Available in Preview: Zotero PDF Reader and New Note Editor
We're incredibly excited to share something we've been working on for a long time: a completely new way of working with PDFs and notes in Zotero.
There are a few major parts of the new functionality:
- A PDF reader built directly into Zotero
- A new tabbed interface
- A powerful new note editor
- A new “Add Note” button in the Zotero plugins for Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs
Together, these features let you open a PDF in a tab right in the main Zotero window, clean up metadata for the parent item while viewing the PDF, add highlights and notes, drag individual annotations to a note or create a new note from all of the item's annotations, cite other items right in the note using the familiar citation dialog, and, when you're ready, click a button to insert the entire note into your word processor, where you can continue working on your document with active Zotero citations.
The PDF reader syncs seamlessly with the Zotero iOS app, also in beta, allowing you to highlight and take notes on your iPad or iPhone and then quickly pull those annotations into a note or word processor document when you're back at your computer. PDFs will open automatically to your current page, no matter what device you last used.
In addition to natively supporting annotations and citations, Zotero notes now fully support embedded images. You can drag in images from your computer or the web, and they’ll sync to your other devices. You can even create an “image annotation” in the PDF reader and drag it straight into a note to easily create a cited image in your document.
If you're currently a Mendeley user, Zotero can now import Mendeley annotations directly into Zotero for use in the new PDF reader.
How to Try It
These features will all be part of Zotero 6 later this year, but we're making them available as a preview today in the Zotero Beta. Once you're running the beta, you can opt in to the preview from the General pane of the Zotero preferences. The new functionality is currently restricted to My Library to avoid affecting group libraries.
This is an early preview, and we'll be adding more features and making many design, usability, and accessibility improvements before release, so please let us know about any problems you encounter or if there are features you'd like to see.
Some technical details, for the curious:
- The PDF reader is built on pdf.js, the best open-source PDF viewer, with our own annotation-editing layer and a custom design, including a gorgeous annotations sidebar to let you quickly review and edit your annotations. (You can even add Zotero tags to them, though they're not yet searchable.)
- The note editor is built on ProseMirror, a powerful open-source framework for building rich-text editors (used in Zotero's sibling project, Tropy) that enables us to enhance notes with all sorts of Zotero-specific functionality. You can quickly jump back from annotations and citations in a note to the original location in the PDF or to the item in your library. You can edit a citation in a note using the same citation dialog used for the word processor plugins. If you accidentally delete or move the citation for an annotation, you can right-click on the annotation and instantly recreate the citation, helping you ensure your quotes are always properly attributed.
- Embedded images in notes are treated as attachments and count against your file storage quota if you sync. (Image annotations themselves don't count against your quota — only if you drag them to notes.)
- Annotations are stored in the Zotero database, not in the PDF file, which allows for much more advanced functionality as well as fast syncing. The File menu contains a new option to export PDFs, which will convert any Zotero annotations into standard annotations in the exported file. (An upcoming version will let you omit annotations, but in the meantime you can drag files to your filesystem to copy just the file.) Similarly, when exporting metadata from your library, there's a new “Include Annotations” option under “Export Files”. We plan to support other ways to export annotations in future updates. Your annotations will never be locked in Zotero.
- It will always remain possible to set Zotero to open PDFs in an external reader if you prefer one to the internal reader. Externally created highlights and notes show up in the PDF reader and can be added to Zotero notes as easily as annotations you create in Zotero.
- “Add Note” in Google Docs currently requires the Zotero Connector Beta for Firefox.