See update below
In my opinion, Zotero is the best reference manager out there.
- One-click capture of citation and full-text pdf’s
- Pdf’s automatically renamed, placed where you want them
- Easily organise your citation library with tags and collections
- Integrate Zotero with your word processor for one click bibliography generation
- View RSS feeds for your favourite journals or saved searches directly inside zotero
- Plus many minor features that add up to save you a heap of time.
I thought I would put together a quick guide for how to set up Zotero with Google Drive (or other similar cloud backup options). This way, you can sync as many documents as you want and access them on multiple devices easily. Just set up each of your devices as shown below. But just a heads up, with this method you won’t be able to sync files from group libraries, so if file syncing with groups is important to you I would suggest paying the small fee for a Zotero storage plan.
Update (June 2019): I’ve decided to switch back to regular Zotero because I want to support development by paying for a storage plan. I’ll now only use zotfile for renaming pdfs, but keep them in their default location, and use zotero’s built-in sync feature. This means I’ll be able to share files in groups (which is currently not supported with linked attachments such as those created by moving pdfs with zotfile). I’m leaving this guide here for those who are still keen to use an external cloud option for storing their attachments. Currently it is not possible to revert all your files back to their original location at once due to an issue with zotfile, so you can do it manually (as I’ve done) by:
1. Setting the zotfile preference back to “attach stored copy of file” then right click each entry and select ‘rename attachments.’
2. Ticking the file syncing options in Zotero ‘Sync’ preferences.
3. Reverting to absolute paths in the ‘Advanced – Files & Folders’ preferences.
Or you can wait for the zotero devs to make it possible to do this in batch which they are currently working on.
Update 2 (August 2019): The latest Zotero beta now includes an option to revert linked attachments back to stored attachments automatically, without the need to manually do this as I described above. See Dan Stillman’s comment on the Zotero forum here.
1. Install Zotero + Zotfile
Download and install Zotero and a ‘Zotero Connector’ for your browser. Then head over to Zotfile.com, right-click on the ‘Download’ link at the top, and select ‘Save Link As’ to save the Zotfile addon. Inside Zotero, click ‘Tools’ from the top menu, and then ‘Addons.’ Then click the gear icon in the top right corner and select ‘Install Addon From File.’ Select the Zotfile .xpi package that you saved earlier. From now on, Zotero will automatically update itself and Zotfile for you.
2. Install Google Drive
(or your preferred cloud sync app such as Dropbox)
Head over to Google Drive and download the ‘Backup & Sync’ app. Once installed, click the cloud icon in your system tray, then click the three dots in the top right of the pane that opens, and select ‘Preferences.’ On the Google Drive tab, select where you want your Google Drive folder to be on your PC. If you have multiple hard drives put it on the one you use for data/media/storage. so for example you might have something like C:\Users\Tom\Google Drive\. Add a new folder to Google Drive called something like \Zotero.
3. Configure Zotero
Open Zotero and select ‘Edit’ from the top menu, then ‘Preferences’ and make sure the settings from sections marked with a red dot below match yours (other settings are optional):
NOTE: Do not touch your ‘Data Directory Location’ pictured in the lower half of the above screenshot.
4. Configure Zotfile
From the ‘Tools’ menu again, select ‘Zotfile Preferences’ and ensure your settings match the following:
You’re all set! Now whenever you save citations with the ‘Save to Zotero’ button in your browser, the pdf’s will be placed in your google drive folder and backed up.
There is an extra step if you’re dragging and dropping the pdf’s in to Zotero: Once Zotero has finished looking up the metadata and creating new citation entries for the pdf’s, simply select all of the items you’ve just added and right click, select ‘Manage attachments,’ then select ‘Rename attachments.’ This allows Zotero to hand things over to Zotfile so it can apply the settings you’ve specified above (by renaming and moving the pdf’s to the desired location). You don’t need to do this for items you save from your browser.
As long as you keep these settings the same on your devices they should sync properly and work together nicely due to the ‘relative paths’ feature. I have this set up on my home PC and institutional PC so I can access my zotero library and pdf’s from both locations (and any changes in terms of saving new items, or deleting other items, will carry across both devices).