Zotero and Google Docs

edited January 8, 2017
I really love Zotero. However, what I really need is that Zotero gets a seamless integration with Google docs. And it is technically possible as Paperpile and Colwiz show. Such an integration would stop me from regularly needing to ponder about moving away from Zotero to Colwiz for example.

I have read the information on the discussion page on https://forums.zotero.org/discussion/63484/google-docs/p1, but this also seems a very cumbersome solution as it already takes up so much time to understand the techical issues involved in moving all kinds of information around.

Can the Zotero development community work in this matter? I'm not technical so not able to develop such a feature. It would really make the lives of lots of people easier and Zotero even more the standard reference tool for many.

And then later on also work on integrations with for example Overleaf or Authorea ...

Kind regards
  • Zotero integrates very nicely with Overleaf and pretty nicely with Authorea already.
  • I also would like to see fuller integration with Google Docs. I just tried F1000, and while I don't like some of the limitations on how it inserts citations, I very much like the ease of use while in the Google Docs interface. I'm now working on a Chromebook, and the process of moving to the Zotero website tab, selecting a source, clicking "cite," selecting format, and copying the output to paste into a Google doc is too tedious to be a viable long-term workflow. Some way to call up citations within Google docs is needed. This from a long-time user (with absolutely no problems when on a Mac device).
  • Does the Zotero team have any plans to implement a plugin for Google Docs? I would also like to see that. I would be willing to help create the plugin, but first I'd like to know if anyone else is already working on it.
  • Zotero would certainly like to have a native Google Docs plugin, but it is a relatively low priority for the core development team. They would welcome contributions from the community. There was some discussion and initial work done on the zotero-dev Google group (the mailing list for Zotero third party development), but it seems that that has stalled. If you want to work on it, I don't think anyone else currently is.
  • I would love to see developed a Zotero-Google Docs plugin that offers the same functionalities as the Word-plugin. Any progress on this?
  • nothing new, no.
  • I'm waiting for this too. It would be a wonderfull thing.
  • I think this feature will be really important to Zotero's future, for two reasons.

    One is the decline of Office subscriptions vis-a-vis (primarily Google) alternatives (see for example Office figures: http://www.computerworld.com/article/3162708/enterprise-applications/new-office-365-subscriptions-for-consumers-plunged-62-in-2016.html).

    The other is that Google Docs is far more accessible (i.e. free) to lower income / developing world users. As Office has gone to a subscription (e.g. ongoing payments) model, it is less accessible to the scholarly community.

    I echo the above comments in noting that current workflows for using Zotero with Google Docs aren't reasonable for most users.

    I understand that adding this feature is no simple feat, but hope that the Zotero team will revisit it!
  • Another vote up for this possibility of collaboration feature.
  • With this functionality, Zotero would be perfect.
  • Everyone here, including every Zotero developer and active volunteer, is aware of the request for google doc integration. More "me toos," are not, I'm afraid, going to make this happen faster, so no need for that. If someone would like to work on this, please post to zotero-dev (and see previous technical discussions there).
  • edited October 13, 2017
    I am in the process of migrating over to paperpile for exactly this feature. They are also working on a (beta, atm) word plugin for it. Once that happens I'm afraid I will take my $60 a year zotero data sub elsewhere...

    It's all very well encouraging us to code it ourselves, but that skill is still rather rare. In terms of the technical aspects - paperpile has shown it's doable. It might involve working more with the zotero online storage, but if I had to pay, say an extra $20 a year for the integration I would. As it stands, you're going to lose my $60 a year quite imminently.

    This would be a shame as I have been evangelical about zotero for 10 years now and have even delivered a course to incoming PhD students recommending it's use and using it as a test case for CWYW during essay writing. Our institute is moving to google docs for most things now, so you can see where this is going to end...
  • To reiterate adamsmith, Zotero is certainly aware of the interest in a google docs plugin. But there are limited developer resources, and this hasn’t been a priority over other more core features. As a volunteer and avid Zotero user, I’m sorry that Zotero isn’t fulfilling all your needs. But I can also say that oblique threats about changing programs isn’t going to change development priorities. It would be great for Zotero to have Google Docs integration, but I anticipate that this will come from a community contribution.
  • I don't use Google Docs and do not see myself using it anytime soon. But I think asking the community to not voice their support is avoidable. Surely, if a thousand users said "me too", it will force a more urgent look at the need for Google Docs integration. So, it does matter, right?
  • I actually have no doubt that there are 1000 people who would love google doc integration (me included, btw.). If they all said "me too" and since at least three people read every post, assuming 20secs as a conservative estimate for that, that means 60,000 seconds or about 2 full workdays spent just dealing with me-toos (and that does not include providing any answers). So yes, we do ask people not to post "me too" unless they have something substantial to add.

    Especially for fairly obvious but work-intensive features like google doc or iOS integration, additional votes in favor add no relevant information.

  • As @adamsmith says, "me too"-posts make it harder for the support people to keep up with the already high volume of forum posts, and the Zotero forums currently don't really offer another way to voice your support. And relevant threads for feature requests are relative hard to find as well, since the bulk of the forums threads are not about feature requests but things like troubleshooting and questions about existing features.

    In general I prefer Zotero's forums, but Mendeley does have a nicer voter system at https://mendeley.uservoice.com/forums/4941-general for feature requests. For existing Zotero GitHub issues, you can also leave a reaction (https://github.com/blog/2119-add-reactions-to-pull-requests-issues-and-comments).
  • edited October 16, 2017
    I don't think my "threats" were particularly "oblique" (nor particularly "threatening"). I am simply stating how my usage of zotero is going to change, due to your own development priorities. These changes will take away some of the funding from zotero.

    Just a quick note about those development priorities. Frankly, I prefer open source software. I like zotero better than paperpile. But it worries me when software writers start writing software for themselves and damn the audience (as seems to be happening here). They risk their software becoming rather isolated and irrelevant.

    For me, that matters when collaborating with colleagues - if I'm the one with the kooky reference management software I'm the one who is going to either slow the collaboration or needs to change to fit in with the crowd.

    There is an opportunity here. From people's own submissions on this very thread there seems to be quite a large desire for this feature. You could even see a small revenue stream possible from it. But there doesn't seem to be the leadership around to drive the direction of zotero into a meaningful end point, or take note of the community feedback. In fact, there's borderline hostility on display. That's the single most worrying take home point for me from this thread.

  • Please see https://www.zotero.org/support/forum_guidelines#etiquette

    I'll echo the community responses. The additional "me too"s specifically for Google Docs integration are certainly unnecessary -- we are very aware of the importance and benefits of having the integration. We regularly discuss the possibility of working towards it, but haven't found the time yet -- the amount of required time and knowledge of the Zotero codebase, as you yourself correctly pointed out, are significant. It's not an easy problem to approach, especially when there are many important feature requests across the whole software, and development time is very limited.

    That said, we are sad if you have to leave, but Zotero is and will continue to be free (even when we get the Google Docs plugin out!), so we'll be waiting for you to come back.
  • edited October 16, 2017
    I hope I do :)

    (PS: Paperpile is free for me as my institution subscribes. However, I would probably pay up to the same amount personally for it as I sub to the zotero cloud storage off my own back and have done for almost as long as it has been an option).
  • But it worries me when software writers start writing software for themselves and damn the audience (as seems to be happening here). They risk their software becoming rather isolated and irrelevant.
    Since this is a frequent misunderstanding, it's probably worth restating again that this is pretty much the opposite of what's going on. Zotero always has and still does take community feedback extremely seriously. Show me any other major software where the lead developer (that's dstillman) reads every single support request or spends as much time interacting with users (and he's not the only one). This interaction gives you a very solid -- and deep -- understanding of what Zotero users are after and why.

    Having people write some version of "me too" on their favorite feature requests simply doesn't add anything, creates some misplaced sense of "voting" for a feature, and ultimately wastes time -- that was my entire point here.
  • @adamsmith Zotero dev team and Dan's commitment is second to none.

    Maybe the problem discussed here (me-toos) is an opportunity to do something, if it is feasible in terms of time and technicality: create a list of pending features and allow users to vote. Could also include a short note or just a tag from the dev team about where Zotero is in terms of providing that feature (actively under development, high priority and planned, high priority but technical challenges, and so on). Implementing this will allow users to see their voices are tracked and counted. Closing that loop is important and I fear telling users to stop voicing their needs just comes across as bad PR (even though I accept the reason as valid).
  • @adamsmith sorry to necromance the thread, but one example that springs to mind is paperpile :)

    But I agree with @gurdas , perhaps the main take home from the current thread may be the implementation of some form of voting system? That's the most solid way to avoid me-toos. Bit annoying to set up, but would help the engagement and perception of reciprocity. The trick would then be not having 18 subjects about basically the same feature, I suppose.

    It's also a less qualitative method and less prone to confirmation bias, PR issues etc, etc.

    Cheers :)
  • edited February 24, 2018
    I teach science at the end year of high school. We use google docs for the students work because the google docs world allows me to see and interact with the students work in progress. We teach the students to write their science reports with citations and references. I love Zotero for my personal work in Word but I am hamstrung by the missing Zotero-Google Docs link that would be an equivalent to Word. So my teaching of how to do citations and references is incoherent because of this.
    I predict that unless Zotero makes their implementation of a Google Docs link their number 1 top priority, they will find themselves relegated soon to sit on a dying branch as the up and coming new generation of citing report writers will go elsewhere from the start and never consider Zotero later.
    He who brings an open source and affordable citation manager that works perfectly in Google Docs will carry the market. Period.
    It is sad to witness here that the Zotero team is seemingly not understanding what is at stake for them. It would be sad if this wonderful tool Zotero was becoming irrelevant by their own misinterpretation of what is happening in the field of document creation from the schools up. The MS-Office suite is simply collecting dust in the school's systems by now, and soon the admins will consider stopping licensing it.
    So sorry for this me-too ask for making the Google Docs - Zotero plug in your #1 priority but I see otherwise dark clouds on the Zotero horizon.
  • Although I would like to see integration Zotero and Google Docs too I have to say, that I do not agree with your statements. The problem is not the low priority of integration Zotero and Google Docs, but the missing capacity of developers to solve all main priorities of Zotero. Currently, we have version 5.0 which is a necessary step between old and new planed functionality of Zotero (new fields etc.).
    Yes, a lot of us would like to use Google Docs, but it is still relatively "easy/stupid" text editor and in the family of Open Access text tools is not the best. If you can use any OA tool then you can use Libre Office with the full support of Zotero.
    Dou you really need work on a cloud or Google Docs? Then you can use Zotero-ODF-Scan.
    From my point of view (I am not developer Zotero, only user) I need features focused on bibliography management. Cooperation with text tools is nice, but not priority no 1, due to reference output formatting in the text document is a part of postprocessing of publication.
  • I think it's a mis-read to see the reference manager space, or the collaborative editing space, as a contest for final dominance; and if things were to evolve in that direction, we would all be in trouble. The threshold requirement is data portability. The choice among tools that offer a sound channel for data export in standard formats depends on requirements, and those vary.

    Google Docs has a native referencing facility, but as you have probably noticed, it's not very good. Google excels at automating things that invite automation, but the firm has an allergy to the labor-intensive fine-tuning needed to produce and maintain a research-quality reference management platform.

    Paperpile interfaces with Google Docs, which is great. Their platform and its interface lives in the cloud, which may be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your needs. I see that PP has adopted the Jurisdiction field on legal item types (a Juris-M first!). That's good (for legal users...), but among the four export formats, this and other extended fields are lost in BibTeX and RIS. The field comes through in CSV and JSON exports, but in both cases the format of the export is unique to PaperPile. Whether that limitation is a problem depends on what you're planning to store in it, and at what volume.

    Zotero has strong facilities for organization and rediscovery of content, and it excels at both import and export, supporting several standard formats (RDF, MODS) that are less lossy than BibTeX or RIS. Zotero can be used offline, which for many users is a critical advantage. It is awkward to use with Google Docs at present, so if you need that, another tool may be a better choice. But no tool with the strengths, dynamism and long-running track record of Zotero is going to go away any time soon.
  • I know this is a bit off-topic, but still: I keep thinking of some kind of community effort where we can pool money and "hire" someone to write an add-on that provides a given functionality.

    No idea how much effort is required to provide the Google Docs functionality, but I would like to believe (and I might be wrong) that there are enough Zotero users who need this feature and are willing to contribute a few dollars so a tool could be developed. Maybe optimistic and naive, but worth a try? 1000 users who need this, each gives $5 = $5000 good enough to get the ball rolling?

    Obviously, Zotero team is not directly involved except providing technical go ahead to the independent developer. This is an effort of/by/for the community.
  • One problem with community funding big projects is that the design specifications, code review, and integration is a big chunk of this. That means a) it's very hard to predict hours on this and b) it's going to require a very significant Zotero dev investment either way -- check how much back-and-forth with Dan was involved in the recent Word add-on update: and that was done by Adomas. An external dev would likely require more input and GDoc integration is likely a bigger project. Bounties work really well with narrow, well-defined problems -- think e.g. "add an import translator for ABC". They're difficult to specify with large projects like GDoc integration.

    I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's a very tricky issue and getting it wrong can cause serious irritations among all involved.
  • Another issue is maintenance. Interface changes at either end will require follow-up, so there would need to be someone in the picture with a continuing stake in keeping things ticking over. (Google could lighten that burden by specifying and offering a plugin mechanism for citation engines, but they presumably have no business incentive to go that extra mile.)
  • I agree, both of those are excellent points and very valid for GDocs integration project.
This discussion has been closed.