Stop Zotero from copying files to Zotero > Storage

This discussion was created from comments split from: Removing PDFs to free up space.
  • I have just started to use Zotero. I have a Papers folder with subfolders on my desktop Mac containing the documents I'm using for my research. (I also add to and reorganize these files sporadically.)

    I also want to sync with Zotero on my Mac laptop.

    From my desktop Mac, I added some of the papers to Zotero. I didn't realize it was duplicating the files in its base directory on the hard drive. I don't want it to do that because 1) unnecessarily duplicated files take up disk space; 2) it confuses Mac Spotlight search.

    Since then, I have set "Download files as needed" in Preferences > Sync on desktop Zotero. However, it is still saving duplicates in Zotero > Storage on my desktop Mac.

    1) How can I stop Zotero from routinely copying files to Zotero > Storage ?

    2) Can I delete the files already in Zotero > Storage folders? Will this break Zotero metadata? Will it still link to the original items in the Papers folder?
  • edited May 18, 2019
    Generally you would just delete the files stored elsewhere after you've added them to Zotero, and then manage them through Zotero.

    If you prefer, you can add files as linked files pointing to your existing folder, but then they won't sync via Zotero. If you do want to use linked files, the third-party ZotFile extension can automatically move files you download by Zotero to your external folder.
  • What does "Download files as needed" in Preferences > Sync do?

    After sorting out my files, I'm uneasy about storing all of them in Zotero. If Zotero should break, I won't have them in folders any more.

    I do have Mac Time Capsule set up as backup.
  • Prior to asking my question here, I had deleted some of the pdfs stored in Zotero > Storage.

    I just checked everything in My Library (center pane) and it appears all items have pdfs attached. Did Zotero regenerate the files and links I had deleted?

    Can I move Zotero > Storage elsewhere on my hard drive now or do I need to leave it in Users > myname > Zotero on my desktop Mac? Should it be in the same location on my laptop?
  • Download files as needed just means that when you sync a new machine it doesn't download any files from the Zotero servers. Instead, files are only download as you try to open them from Zotero. Doesn't seem at all relevant to your question.

    As dstillman says, you _can_ set up Zotero to store files outside of Zotero as links, but I'd advise against it. There are a couple of disadvantages, but the biggest ones are that 1) You won't be able to effectively share files in groups and 2) Deleting items in Zotero won't delete linked files.

    The fear of losing folders seems overblown to me: Even if Zotero breaks in some way, it offers an API, a static export format, and a database in pretty readable sqlite, all of which are used by other tools already to import collection information. It's highly unlikely that all three of these will stop working at the same time.
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