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Zotero Basics (Workshop): Software, Connectors & Documentation

This guide includes a summary of our Zotero workshop, plus useful links to get you started.

Why Use Zotero?

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research.

  • It is a great way to organize your research sources.
  • The basic software and online storage are free, so you don’t have to invest in software.
  • It works great with browser connectors for downloading records for your sources from our research databases.

Setting Up Zotero

For best results we recommend that you:

  • Download and install the desktop client to your personal computer.  It works best to do most of your work via the desktop client.
  • Install the Zotero Connector for your browser or browsers.  The connector allows you to easily download records with all their metadata into your library.
  • Create a Zotero account and sync your library.  Don’t skip this step!  Once you have synced you can access your library from any computer using a web browser.

Downloading the Desktop Client and Zotero Connectors

  • Desktop Client:  the Zotero software that you run on your own personal computer
  • Zotero Connectors:  browser add-ins that you can use to download records into your Zotero library

STEP 1:  Install the Zotero desktop software

The "Download" button on the homepage will take you where you need to go to download the desktop client and the connectors.

STEP 2:  Install the Zotero Connector for at least one browser.
We recommend that you set up the Zotero Connectors on at least 2 browsers.  If you encounter an issue with a particular site and your browser, you might be able to resolve it by switching to a different browser.

Create an Online Zotero Account 

We recommend that you create a Zotero account.  The account serves several purposes:

  • It will allow you to backup your library to the Zotero site.
  • It will give you access to your library from any computer via a web browser.
  • It will allow you to share libraries with other users.

Create Your Account:

Online Storage

  • The initial 300 mb of storage is free. 
  • We recommend that you hold off paying for storage until you have used up the free space.  Also, the workshop will cover storage options that do not require you to sign up for paid storage on Zotero.
  • For $20/year you can increase to 2 gb, or for $60/year to 6 gb. 
  • Start with the free storage plan, but consider upgrading to the next level of storage when you hit the cap.  This is a good investment because it gives you a full backup of your entire library with attachments.  If you have a harddrive crash, you can recover your library easily on a new computer.
  • HINT:  Using cloud storage for PDF attachments and linking to them instead of uploading them to Zotero will reduce your file size.

Zotero Settings

To get to your Zotero settings, choose this path...

  • Zotero main menu (upper left) > Edit > Preferences

At the very least, you should click on the "Sync" tab.

  • Link your Zotero client software to your Zotero account
  • Click the box labeled "Sync automatically"
  • This will set up your library to sync with your online library at
  • The green circular arrow at the upper right of your Zotero window will indicate the progress when it is syncing, and tell you when it last synced.
  • Syncing allows you to access your library online from other computers.  It also backs up your data to Zotero.

Other settings you might want to use...

  • Export:  You can choose your primary citation style to set it as the default
  • Advanced > General:  You can set it to automatically check for updated translators and styles
  • Advanced > Files and Folders:  NOTE:  It is recommended that you leave the Data Directory Location set at the default.  There have been reports that trying to house the data directory in a folder on a cloud drive can prevent syncing from working correctly.

Using a Chromebook?

Chromebook users face some challenges when using Zotero.  Below are some guides that might be of use to you if you have a Chromebook...

Explanation of Zotero limitations on Chromebooks:

Resetting the Zotero browser connector to default to the online library:

Zotero Documentation

Zotero offers a lot of documentation to help you use the software.

Store Attachments in the Cloud

If you have cloud storage available where you can map to the drive on your computer, create a folder just for your Zotero attachments and then link to the attachments from Zotero (instead of attaching a copy of the file).  This will reduce the overall size of your Zotero library.  The primary benefits of doing it this way are that you can backup your library to the Zotero site without paying for more storage, and you can more easily find attachments in the cloud if you don't want to go through Zotero first.

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