Scan Books into Zotero from Your iPhone or iPad

Zotero makes it easy to collect research materials with a single click as you browse the web, but what do you do when you want to add a real, physical book to your Zotero library?

If you have an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12, you can now save a book to Zotero just by scanning its barcode:

This feature takes advantage of the new Shortcuts functionality in iOS 12, which can chain together series of actions to perform tasks.

To get started, you’ll first need to install Apple’s Shortcuts app, if you don’t yet have it on your iPhone or iPad.

Next, install the Scan Book to Zotero shortcut by tapping on the link below from your iPhone or iPad and selecting Open in “Shortcuts”:

Download Shortcut

After the shortcut opens, tap Done to close it, and then tap on the “Scan Book to Zotero” rectangle. The first time you run it, you’ll need to select “Run Shortcut” and grant the shortcut access to the camera, and you’ll need to log into the Zotero website before you can save. (If you haven’t yet set up syncing with Zotero on your computer, you’ll want to do that as well so that items you save will sync to Zotero on your computer.)

Whenever you want to scan a book into Zotero, you can trigger the shortcut in a number of different ways:

  • You can open the Shortcuts app and select Scan Book to Zotero.
  • You can swipe right from the lock screen or home screen to open the Today View and select Scan Book to Zotero in the Shortcuts widget. If the Shortcuts widget doesn’t appear or doesn’t appear where you want it, you can add or move it via the Edit button at the bottom.
  • If you have an iPhone that supports 3D Touch, you can hard-press on the Shortcuts app icon and select Scan Book to Zotero from the widget popup.
  • You can say something like “Hey Siri, add this book to Zotero”. (Maybe don’t use this one in the library.) To set a phrase for Siri, open the Shortcuts app, tap the three dots in the Scan Book to Zotero rectangle, tap the settings icon in the top right, and then tap Add to Siri and assign a phrase. In our testing, we found Siri support to still be a bit buggy in the current version of Shortcuts, so if Siri doesn’t recognize your phrase, try editing the shortcut and re-recording the phrase or wait for an update from Apple.

Happy scanning!

P.S. If you don’t use an iPhone or iPad, or you can’t upgrade to iOS 12, you can still save a book from your phone when you’re away from your computer by entering the ISBN manually. Simply bookmark this page and load it whenever you need to add a physical book.

Zotero Comes to Google Docs

We’re excited to announce the availability of Zotero integration with Google Docs, joining Zotero’s existing support for Microsoft Word and LibreOffice.

The same powerful functionality that Zotero has long offered for traditional word processors is now available for Google Docs. You can quickly search for items in your Zotero library, add page numbers and other details, and insert citations. When you’re done, a single click inserts a formatted bibliography based on the citations in your document. Zotero supports complex style requirements such as Ibid. and name disambiguation, and it keeps your citations and bibliography updated as you make changes to items in your library. If you need to switch citation styles, you can easily reformat your entire document in any of the over 9,000 citation styles that Zotero supports.

Google Docs support is part of the Zotero Connector for Chrome and Firefox, which adds a new Zotero menu to the Google Docs interface:

Zotero menu in Google Docs

It also adds a toolbar button for one-click citing:

Add/Edit Zotero Citation toolbar button in Google Docs

When you start using Zotero in a document, you’ll first need to authenticate it with your Google account. You can then begin inserting citations from the Zotero libraries on your computer, just as you can with Word and LibreOffice.

Once you’ve finished your document and are ready to submit it, use File → “Make a copy…” and, in the new document, use Zotero → “Unlink Citations” to convert the citations and bibliography to plain text. You can then download that second document as a PDF or other type of file, while keeping active citations in the original document in case you need to make further changes. Zotero will prompt you to create a copy if you try to download your original document.

Built for Collaboration

Zotero and Google Docs are a perfect combination for people writing together. Zotero groups are a great way to collect and manage materials for a shared project, and Google Docs integration allows you and your coauthors to insert and edit citations in a shared document. Groups are free and can contain an unlimited number of members, so you can collaborate with as many people as you like.

While citing from the same library allows everyone to make changes to items in Zotero and have them reflected in the document, if you don’t want to work from a group, that’s fine too: Zotero can generate correct citations and bibliography entries even for items people add from their own libraries.

Get Started

Ready to try it out? Open a document in Google Docs and look for the Zotero menu. If you don’t see it, make sure you have Zotero Connector 5.0.42 for Chrome or Firefox.

See our documentation to learn more about using Zotero with Google Docs.

If you run into any trouble, let us know in the Zotero Forums.

Improved PDF retrieval with Unpaywall integration

As an organization dedicated to developing free and open-source research tools, we care deeply about open access to scholarship. With the latest version of Zotero, we’re excited to make it easier than ever to find PDFs for the items in your Zotero library.

While Zotero has always been able to download PDFs automatically as you save items from the web, these PDFs are often behind publisher paywalls, putting them out of reach of many people.

Enter Unpaywall, a database of legal, full-text articles hosted by publishers and repositories around the world. Starting in Zotero 5.0.56, if you save an item from a webpage where Zotero can’t find or access a PDF, Zotero will automatically search for an open-access PDF using data from Unpaywall.

It can do the same when you use “Add Item by Identifier” to create a new item, and a new “Find Available PDF” option in the item context menu lets you retrieve PDFs for existing items in your library.

We operate our own lookup service for these searches with no logging of the contents of requests.

Unpaywall is produced by Impactstory, a nonprofit dedicated to making scholarly research more open, accessible, and reusable, and we’re proud to support their work by subscribing to the Unpaywall Data Feed.

Zotero can also now take better advantage of PDFs available via institutional subscriptions. When you use “Add Item by Identifier” or “Find Available PDF”, Zotero will load the page associated with the item’s DOI or URL and try to find a PDF to download before looking for OA copies. This will work if you have direct or VPN-based access to the PDF. If you use a web-based proxy, only open-access PDFs will be automatically retrieved using this new functionality, but you can continue to save items with gated PDFs from the browser using the Zotero Connector.

If there are other sources of PDFs you’d like Zotero to use, you can also set up custom PDF resolvers.

Upgrade to Zotero 5.0.56 and Zotero Connector 5.0.41 today to start using these new features.

Introducing ZoteroBib: Perfect bibliographies in minutes

We think Zotero is the best tool for almost anyone doing serious research, but we know that a lot of people — including many students — don’t need all of Zotero’s power just to create the occasional bibliography.

Today, we’re introducing ZoteroBib, a free service to help people quickly create perfect bibliographies.

An animation of viewing a New York Times article, copying the URL to ZoteroBib to add a bibliography item, and copying the bibliography to Google Docs

Powered by the same technology behind Zotero, ZoteroBib lets you seamlessly add items from across the web — using Zotero’s unmatched metadata extraction abilities — and generate bibliographies in more than 9,000 citation styles. There’s no software to install or account to create, and it works on any device, including tablets and phones. Your bibliography is stored right on your device — in your browser’s local storage — unless you create a version to share or load elsewhere, so your data remains entirely under your control.

ZoteroBib is completely free: we don’t bombard you with ads or charge you (or your school) money for full functionality or more advanced citation styles. And since it’s built by the team behind Zotero, and backed by the same open-source community, you can count on the same expertise and attention to detail that people rely on when they write dissertations and scholarly papers using Zotero.

To add an item to your bibliography, simply find it online in another tab and paste the URL into the ZoteroBib search box. You can also paste or type in an ISBN, DOI, PubMed ID, or arXiv ID, or you can search by title. ZoteroBib will fetch bibliographic info for the item and add it to your bibliography. ZoteroBib can import high-quality data from journal articles, books, newspaper and magazine articles, blog posts, webpages, and more. If it doesn’t find what you’re looking for or the data is incomplete, the manual editor allows you to enter data by hand.

As you write, you can quickly copy citations with page numbers to the clipboard for pasting into your document:

Copy Citation dialog with a page number entered

When you’re done, a single click copies a formatted bibliography to the clipboard for pasting into your word processor, or you can generate a bibliography in HTML to add to a webpage. And of course, if you find you need a bit more power, you can easily save your data to Zotero or export it for loading into any other reference manager.

Go to ZoteroBib

Not sure whether ZoteroBib or Zotero is right for you? See the ZoteroBib FAQ.

(Finally, if you’re a happy Zotero user, stay tuned: we’ll be bringing some features from ZoteroBib back to the Zotero web interface soon!)

Zotero 5.0.36: New PDF features, faster citing in large documents, and more

The latest version of Zotero introduces some major improvements for PDF-based workflows, a new citing mode that can greatly speed up the use of the word processor plugin in large documents, and various other improvements and bug fixes.

New PDF features

Improved PDF metadata retrieval

While the “Save to Zotero” button in the Zotero Connector is the best way to save high-quality metadata and associated PDFs to Zotero, Zotero’s “Retrieve Metadata for PDF” feature provides an alternative when you already have a PDF and want to quickly add it to your Zotero library as a citable item.

Traditionally, “Retrieve Metadata for PDF” has been a manual operation that relied on Google Scholar for some files, and long-time Zotero users know that trying to retrieve metadata for many PDFs at once could result in Google temporarily blocking access, causing the feature to stop working.

Zotero 5.0.36 introduces a completely new PDF recognizer, using a Zotero-designed web service that doesn’t rely on Google Scholar and that allows large numbers of PDFs to be recognized without rate limits. The Zotero client will send the first few pages of a PDF to the web service, which uses a variety of extraction algorithms and known metadata from CrossRef, paired with DOI and ISBN lookups from the client as before, to build a parent item for the PDF. The Zotero lookup service doesn’t require a Zotero account and doesn’t log any data about the content or results of searches. No data is now sent to Google Scholar.

Using this new service, Zotero will now automatically attempt to retrieve metadata for PDFs you add, whether that’s via drag-and-drop, “Link to File…”/”Store Copy of File…”, or clicking the “Save to Zotero” button on a PDF in the browser. (In a browser, we still recommend saving from the article page when possible.)

Automatic metadata retrieval after a PDF is dragged into Zotero

If you’re not happy with the results or want to add the parent item another way, you can right-click on the new parent item and select “Undo Retrieve Metadata”. There’s also a “Report Inaccurate Metadata” option to send the first few pages of the PDF and the retrieved metadata to Zotero developers for review.

You can disable automatic metadata retrieval in the General pane of the preferences.

Automatic renaming

When PDFs are added to existing Zotero items or metadata is retrieved for a PDF, Zotero will now automatically rename the file based on the parent metadata. This applies to both linked and stored files. A future version of Zotero will provide additional options for customizing the naming format.

You can disable automatic renaming from the General pane of the preferences. (Files saved along with items from web translators have always been automatically renamed and aren’t affected by this setting.)

Custom PDF viewer setting

Zotero opens PDFs using the system PDF viewer by default, but you can now choose a different PDF viewer to use for files from Zotero. This might come in handy if you’re happy with your system default for most PDFs but there’s a particular program you prefer to use for annotations (or if you’re just not sure how or are unable to change your system default).

'Open PDFs using' setting in the Zotero preferences

Faster citing in large documents

When you insert a citation into a document using Zotero’s word processor plugin, Zotero needs to scan the entire document for citations to ensure correct formatting. Citation style requirements such as ibid or name disambiguation mean that the format of a given citation may depend on the citations that precede it, and bibliographies depend on the presence of, and in some cases the order of, all citations in the document, including any that may have been deleted or moved around since a citation was last inserted.

In longer documents, scanning the entire document can take multiple seconds or even minutes, and these updates can become disruptive to the writing process. Common workarounds include splitting up long documents into chapters or using less-demanding citation styles during writing to increase the speed of citation inserts.

Zotero 5.0.36 adds the ability to disable automatic updates and defer citation updating until a manual refresh is triggered. With automatic updates disabled, citation inserts will remain instantaneous regardless of the size of the document.

To disable automatic updates, click the Document Preferences button in the word processor plugin and uncheck “Automatically Update Citations”:

Zotero Document Preferences window with Automatically Update Citations unchecked

To illustrate how citation inserting works with updates disabled, let’s look at an example. Say we’ve added a citation for a paper by Jessica Smith using APA style:

Citation for '(Smith, 2017)'

If we then insert a paper by James Smith, Zotero will create a citation in the default format required by the style without taking into account other citations in the document:

Citations for '(Smith, 2017)' and '(Smith, 2018)' with a dashed underline on the latter

Zotero adds a dashed underline below newly added citations to remind us that they haven’t been updated (though keep in mind that existing citations later in the document might also now be incorrect).

It also replaces the bibliography with a warning:

Automatic citation updates are disabled. To see the bibliography, click Refresh in the Zotero plugin.

We can quickly insert citations this way without waiting for each update. When we’re ready to submit our document, we click the Zotero plugin’s Refresh button:

Citations for '(Jessica Smith, 2017)' and '(James Smith, 2018)'

Zotero scanned the document and updated the citations and bibliography to conform to the style rules, which in this case require disambiguation for lead authors with the same last name.

To avoid accidentally submitting a paper with unformatted citations, we recommend leaving automatic updates enabled unless you find that inserts are taking too long for a given document.

Other changes

Zotero 5.0.36 includes a number of other improvements and bug fixes, including a cleaner user interface on Windows, lower idle CPU usage, and more. See the changelog for the complete list of changes.