Zotero - Simple Set-Up, Great Tool
Jacob Zelko
by Jacob Zelko
3 min read

Zotero - the time-saving, reference managing, and all-round awesome research collaboration tool


Papers. Books. Backs of napkins. How to keep track of it all?


Ihave worked with multiple different research groups over the years and we continue to keep running into the same issue - how can we easily share research documents with one another?

For me, my solution has been to use a very handy tool called Zotero and in this post, I will introduce you to setting it up to manage your personal research and how to use zotero.org to share findings with your team. Buckle up! :sunglasses:


Zotero is the Hero!


But, Why Zotero?

After reviewing reference management tools like EndNote and Mendeley, I came to the conclusion that they are either

  1. Too costly

  2. Locks you into their app and software ecosystem

  3. Not easy to share cross platform

Whereas Zotero is free, open-source, and is available for Windows, OSX, and Linux! :smiley:


Setting Up Zotero

Here is the step-by-step on how to set-up Zotero:

  1. Navigate to zotero.org and click the button that says, “Download” and then install it for your appropriate system.


The Zotero homepage should look something like this
  1. Go back to zotero.org and sign up for a free account - you can do this also by clicking here.

  2. Once you have finished making an account, open Zotero and add in the credentials you made on the website by clicking Edit>Preferences>Sync.


The sign-in window should look similar to this - don't mess with any other settings here!


ZotFile - Super Powers for Zotero (and You!)

Once you have installed Zotero, we are now going to give it super powers to automatically extract the important information from a paper and save it into Zotero.


When you drop a random paper PDF into Zotero, it automatically extracts info with ZotFile.
Just like magic :sparkles:


  1. Install ZotFile from their website. This will download a .xpi file on your computer.

  2. Install ZotFile into Zotero by going to Tools>Select>Add-ons. In the menu that shows up, click the gear icon and click “Install Add-on from File”.


Make sure to restart Zotero after the install!


  1. Select the .xpi you downloaded and install it.

  2. Restart Zotero.

ZotFile also allows you to extract comments and annotations from a PDF that you work on later. To do this, right click a file that you have annotated and uploaded to Zotero. Under “Manage Attachments”, click “Extract Annotations”. Wait for a moment and you should see your annotations pop up under your entry in Zotero as a note file!


Here ZotFile automagically copies the annotations from a PDF and stores them into Zotero for easy referencing.


Zotero for Teams

Communicating files to your team members is easy with Zotero Sync! Here is how to do it:

  1. Go back to zotero.org and login to your profile. Click where the layout says “Groups”.

  2. Here you can easily create a new group be clicking “Create a New Group” - once you do this, you can create a group with specific permissions; it is up to you to decide!


You have a few options with creating a group - choose wisely!


  1. Once inside your group, you can add members via their email or Zotero username and add in findings you wish to share with your group.

  2. You can also add documents within Zotero to share with your group. Open Zotero and wait for Zotero to sync. You should see a new list pop-up called “Group Libraries” with your newly made group. Drop in whatever files you wish and your team should see the file pop up on their Zotero accounts after sync is complete!


If I click on any of my group libraries, I can see and interact with all the items shared in the group.



Thanks for following along on the tutorial! Hopefully that got you started with Zotero and you can now start using it to manage your research and amongst teams.

If you want to take a deeper dive into Zotero and personal research management, I recommend you check out my article about it!

If anything is confusing or could be improved upon or if you just want to say hey, please drop me a comment below or contact me!