Perhaps the most important feature of Zotero is its ability to sense when you are looking at an item (or items) on a web page. For instance, if you are looking at the record for a book on an online library catalog, Zotero’s book icon will appear in Firefox’s location bar (at the top of the browser window, where the current web address, or URL, appears), like so:
Simply click on the book icon and Zotero will save all of the citation information about that book into your library. (The Zotero pane does not have to be open for this to work.) If you are looking at a group of items (e.g., a list of search results from Google Scholar or LexisNexis), a folder will appear. Clicking on the folder will produce a list of items with check boxes next to them; choose the ones you want to save and Zotero will do the rest.
If you are currently working in a specific collection (that is, a collection is highlighted in the left column rather than “My Library”), the references will be copied to that location as well as your overall library.
Zotero senses information through site translators. Zotero's translators should work with most library catalogs, some popular websites such as Amazon and the New York Times, and many gated databases. Just look for icons in the location bar. The Zotero team will be adding support for additional sites over time. You need not check back here for these extra translators; they will be automatically added to your Zotero installation every so often.
Zotero can automatically add items to your library with certain unique identifiers. Click the “Add Item by Identifier” button () in the toolbar, then enter an ISBN number, Digital Object Identifier (DOI), or PubMed ID. The item will appear in your library, metadata and all.
The quality of the imported data depends on the quality of the source: Zotero uses WorldCat for ISBNs and CrossRef for DOIs. Both are mostly accurate, but not without fail. Most importantly, Zotero commonly fails to import more than the first author of a work from WorldCat.
To archive a web page, click the “Create New Item from Current Page” icon (). This will create a web page item in your library with basic information from the page.
If “Automatically take snapshots when creating items from web pages” is enabled in the General pane of the Zotero preferences, a copy of the web page will be added as a child item. To see the page as it was on the day you captured it, double-click the snapshot icon, as shown below.
When you bring up your snapshot, an annotation bar in the upper left hand corner of your screen will appear.
Holding down the Shift key while clicking the “Create New Item from Current Page” button will temporarily toggle the snapshot setting, allowing you to create a web page item with no snapshot even if the snapshot preference is enabled (or vice versa).
Double-clicking a web page item without a snapshot will take you to the original web page.
Double-clicking a web page item with a snapshot will display the snapshot instead. You can access the live web page by clicking the ”URL:” label to the left of the URL field in Zotero's right pane.
Many users come to Zotero with extensive collections stored in other reference management software. To import entire collections into Zotero, click on the gear icon and select “Import.” Browse to your file, select it, and click open. If the file you have imported is valid and well-formed, the collection should now be in your Zotero library in a uniquely named import folder.
Import works for the following bibliographic file formats:
You can use Zotero's import and export capabilities to transfer a set of references from one machine to another or from one reference management system to another. But please note: Import/export is not recommended for transferring entire Zotero libraries between systems, and, if you use Zotero's word processor plugins, links to Zotero items from existing word processor documents will be lost after an export/import.
Zotero's automatic captures make it easy to work with web resources, but not everything you need to use in your research is online. Zotero makes it easy to manually add items as well.
Click on the green plus icon in the center column. Select the type of item you want to create from the drop down menu. You can view more item types at the bottom of the menu. If the options do not fit your item exactly try to find the kind of item that would contain the same fields. Once you select an item type an blank item of that type will appear in your center column. You can then manually enter the bibliographic information into the right column.
Click on any of the fields in the right column to begin entering your information. If you have additional authors you can click on the + next to the first author to add additional fields. When you have finished entering the metadata you can drag in attachments.
In the right column of the Zotero pane, you can view and edit information about an individual item. Highlight the item in your center column. Click on the Info tab in the right column. You can edit the text boxes by clicking on them. You can also edit the Object ID boxes by clicking on them and selecting a different option. You can add or delete an author/contributor/editor by clicking on the plus (+) or minus (-) icons. The creator type can be changed by clicking on the descriptor (author, editor, etc.). In this column you can also add notes, attachments, tags, and related item links to your items.
Beyond storing item information Zotero is also a powerful tool for storing any kind of file related to your research. To add a file to your Zotero collection simply drag it from your desktop or a folder on your computer into the middle column. Some files, like HTML files and image files, are natively supported in Firefox. So if you double click on these types of files inside your Zotero collection they will launch inside your browser. If the files are not supported in Firefox double clicking on the file will launch it in whatever program your OS is set to launch the file in. For example, if you store a word doc or an excel spreadsheet inside your Zotero library double clicking on those files will launch the program you have designated to open those file types. In most cases it is best to attach these files to full Zotero items. To attach a file to an item simply drag it on to the item you would like to attach it to.