Using an External PDF Reader with iOS App

Could someone please clarify how to deal with the external pdf reader with the iOS app of Zotero?

1. How to open the file with an external app
2. How to import back/save to Zotero iOS app?

Possible Answer:
1. Use the export/share button
2. Export to Zotero. But in this case, I also have to (1) move the pdf inside the correct place (below its original metadata), (2) rename it appropriately since it automatically adds the "- 2" at the end and (3) delete the older pdf. Another issue is that the imported pdf is not recognised with its metadata, and indexing doesn't work.

Is there a better way?
  • We only support the built-in reader on iOS, sorry.
  • edited April 26, 2022
    Ok, I see; it might be available in the next update? It is essential to integrate with other software, which is why I choose Zotero among Library Managers.
  • @LucaFlow, I fully agree. The built-in reader on iOS is lacking most of the basic features an external reader provides (i.e. writing in black color, copying to another app, and many others). As it is right now, it's basically good only for highlighting text. Thanks anyway for all the great efforts on this beautiful app.
  • @LucaFlow I agree 100%. Please make external PDF on iPads happen. I use PDF Expert and I found myself way more productive using that instead of the built-in PDF viewer.

    Although one pailful workaround on iPads that I found was to:
    (1) open PDF inside Zotero
    (2) copy to PDF Expert, or other external PDF viewers
    (3) make edits
    (4) email edited PDF back to myself
    (5) open edited PDF on PC/Mac via email, and drag back to Zotero
  • What are the specific features that you are using in PDF Expert (or other PDF readers) and are missing in the Zotero iOS app PDF viewer?
  • @mjthoraval For example I can't see the outline of a pdf in the built-in PDF viewer
  • Can this support please be added? I do not want to use Zotero’s highlighting method as I want these to be visible in other readers besides Zotero.
  • Would Zotfile at least be a slight improvement. Per plug-in preferences:

    ZotFile can streamline the process of reading and annotating your Zotero attachments on a iPad or Android tablet using a pdf annotation app. It sends pdfs to and gets them back from the tablet, renames and sorts them into subfolders so that you can find them, and extracts the annotations and highlighted text to a Zotero note.
  • edited February 16, 2023
    For anyone who stumbled here wondering how to sync PDF+annotations between zotero and other PDF readers on the iPad (eg. GoodNotes), I am expanding on the method mentioned in the original post so it is more clear:

    1. Open the PDF on Zotero and share to GoodNotes (include annotations if you already have some)
    2. Read and highlight/annotate the PDF in Goodnotes
    3. Once you are done, share from GoodNotes to Zotero (include annotations obviously)
    4. The PDF will appear as a separate entry in the library. Drag and drop it onto the original entry, and it will be moved there. Tap on 'i' to check that there should now be two PDFs for the same entry
    5. Delete the old PDF from that entry by long press and 'Move to Trash'

    That's it!

    I use GoodNotes but I believe it should be similar for LiquidText etc.
  • Thank you for this workaround! I will now use this as well, though with PDF Expert, it works fine!

    It would be much easier, though, if we could opt within Zotero for having all annotations written directly into the PDF. The current 'database method' might have some other advantages for some workflow, but I do need to use all annotated PDFs in other applications (or simple preview), without having to remember to produce some kind of export. I do hope this will become possible in future versions.
  • I would also vote for a better PDF editor sync! Between all of my devices, I have multiple editing methods, and it would be great if they all could integrate with Zotero and allow me to have my notes stored in there.

    I too chose Zotero out of all the other reference managers out there for it's ability to integrate, but major competitor Evernote is sweeping the floor with it's note's a shame.
  • Totally agree! This issue has troubled me for many hours…… especially those want to read and annotate cross-platform! Either Zotero internal PDF can add many basic tools( might be a lot), or we are able to at least open in external PDF direclty on IOS.
  • @nbzy1995 What do you mean by "many basic tools"? I use Zotero's pdf reader for annotation, which works fine. You may get more help if you stated what basic tools you need for reading and annotating. This is the place to make feature requests, and some of them might already be in development.
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