Zotero Sync With Box - Confusion Over Options

Hi! I'm a little confused about the multitude of sync options with Zotero. I've tried to make some semblance of sense to my confusion and pull some questions together - feel free to have me clarify if I've managed to confuse you also!

I understand that Zotero is ideally used with its own sync option, or WebDAV. I have too many files for the standard Zotero sync, and my university has unlimited storage space with Box, so I'd like to use that for my file storage and syncing. However, as I understand it, WebDAV causes any changes made to my files through Zotero to be synced directly with Box servers online, not to the folders saved locally on my computer that are then synced to Box (using a program called Box Sync, which makes the Box folders appear the same as any local ones on the computer). In this case, if I were to be offline, would I still have access to my files? Does Box normally save local copies when using WebDAV? Or would I have to use my own locally saved copy (through the locally saved Box folder), which wouldn't be connected to Zotero (since Zotero is connected to the Box server, not Box Sync's local folders)? If Zotero saves local copies as well, it sounds like I'll have two copies of every file on my computer (Zotero's local version, and my locally saved Box folder), which will quickly eat up my computer's storage space.

Additionally, if I'm offline, it sounds like any changes to my files would not be saved until I'm back online, and that my locally stored (but normally synced to Box) files wouldn't be updated until the internet connection was restored and the syncing through both WebDAV and Box had time to occur. Similarly, any change to a file that is saved in my local version of the Box folder wouldn't be made to the file that appears in Zotero, until the sync takes place. Is this correct?

Another sync option, which seems much simpler to me, is to set the Linked Attachment Base Directory option (Zotero Preferences ->Advanced->Files and Folders) to my base folder in Box where my files are stored. Then, I could do the same on any other computer for which Box Sync is installed. Box would still sync my files for me, so I could access them from Zotero or any other program like usual, and Zotero's data sync would take care of the rest. I'd only have one copy of all my files saved locally on my computer, and Zotero and any other program (PDF reader, etc.) would be accessing the same copy. Are there any major problems with this option? Why would it not better than the WebDAV sync option? Would there be any benefit for me to do this and also have the WebDAV Box sync set up, or would this potentially cause problems/be pointless?

Thank you in advance for any help/advice!
  • edited October 6, 2017
    I recommend you use WebDAV sync with Box. Zotero is a fully-offline local program. You always have access to your files when offline. Zotero’s sync function just mirrors the local copy of your files to the WebDAV server, so that they can stay up to date across multiple computers. Zotero will create a ‘zotero’ folder in your Box server. This will not be human readable, and you should not access or edit it directly. In your Box Sync Program, you should turn off syncing of the Zotero folder, otherwise you will end up with two copies of every file being synced to your computer.

    I don’t recommend using linked files in your case. That would require a lot of fiddling and effort to set up and maintain.
  • Thanks for the info!

    I guess I'm just used to being able to access my files through the local version of Box - having them saved in a Zotero-specific downloaded folder somewhere seems less convenient to me if I need to access them outside of Zotero.

    I'm a little confused why you say that the linked files option would require fiddling/effort - don't I just set the base directory to my local Box folder containing my literature files? Then Zotero will use this as the location of my literature files, and Box Sync will keep the files themselves up to date. I would leave the Zotero data directory where it is. What other maintenance/settings would be required? Am I missing something?
  • edited October 8, 2017
    That’s about it, but it’s much more work each time you want to import an item to have to separately download the pdf, put it in box, then make a link in Zotero, versus just letting the Zotero browser button import everything in one click.

    My major recommendation would be to regard Zotero as the file browser through which you access the papers, and to never try/worry about accessing the files directly. For me, half of the benefit of using Zotero is not worrying about managing my own PDFs anymore.

    You could also look into the Zotfile plugin for managing PDFs stored in the local Box folder.
  • Couldn't I just have Zotero watch a folder that I download the document to (to auto-import the file to Zotero), or still use the Zotero browser button to use the local Box folder as the location to save the file to? I was planning to have Zotfile rename imported PDFs and save them in one folder anyway, so that I would have everything organized.

    I'm sorry if it seems like I'm insisting on trying to use what you see as a less convenient option - I'm just trying to understand why it indeed is less convenient. I really appreciate your advice!
  • edited October 9, 2017
    Zotero can’t watch a folder and auto-import like that, and that just isn’t how downaloading attachments from the Zotero browser connector works, sorry.

    If you want to have all your PDFs in one folder, you will need to use Zotfile to rename and move them. (Which it can do automatically at import time.)

    (But, I’ll again suggest that you abandon the idea of needing to keep your PDFs “organized”. One of the major benefits of a program like Zotero is that it can handle things like organizing files for you behind the scenes, while also associating them with additional useful metadata and providing using a more useful interface to browse the files. For me at least, trying to find a PDF directly on my computer is a much less pleasant experience than searching for it in Zotero.)
  • And as for its less convenient to use linked files:
    a) The setup: You need to set up ZotFile, you need to set up the related folder, you need to set up Box to correctly sync the folder with the linked files and
    b) Zotero doesn't manage linked files; e.g., when you delete a file or an item in Zotero, it won't delete the linked file.
    c) Most likely this won't work with any future mobile app.

    Like bwiernik, I'd recommend using webDAV.
  • Hi @lawsonke ! I recently decided to use zotero and ran into this thread. I am a PI and run my own group in a university with unlimited box. Got one laptop and one desktop and 10 members (I will be purchasing the lab group version). I was wondering what setup you guys ended up having. I would like to have a streamlined way of sharing files with my students and they with me so that we can have one database with contributed files organized in categories/topics/whatever. I am starting fresh and would to set this up once and right :)
  • edited January 11, 2019
    @kziot: None of the above applies to groups, which need to use Zotero Storage, and if you mean that you’re planning to purchase a Zotero Lab subscription, you don’t need to do anything other than create a group and use Zotero normally. If you have other questions about group usage, you should start a new thread.
  • (Also, not that box.com will no longer support webDAV after the end of January, so that option is moot).
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