Import PDFs to Zotero and link file to existing location on disk?

I've found that it's fantastic to be able to import PDFs to Zotero and have it automatically pre-populate the reference fields. However, it seems to import the PDF file itself into Zotero's database.

Playing with Zotero I see that we can add a link to a file, i.e. to another location on disk outside of the Zotero database. Is there a way to set up Zotero so that when you drag a PDF into the app, it links to the existing file rather than by default making a copy of the file to the Zotero database?
  • edited September 18, 2018
    To instead add links to the original files, hold down Ctrl+Shift (Windows/Linux) or Cmd+Option (Mac) while dropping. Note that Zotero does not sync the actual linked files (only the link pointing to the location on your computer).

    If you have all of your items located in one set of folders that you sync across computers using a cloud service (e.g., Dropbox), you will want to set the Linked Attachment Base Directory in the Advanced Pane of Zotero preferences. Also, you can use the Zotfile plugin to help you automatically manage the location of linked files in such a system.
  • This is an attractive idea. I just tried it on a Mac, using Command-Option while dropping. The pdf ended up being copied into my Zotero storage directory - just what I was seeking to avoid. I wanted the metadata in, but the file left where it was (in a Dropbox directory).
    At times, the link goes in. I'm finding it ~1/3 nothing happens, ~1/3 pdf gets imported, ~1/3 link gets imported (desired behavior).
    What am I doing wrong? Is there some way to reliably make it do links rather than copies?
  • Okay, now I'm just getting copying - which is exactly what I don't want. Help?
  • drag while holding the modifier keys certainly should work reliably and does for me (albeit not on a Mac). Using "Link to File" under the green plus sign is equivalent and presumably more reliable since it can't be affected by keyboard shortcut conflicts.
  • Most excellent. Works great, even with large sets of files.

    Thanks for the tip.
  • A belated thanks from me, too. I needed this function, too, glad to see it explained here. Thank you!
  • Unfortunately, this won't work for group projects. It shows "Linked files cannot be added to group libraries."
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