[Zotero PDF reader] Ideas, suggestions, and features request

edited April 9, 2021
Hello Zotero Developers/Team,

Since the original thread https://forums.zotero.org/discussion/88064/available-in-preview-zotero-pdf-reader-and-new-note-editor is closed before I noticed only recently this new exciting development of such a life-changing feature, I would like to summarize some of my ideas, suggestions, and features request as follows:

Some background (the details may be skipped): I've been using Zotero within Firefox Portable edition since 2011, and now I still keep the entire Firefox profile and use it with Firefox legacy v52, with 30+ XUL/XPCOM extensions non-migratable/un-upgradable to WebExtensions and NPAPI plugins for both PDF and DjVu reading. (Well, although I could upgrade to Waterfox classic portable edition by simply moving the entire Firefox profile folder containing Zotero to the corresponding place under Waterfox, I have 50+ opened tabs of which the URLs are absolute paths linking to the PDFs/HTMLs in the Zotero profile folder, and starting from some version of Zotero that I couldn't remember long time ago, when opening a Zotero item's PDF attachment/HTML snapshot within Firefox, the old-style link such as zotero://attachment/5/ were no longer opened by default in a tab, and opening by absolute paths to the attachments became the default behavior. So moving the entire Firefox profile folder to a new place means that I will have to change all absolute paths of affected tabs manually one-by-one.)

Now, this new exciting PDF reader right within Zotero finally opens up the possibility for legacy users like me to de-couple Zotero from the profile folder of Firefox legacy v52 and upgrade to Zotero latest version (portablized by https://github.com/pedrom34/ZoteroPortable), and use it with any version of Firefox portable, while retaining the legacy portable Firefox+Zotero user experience as much as possible. The current status of this new development is almost there and will achieve this for sure, as long as it can implement some last mile-like features/functionalities that I suggest and request as below:

(1) Adding NPAPI plugins support, so that it can use open source tools such as Sumatra PDF plugin to open both PDF and DjVu in tabs within Zotero;

(2) Adding support for XUL/XPCOM Firefox extensions, so that those well-known ones - such as Tab Mix Plus and Session Manager - can be used within Zotero to achieve advanced and powerful tabs organizing and sessions management;

(3) Adding support for opening locally stored webpage snapshots in Zotero tabs, so that a separate browser is no longer needed to view them; and if possible, maybe even making Zotero capable of viewing the URL of a Zotero item online in a tab when right-clicking on that item to select "View online", just like a web browser and/or the legacy Firefox+Zotero experience.

I know the second part of (3) may be out of scope, since Zotero is not a web browser after all, but as long as it can view the locally stored webpage snapshots in tabs within Zotero, it will still be great enough. And the second part of (3) may be achieved alternatively, for example, when I right click an item in Zotero and select "View online" (or maybe also "View Snapshot" or "View PDF"), Zotero can send the link/URL (or maybe also the local path) to the Firefox Portable (where the Zotero connector is installed) to open it in a tab. Compared to (1) through (3) above, I guess it may be easier and less complicated to implement this in Zotero Connector to achieve a two-way communication, i.e., not only can Zotero connector send a webpage/PDF from Firefox Portable to Zetero (who listens on localhost:23119) to save it, but also it can listen (probably on another local port) and capture all viewing requests with URLs/local paths from Zotero and send them back to Firefox where Zotero Connector is installed. If this is possible, then (1) through (3) above might not be needed so indispensably for now.

I sincerely hope either (1) through (3) above, or the alternative approach through the above new suggested feature of Zotero Connector is feasible and can be included in the next release/version 6.0. And I really hope you can keep Zotero great as the most powerful and perhaps the only open source knowledge management tool capable of organizing everything structured with meta-information.

Many thanks in advance!
  • edited April 10, 2021
    You've got to know that (1) and (2) aren't realistic requests — they're technological dead-ends and not relevant to >99.9% of Zotero users.

    1) NPAPI has been removed from all browsers as a security risk and absolutely isn't going to be added.

    2) Zotero plugins are still XUL/XPCOM-based but they won't be in the future, and there's absolutely no chance that generic legacy Firefox-specific extensions will work in Zotero, beyond the one or two that have been explicitly made to work previously. Zotero's tab functionality has nothing to do with Firefox XUL tabs. There's just no connection there. XUL is dead.

    3) Snapshots may be displayed within Zotero again, but not for the foreseeable future.

    Generally, I'm just not clear on what you're doing here and what about the standard Zotero experience doesn't work for you. But that would be the place to start with any feedback, before we can figure out possible solutions for you.
  • Hi dstillman,

    Thank you so much for the reply!

    Now I understand (1) and (2) are no longer possible or planned. So I hope the alternative approach I mentioned can be implement. In fact, what I want to achieve is just a using experience of legacy Firefox Portable+Zotero for Firefox (version 4 or earlier): when I right click an item in Zotero and select "View online" or "View PDF" or "View Snapshot", the webpage link/snapshot or PDF will be opened in a tab inside the Firefox portable where the Zotero for Firefox is installed.

    So the alternative approach I mentioned in my original post is that, when I want to view a Zotero item's online link/local snapshot/PDF, Zotero can send the viewing request containing the online link or local path to Zotero connector, and after capturing the URL or local path, Zotero connector will pass it to Firefox (or any other browser) in which it is installed, and then Firefox will open a new tab or use the current tab to open the URL or local path.

    This is the closest behavior to the using experience of legacy Firefox Portable+Zotero for Firefox. The behavior now in the current version of Zotero is that, when I try to view any Zotero item by choosing "View online" or "View PDF" or "View Snapshot", it will be always opened in the default program, e.g., the default web browser or default PDF viewer defined in the operating system. So what I want is just always opening them within the browser in which Zotero Connector is installed.

    I hope this won't be too complicated to implement. Thanks again for your reply!
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