Why I love Zotero

Lyn Lavery

I was an early adopter of EndNote – I hate to show my age, but I started using it when Endnote 2 was around. I was a pretty big fan for years – I think I must have facilitated several hundred EndNote training courses when I worked at The University of Auckland, and I certainly used it for both my master's and PhD theses. Somewhere around EndNote 9 I started to lose enthusiasm due to the combination of technical glitches and seeing so many students use it badly (not a reflection on the students involved, it just wasn’t particularly intuitive). On the hunt for a possible replacement I stumbled across Zotero – I still remember how excited I was the day I discovered it (which makes me wonder if I need to get out more!).

So why do I love Zotero so much? What initially grabbed me was the ease of importing reference information. This was also easy in EndNote, but not to the same extent. With Zotero I can visit a webpage that contains a reference (or references) and click a button in the address bar – hey presto, the information is saved in my Zotero library. Got a folder of PDF files? Simply drag and drop into your library and ask Zotero to retrieve the metadata – this finds all the citation information for your PDFs, creates entries for them, and then handily attaches the PDFs. Perhaps a colleague has just handed you a hardcopy of a book they recommend – scan the barcode with a mobile device and bring the bibliographic details across to Zotero from there. These are just some of the incredibly quick ways of bringing your reference information into Zotero.

Another thing that appealed to me about Zotero was that it’s open source. Unless you’re covered by an institutional site license, you’ll need to purchase a license for EndNote – Zotero is free, which means you can take your references wherever you go. It’s also easy to use across multiple computers – you can sync your library to the cloud, which also serves as a handy back-up. Entering information in manually (should you ever need to, which is unlikely) is extremely intuitive, and the Zotero interface is uncluttered and easy to navigate.

But what if I’m using EndNote/Mendeley/RefWorks I hear you ask? No problem – your treasured references can all be brought across into a Zotero library.

Zotero works across multiple operating systems, and can operate as a standalone application or as a plugin for Firefox, Chrome or Safari. You can download both Zotero and the word-processor plugins you need from https://www.zotero.org.

If you’d like to learn more, we'll be covering reference management software in our upcoming virtual event Research Accelerator 2021. We'd love to see you there!