per-document locale setting (choosing language)


many scholars write papers in more than one language - and we need Zotero to quote multiple authors in a french paper as "Leblanc et Roubineau", but to quote them in a German papers as "Leblanc und Roubineau" and in an English paper as "Leblanc and Roubineau".

Right now, Zotero "supports" switching the language of citations only by way of changing the Firefox locale (as explained in the Zotero documentation here:

The problem is: working on documents in different languages at the same time is a typical requirement of many academic writers. And the current workaround doesn't really help, since it is a global rather than a document-specific setting (if you switch your Firefox locale to say French, but then want to work briefly on another paper which happens to be in English, Zotero will now mess up your English paper by converting the entire bibliography to French).

This setting really has to be document-specific. My proposed feature is this: add a language selection in the document preferences dialog (where you select the citation style and end/footnotes).

Dan Stillman said in Feb 2008 this feature was planned (and his suggestion was enthusiastically welcomed by many, see here
But nothing has happened since.
The feature was requested here as well

So I'm starting an official feature request, hoping to generate some hype ;)
  • I don't think there is much to be said about this. Everyone, including developers, agrees this would be good. There is ongoing work to improve various language facilities of Zotero, much of it by volunteers, that's paving the way to eventually make this possible.

    But someone has to actually do all this - so unless "hype" translates into donation of either money or code it will likely have zero effect.
  • But nothing has happened since.
    A few things have happened, actually. When multilingual support arrives, it will be pretty comprehensive, covering Asian languages and the transliteration of foreign scripts, as well as this particular use case. Briefly:
    • The citation processor has been completely recoded, with particular care in the implementation of multilingual support.
    • Support for multiple versions of creator names and content fields has been built into a development branch of the core Zotero code base.
    • The word processor popup has been extended to support document-level language settings.
    On a quick back-of-the-envelope estimate, something in excess of a thousand hours of programmer time has gone into changes related to multilingual support so far, most of it by volunteers, but with important support, guidance and monitoring by the core development team. Proper multilingual support is currently restricted to a development branch of Zotero, because it involves changes both to the configuration data stored in documents, and to the Zotero database itself, and can't safely be deployed for general use until the overall system is stable and known to work well.

    So please be patient. All things in time. :)
  • Since our terribly modest fbennett won't come out and say it, I'll point out that a very large portion of those thousand hours was contributed by Frank Bennett, the most dedicated hacker of a law professor I've ever not met in person. And multilingual is pretty sweet already.
  • It is realy good news, that the much needed multilingual support is on the way. So a big thank you to all who dedicated their time and energy in making real mulitlingual support happen in zotero.
  • This is a must for me as well and a typical gotcha for foreign researchers trying to get started in Zotero (I have seen several cases of people editing every reference to the language of their choice only to see all that disappear when they change reference formats...). So please do fix this one.

    In a more general context, it seems that there are often cases where it would be nice to have options with formats, a bit like ppd files do for printing on linux. Perhaps when you associate a format with a document, it could pop up a window with general options such as language type and less general options specific to the format (for example line spacing or font of references...).
  • dmk: Feel free to take a look at the tester's version of multilingual and let us know what's missing.

    (Be sure to note the caveats in the first post of that thread.)
  • Perhaps when you associate a format with a document, it could pop up a window with general options such as language type and less general options specific to the format (for example line spacing or font of references...).
    In Zotero 2.1, you can modify the line spacing and font of references by editing the Bibliography style in your word processor.
  • This is great news when it lands in stable. In the meantime, however, the knowledge base on multilingual support is a little dated.

    It even had a broken link to the chrome.manifest file. Should this article be updated, and possibly include a reference to the mailing list thread mentioned by fbennett @jan 27th?

    I updated the link to the chrome.manifest file to point to the one in the 2.0 branch.

  • Hmm. Yes. I'll liaise with the team about how to handle references to the multilingual work in the wiki.
  • Say, is there any news about this feature? It's still very much needed, but as far as I can see didn’t make its way into a stable release yet. We are currently discussing adopting Zotero as our department-wide reference manager and people keep asking about this.

  • most of it is available in Frank's MLZ fork of ZOtero: - not yet in regular Zotero, though.
  • Thanks for the pointer. Is there any timetable as to when those features will make it into the regular release?
  • not really. I wouldn't expect them super soon, though.
  • Thanks again. I just reviewed MLZ and it seems more than we need at any rate. For the time being we will make do with the Zotero Bibliography Locale Switcher Firefox add-on. Is there a particular reason why you didn't include this one in your list of Zotero plugins at

    And since it may be useful for somebody, I've created a modified version of the Zotero Bibliography Locale Switcher that also works with Zotero Standalone (which the original add-on doesn't). You can find it at:

    Oh, and for it's worth: +1 for proper multi-language support as soon as possible ;-).

  • This may happen if there is a coder who is interested in making it happen
Sign In or Register to comment.