Users new to Zotero may find the prospect of importing all their data somewhat daunting. Many researchers already have a large collection of PDFs that they've previously organized manually or using another program. Zotero makes it easy to import these PDFs and retrieve full bibliographic metadata (for searching, citing, indexing, and organizing), taking much of the pain out of switching.
Follow these steps to use the Retrieve Metadata for PDFs function:
If you have disabled automatic metadata retrieval or have other PDF files already in your library, you can also retrieve metadata manually:
With this feature, there should be no major hurdles to switching to Zotero and taking full advantage of all its powerful search, indexing, organizing, and citation features.
The Retrieve Metadata feature uses a Zotero web service to find item metadata. The Zotero client sends 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, 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.
While this feature can greatly facilitate importing large existing libraries of PDFs, it is not the best way to add items to your library in general. Items can be imported faster by using the Zotero Connector plugin in your browser from publisher websites or most scholarly databases. This saves several steps versus downloading the PDF manually and adding it to Zotero. The item metadata will also often be higher quality. See Getting Stuff into your Library for the best ways to add items to your library.