ProfHacker 101: Getting started with Zotero, Part 2

In last week’s post, I gave a quick overview on getting started with Zotero. This week, I want to provide a brief introduction to using Zotero groups and synchronization.

To get started, you’ll want to set up a Zotero account for yourself. media_1258682275404.png

At the main Zotero page, click on “register.”


Fill out the form and CAPTCHA, and you’re all set with your account.


Now that you have that done, you might wish to explore Zotero groups.


Groups can be public or private, and you can control both who can join, and what group members can do. Above you see two groups I belong to. The first is a place where my student assistant (the only other member of the private group) can share resources she’s found that might be useful for a project I’m working on. The second is an open, public group that I’m a member of (and to which, I must somewhat sheepishly admit, I’ve contributed no sources).


Here’s where things get really handy. If you’ve entered your Zotero credentials in the preferences pane (see the next step, below), when you open the Zotero pane you’ll see not only your main library, but also all the group libraries to which you belong (as above). If you have something in your main library that you want to add to your group library, dragging and dropping is simple. All you need to do is drag the item from the center pane and drop it on the appropriate library in the left pane.


But there’s still more. When you enter your Zotero credentials in the preferences pane (1), you make it possible to make your library and notes visible to others (if you wish) and to sync them across multiple computers (so you always have a backup!). You can also, if you like, sync any files (such as PDF copies of the actual articles) attached to your references. For syncing files in your own library (2) you can use Zotero File Storage (currently limited to 100MB), or a storage service that supports WebDAV. (Since my library contains a lot of files, I’ve opted for the latter.) Finally, you have the option to sync attachment files in your group libraries using Zotero File Storage (3).

I’ve found this setup very useful. I keep all the files I’m currently working on in my DropBox account; add in Zotero’s synchronization capabilities, and I can always access my current projects, plus my references, articles, and notes, from any computer with an internet connection and FireFox installation.


Here you see part of my Zotero library as it appears online. You can set the privacy preferences for your library and notes under the settings link (1). You can also set up a profile (2) to let other members of the Zotero community know a little something about yourself.

Readers, what’s been your experience of using Zotero for collaboration and/or backup? If you’ve used other tools, we’d be interested in hearing about your experience with them, too.

[The photo at the top of this post was created by Flickr user smleon and carries a Creative Commons license.]

Return to Top