change metadate for multiple items in one go

So, the sort of thing I have in mind here (and I would be delighted if Z already does this and I just don't know it) would deal with the following scenario.

I have just added about 15 items, which I had to add one by one as webpages with snapshots of the webpages as child items - although the whole lot were PDFs that loaded into my browser. The automatic function did not seem to work (Duke Uni journals).

Each item ends up being saved in the title section like this:

"Reflections on Culture and Cultural Rights -- Robbins and Stamatopoulou 103 (23): 419 -- South Atlantic Quarterly"

and the whole item registers as a webpage.

What I want to be able to do is highlight all 15 items, and then fill in the metadata that they all have in common - and fill it in once, not 15 times. And then go back and change the meta data that needs doing individually.

This would be like the way it works in iTunes, when you select say 15 tracks from the library, hit command I (on the mac), and then edit metadata for all the tracks to the extent that you want them to have common metadata.

Any ideas? Can this be done now? Will it be taken on as a function to include, if not?
  • can't be done at the moment, no, but dev has repeatedly said that it's planned - you can find various discussions of this when you search for "batch editing"
  • I second this request. It would really be handy for me to reattribute "Newspaper Article" to some 200 articles that are currently "websites" (some of these same websites now have translators). I see this ticket but it has been sitting for quite a while. I would be happy to help with this one, as I have been enjoying Zotero for a year and proselytising its virtues.
  • Actually, 364 seems only to refer to tag editing, which is somewhat covered through the tag cloud feature. Should there not be a separate entry for the above?
  • No, that ticket's for everything.

    How would you like to help? Code? Design mockups? A description of how you think it should work? Any of the above would be more than welcome.
  • Why can't this be part of a universalt search and replace feature?
  • Anything new on this front? Would be really useful....
  • Same here: I think it would really help to clear up untidy journal (abbreviation) names and add journal abbreviations in bulk. Now it costs me a lot of time, while batch editing, common in mp3 player programs (filling in album name for mp3s in bulk) would save me precious time for real writing. Thx in advance.
  • Dan asks for a description of how that should be done as one way to help -
    what would some useful examples - I presume from the world of MP3 player programs be?

    I just know EasyTAG - which has little boxes next to a text field that apply its content to all selected items - which would work with the way Data is input in Zotero, but seems a bit clumsy overall -
    and Amarok, where editing data is done in a pop-up window, which can be slightly different (e.g. with Title greyed out) when multiple items are selected - that's more elegant, but doesn't sit as comfortable with Zotero's data input method.
  • One of the most used examples: iTunes. It would also help to give a warning popup when editing multiple items (is this possible?), just like iTunes does.

    Actually, editing in a popup window would help to emphasize on the fact that you are editing more than 1 item. And just like iTunes, some sort of autofill would be nice (zotero already does this for single items). And greying out some input fields, (like title) would help the user in not filling in the wrong info.
  • I don't like pop-ups...
    I also don't think Zotero should go to a separate, pop-up input method for multiple items.
    So I think the best way is for the right-hand panel to change somehow in a clearly identifiable way when multiple items are selected - it could even say so, maybe? Definitely gray out the title (and maybe the pages?) field.

    The next question then - which doesn't affect mp3 players - would be how to deal with the fact that items may have different fields. Some of them simply non-existent, but others with different names that are then mapped to the same csl output.
  • Good question. Maybe you could do something like foobar2000 does, (also a MP3 player):

    Say, you select multiple items, all from Nature Medicine: publication fields "Nat. Med.", "Nat Med" and "Nature Medicine" to change every journal name to "Nature Medicine". Visualize each of these journal titles in the field if possible (as seen in the foobar example in the "track title" field). When number of characters goes beyond a certain point visualize only the first characters and then: "...". If you have items that do not contain all info, visualize with "??". And For each input field name Example: 7 items
    Publication: "Nat Med (2);Nature Medicine (3), Nat. Med. (1); ?? (1)".

    Maybe also more room is needed for the field input, so outlining the field names to the left (instead of right) and using an extra line for long field names in the info pane will result in more room for the field input. This will also help when editing multiple items.

    About the field names: I think you should keep the multiple items editing to only the same "item type" items for now.
    I am sorry, but I have very very little knowledge of programming, so I hope I understood you right.
  • @ Dan Stillman
    I can help with design mockups, and depending on how I progress, perhaps a bit of the code. My background is in application support, network admin, but I'm a busy uni researcher at the moment. I won't have time until July but will continue to be subscribed to the thread.
  • Any news on this? I just installed 2.1 beta but Zotero still does not have this feature.
  • Yes, any news? This is a looooooooong time coming for something so crucial!!! I don't know how much time I waste changing items one by one.... Even iTunes can handle this!!! Not that I wish to dis Z., which I adore....
  • This would be a fantastic addition.

    adamsmith stated: I don't like pop-ups...

    I would generally agree, but in this case, multiple citation editing could do tremendous harm to a library in a very short period of time. Making it absolutely clear that it's not the usual single-item editing would be very helpful. My imagined solution would be as follows:

    After selecting a number of items, an icon on the zotero toolbar would become available for multiple-reference-editing. It would pop up a new window that would have a red title: "Multiple Citation Editor". Any common fields between all the given references would list the current field value/text. Any fields that were different between the selected citations would be listed as something like "--- CONTENT VARIES AMONG CITATIONS ---" with a red background. When a field was clicked on, it would pop up the standard options, but if the content varied between the selected citations would be preceded by an extra pop-up warning dialog ("Do you really want to replace information in the selected citations? Yes/[No]").

    I would offer to help with coding this, but I'm already busy working on creating new citation styles and code for migrating the zipped file attachments into subfolders for WebDAV server support (my library now has 800 items, and it's killing my hosting service to have >1600 items in a single WebDAV folder).

  • What is wrong with how endnote does "change text" and "change and move fields"?

    These are two distinct functions and endnote does both of them very well:
    for the first:
    -click on "change text" and a pop up window lets you choose which field (or "any field") you search for and then enter the text to change and the text to replace with. Including options to select "match words" and "match case".

    for the second:
    You click on "change and move fields" and you get a window that lets you choose between:
    -insert after the fields text
    -insert before the fields text
    -replace the whole field with
    -clear field

    there is also a menu to choose the field from.

    You can also select "move field" which gives you the options above with regard to moving, i.e.:
    move text from field "a" to field "b"
    -insert before or after the fields text or replace

    This has the advantage against the methods above that it does not necessarily delete what is in the fields that are changed.
    It also makes it very unlikely that you change a field without intending to do so, which can happen quickly if zotero would allow you to select multiple items and then simply write into the right hand pane.

    screenshots here:

    This is one area very endnote really is excellent and I would suggest to copy it. The only drawback is that you cannot change multiple fields at once, but I think this is only a very small drawback.

    If zotero does not like pop-up windows, then I would suggest that one can select multiple items in the center pane, ctrl-click and select an option "change and move fields" and then the right hand pane would change its colour, get as title: "change and move fields" and give the options described above.

    The dangers of this function could also be accomodated by having an undo function, which is still missing.
  • Migugg - You're correct, that is a much more elegant solution. However, the Zotero developers have mentioned that they're extremely busy and don't have time to add in lots of new features. The endnote-style replacement sounds great, but requires a host of extra features to be implemented (such as search & replace, and undo) that aren't trivial. A simple (temporary) editor interface could serve as a multiple item modification bridge-gap with relatively little effort required (still several hours of programming and even more for debugging). An endnote style interface would be very convenient in the longer term.
  • Hi,
    I think this would be a really helpful function since it takes a lot of time to tidy up inputs which have something in common like Journal, date, ect.
  • Hello Zotero,

    Is anyone working on this yet?

    Can anyone not see how useful it would be - having just spent god only knows how long having to edit references item by item, which could have just taken a few seconds if I could, you know, select 20 entries and change the necessary field/s all in one go!!!

    If that dilapidated monstrosity called iTunes can do it, I don't see why Zotero can't!

    Increasingly annoyed! (But still spruking Z to all my new colleagues. Sigh).
  • I should add that the "duplicate selected item" option is a useful time saver, but it really only goes part of the way. So i make an item that has journal name, date, volume, issue - duplicate it, say, in this case, 9 times (which you have to do one by one). And THEN - add in title, author/s, page numbers for each item....

    Similarly, when one is sourcing items by one author from a multitude of places, where their names are recorded differently - sometimes full name, sometimes with an initial for first name, or fullname, or in caps, or some other variation: to be able to select all, say, 30 items, and changes the author field in one hit.

    This would be particularly useful given the way in which Zotero thinks, when it comes to adding references in documents, that each variation in author name means it is a different author - also causing extra work time editing and changing things....

    ok. I'm done now, for the moment.....
  • I don't think anyone doubts that this would be immensely useful.
    I haven't seen any movement on this on TRAC and my sense is that Zotero Everywhere is the priority of the core dev team.
    I doubt you'll get any more detail from devs themselves, either. It's just a resource issue.
  • As a workaround I exported a some references to zotero RDF, opened it in notepad and used find and replace. I did this because references I exported in an RIS file from Refworks were all treated as item type "webpage" and I changed them all to "journalarticle".
  • Note that this will work great for data that's just imported, but should absolutely _not_ be done for data that you've already used in documents as it will break all links to citations in Word/Ooo.
  • I skimmed this and am about to go search for "batch editing." I've decided that some of my organization that I've done with collections, I'd rather have as tags. If it's not currently planned, would be great to add (and make obvious how to do). Thanks!
  • tags are actually the one thing you can batch edit easily already--just drag items to a tag in the tag selector on the left.
    You can also globally rename a tag there.

    (Batch removing tags isn't really possible. You can delete a tag entirely, but otherwise batch delete from multiple items only works for colored tags via the number key assigned to that tag).
  • One short idea. Would it be possible to use the merge feature to adopt that to a batch process window. After selecting some items you will see in the right pane all fields and then you can per field either choose one of the old entries or add something new. And instead of a merge button you will have a accept button and after clicking that the new field information is written in all chosen items.
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