Reference managers and citation tools

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Reference managers and citation tools

Reference management programs (or citation tools) are aimed at assisting researchers and students to organize and format their bibliographic citations and references. The Technion libraries recommend Zotero for this purpose. In this page you will find our step-by-step guide to all your Zotero questions.

Install Zotero and Organize your data

  1. Close all MS Office programs before downloading
  2. Go to
  3. Sign up (no need for an institutional email address)
  4. Download both the computer app and the plugin for Chrome
  5. Zotero installs itself to Word and also works with Google Docs as well

Create a collection and name it. The easiest way to add documents: drag a PDF document from your folders into Zotero (make sure the correct collection is selected). Other ways to add content:

  1. Adding content using Zotero Connector for Google Chrome
  2. Importing RIS and Bibtex files
  3. Adding data manually by clicking on the ‘+’ icon and choosing ‘More’ and then the material type.
  4. Moving data from Mendeley

When you find articles that you want to add into your Zotero library, click on the Zotero Connector icon in Chrome. Then click on the arrow on the side and select the folder. Click ‘Done’. If there is access to a PDF file, it will be imported to Zotero automatically.

Moving your content from Mendeley to Zotero:

  1. File > Import > select the Mendeley option
  2. Log in with your Mendeley username and password
  3. Please Note: it’s advised to create your collections in Mendeley and organize your data before moving it to Zotero
  4. To save (sync) the changes you made to Zotero: click on the ‘Sync’ icon.

When working on a shared computer (one that several users can connect to, for example a lab computer) – you will need to Log Out (and not Switch Users) in Windows. Otherwise, Zotero will stay connected to the first user who used it, and you will have to restart.

Citations and Groups

By creating our own tags, we create an organized hierarchy that can help us find our documents more easily.

Add a tag by clicking on ‘Tags’ in the right panel. The tags you created will show on the left panel. Display all the data related to a specific tag by clicking the tags, or by using the search option.

You can add notes to a reference with or without using the PDF editor. Later, by using the search option, you can display results from both tags and notes (and any other metadata).

You can read PDF documents directly from Zotero without using a separate PDF reader. The editing options include:

  1. Highlighting texts (changes are saved automatically)
  2. Adding notes to PDF files: Zotero will display all the notes for that specific PDF file on the left panel.
  3. Adding tags to your own comments inside the PDF file: like regular Zotero tags, these will also show when using the search option.

The Zotero tab for Word is added automatically when installing Zotero. Even if you are not connected with your user and password, you can still work with the files located on your computer.

  1. In Word, choose the Zotero tab > add > citation
  2. Choose your preferred citation style
  3. Click the small arrow and select Classic View: here you can search for tags and files
  4. Citing multiple sources: choose the ‘Multiple Sources’ option, select the sources separately and add them by clicking the right arrow.
  5. To edit a specific citation: click on the citation > add/edit
  6. Bibliographic list: add/edit bibliography
  7. Changing citation styles: Document > Preferences
  1. Next to ‘New Collection’ click on ‘New Library’ – You can only create groups when you are logged in and using your web browser.
  2. Name your group and select the Private Membership option. Select the permissions you are interested in and click on Create Group.
    • The option of an open (public) group will only display and sync metadata, without the PDF documents.
  3. Manage Members: the invitees will receive an email notification and will be able to join and see all the group content. With the right permissions they can also edit.

Syncing and Backups

Zotero does not synchronize on its own, which is not a problem when using a single computer (does not require you to sign into Zotero). The problem occurs when using more than one computer: without syncing you will lose your data (your library and notes) and the Groups option is also unavailable.

How to sync you data to Zotero

Go to Edit > preferences > synchronization. Login with the user and password you created for Zotero when you signed up. You are now using the 300 megabytes that the free version of Zotero allows. If you exceeded the 300 MB limit, the data will only work on the computer on which the files are located.

How to backup your content manually

By clicking Edit > Preferences > Advanced > Files and Folders you can view Zotero’s folder location on your computer. Copying the content from this folder to another computer (into Zotero’s folder on said computer) will keep all the data you created.

For more information (external website)

You can save more storage space by syncing only the meta-data of the library, without the PDF files. Click Edit > Preferences and uncheck the box next to ‘Syncs full-text content’. The PDF files will still work on the computer they are saved to, but not on other computers. However, all the meta-data will be synced.

This option is helpful when syncing the metadata without PDF files (read “How to save more storage space on the cloud” for more details). Your files will not open on Zotero’s PDF reader, but you can access your own links (from your personal cloud/Drive/or the original publisher’s link) through Zotero’s library:

Right click on the selected title > Add attachment > Attach link to URI

Please note that the Technion libraries cannot help in subsidizing this purchase, which will be done independently through Zotero’s website.

Recommended Add-Ons

Zotero is open-source and allows talented developers to create useful plugins, enhancements, new features, and more. In order to install a plugin in Zotero, you need to download its .xpi file to your computer. Then, in Zotero, select tools > add-ons and drag the .xpi file into the add-ons window that opens.

Our staff’s recommendations:

  • The Folder Import for Zotero plugin allows you to import complete folders into the Zotero library, including hierarchies and subfolders.
  • Zutilo adds several functions not available in base Zotero through extra menu items and keyboard shortcuts.

Our staff’s recommendations:

  • The Zotero PDF Preview plugin enables previewing PDF documents in the main view window of the Zotero library.
  • The Zotero PDF Translate provides PDF translation for the built-in PDF reader in Zotero 6. Once installed, click on edit > preferences and select the new Translate tab to choose your language.

Our staff’s recommendations:

ZotFile is a plugin that allows you to backup and synchronize Zotero’s library by separating the metadata from the file storage. Using the plugin allows you to open the files in Zotero’s PDF reader without the need for a premium subscription.

Click here for the complete guide to ZotFile (external website). To back up the files, it is recommended to choose private cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

If you chose to use the Technion OneDrive, and you now leave the Technion (as a student or employee), you can change the base directory to a new location in both ZotFile and Zotero (Files & Folders).