Make Your Own Zotero WebDav Server and Access Your Zotero Attachments Anywhere

2114683166_45ce6d7e43_mI’ve written about many developments in the Zotero ecosystem recently, but this is definitely the most hackish. How about setting up your own Zotero server, where you can access your Zotero references, PDF attachments, and even web snapshots from any browser on any computer. And how about being able to run this server on almost any web hosting service, including free ones?

That’s exactly what Christian Holz’s phpZoteroWebDAV 2.0 does. Holz’s program creates a PHP-based WebDav server, to which you can sync your Zotero attachments (e.g. PDFs associated with citations and snapshots of your Zoteroed pages). The program then uses Zotero’s API to pull in the citations themselves from your Zotero library, allowing you to view, browse, and search virtually every element of your Zotero library from your own server.

Why might you want to do this?

One of Zotero’s powerful features is its ability to sync your library across multiple computers, including the PDFs and other attachments in your library. In my case, this means whenever I add material to Zotero from my office computer, it will also show up on my home PC. Zotero syncs the citation part of your library easily, and for free. But to sync the attachments, you need to use either Zotero’s hosting service (which is free for the first 100 MB, but then begins to cost money) or an alternative WebDav server. I have nearly 2 GBs worth of material in my Zotero library, which would cost $60/year on Zotero’s servers. But why spend that money when I’m already paying for a web hosting service for my own domain?

With phpZoteroWebDAV, I don’t have to. I have my own WebDav server and Zotero is syncing happily with it. (Other Zotero apps, such as Zandy for Android, can also sync with it, meaning I can access all my Zotero PDFs directly from my phone!)

In addition to providing a syncing option for your attachments, phpZoteroWebDAV 2.0 lets you access those attachments from any web browser, even if Zotero isn’t installed on that computer. Here is the default view when I first log in (word to the wise: password protect your WebDav server!):


If I were to scroll down, there’d be various sorting and searching options (I tend to sort by Date Added, so that the most recent additions to my Zotero library are listed first—they’re usually the citations I’m currently working with).

Clicking on any item in the list brings up the details for that item:

PHP_Zotero_Details Note how the attachments are listed, along with a link to “access the attachment as stored on the WebDav server.” In the example above, the link leads to the actual PDF of the article.

So far, I’ve only highlighted aspects of phpZoteroWebDAV 2.0 that are also features on the version of your library (that is, if you’re paying for Zotero to host your attachments). But there’s one neat trick of phpZoteroWebDAV 2.0 that even the official Zotero site doesn’t allow: you can view the “snapshots” you’ve taken of web pages. This feature is especially useful if you’ve taken a snapshot of a site that’s changed or disappeared; now you can still view it from any browser, even if you don’t have Zotero installed on that computer.

Installing phpZoteroWebDAV 2.0

Holz includes instructions on installing phpZoteroWebDAV. He’s also placed the code on GitHub, where you can always find the most recent version. Again, strongly consider his advice to password protect your Zotero directory, so that your library and attachments aren’t out there on the open web. If you run into problems setting up your own WebDav server, the Zotero forums are a great place to seek answers. Speaking for myself, I had no problem setting it up, though you should be comfortable using FTP and editing PHP files (nothing heavy duty—you just need to fill in your Zotero API Key and User ID in settings.php).

How about you? Would you find phpZoteroWebDAV 2.0 useful? How might it change your workflow? And can you possibly think of anything more hackish to do with Zotero?

Wrench Rust image from Flickr user HVargas / Creative Commons Licensed

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