How/ Why do you use Zotero?

Hi everyone.

I see that Zotero is mainly used by students and academics as a referencing tool. Is there anyone out there who is using it as a content library - Just to store and organise articles, journals, documents... instead of a tool such as dropbox?

  • Yes, I primarily use Zotero for organizing articles and reference information. The ability to tag items and search by metadata (authors, year, etc.) is much more powerful and faster than what is possible just working with raw PDFs. I also use Collections (folders) in Zotero for each project I’m working on. The big advantage there is that the same item can exist in multiple collections in Zotero without duplicating the files, so you can have just one copy of an article with your annotations, instead of maybe a dozen copies of an article in various Dropbox folders.

    Finally, I do a lot of collaborative reviews. Zotero’s Group Libraries are really great for that.
  • I have limited culinary skills, but I store essential details of important recipes in my library, along with a few thousand other items - a mix of leftovers from researched articles and court judgments of potential use in classroom teaching. And cartoons. There are a few particularly memorable cartoons in there.
  • I work in a science communication service at a university. We use Zotero to centralise the powerpoint presentations of our workshops and their references. It is a very convenient tool to share all this in our team, as everyone needs have the last version of our ppt on various computers when we edit them.
  • I find it invaluable for taking snapshots of websites that may change.
    When I just started using Zotero, I didn't realise "snapshots" was turned on automatically. I was working on a paper and I was saving forum post threads related to the suicide of a forum member. The case blew up in the media and a lot of members deleted their posts in the days following.
    Using browser bookmarks to get back to particular reactions, I was horrified, thinking those posts were lost to me.
    Then I realised that Zotero had snapped them all and they were safe in my library. That was September 2009, been a fan and advocate ever since ❤️.
  • I am active in a variety of environments, from (now less frequent) academic research to that which supports community projects, urban planning (activism) and content related to a business interest in housing, design, accommodation. Zotero Groups could be valuable, but iI have trouble getting folks to understand that Google Drive, Slack, Dropbox, etc. all present challenges and Zotero is relative easy to adapt to. In most of my contexts, exporting citations is less relevant...but useful when needed.
  • edited July 13, 2020
    @KMadvisor For things like a reference library (versus actively-edited documents), Zotero Group libraries have a few advantages over Dropbox and similar.

    First, the same item can be part of many collections and tags. So, if a report is used in one project, then referenced again in another, you can have the same item in both places, rather than multiple copies of a file proliferating in different folders.

    Second, the items have metadata (the title, author, fields, but also the Call Number and Extra fields that might store custom information, as well as tags, notes) that is separate from the attachment file. This makes searching, tagging, annotating much easier versus, for example, a system where status tags and other information is embedded into the filename (“Done_bmw-reviewed_rejected_Title-of-a-report.pdf”).

    Third, related to the second, you can attach multiple files to the same item (e.g., a report and its appendices can be attached to the same Zotero metadata item), making organization easier.
  • Yes, bwiernik, agreed, and thanks for such clear examples. I've had trouble articulating the difference, in large part because I am less expert in the use of Zotero than I hope to be! I have used it primarily for myself, and am now introducing group work and will need to do some learning to ensure I've not stored material in ways that do not facilitate group access. Step by step...
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