I really hate Zotero

There, I said it. Zotero should warm the heart of any academic, but somehow it escapes me. I’ve been loath to admit it for a long time, especially since I was part of the beta, and tried it for a long time. Plus, it’s exactly the sort of tool that I should really love.

Except I don’t.

Why not? Well, after examining my prejudice, I came to one conclusion: I no longer have any patience with applications that are local. Unless the application I want AND my data live in the cloud, I just won’t use it. I’ve found myself, over the last 6 months to a year, moving nearly everything I do online. Documents are created with Google Docs, I prefer Gmail to any local mail client I’ve tried, heck, I’ve even started using Flickr’s editing deal with Picnik to do my photo edits, and I luuuuuuurve me some photoshop.

What’s up with this change? I really only use two computers; my work PC and my Macbook. It wouldn’t be that hard to use local programs, and sync my documents. The problem is that it’s any effort at all. Syncing my documents shouldn’t be something that I think about, it should just happen…Mac nearly has it right with their .mac syncing, but the PC world just doesn’t operate like that without some serious effort on the user’s part. If Apple would move hard into this space, perhaps with Google as a partner…I think they could revolutionize computing yet again, especially if they leveraged their media power as a part of the cloud storage.

But I digress…

After using Zotero for awhile, I found myself cursing the fact that I had two different databases of information…the “macbook” stuff and the “desktop” stuff. This is why the third lobe of my brain is del.icio.us…I don’t have to think about where I might need that information. It just goes to the cloud, and I pull it down no matter where in the world I may be. I know that Zotero has listed on it’s homepage:

Remote library backup
Shared collections
Access your library from anywhere via the web

Give me that, and maybe it becomes a tool that is useful to me. But until then, local just doesn’t cut it anymore.

29 thoughts on “I really hate Zotero

  1. Interesting. On my “to do” list for my first year in this job is to recommend a citation-management tool for our campus to adopt and promote vigorously. The short list is currently Zotero and RefWorks (though other suggestions are most welcome!), and I’m leaning toward RefWorks, despite the cost, precisely because of this issue.

    Well, that and Zotero’s reliance on Firefox; I doubt seriously that we could get our user base to adopt Firefox and install Zotero with any degree of reliability.

  2. Mm. I just tried Google Docs – it recovered a corrupt Word doc, AND exports it to pdf. I’m a convert in the making.

    And yes – it’s gotten to the point that having to send yourself files just to keep all of your machines synched is a PITA. I’m expecting more good things from Google in this vein. Also, with the latest report that more folks (and libraries!) will be switching to Linux platforms since Vista is both a disaster and expensive, Microsoft may well be on a downswing…

  3. Even if I loved Zotero, which I don’t, I couldn’t recommend it for use on my campus because all of our public workstations are DeepFreeze machines, and once the user logs off, all local data is wiped. Without online storage, Zotero just won’t ever work. Which is too bad, what with the ‘free’ and the ‘easy’.

    As for personal use… never going to go back to local-only storage. Not gonna happen.

  4. It’s like you live in my head. I just got done fighting this same fight regarding RefWorks vs Zotero.

    FWIW, I liked RefWorks a lot when we had it precisely for its ability to be accessed anywhere. A site license wasn’t terribly expensive, either. I think we paid $10-12k for a year.

  5. What happens when the third or fourth lobe of your brain is bought by a large company and all of your data falls under a new un-privacy policy? Or is deleted in an “oops” by an intern.

    “But if one day you can’t trust them any more, well, what then… What then?” – Shallow Grave

    -travisb
    devil’s advocate, llc

  6. Two possibilities – http://bibme.org and noodlebib from http://noodletools.com. I’ve played around with bibme – very simple interface and design, even limited database searching (Amazon, citeulike) for general works to aid you in building your list. It has a simple UI for more novice user (high school, undergrads). It also does MLA, APA, Turabian/Chicago. The key word here is *free*

    Institutions can get site licenses for noodlebib. It offers more in depth features and is definitely more sophisticated than bibme, but only does MLA/APA.

    Both offer cloud storage…

  7. Does anybody have try to use the export/import tool? Or change the default directory to a USB drive?….or a portable hard drive?
    Thank you
    Karlo

  8. I agree that webbased facitilies are going to make Zotero even more likeable, but to me, its current feature set already outweighs that one downside. Besides having a local client is great – it means that you don’t lose access to your library while you’re offline. If you can afford not to worry about being offline, you’re just happy to be on this side of the Digital Divide. I like the fact that Zotero also thinks of those on the other side.

    @karlo jara: I’ve changed the default directory to a network drive that I can access from anywhere via a VPN tunnel. Map the drive to the same drive letter on all your systems, and there is no syncing issue at all.

  9. karlo jara – I store my Zotero folder on a keydrive and use that to access it from 4 computers. Plus I have portable firefox so I can use that if I’m at an Unfamiliar Win. machine.

    As much as I like online stuff, I don’t trust the cloud with my research. :)

  10. If you boneheads were as smart as you think you are, you’d realize you can host your zotero database on network share for the less than the price of a couple cappuccinos a month.

  11. Ok, “joe”…so you’re always on the same network? Home, work, conferences, Starbucks…no problem mounting that network share, right? Transparent for users?

    While you certainly CAN set up a network share to “follow” you anywhere, it is decidedly non-trivial.

    This isn’t an answer, it’s a troll.

  12. I don’t get what the stake is. zotero is NOT a social bookmarking service or anything like it. it is a citation manager. and you can set up a network for it. easily. or use a pendrive. I think this article just doesn’t do justice to zotero, given its scope and aim.

  13. Emre: there is no stake…just a thought experiment about why it is I don’t enjoy this tool that I really, really should. Setting up a network for it is fine…if you are always on the same network.

    I want desperately to use Zotero. But given the manner in which I (and I believe others) use their tools, Zotero falls short for me.

  14. Thanks to the guy who suggested to use Zotero with a Pendrive. I just set the pendrive as Zotero’s folder in three different computers and now I can carry all my information with me. No need to sync, it just stores the files in the pendrive. Sadly, in order to use it, I have to insert the pendrive before I open Firefox and close Firefox before I remove it. But that is no big deal.

    I have some heavy PDF’s in my Zotero folders, so the pendrive turns out to be a better solution than web storage, since my connection is not very fast. Thanks again!

  15. The Internet cloud is great if you have one. Travel down to India, Laos, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Cambodia and see how well you like those programs dependent on the big cloud. Zetero running independent of the Internet is great for a lot of people in the world, as they know it. And the world is a big place…

  16. Well I like Zotero. Yes, data and apps in the cloud are great for mobility but not for security, and there are always going to be times when you can’t connect. Having said that Zotero v2 beta has been released with the option of cloud storage and group features so it might be worth another look for those that require such functionality.

  17. I’m in the stages of switching to Mendeley. They store the data in the cloud, but you still have to sync from the harddrive, which takes time.

  18. Interesting. On my “to do” list for my first year in this job is to recommend a citation-management tool for our campus to adopt and promote vigorously. The short list is currently Zotero and RefWorks (though other suggestions are most welcome!), and I'm leaning toward RefWorks, despite the cost, precisely because of this issue. Well, that and Zotero's reliance on Firefox; I doubt seriously that we could get our user base to adopt Firefox and install Zotero with any degree of reliability.

  19. Just came across this, years later. Curious whether you've started using Zotero now that there is a cloud to host it on? Or whether some other software has already become your preference?

  20. Just came across this, years later. Curious whether you've started using Zotero now that there is a cloud to host it on? Or whether some other software has already become your preference?

  21. Just discovered Zotero — love it. Can’t write without it any more.

    How’s that “cloud only” thing working out for you? Personally, I cannot understand why anybody would risk their data to the great unknown… Mostly local, but easily transportable — that’s my motto.

  22. So now I have browsers that connect to zotero.org and sync, and my desktop version syncs to the browsers and zotero.org, and the files are stored in a directory that is sync to my dropbox account. Also my Zotero is sync to Mendeley.org account and desktop client.

    How would you rank this arrangement based on your needs?

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