Using Zotero with Roam

If you use Roam I can strongly recommend looking at the Zotero-roam-export plug-in (by @laurence80386 I believe...). It opens up many possibilities for the research and writing workflow. For now, I add a link in the Zotero record back to the Roam page for two-way linking, but it's early day and I'm still exploring.

Interested to hear about other workflows.
  • edited July 1, 2020
    What is Roam?
  • Sorry. Meant “what is Roam”
  • Ah, understood! ;-)

    I'm going to sound like everyone else who tries to describe Roam ( I'll either sound like a member of the "roamcult" - which I definitely am not - or someone who blindly follows a hunch that some new software has the potential to be transformative, but can't quite say why - yes, that's more like me.

    It can be seen as *the* tool to use for note-taking, productivity, research, writing, knowledge management, bullet-journalling, spaced repetition, networked thought,...

    It is talked about as a replacement for tools like Evernote, Notion, ...

    It has some unique(ish) features such as bi-directional linking and block referencing and other stuff going on under the hood that is not clear to me, but from my limited use so far, I like where it is going.

    To pick just one overview that gives an idea of what Roam can do, try this: (but there are many other videos and web sites).

    It may be turn out to be (expensive) snake oil, but I recommend giving it a 14-day trial and decide for yourself. I'd love it if more academics / researchers gave it a whirl and reported back.

    And if you do decide to work with Roam, then 'zotero-roam-export' is a must.
  • Good summary @richard.masters. Yes it is me behind the exporter :)

    I'm slowly transferring more of my research workflow into Roam. So far I've drafted one paper using it, and I found the note fragments -> writing process to have much less friction than a traditional word processor. I'm not completely sold yet, because it requires some commitment to input before the 'networked thought' aspect shows itself, but I think it has the potential to be a game-changer for academics (and I'm already mapping out the skeleton of my next paper in Roam).
  • I'm only just getting into Roam, but the possibilities of what they call (block-level transclusion - explained here are really appealing to me.
    I've spent 12 or so years feeding material - quotations, thoughts etc into my Zotero database and the bit where I always struggle is when I need to get it all out of there and draw it together into a draft. The thing that worked best in the end was creating a report, laying out all the pages on the floor and taking coloured markers and scissors to them.
    I need to play around a bit more with it (pandemic teaching and admin really not helping here), but think it could be really useful.
  • @FHeimburger yes! My problem with Zotero was always that last stage; I played around before with exporting mindmaps etc, but didn't have much success, and Zotero (for all its excellent, excellent functionalities) silos information in ways which create a lot of friction when it comes to making connections between items and notes and ultimately, then, to writing.

    It's that last piece of the puzzle that Roam has the potential to solve, I think. The combination is pretty exciting.
  • Update on Zotero-roam-export:

    I'm pleased to say that @laurence80386 continues to fix bugs and actively enhance the add-on and it is proving to be a very useful piece of my academic workflow.
  • @richard.masters Thanks for posting this! Roam is really useful. It is true that there is a strange cult around it but the tool has its merits.
  • Hey guys.
    Love the package and add-on.

    Does anyone know how to customize what metadata gets exported?
  • edited September 21, 2020
    Hi Zotereans,
    Does anyone knows how to use Zotero citation while using tools other than Microsoft Word or Libre Office? I would like to be able to write in any text editor (e.g. drafts) and be able to include a temporary citation (like endnote does, with a simple copy+paste I get {Horrocks, 2010 #13}, so that once the document is ready for formatting, citation are interpreted by Zotero.
  • Thanks for the link and all the info. I am afraid it is too technical for me! I am just a biologist... Is there any easy way to sort out exactly what I need to do to be able to have a really easy workflow like in Endnote instead of adding friction?
  • This is a different approach, that one might consider easier (depending on one's background):

    But I think you will always observe some level of friction in this kind of workflow.
  • Many thanks. After some fiddling with the installatio, it actually works quite well. You have made a huge difference in simplfying my work flow!
  • Would be amazing if there was a way for Zotero to save methods and results section as it does for abstract although I know that this is not possible as the metadata it collects are from elsewhere.

    Has anybody found a way to do this? It would be great to be able to build a large database of paper's metadata including methods and results in roam in order to make connections between different concepts!
  • Hi, I'm looking for a way add linked citations within Roam, like I do within Microsoft Word, and importantly, how these citations can persist once I copy my draft into Microsoft word for final edit and sharing with co-authors. I'm curious how you are approaching this..
  • If you want to get to Word with live Zotero citations, then you should insert citations using the ODF Scan Zotero plugin ( and then follow the steps to move from LibreOffice to Word (
  • @ vijen
    I thought that a solution using citekeys from Zotero would not be difficult to implement but apparently is not so. I wanted to be able to do what frankly Endnote does very well: simply ctrl+c on top of the reference then paste in to document (it looks like this {Horrocks, 2010 #13}). Once the document is ready for formatting,or you require immediate format, the citation is converted to the style required. In Zotero it takes a number of transformations (better-BibTeX) before you get the final result. And if you make a mistake,... too bad, start again.
  • If you want that, you don't need BBT. Just set the quick-copy translator to scannable cite.
  • @emilianoeheyns thanks for your help. In fact, that helps but still adds friction to the workflow. Particularly when formatting. In looking to replace Endnote for Zotero, the big push would be to have the possibility of live formatting. Meaning having a word document always open and changes in Zotero would immediately translate into changes in the text. Another interesting feature would be to have an easier way to do italics.
  • The earlier sample you gave doesn't sound like live formatting. If you want live formatting, why not just use the zotero word plugin? That gets you the insert and live formatting, and it's the primary way zotero is used.
  • I used roam and Zotero and the small but great tools, and it is much clear for me to link different papers and notes. thanks!
  • Dear all, especially @laurence80386

    Is it possible to (optionally) import Zotero items to Roam via "Zotero to Roam Export", in a way that there is no extra "metadata" bullet or block in Roam, but all the items/attributes that belong to metadata (author(s), date, URL etc), will be in a separate bullets, following each other under each other (i.e. there is no hierarchy)?

    Or can I customise it somehow on my own to make it this way?

    In any case, thanks for the effort and after trying today, this looks very promising add-on!
  • @laurence80386 @richard.masters
    Thanks for this valuable add-on and information! After saving the Zotero note into JSON file, what do I need to do in Roam? I tried to copy and paste, and drawing that file into roam, but did not work. Please let me know. Thanks!
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