Zotero 3.0 for Firefox vs. Zotero Standalone

I'd like to see, and am willing to contribute to writing up, a document in the Documentation section that lays out for people the reasons a user might prefer Zotero 3.0 for Firefox or Zotero Standalone.
Obviously, users who really want to use Zotero on a different browser than Firefox would want to use Standalone, but what other advantages and disadvantages distinguish the two? For instance, is one or the other better if you want full or close to full functionality for Zotero from a mobile device, or does it make a difference? Does one or the other work better for people using multiple computers? Lab computers? People who want to use group libraries? Smoother functionality with Word? Other things?

I anticipate this question when I teach our regular Zotero workshop this evening (seeing 3.0 up and out of beta was a real surprise this morning!) and in all future conversations I have about Zotero.
  • I think a document like that would be useful. For the questions you raise specifically, the answer is universally "it doesn't matter". Everything that's database related works exactly the same with the two. Neither works on a mobile app directly and using them with the existing apps like ZotPad and Zandy makes no difference. Word integration is the same, as are groups.

    For someone who is browser agnostic the three key issues are this:
    1. Standalone is somewhat faster and doesn't bog down your browser when it's doing something resource intensive (process a large sync, index multiple pdfs.
    2. Zotero for Firefox still works better to get data from sites. The biggest issue is that the connectors cannot, to the best of my knowledge, properly deal with library proxies, so automatically downloading pdfs and gated full text articles won't work in standalone (that includes, I believe standalone used with Firefox in Connector mode). Also, you don't have some options in the connectors (like Create note and new item from current page) that you have in Zotero FF.
    3. Plugins like Zotero QuickLook or Zotfile can't be installed for standalone.
  • Big thanks, Adam Smith! Further comments on this thread are welcome, too, of course.
  • edited January 31, 2012
    Re: 3, plugins can be installed for Standalone (through Tools->Add-ons), and I think the latest versions of Zotero QuickLook and ZotFile are compatible. Other limitations:

    • You can't create notes from text or snapshots from links with Standalone and the connectors.

    • The translate icon context menu is not available from the connectors.

    • You can't print or save reports from Standalone.

  • Automatic RIS import isn't available via the connectors.
  • Hi there!

    If I can come in here, I found this article praising Zotero's standalone version over the FF add-on as significantly cutting down on FF's RAM (see http://digitalresearchers.org/2011/01/standing-alone-a-review-of-the-zotero-standalone-alpha.html). As I keep getting pop-up messages that FF uses excessive RAM as soon as I open a couple of tabs, I wanted to get rid of that by switching to standalone.

    Now I found this thread and adamsmith explaining that the add-on 'works better to get data from sites'. As this is one of the main functions of Zotero I use, I am a bit hesitant now to switch. Two questions in that regard:

    1) Just to be sure, the effect of cutting down on FF RAM usage is only achieved when installing standalone and UNINSTALLING the add-on, right? I mean, I could not keep both and have the same effect as far as FF RAM usage is concerned (I could picture it as the standalone version possibly doing some of the calculation outside FF so that the effect could also materialze itself when keeping the plug-in all the same).

    2) Could someone just elaborate a bit on how much more 'burdensome' it gets to insert citations from, say, JSTOR into my library when using standalone only? I really like gettind this done with one click in the navigation bar now. I'd figure when uninstalling the FF add-on (to cut down the RAM) things would get much more complicated, right?

    Many thanks,
  • 1) Firefox will use less RAM if you use ZSA even if ZFF is installed. As long as you don't open the Zotero Pane in FF (which you can't as long as ZSA is running), Zotero has a negligible effect on RAM use. (That said, the defaults of Antivir's RAM use warnings - which I assume you're referring to - are pretty silly. On a modern computer, there is little harm in a program using 300-400MB RAM if it's doing a lot).

    2) As we say all over the place - just try it out. Since the database is shared, the effort involved in trying out ZSA is minimal and there is no risk. There are a couple of things that don't work as reliably with connectors and ZSA, most importantly automatic PDF download, because connectors don't have proxy integration.
  • Thanks! (You are right about Antivir, btw ;)
  • The one thing I really miss on standalone is the ability to save a note at the same time as an item. Is there any chance that this will appear in a later version?
  • This may be a dumb question, but when I am in Chrome and want to save a web page or article in the browser to Zotero, how do I do it?

    I have used the Firefox version and it is much easier when the Zotero screen pops right into the browser.
  • either you have a URL bar icon which works like in Firefox or you right click somewhere in the page and select "Save Zotero Snapshot"
  • OK. will try. Sorry about the double post.
  • After reading this thread, it sounds like the following complementary uses of Standalone (ZSA) and browser-based (e.g. ZFF) could work nicely:

    1. Run ZSA when I am writing and inserting citations from my library to my word processor--and close ZFF window/tab so it doesn't use Firefox resources.

    2. Close ZSA and use ZFF when I go looking for citations and adding to my Zotero library using my browser.

    Does this sound look a good idea? Obviously I can try it out, but I'm wondering if there's some subtle reason not to do this. Also obviously, it isn't very practical if often going back and forth between those two activities, so compartmentalizing writing vs citation-hunting is best.
  • dtoy - yes, that works well. I use that strategy myself.
  • @dtoy Isn't the problem with this that you have to enable/disable ZFF in Firefox every time you do the switch? This would be way too annoying for me.
  • No. ZFF automatically goes into connector mode when ZSA is running.
  • Actually, while Zotfile installs in standalone, Quicklook does *not*--here's a summary:


    Item History
    Zotero Scholar Citations

    Although the citations plugin appears not to work anyway in the most recent version..
  • I have Quicklook installed and working in standalone.
    Make sure you have the most recent version.
  • Strange, I get:

    The add-on "ZoteroQuickLook" could not be installed. It may be incompatible with this version of Zotero Standalone.

    Standalone 3.0.3
  • try installing from here:
  • Which operating system are you using when you encounter the error with ZoteroQuickLook?
  • adamsmith: same error message

    mronkko: Windows 7 64-bit ultimate
  • I posted an explanation to the support thread here


    Unfortunately I cannot test this at this point since I do not have a Windows computer.
  • I posted more info on the main support thread.
  • Apologies for resurrecting this thread - while preparing for a new round on training sessions for Zotero newbies at my institution, I was mulling over the question of explaining the different ways of using Zotero. I have compiled a decisional flowchart (in French, but fairly self-explanatory) which, to me at least, seems to include the necessary info for beginners (I'll include further points, e.g. about printing reports and using plugins elsewhere). What does everyone think? Does this seem sensible advice for beginners?
  • two things:
    1. The proxy issue is increasingly less important. Most translators already work fully - including pdf import - with the connectors and Simon is continuously improving this
    2. The bookmarklets are coming along nicely - we already have automated translator tests for them, so I'd expect them to be released soon (though I've been saying that for a while) - meaning that people will be able to use IE.
  • thanks - that's really helpful. I'll probably leave it as-is for the first round of sessions we are doing very soon and then remove the proxy-question for the next round and add IE-support as soon as it arrives.
  • This thread was very useful, thank you all. I thought I'd bump it for any people revisiting Zotero use at the start of the fall semester.

    I also wanted to check on something due to my limited computer knowledge: I need to wipe my HD and reinstall all my data. I've seen references here to Zotero FF and Standalone using the same data directory. I assume this means that by following the backup/restore operations available elsewhere on this site, if I add Standalone following my reinstallation process I should be able to read my old Zotero information (collected in FF) in a newly installed Standalone setup. Is that correct?

    Many thanks!
  • I assume this means that by following the backup/restore operations available elsewhere on this site, if I add Standalone following my reinstallation process I should be able to read my old Zotero information (collected in FF) in a newly installed Standalone setup. Is that correct?
    yes. I'm not quite sure if you want to restore directly to Standalone or if you want to restore to Firefox and install Standalone in addition, but it doesn't matter - both will work.
  • Frankly, I'm not sure yet, either. Thanks very much for your help.
  • edited January 12, 2013
    Thanks, super-helpful thread!

    As a recommendation, it may be helpful to have a version of the French decision chart in a few languages in it's own tab, under something like "Which Zotero version is right for you?" It's just a bit hard to figure that out without finding this thread, since it's a little buried....

    And, i have been seriously contemplating abandoning Firefox b/c it has slowed down SO much over time; i'm assuming this must've been b'/c of the Zotero plug-in, based on this thread and the very few FF extensions i have (literally 3, Zotero, Reader and one that allows me to change my browser theme).

    I am a huge advocate of FF and Zotero, so i would hate to see anyone else abandon EITHER b/c they don't understand this fairly nuanced suggestion of combining of uses of both Standalone and the FF plugin--thoughts?
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