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Zotero - Collect, Organize, Cite and Share your Research Sources: Zotero Tips and Tricks

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.

Portable Zotero

Install Firefox and Zotero on a USB drive and you can take your library with you to use on any computer!

First, download and install Portable Firefox for Windows or Mac on your USB drive. This is a special edition of Firefox designed to run entirely from a portable drive. It keeps its own settings, bookmarks and Zotero library separate from the settings installed on your computer.

Then, copy your Zotero library from your computer to your USB drive, using either method below:

  1. Open Zotero on your computer, click the gear button and choose Export Library (as in the image below).
  2. Save your library to a file anywhere on your computer.
  3. Close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive, open Zotero, click the gear button and choose Import.
  4. Import the file you just saved.


  1. Set up Zotero sync on your computer (see "Zotero Sync"  instruction on this page)
  2. Close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive and set up Zotero sync on there too (note: if you use the sync option, any changes you make to your Zotero library will update themselves in both versions of Firefox)

Using Zotero with EndNote

You might want transfer your references between Zotero and EndNote if:

  • You want to make use of the best features of both programs; or
  • You want to share your Zotero references with a colleague who uses EndNote (or vice versa).

Please note that PDFs do not export between programs - only citation information.

Zotero to EndNote

  • Click the gear icon (for settings) in the upper left hand corner of the screen
  • Select "export library"
  • Choose RIS as the file type and make up a file name
  • In EndNote, go to "File," then "Import."
  • Click the "choose file" button, then select the file you just exported from Zotero.
  • Set your Import Option to "Reference Manager (RIS)" and click "Import."

EndNote to Zotero

  • Click "file," then  "export"
  • Set the output style to "RefMan (RIS) Export" and *save as a text file.*
  • In Zotero, click the gear icon (for settings) and choose "import"
  • Double-click the file you just exported from EndNote
  • Note that your imported references will appear in a collection called "Imported" followed by a date and time stamp.

How do I backup Zotero?

How do I back up my Zotero library? Where does Zotero store my references, notes and files?

It is important to fully understand how Zotero stores its data, so you can correctly back up your Zotero library and, when disaster strikes, recover it. By default, your entire Zotero library is stored in the 'zotero' directory of your Firefox profile. The most important file in this directory is the zotero.sqlite file, which contains the majority of your data: item metadata, notes, tags, etc. The directory also contains a 'storage' subdirectory, containing all of your file attachments, such as PDFs, web snapshots, audio files, or any other files you have imported (note that files that are linked are not copied into this subdirectory).

Your 'zotero' directory will likely contain several other files. These can include zotero.sqlite.bak (an automatic backup of zotero.sqlite, which is updated when you quit Firefox and the existing zotero.sqlite.bak file hasn't been updated in the last 12 hours) and zotero.sqlite.[number].bak files (automatic backups of zotero.sqlite that are created during certain updates to the Zotero extension).

Warning: Before you copy, delete or move any of these files, be sure that Firefox is closed. Failure to close Firefox before moving these files can damage your data.

The quickest and most reliable way to find your Zotero data directory is through the “Show Data Directory” button in the Advanced tab of your Zotero Preferences window.

Syncing Zotero

Syncing your library means backing up your citations on Zoter's server. This way you can access your citation remotly and retrieve them if something happens to your personal computer.

This arrow will appear in your Zotero library. It will spin when it is uploading your citations.

If you're regularly using more than one computer in your research, Zotero's sync feature can keep your library up to date on all of them.  Zotero can store a copy of your library on the server and check it for updates whenever you open your library on a different computer.  All your computers must be running the same version Zotero and be configured to sync to the server.

  1. Set up a free user account.
  2. Open Zotero preferences (via the gear menu) and select the Sync tab. 
  3. Enter your Zotero user name and password. 
  4. Check the "sync automatically" box.  Zotero will upload your library to the server. 
  5. Repeat this configuration on each of your computers.  Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others.  This even works to synchronize your library among Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero site.

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