Zotero as a note-taking tool?

I've been happily using Zotero for reference management for several years. Now I'm wondering if I can also use it for note taking (using the "standalone notes" function). I like that you can easily tag notes, export them to Word, and work completely offline. (I thought those were simple asks, but apparently not in the world of note-taking apps.)

I created a separate Group Library to keep the notes in so my main library doesn't get too cluttered. From my initial experiments it seems like using Zotero for notes will work fine. I just want to ask more experienced users: are there any obvious pitfalls that I'm not thinking of?

If this works, my opinion of Zotero will go from A+ to stratospheric. But if it has drawbacks, I'd rather know sooner than later. Can anyone either reassure me or, if necessary, save me from a bad idea? Many thanks.
  • The two biggest drawbacks for Zotero as a note-taking app are that you can't hierarchically arrange notes (i.e. have a note attached to a note, attached to a note) and you can't arbitrarily sort/arrange notes, e.g., for outlining.
    Whether those are major/obvious pitfalls depends on your workflow. Especially with the new note editor and the tighter PDF integration in the new beta, they're definitely a powerful feature.
  • you can't arbitrarily sort/arrange notes, e.g., for outlining
    You can, within another note. We spent a lot of time thinking about this when building the new note editor and ended up deciding that standalone notes should be the mechanism for outlining. You can drag items, annotations, non-annotation PDF text, and other notes into a standalone note and then drag them around as blocks to rearrange them, with all the benefits that a note editor gives you of being able to type around them, flesh them out, add lists and other formatting, etc. The idea is to make it possible to go from annotations to notes to a draft that can be inserted into a document with active Zotero citations.

    We decided to avoid interlinking due to the problems inherent in that model — e.g., if you edit or delete a note or annotation, we didn't feel that should affect a note where you had already dragged the object. There are obviously some people who love the networked approach, but that's not something we wanted to get into.

    (There is, however, much more we want to do with notes, so what's there now shouldn't be considered the final feature set.)
  • Oh that's quite neat, yes. FWIW, in the current standard layout, dragging other items & notes doesn't work well because they get selected & focus shifts when you try. Works well with a note edited in a separate window, though.
  • in the current standard layout, dragging other items & notes doesn't work well because they get selected & focus shifts when you try
    Yeah, we'll have to see if we can solve that, but I meant in a separate note window (plus, obviously, annotations and non-annotation text when using the PDF reader sidebar).
  • I have found that Zettlr (which uses Markdown as its basis) paired with Zotero is very handy when it comes to note-taking.

    Zettlr also can function as a zettelkasten (see Wiki) for cross-linking notes. Using Better BibTeX, you can auto-export the database to a flat file (BibTeX or JSON, etc) and point Zettlr at it. Pulling in citations is a two-keystroke business. The export file can be kept auto-updated any time the Zotero Db is changed. I wish I had this setup 30-odd years ago...
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