Add option to select PDF viewer application in Zotero Standalone

Hi all,

Zotero has been a fantastic tool for me, and I'm very happy to have landed here after trying out Papers2 and Mendeley.

However, the lack of an option to choose the PDF viewer in Zotero Standalone seems like an important flaw. Certainly, I could just change the default PDF handler in my OS, but that really doesn't seem like the correct solution--Preview on OSX is exactly the right default PDF application for me, since it's quick and reliable, but that doesn't mean that it's the right tool for reading lots of scientific papers (most importantly because it doesn't support tabbed viewing of PDFs, so it gets very hard to keep track of more than a handful of open files).

I'd like to request an option to select the default PDF viewer application, should the user desire something other than the OS-default. Certainly I'm not the first person to ask about this:

but I haven't been able to find a formal feature request, so here goes. I understand that Zotero currently just asks the OS to open the file, and this makes sense in the general case, but is there some technical hurdle that makes it impossible to handle pdfs differently?
  • Obviously this wouldn't be a formal solution, but in theory, it should be possible to change the default handler for ZSA by modifying either about:config, some sqlite file in the profile, or mimeTypes.rdf file in profile (I had my money on this). The problem is that I can't really figure out what Firefox does, since I don't see it changing mimeTypes.rdf when I change the handler for PDFs. Dan, do you know where exactly this info goes?
  • I don't love the idea of the added complexity here, but I understand that it's a fairly common request.

    aurimas: Have you checked whether mimeTypes.rdf changes when you actually close the program? I'd guess that it's cached in memory and only written out on application close, which I think is the case for a number of Mozilla files.
  • I did check that and it didn't seem to change. I was a bit in a rush though, so maybe I did something wrong. I'll explore this again when I have some time.
  • Yes, plus one to this request (standalone, using it on Windows, want to use PDF Annotator). Is it truly impossible, adamsmith?
  • I have no insight on this. I assume it's possible in general, but the question is how to implement in a reasonable way. Whether it's currently possible by playing around in about:config I don't know - aurimas suggests it might not be, but as he says that was just a quick test.

    You can currently do this using show file -->right-click and select Open with... PDF Annotator (though obviously that's a bit clumsy).
  • Thanks for the reply. True, that's not too bad. I've also had a look at about:config and can't see a way of over-riding the default viewer.
  • I support this request.
    I like OS X Preview to be my default PDF application, but Adobe Reader's commenting system is more to my liking, so I rather have this one to be opened when I double-click a file in Zotero standalone. I don't want to change the system wide viewer, just the Zotero one.
  • +1 for the ability to change the default application for PDFs.

    An additional nice-to-have feature would be to have different applications available when right-clicking on a pdf.
  • +1 to, for the same reasons in Ubuntu : evince is a nice quick viewer for system wide reading, but I like the highlighting of Okular for scientific papers.
  • I had worked around this issue by defining my preferred pdf view in .zotero/zotero/ecpuw06r.default/mimeTypes.rdf. However, that stopped working just a few moments ago when Zotero for Firefox was somehow automagically replaced by Zotero Connector. Now, when I try to open a PDF from withing Zotero Standalone, it launches InkScape.

    I cannot figure out why that is happening. Firefox itself still opens PDFs with Okular. My system wide setting still default to Okular as defined by KDE "File Type Options" for PDFs which has Okular as the first application to try. Where is Zotero Standalone getting the idea to open PDFs with InkScape?

    I am using Zotero Standalone with Zotero Connector 5.0.26 in Firefox 56.0 on Ubuntu 16.04.3/KDE neon 5.11.3.
  • edited November 15, 2017
    Where is Zotero Standalone getting the idea to open PDFs with InkScape?
    It uses your system defaults — of which there are about a dozen possible settings on your average Linux system — but the same mimeTypes.rdf also exists in the Zotero profile directory.
  • Yes, Firefox seems to be using Okular because it is my system default. The PDF handler section I manually added to get Zotero to use Okular long ago is in my Zotero profile directory, .zotero/zotero/ecpuw06r.default/mimeTypes.rdf. The Zotero behavior changed today when Zotero for Firefox was automatically replaced with Zotero Connector.
  • edited November 16, 2017
    The behavior in the standalone version of Zotero wouldn't be affected in any way by upgrading from Zotero for Firefox to the Zotero Connector. I suspect you're either thinking of opening PDFs from Zotero for Firefox with Zotero Standalone closed (which would've used mimeTypes.rdf in the Firefox profile directory) or you also upgraded from Zotero Standalone 4.0 to Zotero 5.0 (which was also offered as a prompt yesterday) and something changed about the mimeTypes.rdf handling.
  • I realize this is an old thread but would nonetheless like to resurrect it... and request the ability for Zotero standalone to include support for a secondary PDF handling app. I very much appreciated the addition at some point of the ability to specify that Zotero use an alternative to the default system app (at least for the Mac version that I primarily use), as it allows me to one app for handling most general PDFs accessed through Finder (Preview), and another for scientific papers accessed via Zotero (PDF Viewer). But it would be awesome to be able right-click on an item within Zotero and then choose an alternate PDF viewer, or even better yet use a keyboard stroke.
  • @somainer: With the ZoteroQuickLook add-on, you can specify a custom document viewer that is called when you hit the spacebar.
  • edited February 26, 2020
    @qqbb - thanks for the link to the add-on! I'm having a few issues with it which I will raise in a separate post...

    ... but my sense it that the add-on won't really suffice as a workaround, and thus will continue to use the one suggested by adamsmith: 1) right-click, select show file; 2) right-click, open with, select app

  • If ZoteroQuickLook is not an option, you could check if your primary pdf viewer for Zotero allows calling the current document in another viewer using a keyboard shortcut. I explained this for the Windows programs SumatraPDF and PDF-XChange Editor here and here. Something similar might be possible for the programs you're using. Regarding your issue with ZoteroQuickLook, I'm planning to comment later in your other thread.
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