Searching across all group libraries

Dear all,

We have several folders in the Group Libraries (one for the students, one of the research group, and so on) and we need to be able to search across all of them. How do you do that?

Corrado Topi
Stockholm Environment Institute
University of York
  • Your wording is a bit confusing. I think you mean that you have multiple group libraries (all grouped under the heading "Group Libraries"). In that case, you cannot search across multiple libraries.
  • (Though if you indeed just have multiple collections in a single group library, you can search through all of them by first clicking on the group library on the left or by using advanced search and selecting that group library at the top left).

    I believe allowing cross-library search is still planned, but it poses non-trivial GUI issues, so I wouldn't expect it to happen very soon.
  • From this and other similar discussions on the forum I conclude that a quick search across multiple (group) libraries is not yet possible and apparently difficult to implement.

    As a question/suggestion from someone without any programming skills:
    Would it be possible to leave the search term in the search field active as you click through your various libraries?
    Right now, once you highlight another library, the term in the search field disappears and you need to re-type it (or copy once and then re-paste it for each library) to repeat the search in another library; which is a bit cumbersome. If the search term would stay "alive", one could relatively quickly search through numerous libraries by clicking on them one by one.

    Not as a total solution, but I think this might make things easier and much quicker.

    Thanks for all your great work with Zotero!!
  • Hi
    I will support the importance of the feature "searching accross multiple (Group-Libraries)".
    My scenario is similar to that of Corrado. I have beside my own library a lot of group libraries, where I share subtopics of my lib with a special research subgroups. Often I have the task, to find duplicates across multiple libs to unify them by hand or I know to have read an article - but I do not find it without searching all groups and my lib by hand. These tasks could be simplified by an "across all group" search.
    I have seen in the advanced search window, that there is a library-selector already implemented. But at the moment there is no selector-entry for "search in all libs".

    I have a suggestion for an easy realisation of this "multi-lib" search. We need in my opinion only two things:
    First we need a simple check-box beside the search field, to enhance the search database to "all libs". Checking it will expand the search on all libs (my lib and all group libs). Not checking the box will restrict the search to the current active lib only (as it is implemented at the moment).
    Second we need an additional column in the mid-pane (where the results are shown), which indicates the name of the library for every entry.

    Otherwise the "work around" from schibones could also be usefull to simplify these tasks.
  • Is any progress being made on this? Is it in the pipeline? Are there any work-arounds?

    For those of us who do collaborative research - and I would sincerely hope that is more and more of us - such functionality would save us SO much time. I have over 100 group libraries, each of them with multiple sub-libraries, many of them with multiple members. I now often resort to re-entering items instead of finding existing ones that I know are in another group library, just because I know that will take much longer. But so this leads to a lot of (unnecessarily) duplicated ones AND to wasted time...
  • Most new features have been waiting on the release of Zotero 5.0, which overhauled most of the underlying code in Zotero. I'm not sure where this feature sits in terms of priority for Zotero 5.1 and after.

    It's important to keep things in perspective. Having 100s group libraries is far outside the norm. As far as I am aware, I am in the high range of number of groups, and I am a member of only around 20.
  • edited June 7, 2017
    Thanks Brenton. And sure, I understand my case is atypical. But even on 20 libraries, I'm sure you've run into similar problems. It's just that this seems like such a relatively easy functionality to add. And - incidentally - especially also on the server side via the Zotero website.
  • edited June 7, 2017
    It would certainly be a nice feature, and I'm sure it will be implemented at some point. I'm just saying that it isn't so pressing for most users as to make it a high priority for developer attention, and there are some UI and display related challenges to figure out regarding how to display these search results, making implementing it on-trivial.
  • Just to be clear -- the challenge for this is entirely GUI, at least at the client level (the website might be more complicated). It's trivially easy to search through all libraries in the Zotero sqlite on a technical level. The Qnotero app actually does this:
  • Wow! Thanks for that insight, Sebastian! I was not aware of that, but am diving into it right now...
  • edited June 28, 2017
    Ok, I've now installed Qnotero and am trying to make it work. But the documentation is, well, sparse :) It just tells you how to install it, but not how to use it. I have a fairly big (27 GB) Zotero library. I told the installation program where my Zotero folder is, and it accepted it. I see it in the system tray. But when I try to search for something that I know is in there (e.g. my last name), it shows 'no results'. Can anybody help?
    Also - aren't there any other other programs out there that are not Zotero-specific, but that just allow you to do (hopefully also advanced) searches on various fields of the sqlite file?
    [And I take Sebastian's word for it, that such a more global search option across our (offline OR online) libraries poses various GUI and/or website problems, but it still seems to me that these should not be insuperable...]
  • I wouldn't get my hopes up on any non-Zotero-specific app. sqlite is too variable a format to allow for anything generic short of an sqlite reader, which exists but is, to put it mildly, not for the faint of heart.

    Can't say what's not working about Qnotero, though. You're positive it's looking in the right place? Documentation is sparse simply because there isn't much to document. It sits in your system tray, you search, it finds.
  • edited December 21, 2017
    Ok - so I just tried this again. I did point qnotero to the folder where my Zotero files are (as shown in the Edit|Preferences|Advanced|Files and Folders|Data Directory Location dialogue box). And all I can say is that when I am in some group library, and I try to search (in Zotero) for items that I know to be in another group library - it doesn't find it. When I open the qnotero desktop app in Windows, and enter the author (again: of an item that I know to be in another group) there - it once again says 'no results'. So what could I be doing wrong?
    Admittedly - I have a fairly large library (32 gigs). Could that be the problem? Also - how does qnotero actually work? Does it re-index things? Could that take a long time? Is it fully integrated into Zotero - i.e. does it 'take over' Zotero search; or does it only work in its own interface?
  • Yes, sorry, Qnotero is not Zotero 5 compatible:
  • I see. Well, I just also wrote Sebastiaan. Fingers crossed...
  • I just wrote him again :) It would be great if somebody else could also help him out...
  • edited January 23, 2018
    UI idea: a simple solution could be to at least add cross-library search to advanced search by adding "All libraries" to the "Search in library" list in Advanced Search.
  • Have 4 group libraries and the cross group library search is indeed a requirement for the groups to work well. This is keeping me from forcing my coauthors to switch to zotero completely and paying for zotero storage.

    Will modify QNotero python code to adapt it to Z5 whenever I have time following @adamsmith
  • That'd be great! If you feel the pain with 4 groups, imagine the pain I feel with my 71 groups :)
  • Searching across groups is also that I have!
  • edited November 9, 2018
    Hi @adamsmith. This is a really important missing feature. Why? The first thing I do when I come across or return to an article I'm interested in is check to see if I already have a copy, and if I have any notes on it. But this is very cumbersome, if I have to search all the group libraries separately!
    I strongly endorse @danmichaelo 's idea - which from the earlier discussion looks like it would be trivial to implement:
    "UI idea: ...add cross-library search to advanced search by adding "All libraries" to the "Search in library" list in Advanced Search."
  • I don't work on that part of the code, so I can't say much about the why and this would be very useful for me personally, too.

    The GUI issue is more about the display of results than the search: How do you show the search results and the libraries they belong to. This isn't insurmountable by any means, but it's more than just adding a button.
  • Thanks @adamsmith . But I'm not sure why is there any significant GUI issue here - the current GUI manages to search and locate items in Collections and Subcollections (often in *multiple* collections, or even (near-)*duplicate* items in *different* collections). Why not just create an "All libraries" root (containing My library and all group libraries), treated as "My Library" (containing your personal Collections and Subcollections) is presently treated?
    Indeed, if there was a root All Libraries icon shown in the left pane, users wouldn't even need to open Advanced Search to do their global searches. Sounds like a pretty straightforward enhancement, no?
  • No -- Groups are a much more fundamental distinction than collections. For example, items in groups can have different editing permissions, etc. Just throwing them all together in any view is not acceptable.

    Honestly, it's really not worth discussing this very much. Everyone is convinced that this needs to happen, so no disagreement there, and you are not going to convince any of the devs that this is a completely trivial change.
  • @srippon Here's a tedious solution, but maybe less tedious than your need to search all groups individually?

    You could consider creating a group (with only one member, you) or use your My Library as a place to store a copy of all items in all groups. That is, create your own superset that is only useful for searching. Obviously, it has it's own overhead, but if you often need to do searches across groups, this will still save you significant time. You can drag-drop new items from each group in to this superset group, maybe once a week or daily. The time saved is going to be a function of how many groups you have and how often you search these groups for an article.

    Note that the superset is only to answer the question if an article exists in any group/s. Your main article is still going to be the one in the origin group (since groups do not sync between themselves to keep an entry up to date). And you might not be able to tell the source group for an article found in the superset (or you could if you tag items in a group with the group name).

    I am not sure if you try to copy the an item that exists in multiple groups, will the superset have multiple copies or it will prevent none but the first copied item to exist.
  • Just wondering whether any progress has been made on this. For instance, through the Web Library?
  • Just joining @sdspieg in their curiosity.
  • I would find searching across group libraries helpful too. Thanks.
  • First – thanks so much to everyone who makes Zotero run! It's a pleasure in so many ways.

    I thought I'd just add my support for minimally the feature of a checkbox (like e.g. Thunderbird has in its quicksearch feature) which, if you check it, would let the search term be 'sticky', so that if you've already typed it in and then switch to another library, the search terms you'd already typed would still be there. Not sure if this is as difficult to implement GUI-wise as the request of a single search that at once checks multiple libraries – but just in case it's easier, it would be incredibly helpful and less tedious. Many thanks again!

  • I support search across group libraries too.
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