Feature request: PDF review in right side bar

I think Zotero is nice to use but one thing nags me: I cannot quickly skim the article content like Endnote which have PDF preview in sidebar.

So I think it is beneficial to add the PDF preview in the right side bar.
  • Some sort of PDF preview has been requested before, but I'm a bit skeptical that most people would be able to see anything meaningful in most PDFs in a narrow sidebar.
  • @dstillman It's meaningful, because when I add some new articles, or have lot of articles that I have been read a long time ago, It's may difficult to quickly locate the paper I want just through the title (the tags are good but not enough). Then PDF preview helps it.
  • Hi everyone! I just spent an afternoon developing this new plugin Zotero PDF Preview, which I think is an excellent solution to this discussion. Thanks to Zotero 6 's integrated pdf.js, it is effortless to do a preview.

    You can select items in the library view and the PDF preview(first 10 pages) will appear inside the right bar! Fast & easy.

    See https://github.com/windingwind/zotero-pdf-preview for download and more information.
  • Thanks @hsiangyu_wong . That's a really useful add-on. I have recently been cleaning up author formatting problems (separating full names where they were under lastname, removing trailing comma added by Zotero when using Swap First/Last names, separating unspaced double initials, etc). Often I needed to quickly look at the PDF to check author names. Opening/closing the full PDF reader window for that got to be tedious. Your PDF preview solves that. My only suggestion would be a zoom option, as the text is often too small in my usual right pane size; but I can partly solve that myself by making the right pane wider while doing the author cleanups.
  • edited July 14, 2022
    Often I needed to quickly look at the PDF to check author names. Opening/closing the full PDF reader window for that got to be tedious.
    Not to take anything away from @hsiangyu_wong 's impressive work on the plugin, but how is it any faster or easier to click the Preview tab, possibly zoom in, memorize the spellings, and click back to the Info pane for editing than to double-click (or press Return/Enter) on the item, edit the info in the right-hand pane while looking at the full-size PDF, and then click (or press Cmd/Ctrl-W) to close the PDF tab?

    For this use case (and most others), something closer to the older ZoteroQuickLook plugin makes more sense to me, where, as in Finder on macOS, you can keep a larger preview window open as you move through items while still having access to the main window.
  • I think the preview makes a big difference for me. I often remember a paper by author, and search for that, and find about 10-15 papers by that authors in my library, reported as a list. I then remember by visual memory how that specific paper I am looking for looks like, judging by format, annotations and a key figure, perhaps. The preview lets me see just that, quickly browsing through the list by up-down-arrow, without requiring to open the files. Also, on a big iMac, the previews are quite readable!
  • @burgarth: Right, but your example would be addressed just as well by a macOS/ZoteroQuickLook-style popup, or by your cover view suggestion. I'm just suggesting that the right-hand pane might not be the best place for this.
  • @dstillman I am not a big fan of popups, but I agree that a cover view would be the best solution. Ideally also with customisable covers: calibre has the option to download covers (of books) automatically for PDFs which do not have nice covers.
  • edited July 14, 2022
    I am not a big fan of popups
    It's not really a popup — it's more a separate window. Just to be clear, I'm talking about the Quick Look feature that's been part of macOS for many years — what you get when you press space bar in Finder. You can trigger it, position it where you want, and move through files with the arrow keys while it's open. That's how ZoteroQuickLook (which on macOS just triggered a version of the system feature) worked, and restoring a version of that using the built-in PDF reader would certainly be possible.
  • I understand the suggestion of @dstillman, as it may be useful for the data correction process. I am not a mac user, so I cannot comment on QuickLook.
    For me, it would be very convenient to move between several items to recall the item I need quickly. The option of a preview of no more than 10 pages is more than enough for me because it is a quick visualization...
  • Oh, I never realised that you can use the arrow keys when Quick Look is open :) Mac has also the "Show as gallery" option, and also the "show preview" option which puts a preview in the right side bar.
  • edited July 16, 2022
    Thank you all for the suggestions!
    I've added some new features to the Zotero PDF Preview. Go to Edit->Preferences->Preview to enable/disable them:

    - Preview with annotations/inks. It's disabled by default to speed up the preview.
    - Dark mode of the preview
    - Number of pages to preview. It's 10 by default to speed up the preview.

    Agree with @warguelles . I think the biggest advantage of the preview is, that I can travel between the PDFs with the arrow keys, and it's faster than QuickLook, at least on Windows.

    Also, QuickLook cannot display the annotations done in Zotero, which is definitely a great shortage.
  • Thanks @hsiangyu_wong I very much like the preview of annotations! Do you think a cover view is also possible? Where instead of a list of entries, we see a grid of all the first pages of the previews? Please apologise if I put in so many requests here :)
  • edited July 16, 2022
    Currently you could just set the pages to preview to 1 and only the first page, usually the cover, will be displayed.
    I’m considering to add an extra cover view to the info tab. I wonder if this is the cover view you mentioned?
  • @hsiangyu_wong what I had in mind is seeing the first pages of multiple files at ones. Think of the icon view in a file manager, with icons large enough. Or calibre's cover view, https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-sukuK5_MtvA/UhNtm6acNhI/AAAAAAAAANU/Ii_Zix-hehM/s1200/grid1.png
  • @dstillman: I definitely liked the QuickLook feature, but I never found it as useful as the ability to view a preview of the pdf in panel next to the library. Bibdesk has this preview and I found that very useful before moving over to Zotero.

    @hsiangyu_wong: excellent plugin. what would make this a killer plugin for me would be if if the "item pane" where the Preview is could be split vertically. Then you could have "Info" in the top item pane panel and "Preview" in the bottom item pane panel. It might only be useful when Zotero is full screen, and might be technically hard to do, but it'd make the pdf preview so much more useful imho :-) .
  • @burgarth
    Thanks for the suggestion. Currently, Zotero doesn't store the cover view of an item/attachment, thus switching to the cover view of a large collection might be very slow. Maybe caching the cover image in an item note could be a workaround. I'll try.

    I'll make this possible in the next update. Thanks!
  • @jeremyvancleve
    The plugin v0.2.0 supports the vertically split view inside the info tab panel. You could enable/disable the split view/tab view in the Edit->Preferences

    The previews are now lazy-loaded to decrease unnecessary resource consumption. Only if the preview tab is active the PDF will be rendered.
  • @hsiangyu_wong: wow, excellent, exactly what I was thinking of. this really makes Zotero a complete solution for browsing references with PDFs
  • @hsiangyu_wong
    Thank you for your excellent plugins. I wonder if an option is considered to change the preview panel at the bottom of the info tab?
  • This is working very well for me. Thanks very much! I would echo zhaoyx's suggestion that the preview be at the bottom of the info tab (or at least optionally) as I think that would feel more natural.
  • I think this is an awesome feature. I used to use windows_explorer preview function, then flip to zotero when I recognized what i wanted - definitely saves the back and forth hassle Well done!
    The only thing I have found is that i link my PDF files by attaching them as a link. I do this because I transfer the pdf file to my "reMarkable" portable reader. So the original is in my google drive, that zotero's linked to, my reader can extract that I can read it make notes on the move, then upload it back to google drive and because of the link zotero automatically updates it.(hope that makes sense)
    With the new (awesome) addin I can only preview "unlinked" files - does anyone think there might be an easy fix?
  • I also echo the suggestion of @zhaoyx.
  • @zhaoyx @bentle @jeremyvancleve
    Please try the latest v0.2.1. Now the preview position in Info Tab could be either top or bottom.
    Configure settings in Edit->Prefs->Preview.
  • @hsiangyu_wong Thank you very much for the plugin!
    I see some issues with the positioning in the Info tab: Zotero_Preview_01.png.
    Using Zotero 6.0.12-beta.2+fc0f6157d on Windows 10.
  • Thanks @mjthoraval , I can reproduce this bug when the BBT plugin is enabled. I'll fix it soon.
  • @hsiangyu_wong is there a way to preview PDF files which do not have Parent Items?
  • @mjthoraval
    I've fixed this layout bug. Please update to the latest v0.2.2
  • @burgarth
    The standalone PDF files have a different sidebar: an outline editor. Any suggestions on where to put the preview?
  • @D19389785
    Planned. Thanks for the suggestion!
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