Some suggestions on user interface


I have just migrated from Endnote to Zotero, and I find Zotero has many features I dreamed of. But there are still some places I think could be improved.
1 Add a find fulltext button, let user choose which items to download fulltext, because sometimes after I've read the abstract I find the paper is not interesting and put it into trash, if the fulltext is downloaded automatically, it is a waste of bandwidth. And a setting to let user decide if fulltexts should be downloaded automatically or manually.
2 Merge title bar,menu bar and tool bar to one bar,this could save some screen space for small screen computers. I often wrok on my netbook which has a small pixel Qi screen.
3 Add a tab to display abstract on the right pane, I think the most often read part of a reference is the abstract, put it on a single tab gives user more space. It is even better is we could adjust the font and customise the entry displayed and their order in the info tab.

Thank you!
  • 1. You can adjust in the general preferences whether pdfs and/or snapshots are downloaded automatically. I don't see an unobtrusive way to allow users to choose every time - and frankly, for most users bandwidth is a negligible issue - where it's really a concern (say, in large parts of Africa), it's probably a good idea to have auto-download off in the first place.
    2. I assume that refers to standalone? I dont' think that can be done easily, as the way these windows work depend on the OS - e.g. under ubuntu in full window mode the title bar is moved to the top of the screen already, to move the menu up would require customization specific to ubuntu etc.
  • Thanks adamsmith.

    But I think:
    1 What if I want to download the fulltexts for items that was added when the automatical down of pdfs was unchecked, it won't hurt if the download fulltext command is placed in the right click context menu or put an icon on the tool bar.
    2 But you still have two bars: menu bar and tool bar. I don't think this is configurable in the os.
    All I suggested are maybe just some small changes which will make using Zotero more pleasant.
  • What if I want to download the fulltexts for items that was added when the automatical down of pdfs was unchecked
    You can drag a (direct) PDF link onto the item in the Zotero items list to save it as a child attachment.
  • The bars cannot be merged, this is a limitation of the windowing system. Similarly, you cannot position a Word toolbar inside the Word menubar. Of course, you could remove the toolbar altogether and hide the functionality inside menus, but this would decrease usability.
  • Thank you guys!

    1"drag a (direct) PDF link onto the item in the Zotero items list to save it as a child attachment." this partly solved problem 1.
    2 the task bar and menu bar can be merged, as you can see in the picture.
    3 I still think it is good to add an abstract tab, see in the above picture also.
  • 2) Technically, I think that the screenshot does not have a menu bar, but a tool bar with embedded menu. I do not think that this can be done with XUL Runner, but if you think that it is possible, please provide a link for the documentation that describes how to accomplish that with XUL Runner.

    3) I think that there is some wasted space as well, and because of this, I implemented the abstract field a bit differently in ZotPad. Unfortunately, I do not have a screenshot at this point.
  • 3.) I think having a tab with a citation preview and an abstract would be great - there is clearly space for more tabs and these two requests - which come up quite a bit - could be combined in one.
  • the task bar and menu bar can be merged, as you can see in the picture
    Not going to happen. 1) It's completely non-standard, 2) the Zotero toolbar isn't just a single component that can be moved as in your screenshot—most of the buttons correspond logically with the column below, 3) it'd have to be inconsistent with Zotero for Firefox, 4) it'd have to be inconsistent across platforms, because on OS X menus are at the top of the screen, not within the window.
  • When I merge two citations which have two copies of exactly the same fulltext attached, the duplicated citations disappear but I get two duplicated pdfs. So I still think that "1 Add a find fulltext button, let user have the choice to download fulltext or not" is still necessary, because I can omit citations already have fulltext attached, I don't need to delete the duplicate, save bandwidth and electricity too.
  • Just find out Zotero can't find fulltext if I import the citation from a RIS file, though the ris file do have a link to the same web page, maybe that's the reason the find fulltext command is missing.
  • edited May 16, 2012
    I would like a better user interface, with abstract in large not in column for little screen.And the opportunity to open several documents in the same time but diffrent tab.
  • I just learned zotero is written in javascript, can anybody show me what I need to do to design my own or modify the default zotero stand alone gui?
    And what part of the source code on github is for the standalone?
    Probably I should learn python and to modify a package called qnotero ( )
    Thank you very much!
  • The code for standalone and for the Firefox add-on is the same, so GUI changes would affect both. Standalone is then built using the build scripts here:
    but they do basically nothing GUI related. Also, the interface isn't actually programmed in javascript, but in XUL:
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