Using Zotero to work together on Office documents

If a Zotero group item has a Microsoft office document (Word, Powerpoint, Excel mainly) as an attachment, then, can the group members work on this attachment and the changes will sync fine?
  • Yes, changes will sync, but if two people change it at the same time, one person’s changes will be overwritten and lost. I recommend using a different cloud service like OneDrive or Dropbox for this purpose, as these will either permit simultaneous editing (OneDrive) or at least create conflicted copies that can be merged (Dropbox).
  • Thanks. I am introducing Zotero to a group that does social work, and some members don't use computers frequently. They have a Google Docs setup to share and co-edit documents and I was hoping everything could move to Zotero. But it seems keeping Google Docs or having co-edit documents in OneDrive is the way to go. I'll keep Zotero for collecting and organizing articles.

    ps: When attachment links comes to groups, the co-edit docs can stay in OneDrive, but accessed and organized via Zotero. Right?
  • edited February 15, 2021
    Zotero isn’t designed to hold documents that are simultaneously edited by multiple people, and I don’t anticipate it trying to do that any time in the near future. I suggest you stick with storing documents you are writing in Google Docs or OneDrive. You can insert citations using Zotero into either Google Docs or Word.

    Zotero doesn’t organise or move linked files, so even if linked file support is added to Groups, it won’t really help with organizing files. You should use Zotero to manage citations, sources, articles, but use OneDrive or Google Drive for the documents you are actively writing.
  • I understand and agree Zotero isn't for collaborative writing. Not asking for that feature.

    What I am saying is that even the collaboratively edited document can be included in Zotero's organization framework if links come to groups. The document still stays in OneDrive, but users never bother find it there. They find the item in Zotero using tags or can add child notes to the item entry, and so on. That way, for the kind of group in question, they never have to think where to start when looking for a document. Always start in Zotero.
  • Ah, I see, yes, that would be work.
  • I am so very frustrated with Onedrive and Zotero. I tried to do a collaborative/group project and have had nothing but problems. I'm headed back in to fix (add in all citations AGAIN) the citations in the 38 pages for the 5th time. Now that part one of the class is over, I will be moving everything to google docs to see if it is better.
  • Happy to help you troubleshoot if you like. What exactly was the problem you were having?
  • @bwiernik "Yes, changes will sync, but if two people change it at the same time, one person’s changes will be overwritten and lost."
    Is this also true for stand-alone notes in Zotero? Lets say Person A and B are editing the note at the same time. A starting editing first. B opened the note after A started editing. A finishes editing first, too, then B. What will be the final synced version? A's or B's? Will it have anything from the other person's edits?
  • @dstillman Can you answer that?
  • The short answer is that the current implementation of notes isn't meant for collaborative writing.

    The longer answer is that "finishes editing" here is a little tricky to define, since Zotero 1) saves the note only when you stop typing for about a second and 2) will sync the note only if there are no additional saves for 15 seconds after the last save. If multiple people are editing the note at the same time, and if they're typing for long stretches at a time without stopping, there's a good chance that either there'll be a conflict or something will be lost (though we obviously try to avoid the latter). There's no automatic merging of note content. This is something we do hope to improve in a future version.

    (There is automatic merging of item fields, though. If two people edit different fields of the same item at the same time, Zotero will automatically merge those changes.)
  • Thanks, Dan. As an interim measure, do you think it's possible to flag a note as being edited by another user while it is being edited. My use case does not really need collaborative editing, all we would need is to know someone is in there and use that information to avoid co-editing. We don't even need to know who is editing, though if that's no extra work, then useful to have.

    Or, maybe auto-lock a note when it is being edited?
  • Well, again, "being edited" isn't really a clear thing. Zotero saves locally as you type and then syncs, either automatically or manually. It's not like Google Docs, where you and others are all connected to a web service as long as you have the same page open, allowing for near-real-time coordination.

    Any change here would require significant changes to how both notes and syncing work, in terms of both functionality and user experience.
  • I was thinking something along these lines:
    - Lock the note when the first save happens (which requires sending a lock ping to server)
    - Keep the note locked until no new save has happened for 2 minutes. At that point, do a sync repeat and unlock the note.

    It's not perfect, but it creates a "safe" environment and removes concerns of over-writing. And maybe this, too, is too complicated to implement.

    And when linked attachments come to groups, we can just use OneDrive or Google Drive to store and sync the attachment while Zotero continues to be the organization tool and the first place to go for any document :)
  • Thank you for the discussion.

    Just to be clear - are you all working on one Office-Document and everybody is adding citations/bibliography with Zotero on her machine? Is that an option? I am interested in that kind of cooperation and couldnt find anything in the documentation.
  • Just to be clear - are you all working on one Office-Document and everybody is adding citations/bibliography with Zotero on her machine? Is that an option?
    Yes, that just works. The tricky part is finding a mechanism to have that Word doc in sync among collaborators. By now I think storing the Word doc in One Drive is pretty robust with Zotero and actually allows simultaneous editing as long as you're not in the same paragraph (this last issue is anecdotal).

    If you don't need simultaneous access and just email the doc around or access it in turn on Dropbox (that's what we do in my group), this will work without any issues.
Sign In or Register to comment.