Zotero bills itself as a “free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite and share your research sources.” For an overview of Zotero, check out our previous Tech Lister post. For detailed instructions, visit the Lister Hill Library Zotero guide.
In April, Zotero released version 4.0, providing even more functionality than previous versions. New features include:
4.0 allows you to assign up to six different colors to the tags of your choice. This makes it easy to identify items you would like to find at a glance.
To assign a color, simply right click the name of the tag in the tag panel. Note its assigned number. You can apply the tag to other items by pressing the number when it is highlighted.
On Demand File Syncing
On Demand File syncing allows a user to choose what to sync to which device. This could be particularly handy when the full library isn’t necessary on a device with limited storage.
Automatic Journal Abbreviations
Zotero now has built-in journal abbreviations. Previously, Zotero populated this information from a journal abbreviation field that many databases didn’t use. The hope is that this will save the user from having to manually correct this information.
For a full list of the changes, check out the Zotero blog on the 4.0 release and the 4.0 change log.
Also worth noting is that the beta “Zotero Everywhere” mentioned in our previous post is now “Zotero Standalone.” It uses “connectors” to make Zotero compatible with Chrome and Safari as well as with Firefox.
Are you looking for a simple tool to organize your PDFs and facilitate your writing process?
ReadCube is a free app for Windows and Mac computers developed to help researchers quickly navigate research literature, and organize their PDFS to facilitate their writing. (Similar free tools include Zotero and Mendeley Desktop.)
Use ReadCube to organize your PDF Collection. Import a file of PDFs and ReadCube will fetch the metadata from PubMed and Google Scholar for the citations. Export individual or groups of citations directly to EndNote (or as a RIS file for other managers, like Zotero) to create bibliographies.
You can highlight, annotate, and tag each PDF in your PDF library. These comments are fully searchable.
Search PubMed and/or Google Scholar directly in ReadCube. Download the articles (if free or licensed by UAB) in one click. Be sure to set your preferences to UAB. Note the links to related articles and forward citations in the record in your library.
Other features include personalized article recommendations based on the PDFs in your library and the ability to automatically find supplemental material for a growing number of articles.
ReadCube is snazzy and simple to use. It seemed to find bibliographic information for most of the articles I added quite quickly and working with PDFS was straightforward and simple. There are other reference managers available that have similar functions available. Similar products you may want to review, depending on your needs, include:
Zotero: See the LHL Guide to Zotero, Organize your zotero Library
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.