Zotero, an Endnote alternative

I wasn’t planning to make this a software weblog, but I’ll make an exception for Zotero because I think fellow researchers will find it an interesting tool. Zotero [ˌzɔˈtɛɹoʊ] is a free piece of software that lives in your browser, helping you to ‘collect, manage and cite your research sources’ in all sorts of beautiful ways. It bills itself as The Next-Generation Research Tool, and in this post I’ll try to explain why I think that’s true. The background to this posting is that I made the move from Endnote to Zotero two months ago — and I have never since considered going back.

It all started when I upgraded from Endnote 7 to Endnote X to get Unicode support.1 Endnote X included Endnote Web, a web-based implementation that looked interesting. I had some difficulty getting the two to work together, and when I finally did, there were drawbacks that made me look out for an alternative. A Google search led me to Zotero, which was a breeze to install. I could simply import my Endnote library and started a testdrive. Within minutes I was totally hooked. The Zotero interface offered everything I had been missing in Endnote and then some. What makes Zotero so good?

Seamless integration with online research

First of all, Zotero answers the needs of researchers in the digital age. The rise of online repositories like JSTOR, ProQuest, SpringerLink, and Google Scholar has caused a shift in our research habits; we spend more time browsing virtual libraries, and less time hanging around in physical ones.2 Zotero seamlessly integrates with this online experience by automating the wearisome labour of saving references and by offering many ways to manage and enrich the data thus collected. All from within the web browser. Continue reading

  1. Some Unicode support been in place since v. 8 on, though without RTL abilities. []
  2. We all like to stress how we still appreciate the feel of paper in our hands, and the smell of books in a well-stocked library. The point here is merely that as more and more of these offline sources become available for online searching, our research habits (though not necessarily our reading habits) are bound to be affected by this. []