In a previous blog, I covered Zotero, a free and popular bibliographic reference tool that integrates with the Firefox browser. One key feature of Zotero is the ability to access your references, notes, attachments, etc., and sync that information to multiple computers. The obvious next step would be mobile apps for cell phones and tablets, and indeed there are a few. Scanner for Zotero ($1.99) is an android app that allows you to scan books into your Zotero library. BibUp (free) is a similar product for the iPhone, with the additional functionality of allowing users to scan portions of text with their phone. ZotFile Reader (free) builds on the zotfile plugin and streamlines the process of using Zotero on android and iPad tablets. I haven’t tried any of these products, because after reading about them, the android-based Zandy ($3.99 – though the code is freely available to the ambitious) seems to have the most robust functionality. You can download Zandy from the Android Market.
Warning: I downloaded Zandy and started playing with it immediately without reading the user guide. Mistake! In the guide, you’ll find specific instructions when you first log into Zandy on how to set permissions to provide write access and note access to your Zotero library. This allows you to sync these activities to your library, rather than them being local to your phone. This process is NOT intuitive, so definitely be good boys and girls and read the instructions. Luckily for people like me, there’s a fix.
With Zandy, you can use your android phone to search databases and add references, make notes, browse and search your existing library, edit records, read attachments, etc. It feels a bit clunky to use at times. There’s a known bug in the sync function that the interface doesn’t recognize the new items in the collection unless the user goes to a different screen and then back to it. While it is simple to browse your libraries, the search function is unsophisticated. I searched for “Wongs” and it did not bring up Wong’s Nursing Care of Infants and Children because I left out the apostrophe. It did find it if I just typed “Wong.” The developer is working on fixes for both of these issues, promising both saved searches and field searching in future releases.
Overall, I do recommend purchasing Zandy if you have a need to access your Zotero library from your phone. If you regularly search databases from your phone, you can seamlessly add relevant citations and notes to your Zotero library. You can also easily read pdf attachments synced to your library. While it isn’t perfect, the developer acknowledges that it’s a work in progress. I’m looking forward to future releases of Zandy and other apps for Zotero that are in the works. At this writing, I consider Zandy the most functional Zotero app for the android phone.