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Adding Files to your Zotero Library

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.

Child versus Standalone Attachment Files

Files can be added either as standalone items, or as child items to regular Zotero bibliographic metadata items. It is generally always a good idea to work with files as child items. Standalone files cannot be used with many of Zotero's features, including citing, My Publications, and most types of searching, because they lack bibliographic metadata.

If you have standalone files in your library, you make them into child items by dragging them onto a regular Zotero item, using the Retrieve PDF Metadata function, or right-clicking on the standalone attachment and choosing “Create Parent Item”.

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, nor are they deleted if the attachment item is deleted in Zotero.

If you have linked files and you are using Zotero on multiple computers, it is a good idea to set the linked attachment base directory so that linked files can be correctly found on each computer.

Adding Files

Adding Files via the Browser

Zotero can automatically save associated web page snapshots and PDFs when you use the Zotero Connector save button in your web browser (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.

Adding Files via the Zotero window

Drag and Drop

Files can be copied into your library by dragging a file from your operating system's file browser into the Zotero window, and either dropping it onto a collection in the left pane, or onto the center pane. Files dropped onto an existing regular Zotero item in the center pane are added as child items. Files dropped onto a collection, or in an empty space or between items in the center pane, are added as standalone items.

You can also drag and drop an existing standalone file item in Zotero onto a regular Zotero item to create a child item.

Adding linked files
  • By default, files dragged into Zotero are added as copies of the original files. To instead add links to the original files, hold down Ctrl+Shift (Windows/Linux) or Cmd+Option (Mac) while dropping.

New Item Button

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.

Attachment Menu

When you have selected a single item in the center pane, you can click the “Add Attachment” paperclip button at the top of the center column. Select either “Attached Stored Copy of File…” or “Attach Link to File…” to add files as attachments to the item.

You can also “Attach Link to URI…” to add a link to a web page (http:// or https://) or to another program on your computer (e.g., OneNote onenote:// or Evernote evernote://).

These options are also available when you right-click an item and choose “Add Attachment”.

Accessing Files

Files in your library can be accessed by double-clicking the item in the center pane. Alternatively, you can right-click the item and select “View PDF” or “View File”.

To locate a stored (copied) or linked file, right-click the item 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.

Web Snapshots

Zotero can archive a webpage by creating a Snapshot—an offline file reflecting the state of the page at the time the snapshot was taken. If the Zotero Connector does not recognize data on a page, you can save the page as a Web Page item with an attached Snapshot by clicking the Zotero save button in the browser toolbar. You can also take a Snapshot of any page by right-clicking (click-and-hold in Safari) on the Zotero save button and choosing Save to Zotero (Web Page with Snapshot).

By default, Zotero will take Snapshots when importing items from web pages. You can disable this setting in the Zotero preferences

Note that Zotero's snapshot feature sometimes can't correctly archive pages with complex code or structures, particularly sites whose content is dynamically produced (e.g., Google Books).