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Manage Citations with Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote: Zotero

Library materials and useful resources compiled by Alfaisal University librarians

What is Zotero?

Zotero is citation management software that is enhanced by its active community of users and developers. You can easily add citations and full text sources to build your own library. Zotero allows you to easily organize, read, and annotate sources. Its single-click capture works with most all databases, catalogs, and websites, and Zotero is better than other applications at citing government documents. Plugins developed by its users add customization options. You can also collaborate with other researchers who use Zotero and create shared collections.  


Zotero is a free program until you have used 300 MB of cloud storage (approximately 100 PDFs). Different pricing plans for your storage needs are available once the storage has been exceeded. Plans range from $20/year for 2 GB storage up to $120/year for unlimited storage. More information about paying for additional storage can be found on Zotero's storage plans page.

Install Zotero

There are several ways you can install Zotero.

  • Zotero is a desktop application. It communicates with your web browser through separate Zotero Connectors for Chrome, Safari, Opera, or Firefox. Zotero can be downloaded on the Zotero downloads page.
  • Zotero Connector is available for most browsers, including mobile/tablet browsers. The Connector simply takes a snapshot of whichever website, journal, or article you are viewing and adds the citation to your Zotero. Download a Connector. 
  • Zotero word processor plugins are available for download, including Microsoft Word and Google Docs plugins. 
  • Other plugins created by the Zotero community include keyboard shortcut features, Google Scholar functionality, and other useful tools that are also available for download. 

Save Citations with Zotero

Options for adding items to your library: 

  • Drag and drop the PDF
  • Use Connector/”save to Zotero” to select multiple items from an online list of citations
  • Use Connector/”save to Zotero” to save items from a single article recorded online
  • Add items manually 

Learn more from Zotero's documentation on adding items to Zotero. 

Organize Citations with Zotero

You can use Zotero to organize your references with "Collections" and "Tags."

  • Collections allow the hierarchical organization of items into groups and subgroups. The same item can belong to multiple collections and sub-collections in your library at the same time. 
  • Tags allow more specificity; for example, you can tag items based on topic, method, or any other useful description.

More information is available from Zotero's documentation on collections and tags

The image below shows an example library organized using Zotero's collections.

nested collections in Zotero

The image below shows you an example of citations viewed via selected tags.

tags in Zotero

PDF Features in Zotero

Zotero allows you to highlight and annotate PDFs, to pull metadata and citation information from databases and PDFs, to add your own notes and tags to research articles, and to sort and export your research. For more information about Zotero’s PDF features, visit their support page. Additional PDF features can be added to Zotero through 3rd party plugins, including the ability to extract only text that you annotated for future reading.

Word Processors and Zotero

Word processor plugins are available for Microsoft Word, LibreOfficeOpenOffice, and NeoOfficeGoogle Docs is supported via browser extensions in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. These allow you to easily insert in-text citations while automatically updating your bibliography. Any updates you make in Zotero to your citations or citation style will automatically be applied to any citations in your paper.

Other word processors will work with your Zotero citations, with some limitations. Use Zotero to create a static citation. You can paste the copied citation into Google Docs or other word processors. Citations copied in this manner are static (and not dynamic), meaning that any changes made to the citation in Zotero will not be reflected to the citation copied in your document.

More information about these plugins, including guides on installing and using them, are available on the Zotero website.

3rd Party Plugins

Zotero has an active community that creates 3rd party plugins. These include keyboard shortcut features, Google Scholar functionality, and other tools. The plugins listed below add features for general ease of use and accessibility.

  • Zotfile is a Zotero plugin to manage your attachments: automatically rename, move, and attach PDFs (or other files) to Zotero items, and sync PDFs from your Zotero library to your mobile device. Zotfile also lets you extract and search the annotations you make in Zotero, making it even easier to manage your own added to your research. More information about Zotfile can be found on the Zotero website.
  • Zutilo adds several accessibility functions not available in the regular Zotero for Firefox with extra menu items and keyboard shortcuts, including copying, pasting, and right-clicking commands. More information about Zutilo can be found on the Firefox page for the Zutilo addon.

For more information about plugins for Zotero, visit their support page about plugins.

Short Zotero Tutorial

30 Minute Zotero Tutorial

Sync Your Library

Zotero your items locally on your computer by default, but you'll also want to use the sync function to use Zotero from other computers, such as working in a computer lab. Learn more about how to sync your library from Zotero's documentation. 

Zotero for Groups

Zotero users may share citations using "groups" which can be explored on the Zotero website.

  • Private groups can only be accessed by people invited to the group. These are hidden from search results and the group members' profile pages. Group members can access and share files and references.
  • Public, closed membership groups can be viewed by anyone, but only people who have been invited or requested an invitation can join. These groups can publicly present their work and sources and can share files.
  • Public, open membership groups can be joined by anyone instantly. They are useful for broadcasting and discussing information. Files cannot be shared with public open groups.
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