's pointless to worry about that now.
  • OK - let's scrap the word backup.

    1) What is the most interoperable export format from Zotero which can be read by the most reference managers and which can include in the export the attached files as Zotero RDS can do?
    2) If I export to two different formats with files, is the folder structure in the `files` folder the same, given that the looter library did not change between the exports?
  • 1) 'Most interoperable' is a tricky term. Mist widely understood, probably RIS. Most faithful but still relatively common, Endnote XML or BibLaTex

    2) I don't think so, no
  • Thanks adamsmith.

    1) makes sense - I always forget about his format. I will probably go with Bib(La)Tex, his and Zotero RDS than

    2) From comparing it using `diff -r ...` they are identical, but the question is if I can rely on it.
  • edited November 27, 2023
    The structure of the files folder has directories that are the attachment keys, right? If that's true, and you make no changes to your library between exports, those two exports should be identical, including the attachment-folder names.

    If RIS isn't missing anything you need I'd suggest using that over biblatex. Zotero must do non-trivial transformations to produce biblatex, and lots of programs claim to produce or consume biblatex with really faulty biblatex generators/parsers that make a mess of things. RIS is much easier to get right than biblatex. There's also MODS XML.
  • Thanks a lot emilianoeheyns. Sounds very promising, and I will use ris then.

  • files folder has directories that are the attachment keys, right?
    Item ids, not keys. So they're stable on a given computer, but not on different computers.
  • As the exports will be done from one computer, this is fine. It would be brilliant, if one could do export to different formats, while exporting the files only once...
  • You can just not export files, then the exports will have the full path into your Zotero data directory.
  • Thanks. I will than export all with files - does not take that much longer.
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