"Attach Link To File" in Group Library

Hi all,

I use Zotero within a consulting company, which means that the references lists in our reports often include both scientific papers and (internal / external) technical reports. Most of the reports that we reference are stored on a shared network drive that everyone in the company has access to.
We use a Zotero Group to maintain a shared library of citations to facilitate referencing within reports, which works quite nicely. However, it would be nice to also link each citation item in our library to the PDF file on our shared network drive. For example, the reference item "Project report 11328/383822" should be linked to the PDF on our network drive. This is similar to having the "attach link to file" option in a local library. However, this function has been blocked out (it appears as grey in the context menu) for a Group Library. Is there any way that this function can be unblocked? Currently possible workarounds include opening the local PDF file in Firefox (file:///K:/PROJECTS/myreport.pdf) and using the “Attach link to current page” function in the context menu, but this is not very elegant.

Any tips on possible solutions or workarounds?

Many thanks,
  • since links will typically not work across machines, Links for groups are disabled until functionality comparable to the relative base link directory is implemented for groups. I'm not aware of any reasonably workarounds, no.
  • I have the same wish. Our company is already paying large sums for IT services that include network storage. It would make much more sense if the attachments (>10 GB) were stored on a shared network drive, and there was a link to each.

    I have already the attachments stored locally in my Zotero storage dir, it would be extremely simple to change this into linked items by using Zotfile. In Zotfile, I would only need to set the storage directory to "Z:\Literature" and run an update on all items in the library. This network address is absolute and the same for all users so I don't see that this would be a problem across machines.

    We still have the need for syncronizing the database, snapshots and notes, though.
  • +1. This is a game changer for organizations that want to encourage Zotero in the collaborative research workflow.

    adamsmith, can we activate "attach link to file" feature through some hidden setting?
  • there's no current hidden setting. Dan makes all calls on this, but I doubt he'll be willing to include this before relative links for groups exist. He has said that they'd accept patches for that.
  • I'd like to understand why relative links do not exist for groups? I can understand why files do not sync between groups due to copyright issues, but a link is an innocent thing. Let it exist and sync, so groups that can or want to use it can use it.

    And they don't even need to be relative for the case where the groups are on an intranet and files are on a network drive that has the same address for every user on the intranet.

    If Zotero cannot do this, I think it is a missed opportunity that could be made available at no/marginal cost.
  • relative links don't exist simply because it's very much not marginal/no cost to implement them. It's mostly UI/UX stuff, but that's not insignificant and would take a solid amount of time.

    But you're simply wrong about simply allowing links to sync being costless: doing something that breaks links for 90% of all users--i.e. everyone without a locally shared harddisk with stable filepaths --is very costly, both in terms of the time wasted by frustrated users and the time we have to spend to explain the situation to them.
  • edited September 16, 2015
    "Let it exist and sync, so groups that can or want to use it can use it."

    I should have been more clear. I was also implicitly saying that there will be a switch that group admins can turn on/off to specify whether a group will sync links. From my perspective, management of the document associated with an item (not just the meta data) is a very important part of any bibliography management tool. If groups force each user to manage the file part separately, then one of the key functionalities is sacrificed.

    And I am probably off-mark on the coding time, since I assumed the code is working to "preventing the sync", so to make them sync would simply require removing part of the code. I assumed this because groups are already syncing a lot of other stuff, including notes.
  • I can only tell you that Dan has been very clear about this and personally I think it's a reasonable decision:
    Links for groups will be enabled as soon as we can expect them not to break things for a large share of users, i.e. as soon as relative links for groups work.

    If you've ever read or been in an implementation discussion with Dan, you'll know that "we could add a hidden preference for this" is pretty much his least favorite phrase. He literally has a Tumblr called "Excessive Customization". Not everyone has to share that design philosophy, but it does have a lot of benefits on the user experience side of things, even if it does mean that you sometimes have to wait for a feature longer than you'd like.
  • I completely second the dislike for excessive customization, which is a great recipe for trouble. I hope links to files come to groups soon.

    I am glad for this discussion, for telling me something I did not know. I was about to propose that my organization pick Zotero over EndNote because of how easy it is to do collaborative work with groups. We are struggling with EndNote's limitations there. But I was thinking synced links would work with our network drives!

    So, even if all members of a group are on an intranet and access the same file storage folder, each one of them will need to individually go and link files to items. How can we make it easier to do this? May be when a group member adds an item, they also add a note with the path to the file, which other users can use to create a link.
  • I mean -- the easiest way would, of course, be to just use file storage. For an organization of any size, the costs of unlimited storage are negligible, so it's only privacy/security issues that might cause problems.

    If you're set on using links, one way would be to have everyone working on a single Zotero account.

    I don't think there's any other reasonable workaround.
  • edited September 16, 2015
    File storage is not an option for security reasons. If it were an option, I believe it will have to be storage purchased under the admin's account, as shown here:
    https://www.zotero.org/support/storage

    Institutional plans seem to assign storage per person, which is not the correct solution.

    When files are synced in groups with the file storage option, does that make one local copy of the file for each group member (plus the common online copy)?
  • When files are synced in groups with the file storage option, does that make one local copy of the file for each group member (plus the common online copy)?
    yes.
    Institutional plans seem to assign storage per person, which is not the correct solution.
    correct, you would just buy unlimited storage for a single user (ideally not a person but an account held by the organization for this purpose only), the owner of the group. That's why I say the costs are negligible: it's $120/year for the whole organization. I just did a workshop for a small/mid-sized biotech company that are doing this with now several dozen researchers.
  • Thanks. I agree the $120/yr cost is negligible. It's not the cost that will be an issue for my group. It's the issues related to security and multiple copies.
  • Doesn't help with the privacy issue, but note that you can set file syncing to only download files as needed, so there wouldn't be multiple copies except when requested. (There's no automated mechanism to delete locally cached files after a period of time, but that's something I'd like to add at some point.)
  • Dan, are you saying the file (e.g. PDF) will be downloaded only when the user tries to open it? That is somewhat helpful. Users are generally impatient and the delay due to downloading the PDF might put them off.

    So, if one member of the group annotates a PDF doc, will that update the doc for all users of the group?

    Is it possible to have the online storage encrypted, but local downloaded copies as not? That might partially address the security issue.
  • Dan, are you saying the file (e.g. PDF) will be downloaded only when the user tries to open it?
    Yes. You just can't currently remove it automatically afterward, though you can do Show File and delete the file.
    So, if one member of the group annotates a PDF doc, will that update the doc for all users of the group?
    In download-as-needed mode, changed files are still uploaded, and files that have been previously downloaded should still be updated. (I haven't tested that recently, but that's how it should work.)
    Is it possible to have the online storage encrypted, but local downloaded copies as not?
    Encrypted client-side, you mean? It's something I've always been interested in offering, for both data and files, but there hasn't been a lot of interest in it — people generally say that their institutional policies prevent uploading data to external servers without making a distinction between unencrypted and client-side-encrypted data. Not sure if that's changed more recently.
  • Hi everyone,

    Thanks for the useful input.

    Adam said Dan would accept patches for adding links to group folders. If I understand it correctly, this would mean that we would write a patch for the Zotero code that makes it into a 'custom version' for my company, that allows linking for a group library? How much of an effort / long term pain would make that patch be?

    For us, the other alternative would be the group storage, I'm going to look into that. For us, it would also be hugely impractical to have all PDFs download to each local computer, so the 'download files only as needed' mode would be crucial. If the user only has a few PDFs on his local drive, can he still do a text search of all indexed PDFs in the full library (i.e. can you submit that query to the online library?).
  • 1. The patch would become available to all Zotero users, not just you. Always hard to predict how long something like this takes. I'd say maybe two days for someone who really knows what they're doing: one for developing and testing, the other to adjust after feedback during code review. For someone who doesn't have a lot of dev experience and even for people who don't know much about Zotero's code base and style, that would go up a lot.


    2. The full text search content syncs separately from the actual files. So the answer to your question is yes, you can search all full text even if you don't have any of the actual files locally.
  • To clarify, the patch would need to be for Linked Attachment Base Directory support (and the UI to go with it) in groups, not just adding linked files. It's the former that's holding this back.
  • Dan, Adam,

    Thanks for the replies. I'm looking forward to seeing functionality such as this in Zotero one day, but I know that there are many requested functions. Anyway, keep up the great work, I've been a big fan of Zotero for several years now (and now people in my company are becoming fans as well...)

    T.
  • I realise this thread is really old but was just wondering if there is now a way to do this?
  • Second that alastairhmoore. Any update on this? Thanks.
  • nothing new, no.
Sign In or Register to comment.