Zotero Everywhere in the Nick of Time

I’ve been a Zotero fan for a number of years but just 10 days ago I reassessed its utility in the light of its Firefox-only access. I increasingly use Chrome and IE in addition to Firefox and I now need to create/edit references on the iPad – a Firefox desert. It was time to look for a better reference management solution.

My own use of Zotero is biased to recording web pages, literally. Zotero in creating a web link reference takes a complete copy of the page contents, HTML, style sheets, images, scripts, data files – everything. This means my roughly 1000 references occupies 900 MB across more than 70,000 folders and files! Definitely more than the 500 MB of free online storage available.

So as I have reported before I have used Live Mesh and now Live Sync to share the 900 MB across multiple machines. Unfortunately the newest beta of Live Sync (soon to be renamed Live Mesh – great job Microsoft, no) when upgraded in place has severe interface issues although the syncing still works in the background. My Zotero store with its 70,000 files is huge edge test case for Live Sync – a new machine added to the sync takes over a day to be complete!

In any case it was time to clear out old Zotero references and with a few hours work I reduced my reference store by 35% and looked around for a replacement. I had tried Mendeley and CiteULike before. However it was receiving a link from Martin Weller (@mweller) to his shared Mendeley library for his book on digital scholarship that made me look again. I discovered Mendeley to be accessible for all browsers and comes with a powerful bookmarklet with a wider range of successful reference capture particularly from the journals, open access sites, Google Scholar and the like that I tend to use.

The Windows desktop client for Mendeley is good and there is also an iPad client. Like Zotero a complete copy of a web page can be captured by Mendeley although more conveniently a single HTML file is generated rather than the plethora of tiny files in Zotero. Mendeley is designed to store PDF files from which to extract metadata so comes with 500 MB of online storage for free. My switch to Mendeley began and has been proceeding smoothly. The export of references from Zotero for import to Mendeley is near the top of my to-do list.

Then today, in the nick of time for me at least, comes the announcement of Zotero Everywhere:

Zotero Everywhere will have two main components: a standalone desktop version of Zotero with full integration into a variety of web browsers and a radically expanded application programming interface (API) to provide web and mobile access to Zotero libraries.

Funds from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation have made this possible.

Today we are announcing support for Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer, which account for 98% of the web’s usage share. Plugins for these browsers will soon allow users to add anything they find on the web to their Zotero libraries with a single click, regardless of the their browser preferences. Rather than use the Zotero pane in Firefox, users will have the new option of accessing their libraries via a standalone desktop version of Zotero, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

So I can happily continue with Zotero although it will now have to compete with a very competent Mendeley. In particular I will want to see the ‘blizzard of small files for web page capture’ problem eliminated.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

9 Responses to Zotero Everywhere in the Nick of Time

  1. Mr. Gunn says:

    Michael –

    I’m glad to hear you’ve been getting along with Mendeley well. If you need any help, just let me know. I didn’t catch from the announcement when the Everywhere system is going to actually become available. Have you heard anything?

  2. Michael Rees says:

    William, no there was no hint as to when the improved Zotero will be available, and nothing I could discover on the Zotero site. In any case, as I mentioned above, Zotero has some significant catching up to do compared to Mendeley. Your bookmarklet capture is really very good.

  3. Sebastian says:

    my sense is that this is going to roll out bit by bit. The standalone version, for example seems pretty far advanced, other parts I’m not sure if they have even started.

  4. Hi Mike:

    Have you tried the WizAdd the web importer from WizFolio? It can scrap snippet of a webpage, bibliographic data from the top scientific publishers, patents and videos from YouTube and JOVE. The scrapped items can be saved to a user selected folder.
    If you like to give WizFolio a try, you can import your collection with WizImporter into your WizFolio account. https://help.wizfolio.com/Contents/Import.aspx?zotero=1
    Interested to hear your experience with WizAdd and WizImporter.
    Disclosure: I am founder of WizFolio

  5. Simon says:

    The first Safari and Chrome extensions for Zotero are now available in our public source repository. We still need to make some refinements to Zotero standalone before we’ll make a release, but we should have something for you guys to play with in a few weeks.

  6. Michael Rees says:

    Casey, as it happens I gave Wizfolio a try some weeks ago, importing my complete Zotero collection without a problem. I found Wizfolio a reasonable reference manager but it seemed slow and the ads were irritating even though I can see they are necessary for the free version. There was a bias towards medicine which is not my field, and now I see you are the founder it is understandable.

  7. Michael Rees says:

    Simon, I look forward to see the Chrome extension in the Google gallery. How long do you estimate this will take?

  8. Mike:
    Glad to hear that you have no problem importing your Zotero collection to WizFolio. You can now view that collection in iPad! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db3OSexvKOc Our next version will make use of Google Scholar’s database, greatly expanding the bibliographic abstraction capability to non-medical items. Currently you can search in Google Scholar and use WizAdd to import the desired items into your WizFolio account. In addition you can access the 19 million items on Scholars Portal and CiteUlike inside WizFolio. Both Scholars Portal and CiteUlike have large collections of non-medical items. Hope they are useful to you in your work.

  9. Gray says:

    good article.

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