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Building the Standalone Client

Note: The instructions below are not aimed for general use by the everyday user of Zotero. Some of the information below may need to be updated to work with the current code. Please update the instructions as necessary.

Build Steps

Note: The following commands assume a POSIX-compliant system. On Windows, first install Cygwin, install Git through Cygwin, and then run the following commands in the Cygwin terminal.

Zotero Standalone is currently built from an XPI of Zotero for Firefox. An included helper script, scripts/dir_build, can automate the process of creating a Standalone build from an unpacked local Zotero git repository.

  1. To build from the Zotero source code, you'll need the Zotero source code and the zotero-build repository:
    git clone --recursive zotero-client
    git clone --recursive

    (If you just want to create a build from an existing XPI — for example, one you've extracted, modified, and recompressed — you can skip this step, though building from a local Zotero git repository is generally easier. If you want to build directly from a given commit of the Zotero source without modifications, you can skip zotero/zotero.)

  2. Clone the zotero-standalone-build repo and change to that directory:
    git clone --recursive
    cd zotero-standalone-build
  3. Check your system for the necessary tools:

    This script checks all requirements for the official Zotero distribution system. If you're only creating a custom build, you only need the build requirements listed at the top, not the distribution requirements.

  4. Run for the desired platform(s) (m=Mac, w=Windows, l=Linux):
    ./ -p m

    This will download Firefox runtime files to the xulrunner/ subdirectory and modify them for use with Zotero Standalone.

    Note: Due to the way Firefox is packaged, can only retrieve Mac builds on macOS.

  5. Build Zotero Standalone, using one of three methods:
    1. To build from a given branch/tag/commit of the Zotero source, first build an XPI using build_xpi (or build_xpi_4.0 for the 4.0 branch). To see available options:
      ../zotero-build/xpi/build_xpi --help

      Then follow the instructions in II.

    2. To build from an XPI, run directly for the desired platform(s):
      ./ -f /path/to/zotero.xpi -p m -d
    3. To build for the current platform from the Zotero git repository you cloned to ../zotero-client (using the current branch and code), use the dir_build helper script:

Your desired builds should now be available in the staging/ subdirectory in unpackaged form.

Distribution steps are beyond the scope of this page, but see scripts/build_and_deploy for an example of the necessary steps.

Packaging on Windows


  • Build requirements as indicated by scripts/check_requirements
  • Unicode NSIS and install the following (Unicode!) plugins by copying the .dll files to NSIS\Unicode\Plugins folder
    • To install all at once, cd to the plugins folder and run the following commands:
  • The Windows SDK is needed for the included signtool.exe utility. Only the main Windows SDK component is required. If you experience errors with the installer, try uninstalling Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable from your computer first.


  1. Verify that git is set to check out files without modifying line endings.
    $ git config --global core.autocrlf

    The response should be either empty (meaning false) or input. If set to true (as it may be if you selected the default option while installing the Windows version of git), change this with the following command:

    git config --global core.autocrlf false

    See the git manual for details on this setting.

  2. After checking out the zotero-standalone-build repository as explained above, adjust the paths in to point to the correct executables of NSIS and the Windows SDK. You might want to set SIGN=1 to 0, to stop getting error messages
  3. Follow the build steps from the previous section, but omit the -d flag when calling to create the installer package.

Installation and Packaging Notes

Note: These instructions are not applicable on OS X, which handles protocol handler and MIME type registration through the bundled Info.plist file. Additionally, they are only applicable on Windows if, for some ungodly reason, you want to install Zotero Standalone without running the installer.

Protocol handler registration

Zotero Standalone should be registered as the system's default protocol handler for the zotero:// protocol. This is necessary to make clicking the Zotero button in Firefox open Zotero Standalone when both are running simultaneously.

File extensions and MIME types

Zotero should be registered as a handler for the following file extensions and MIME types:

File type description File extension(s) MIME type(s)
Research Information Systems Document ris application/x-research-info-systems
ISI Common Export Format Document ciw, isi application/x-inst-for-Scientific-info
Metadata Object Description Schema Document mods application/mods+xml
Resource Description Framework Document rdf application/rdf+xml
BibTeX Document bib, bibtex application/x-bibtex
MARC Record mrc, marc application/marc
CSL Citation Style csl text/x-csl
dev/client_coding/building_the_standalone_client.txt · Last modified: 2017/04/15 15:58 by dstillman