Easy moving and copying of items between collections and subcollections


Two requests:

1. Easy moving of items between collections:
Presently, dragging an item into a collection copies it there. To move an item requires then separately removing the item from its original location.

2. Non-linked copying ("duplication") of items:
Presently, copying an item creates a linked copy, in which changes to either item are reflected in the other; the "same" item is in both collections at once. Sometimes it may be desirable to duplicate an existing item and then make changes to the duplicate. This may be particularly useful when it is necessary to enter the details of several similar items by hand.


  • Has this been addressed? Actually, right now, I am not able to do and drag-and-drop copying / moving of items between folders or subcollections. I'm running Zotero 1.03.
  • Has this been addressed?
    For #1, it's not yet possible to move items between collections rather than copying them, though you can of course drag from one to the other and then remove from the first.

    For #2, there is a "Duplicate Selected Item" option in the context menu when right-clicking on items.
    Actually, right now, I am not able to do and drag-and-drop copying / moving of items between folders or subcollections. I'm running Zotero 1.03.
  • Thanks. The link above addressed the problem.
  • Is moving an item between folders, i.e. copying to the new folder while deleting the old entry, as Andrew demanded - on the wish list ? And if so, any idea when this will become reality ?


    - ft
  • Dragging items between collections/folders 'works' with my zotero sync preview, but it is very awkward (particularly with more than one item selected) to do so, since you drag the file(s) with you and the file(s) block your view of the collection folders. It would be great if you could simply right click on 1 or more entries and say 'copy' and then right click on a collection folder and say 'paste'.
  • To Dan Stillman,

    "For #2, there is a "Duplicate Selected Item" option in the context menu when right-clicking on items."

    Unfortunately the Hungarian version of the option name is bad:

    "Kiválasztott elem" (Selected Item) only, without Duplicate, so it's misunderstandable.

    The correct version would be:

    "Kiválasztott elem duplikálása".

    Please fix it. Thanks.

    There are some other minor Hungarian language bugs in the translations. Where could I fix them or take suggestions?
  • I'd also like to voice support for this one. The ability to drag & move the items between subfolders - instead of copying them - would greatly enhance my Zotero experience and help with organizing my collection. Copy + manual delete doesn't quite do it for me, I am always afraid to delete too much ;-)

    Maybe make "move" the default (I guess it is what people expect), and ctrl-move copy? If you want to keep the current default, swap that, or make it configurable ...

    Further, it'd be nice if the shown dragged one was compressed - instead of showing the full details, "<N> item(s)" would be sufficient.
  • Yes, I think what people expect when dragging an item from one collection to another is the item to be moved to the new collection, not to be copied. Everything would be more intuitive if moving/copying items worked as the copy/cut/paste functions of every os.
  • +1
    I totally agree with this! I think folder should work like they do on a normal computer. My main folder is getting really big and messy and I want to move stuff into smaller folders without it getting duplicated so that I can tell what has been moved and what still needs to be sorted.
  • Michael: The feature request in this thread is to be able to move items between collections, not to move items out of the library. What you're referring to is a fundamental part of Zotero's design, is identical to, e.g., how iTunes works, and isn't going to change. There are other feature requests (an Unfiled search condition, collection membership display in middle pane) that might help you, but those aren't related to this thread.

    iTunes, for what it's worth, copies between playlists (as in, creates an equivalent link to the library item). I think we would keep copying between collections the default, but a modifier key to move instead is possible. I'd be more inclined to do it if we could get Firefox to display a "+" icon over the cursor when copying, which may or may not be possible.
  • But this is Zotero, not iTunes, and I suspect it caters to a different mindset (one, perhaps, that privileges organization over clutter?). Anyway, my vote is for strictly moving between collections as the default, and copying between collections as optional, activated by depressing the control key. This would better match the way you move a file between folders of like drive on a standard OS. (By contrast, I think you would in fact want to "copy" by default when "moving" to a group library, as this is akin to moving/copying a file across drives.) Weirdly, In the latest version of Z, moving while depressing the control key does display a + sign, but it's not all clear what this accomplishes, if anything. Is it a sign of something on the horizon? Is it creating a duplicate, rather than a link, along the way? -- doesn't look like it, but if so, that would be BAD. Such a feature in the hands of everyday users would probably lead to lots of duplicate entries in their library.
  • Just to follow up briefly. I don't think Dan understood Michael's point. My guess is Michael is not actually referring to his entire library, but rather a collection which houses all unsorted (downloaded, imported, etc.) references that he in his spare time might want to sort through. This could easily happen if you're surfing the Web, see something interesting and decide to suck it into Z and worry about it later -- probably you would dump it in a miscellaneous collection (as Michael put it, his "main folder"), since you cannot, as far as I can tell, run a search on orphaned library entries. So Michael's point stands, even if his terminology was slightly off: You want to be able to move between collections without so much extra clicking.
  • ria3k -
    I think a debate about what "people" expect and what is more "orderly" is not going to lead anywhere (and considering what apple has done in terms of how people approach computing I'd also be a little more hesitant with those assertions. Most younger academics I know do use i-tunes...).
    It depends on what type of environment people are socialized on, how they think about collections, how they use them (e.g. one of the best ways to use collections appears to be to use a collection for each project, while using tags for sorting by topics - which is a) really orderly and b) would lead you to expect copy to be the default. - but obviously there are other ways of using collections that may work better with moving items)

    I think the crucial issue is that there should be a key combination (e.g. holding down the ctrl key) that allows moving rather then copying between collections. I still don't see that (or is that working on other OSs?), and I think it's a more than reasonable request to be pursued with pretty high priority. Depending on how hard this is to program I could also see a preference option that allows to toggle the default on this - though I think it should be quite acceptable if this remains low priority as of now.

    I have no idea what Michael meant as I'm not a mindreader, but I do think that anyone who want things to work "like in any OS" does want to fundamentally change the way Zotero organizes items, so I think Dan's answer was quite reasonable.

    I don't believe Zotero duplicates items on pressing ctrl and I'd be more than surprised if that was planned - at least on my OS, btw., the + sign appears whenever I drag an item, regardless of pressing any key.
  • Adam: I happen to be a "younger academic" but that's beside the point. Clearly we agree the option to move-but-not-copy needs to be there, while the debate over the better default could be made irrelevant with an appropriate user preference.

    But let me say this. My point in rethinking Michael's comment was not primarily to read his mind (all communication involves some mind reading, after all); it was merely to point out the folly in presuming that the user doesn't know what he's doing rather than trying, first, to understand why his comment might make perfect sense.
  • edited July 8, 2009
    ria3k: On another thread started the same day Michael said, "An item should not be able to be in more than one folder at a time this is an abuse of the folder metaphor. One object can not be in two places!" He's talking about something else.
  • He is and his isn't. In fact, the bit Stillman just quoted demonstrates precisely that Michael is referring to different collections and NOT the entire library. It's just that he's thinking about collections in a different way, i.e., as "folders." Yes, you might say it's more "traditional" or less hip or "older" or "wrong' or whatever but that misses the point -- it's no better or worse -- or even incompatible -- with the iTunes way of thinking. This is a clear case in which a better approach is to give the user more power over how the program is works, rather than (again) assuming that the user is talking gibberish because it's more convenient to avoid addressing his concern.
  • "Hip"? We're not fighting the culture wars here... The only thing this thread is about is the ability to move items between collections rather than copying. I think we're all in agreement that, if technically feasible, there should be a way to do so with a modifier key, and there's already a ticket for it. So unless there's another issue, this thread doesn't need to continue.

    From Michael's posts it's clear that he's taking issue with the fundamental design of Zotero, used in iTunes, Gmail, and many other contemporary programs, in which objects exist in a main library, and playlists/folders/collections contain many-to-one links to the main object. Whether by "main folder" he meant "My Library" or another folder is irrelevant, because his request is still for items to only exist in one and only one place. That part of Zotero's design isn't going to change, and it's not the subject of this thread.
  • Well, thank you, I guess. If the ticket is filled, then Michael and many others will be able to use Zotero in exactly the way he's describing. One may think this use is contrary to the program's "fundamental design" but that's hardly relevant. If it works both ways, and it's feasible to code, then everyone's happy. Seems to me it's more productive to acknowledge user input rather than quibble over what the "intention" of the machine is. The machine is what people make of it.
  • edited July 8, 2009
    I don't know ria3k. I think it is important that people _also_ understand how the software they are using "thinks". Which is why Dan responded favorably to the initial request, but told Michael that he is talking about something different.
    If Michael thinks, for example, thinks that he is "copying" an item as he would be in an OS, he would be very surprised to see that a change he makes to the "copy" of the item in folder/collection A will automatically apply to the "copy" of the file in folder/collection B (because in reality this is one item, linked to from two different places).
    Or that, if he deletes an item from the library, it will also disappear from all the folders/collections it is in. I think it is very important for users to understand these differences, because they might get quite upset otherwise.
    Even if "move" is the default, people who use collections as if they were folders are going to find Zotero's behavior in many points outright "weird" - and might even destroy part of their work. (and I'm not making this up. There have been cases here where people have complained about just that). It sounds like you're actually saying that OS-type folders and Zotero-style collections are very similar and only distinguished by said default behavior - but it is crucial for Zotero users to understand that that is very much not the case!

    And so Dan is right to insist on the fact that there is actually a big difference. I don't think he believes that Michael "doesn't get it" - he is just telling him that what he wants is not going to happen.
  • But we've already agreed it will happen! -- from Michael's perspective. (And let's be clear -- I'm using him figuratively here, I don't know him or anything about him.) Once the option to move-but-not copy is there, users who want to operate primarily in that way can do so and not worry or even be fully aware of what's going on in the background. To claim that it's "not going to happen" is, at best, to adopt a highly limited, developer-centric perspective. At worst, it implies that people who use collections as mutually exclusive folders aren't using Z in the "right" way. (I'll also point out that the icon representing collections looks suspiciously like a manila file folder, not to mention an OS directory.)

    I have no quarrel with Zotero's underlying structure. Anyone who has peered under the hood knows it's quite lovely. And, sure, it's helpful to understand what that structure is to avoid certain problems, but you don't need to be a mechanic to drive a car. In the real world many users care mainly about functionality and not a hoot about underlying structure (admittedly, at their own risk). The key is that the software remain flexible where feasible and customizable within manageable limits. To imbue the machine with "thought" may at times be a useful metaphor, but my sense (cents?) is it tends to exalt rigidity over plasticity. A philosophical and belabored point, I know, but one that I think is worth mentioning in the context of an open-source project.
  • OK, this is ridiculous. Sorry, ria3k, but you're just wasting people's time. This thread is closed. I'll post to it when the feature (which we've all already agreed on) is implemented.
This discussion has been closed.