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Last week, one of my favourite blogs, BoingBoing, had an interesting link to a new web based research tool. I've been having a go over the weekend.

Zotero is an extension for firefox for versions greater than 1.5 (non inclusive). I've been giving it a go in firefox 2.0. Its cross-platform, and it doesn't seem to slow things down at all. Once installed, the word "zotero" appears on the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Clicking on it will bring up a three column listing of your references.

You can import your endnote database by exporting it from endnote as text in RefMan (RIS) format. When you visit your library catalogue (this works for Sydney uni, not sure about others), it will detect both when you have a listing up (say you wanted to add all the books with the keyword "warlpiri") or when you have a single item up on the page. Clicking on the icon in the right in the address field will add the reference to your collection. With listings, it seems that you can use the greater flexibility of your web based library catalogue to generate listings of references, but at least with Sydney Uni's library, you can only import 10 references at a time. Endnotes database connection facility is more powerful, but you can only query a small number of fields.

Also very good is that you can append files, notes and tags to your references. So when you link to a pdf document, you can download the file and link the reference to your local copy. Zotero can store the file for you, or you can link to the file and store it where ever you like. Tags are great for folk-onomy organisation of your references, and if you cut and paste interesting sections of text into the notes then you can rediscover them when searching through your references (much like you would in endnote).

If you're interested in referencing web pages for blogging or for academic work (which I seem to be doing more and more), then this is a great tool. When you add links you can automatically take a screen shot and you don't have to worry about the whole "captured on" stuff as well. Zotero integrates quite well into your regular browsing habits, and extends plain old bookmarking to make may random web-wanderings more like proper e-research!

I've still got a bit of playing round to do (I've got to see how it behaves with repositories) but for now, I'm sold. It doesn't make endnote redundant, but if/when they introduce word processor integration, it may well. Now I've just got to check out Heurist (developed here at Sydney Uni) to see how it stacks up...

Comments

I'll be interested to hear your comparative comments on Heurist... which was developed mainly for the social bookmarking functionality.

Also, do you have any comment on how Zotero copes with non-traditional reference types, e.g., performances?

Zotero lets you create a number of different styles of reference which, amongst other things, restrict the roles that can be assigned to participants. For instance, there's a video or audio recording reference style which limits you to Performer, Composer, Contributor, and "Words By" roles. "Words By" doesn't strike me as a marcrelator role from memory...

I gather its designed for collecting references that you might find online, rather than in the real world, and as such you might have to squish some reference types into a more traditional style.

I'm not sure, I'd have to dig, but I'm guessing its not straight forward to add different reference styles in. It'd be interesting to see how the non-traditional references would travel in an import into Zotero.

Also, by-the-by, I don't know who's to blame but the DSpace integration is not there :-(


Hi, my name is Trevor, I work for the Center for History and New Media. I thought I would just post a update.

Today the center released the alpha version of word integration for Zotero. You can find it here http://www.zotero.org/blog/feature-spotlight-zotero-microsoft-word-integration-alpha/
Yours,
Trevor@Zotero.org

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