Link to directory for reference

I'm new to Zotero, so please let me know if I'm missing an existing answer. (I've done a bit of searching, but didn't see anything that answered this.)

I want a very simple but important feature:
When I link to a reference, I would like the option to link to a directory/folder rather than a file. Sometimes I have a PDF, and other times I have a folder. The reason is obvious: I have multiple files inside that folder (perhaps multiple PDFs, several scanned image files, extra notes for the item, or even multiple copies of the same item).

If I can't link to a directory, then I will be unable to use Zotero to manage my files. I can still use it as an external database, but obviously that significantly limits the functionality.

In short, all I want is this:
1. Save metadata in Zotero.
2. Add a link to a file OR directory where I have that reference.
3. Click on that entry to open that file or directory.

--I'm on a Mac, using Firefox.
--I don't care about any "sync" features. Stand-alone is better. (Many of my files are hundreds of megabytes-- eg, old books from, so backing that up would be a waste of space.)
--I'm looking for a convenient bibliography+organization tool to go on top of my existing directory structure (just a folder with many Author2013-format entries, either files or directories).

  • You can't link to a folder, but you can add links to multiple files (e.g., all files in a folder) at once by Cmd-Option-dragging the files to an item in Zotero. (On Windows/Linux, it's Ctrl-Shift-drag.) The files will all be underneath the item as linked file attachments.
  • Hi Dan,


    Unfortunately, that doesn't work for me. There's a reason I have a folder-- it's a place to put any and all relevant files, not just because I have a set list of files to associate.

    Example Reasons:
    1. I sometimes have JPEG files (scans) that are not compiled into a PDF. There might be hundreds of these (eg, a book). I could compile them, but I often do not due to time (and the fact that I always can in the future if I want). Associating dozens or hundreds of files would be silly.

    2. The folder will remain constant, while the files in it might change. Examples:
    --I might add a new file, which should be associated with the same reference.
    --I might have a placeholder (eg, a website that mentions an article, while waiting to get a copy of the full article).

    3. When I click on the reference, I want the folder to open, not any of the files. I want to be directed quickly to the place where I can then decide which of the files I want to open. (Using folders allows me to do this, and I'm happy with the setup.)
  • We might be able to add support for linking to folders in the future, but in the meantime, the best I can suggest would be to add a single file from the folder and right-click -> Show File to open the folder. (This will work on the parent item as well.) Only slightly slower than double-clicking.
  • That could sort of work, but then I would need to somehow guess which references are folders and which are files, so that I would know when to double-click and when to right-click>'Show File'.

    Is there a reason this would be especially hard to implement? I can imagine how complicated it could become in terms of using the 'sync' option or managing all of the contents of those folders, not to mention how much space it might take. But simply to allow a link to a folder doesn't seem especially difficult.

    Is your reasoning that users would find a link-only option too limited, and that they would then require additional options like 'sync' and copy folder?

    In the meantime, I don't see the downside in allowing a folder link, though.

    Again, thanks for your reply. But if I can't have this feature, then I can't use Zotero to manage files. It still seems useful as a database (until now I've been using something I wrote myself, just a basic list-and-tag database system), but I was hoping for something a little more centralized, rather than a set of files (and folders), in addition to a database of what they contain.
  • Is there a reason this would be especially hard to implement?
    Not more so than the hundreds of other features people have requested over the years. It's just not currently implemented, is pretty much the answer, and this isn't a common request.

    Specifically, though, since you asked, in addition to the basic change to the filepicker, this could easily require changes in various places in the code where links are assumed to be files, we'd need to figure out a content type to assign in the database so that Zotero knew these were folders, we'd need to display a folder icon in the middle pane, we'd need to prevent attempts at indexing the folder (or, alternatively, index everything below it, but probably not), we might want to alter the context-menu text to indicate that these were folders instead of files, and probably some other things that I'm overlooking.

    Anyway, if someone contributed a patch to allow this, I imagine we'd accept it.
  • Alright. Thanks for thinking about it.

    You said this isn't a common request-- why not? How do others deal with the situation where we might have a folder containing multiple files? Do others just not organize as many files as I do, instead preferring to link to websites?
  • edited September 1, 2013
    I think few people organize large number of images in Zotero in the first place - I'd guess mainly historians and art historians. Among those, I think that frequently it's one image --> one item. E.g. when you're thinking about digital images of archival documents.
    Finally, at least for me, where I have several images that belong together I always compile them into a PDF, everything else is a mess.

    As for a workaround, you can tag items that you mean as links to an entire folder with a colored tag, that way they'd be easy to recognize.
  • This an old post but I upvote the request.
  • I also upvote the request. Here is why:
    Recently I want to manage my notes with Zotero. I often take a note in a markdown file when I read a paper or start a project, while all related pictures are in the same directory where the markdown file is. I will modify my note now and then so I can't just zip it and drop into Zotero. Meanwhile, I don't want to use MS Word or other word processing software to do the work, because I'm used to writing in VIM.
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