Compared to the older generations, modern-day web-based writers are very lucky. Most of the tedious and time consuming research part of writing is now available from the comfort of the keyboard. We just type our queries and the hordes of results will appear before our screen.
But research is more than just collecting data. It’s also about compiling and presenting the results. So far, I’m happy with my data collecting method, but many MakeUseOf readers have pointed out that for formal writing like academic writing, the Zotero research tool IS the unquestionable ultimate tool.
More Stable Versus More Features
The main page of the Zotero site has a short video tutorial which explains virtually everything that one needs to know about using the Zotero research tool. First time users should watch the tutorial to get acquainted with this research tool.
Currently, there are two versions of Zotero available. There’s the latest stable version 1.0.10 and there’s beta version 2.0b7.6 with more features. If you consider yourself a play-it-safe kind of person, you should stick with the stable. Otherwise, choose the beta.
There’s a slight possibility of data loss in the beta version due to the still ongoing development of the synchronization feature. But with a good backup routine, this minor flaw should pose no threat at all.
Those who are willing to take the risk will be rewarded with many new features such as synchronization ability, compatibility with more word processors, and more collaboration options. The complete features list can be found here along with plugins to make the Zotero word processor friendly.
Synchronizing Zotero’s Research Data
As mentioned above, if you are one of the Zotero v. 2 beta testers, you can enjoy the synchronization feature. But to use the feature, you need to register for a new Zotero account.
After the usual process of registering, you can start using the feature by attaching your Zotero installation to the account. Open Zotero by clicking the logo at the bottom right of your browser, or by using the default shortcut: Command + Shift + Z.
Then open Zotero Preferences and click Sync > Settings. Put down your account information there.
If you are working with several computers, you have to insert your account information to each Zotero installation in every computer.
Enhancing Zotero With Dropbox
The above method only works for v.2 users. There’s another way to synchronize your Zotero data between computers that can be used by both v.1 and v.2 users: using help from Dropbox.
Zotero puts its data in a folder. By default, this folder is inside the Firefox Profile directory and is accessible only by Firefox.
Dropbox users can utilize this free service to sync and backup Zotero data using the method similar to the one described in this article. Basically, all you need to do is move the data folder to a location inside Dropbox folder and set Zotero installations in another computers to use that specific Dropbox folder to store the data.
Pointing Zotero data storage to a different location can be done from the Preference window. Go to the Advanced pane and click “Choose” under the “Data Directory Location“. Browse and open the new location (the folder inside Dropbox folder).
Aside from the compatibility with v.1 and the automatic synchronizations and backups, using independent location to store Zotero data has another benefit. The data is also available to be used by another browser: Flock.
Flock is compatible with all of Firefox extensions. Meaning: you can also install Zotero under Flock. Independent location means that the data can be accessed simultaneously by Firefox and Flock. This is good news for all of you Flock lovers out there.
I’ve just started using the Zotero research tool, so there are still many things to learn. Veteran Zotero users, share your tips, comments and opinions in the comments below.