Dead slow

I am working in a 90 page document with about 100 citations.

Adding one reference takes about three minutes, updating the bibliography takes 10-15 minutes, but sometimes freezes Zotero. I get warning that things are corrupt and I need to follow the troubleshooting procedure.

Word, macOS, Zotero are all fully up to date. MBP 2016 still does the job.

I did the troubleshooting but there is no way to speed up the process (chopping up the document, removing it from OneDrive, accepting tracked changes, manually installing Zotero.dotm, copying contents to a blank doc, etc.). Deactivating automatic synchronisation does work when writing, although adding references is still not snappy, and adding the bibliography is a pina.

I don't have issues with other documents, so it's something in that report, but I have to find it as that's what I need to work on.

What could be going on? My reviewers did abuse the track changes function and took the liberty to change fields, but they all seem to update well if I'm lucky and patient. The issue is that it is dead slow and unreliable.
  • If there a lot of other non-Zotero fields in the document that's likely the culprit. Unfortunately Zotero integration on Mac Word is quite slow and we don't have a way to improve it. Big documents and many citations/fields degrade performance quite rapidly. Your best bet is to split it up into chapters and disable automatic citation updates. Another option is to use Windows if possible. Even running Windows in a VM with Word and Zotero will be faster than native Mac Word.
  • This is bad news, but at least it means I should stop trying. I do have a Windows laptop that syncs Zotero, so I could run the final bibliography there. Thanks and hopefully this get solved eventually.
  • In my experience, Zotero is quite slow on Mac in general. The “tricks” I use are:

    1. Split the document in chapters.
    2. Turn off automatic citations updates.
    3. After you open a document, you need patience with the first reference you add. The rest is smoother.

    I have huge documents with sometimes hundreds of footnotes full of references, and I used to have a similar MacBook as yours. I could only use it with Zotero with these tricks. Which was pretty frustrating because macOS and all other apps were more than fast enough.

    Now I have an M1 Mac and the experience is way better (even though I have to run it in Rosetta). I don’t split documents in chapters anymore. However, I still keep automatic citation updates turned off for improved performance, and the first added reference is still quite slow.
  • I use Zotero on old and newer Macs with very large documents with more than 100 references with LibreOffice and the program is _fast_ with both numeric and author-date styles. When we need to use MS Word the experience is as you described. We typically write and edit with LibreOffice and after the document is complete (and after Zotero codes have been removed) if necessary save in docx format and do minor buff-up if needed in Word.
  • Thanks, that is useful to know. I will file a bug complaint with Microsoft. Nearly all of our clients demand that we work with MS Office, so there are no workarounds possible, except using a Windows computer to compose bibliographies.

    This being said, Zotero is the main reason why I am using a Mac: I can open and read pdf's from Zotero and annotate and save them. On Windows computers with half-baked, dim screens and protection for overwriting files, this is not possible.

    So I'm between a rock and a hard place.
  • edited June 17, 2021
    I've made similar comments elsewhere, but because it may be helpful for you working on a Mac when it gets slow. Use these solutions in order of severity, as needed (approximate length suggested, but that depends on the speed of your computer and probably version of Word):

    0. Abstract length: use normal settings, including automatic citations updates if you wish.

    1. Short article (dozens or a few hundred citations): Turn off automatic citations updates. Refresh only when you need to, probably when the paper is done.

    2. Long article with many citations: Turn off automatic citations updates. Then copy the document over to a Windows machine just to refresh the citations and generate the bibliography. It can be 10x faster or more, even exponentially so if you have a very long document. You can then copy that file back to your Mac for final editing. (Just make sure you have Zotero installed on the Windows computer and synced and the same styles available, including any custom styles.)

    3. Book-length project with thousands of citations: Follow (2) but also: keep a main document open, but work on smaller sections in another window. You can just copy and paste (I save a duplicate version of my document with all contents removed so it has the same formatting), and then work in the shorter document if even just adding/editing citations becomes slow without automatic updates to the bibliography. This can happen in a very long document (thousands of citations). It may seem counterintuitive or awkward, but it's actually very easy to do, and even if your main document remains open,* that won't cause Zotero to slow down if you're only editing the citations in the smaller temporary document. Once you get used to it, this process can be very smooth, even convenient. (Once your document is long enough, working on it in Word, even just scrolling through the pages, can be sluggish, so having a shorter section separated out is actually useful independently of Zotero.)

    [*Note: don't switch between Word documents while Zotero is editing a citation. That can cause unexpected behavior or errors. And also don't accidentally try to insert a citation in the main document, because that might cause Zotero to stall for a few minutes while it reorganizes the citations there. If you're careful about that detail, it really will still seem smooth.]

    (Also note that the sluggishness is due to Word, not Zotero. Specifically, like several other features of Word for Mac not well-supported or well-designed by Microsoft, the tools available for Zotero to integrate into Word as a plugin just don't allow for faster updates than this. It works better on Windows, because Word is better designed for Windows.)
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