Newbie help with PDFs please

edited February 21, 2021
Hi there, new to Zotero and looking for help. I did already search the forum (and the manual) about this issue, and did what some posts suggested, but I think I am still doing something wrong - very grateful for your help!

Set-up: Zotero, ZotFile 5.0.16, MacOS Big Sur 11.2.1
Zotero account set up and logged in on the app.

I understand you can store PDFs on a cloud-service (dropbox), and all the non-PDF data on local drive (and also Zotero servers). I have tried doing what the guide says to enable all of this with my dropbox, but somehow all PDFs are still going to the default Zotero local directory. Here's how I'm configured:

Zotero Prefs -> Advanced -> Files and Folders:
Linked Attachment Base Directory: /Users/Me/Dropbox/Zotero PDFs
Data Directory Location: Default (/Users/Me/Zotero)

ZotFile Prefs -> General Settings:
Source Folder for Attaching New Files: [blank for now]
Location of Files: Custom Location: /Users/Me/Dropbox/Zotero PDFs

Can someone help me get this sorted out? I can sort of make it transfer already existing files over, by right-clicking and choosing rename, but what I want is for any files added, to automatically send the PDFs to the dropbox folder, and everything else to the local.


  • Any help for above much appreciated....

  • Hi,
    What you are trying to do is not recommended. Moving Zotero to Dropbox, Google Drive, or other cloud storage will irreparably corrupt your Zotero library. Recommended Options for is to Buy more space from Zotero (

    Also see :

  • No, the above set-up looks right and safe. The linked folder is in Dropbox, the data directory on the local disk.

    @paulhdub what happens when you try right-click --> Manage Attachments --> Rename attachments for some files. Does that move the files?
  • @Wakandorig I think you may have misunderstood my post. I do appreciate keeping a 'live' Zotero folder of all data and PDFs in a non-Zotero cloud service is not recommended, however that's not what I'm trying to do.

    @adamsmith thank you, yes I thought so too. Well, if I right-click as you suggest, that does move the attachments for some files. But what I want is for the default location of the PDFs to be the dropbox folder, without me having to manually manage that over time. Any thoughts?

    Is anyone else experiencing this issue?


  • @paulhdub Are you dragging the new pdfs from the desktop or are you saving the items from the browser?
  • The background of erazlogo's question is that ZotFile isn't able to move files automatically when you add a PDF and have it retrieve the metadata. It only works when you import metdata and PDF together from the browser.
  • @erazlogo and @adamsmith thank you both for your help. I am setting up Zotero from scratch but have a large library of existing PDFs that I want to import. So I was indeed dragging and dropping the PDFs from the existing folder.

    If I understand where you are heading with this, should my algo now be:

    1. Drag all the pre-existing PDFs into Zotero
    2. Manage/Rename attachments to move them to the dropbox folder
    3. Continue doing this for any additional 'manually' dragged PDFs as required
    And any PDFs I add via the browser will automatically be moved.

    Is there anything I am missing? I want to get set up the right way from the start if possible!

    Huge thanks for your help

  • That's exactly right. Note that you can do 2. in batch operations: you can select multiple (100s) items at the same time and rename to move.
  • Thanks @adamsmith !

    So it's looking like I'll have c.1000 PDFs to manually drag in. Once added, I'm guessing it will take some time for Zotero to chew through them just to index etc. not to rename. So once that's done, do you think it will be feasible to select the full amount c.1000 and rename/move in one go?


  • I don't see a particular risk in trying all at once, yes.
  • This has been really helpful, thanks all.

  • @adamsmith another quick query: I notice that if I delete files from my Zotero library (in the app), the linked folder does not seem to update and still retains the (now deleted) PDF. This seems to suggest the linked folder might require manual 'weeding' over time. Am I missing a trick here?
  • That's correct, by design, and one of the downsides of using links: Zotero doesn't touch linked file -- conceptually the assumption is that if you wanted Zotero to manage files, they'd be stored in Zotero.
  • @adamsmith got it, many thanks, you are an excellent help to a newbie!
  • @adamsmith do you happen to know if anyone has a workaround/plug-in to help with that 'weeding' I mentioned? Is there some way of finding 'unlinked' PDFs?
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