18 January 2013

322. Libreoffice and zotero for reference management

I'm happy using latex and bibtex whenever possible, and I'm forced to use Microsoft Office and Endnote in most of my collaborations, so I;m not that interested in libreoffice/openoffice.

However, having heard of a reference manager called Zotero has made me curious to learn more.

You can either get it as a plug-in for firefox, or as a stand-alone program which plugs into any browser of your choice.

While I haven't used Endnote seriously for about half a decade and thus may not know about any fancy recently added functionality, I just can't see any reason whatsoever to use Endnote anymore if you have a choice. Obviously, given the inertia of the 'common user' and the tendency for people to equal costly with good and cheap with rubbish, it will probably take a generation or two for change to happen, no matter how good zotero gets.

And here's another thing: when I went to Google Scholar using Chrome, zotero was recognised, and a list of 'updates' was suggested. I wasn't really interested, until I had a look at them -- Scholar had generated a pretty impressive list of articles that it thought might interest me. The match was surprisingly good. If nothing else I'll certainly make sure to keep my zotero database synced with my bibtex one.

Get it:
sudo apt-get install bzip2
wget http://download.zotero.org/standalone/
tar xvf Zotero-
cd Zotero_linux-x86_64/

First time:
First time you run it it opens a browser window as well as an installation process
For some reason I keep getting errors about DBus even though the dbus-daemon is running. It hasn't caused any other problems beyond the error message in the screenshot.
Even the openoffice I installed for testing purposes got detected

And you're done

To make it work in Chrome, install the extension

The main Zotero window, without any references

Importing a bibtex library

Everything looks ok

If you click on the icon by the arrow you can insert a citation. You need to have zotero running in the background though.
Determine what format to use

Generate the bibliography and you're done

Google Scholar, Chrome and Zotero play nicely together


  1. As an alternate to both zotero and endnote take a look at mendeley. Its document handling capabilities are great and I really like to group-work aspects of its design.
    As you point out though, inertia will probably keep me from using it to it's best potential.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I'm currently looking at looking at (the language is intentional) Mendeley, although as a means of annotating PDF galleys.

      The main reason why I haven't been excited about it enough to actually evaluate it is that it's closed source -- what academia doesn't need is risking more lock-in.

      Either way, I abandoned endnote when the upgrade from endnote 7 stuffed up one of my manuscripts, and I've never had a reason to look back -- there are far too many open alternatives such as pure bibtex, zotero, and as you point out, mendeley.