In addition to item metadata, notes, and tags, Zotero can also be used for managing files. This page describes the different ways you can add files to your Zotero library, and how added files are stored and synced.
Files can be added to your Zotero library as either copies or links. With copies, a copy of the original file is stored in the Zotero data directory. File copies are synced if file syncing has been set up. In contrast, when a file is linked, Zotero only stores a link to the location of the original file. Linked files are not synced.
Files can be added either as standalone items, or as child items to other items.
Zotero can automatically save associated web page snapshots and PDFs when you use site translators (whether associated snapshots and PDFs are saved can be changed in the Zotero preferences). Such snapshots and PDFs are stored as copies in Zotero data directory, and appear as child items of the saved item.
With Zotero for Firefox, you can right-click a link to a file in the browser (e.g. to a PDF) and select “Zotero” > “Save Link as Zotero Item”. This will save a copy of the file to your library as a standalone item. You can also right-click an image in Firefox and select “Zotero” > “Save Image as Zotero Item”.
Files can be copied into your library by dragging a file from your operating system's file browser into the Zotero pane, and either dropping it onto a collection in the left column, or onto the center column. Files dropped onto an item in the center column are added as child items. Files dropped onto a collection, or among items in the center column, are added as standalone items.
You can also drop an existing standalone file item onto another item to create a child item.
File copies and file links can be created by clicking the “New Item” () button at the top of the center column and selecting “Store Copy of File…” or “Link to File…”, respectively. This creates standalone items.
When you have selected a single item in the center column, you can click the “New Child Attachment” paperclip button at the top of the center column, and select either “Attached Stored Copy of File…” or “Attach Link to File…”. These options are also available when you right-click an item and go into the “Add Attachment” menu.
Files in your library can be accessed by double-clicking the file in the center column. Alternatively, you can right-click the file and selecting “View PDF” or “View in External Viewer” (for PDFs) or “View File”.
To locate a copied or linked file, right-click the file in the Zotero pane and select “Show File”. Copied files are stored in the Zotero data directory, and each file has its own subdirectory, which is named with a random 8-character string.