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Using Zotero at Princeton

Using Zotero at Princeton

What is Zotero?

Zotero is free "bibliographic citation management" software that allows you to save, collect, manage, cite, and share research sources. Zotero works inside your browser (it works best in Firefox and Chrome, though there is a version Safari),  enabling you to easily save citations as you do research. You can also take notes in Zotero, allowing you to store your reactions to a source right next to its citation. Use the Zotero word processor plugins to easily cite your sources and create a bibliography while you work. (NOTE: Though Zotero will save you lots of time in the creation of footnotes/in-text citations and bibliographies, it's always a good idea to proofread your work.) 



  1. Install Zotero (Zotero Standalone OR the Zotero extension for Firefox, Chrome or Safari)
  2. Install the word-processor plugin for your word processor (Word or Open Office)
  3. Configure your Citation Style to whichever style you want to use (e.g. Chicago, MLA, etc.)
  4. Configure the Library Lookup option
  5. To automatically grab PDFs when saving citations, go to Preferences and check "Automatically attach associated PDFs"
  6. Configure backups and/or synchronize your Zotero bibliographic data with another computer.

Zotero vs. Mendeley vs. Endnote

All three can be used on your desktop (without an Internet connection, if necessary) and they all have an online version that can be synced with the desktop version.  They function similarly, so you can always transfer citations between EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero.  That said, 
  • Zotero is by far the best at "grabbing" citations and full text from catalogs, databases, web pages and sites like Amazon and Flickr. It’s free and open source with a large user group, user forums and a developer community, and will be available to you after graduation. Syncing your citations to Zotero's cloud is seamless.
  • Mendeley's strength is its ability to import and grab metadata from pdfs (including pdfs already on your computer). It was also created as a collaborative tool and has more social media features than the other two tools. However, only the basic version (with much less functionality) is free.
  • EndNote Desktop has been around the longest and is generally more robust in terms of customization, i.e., Endnote citation styles are more easily customizable than Zotero's or Mendeley's. A drawback to Endnote Desktop is that it won't be available after graduation and constantly requires update purchases. (Endnote Web doesn't have optimal functionality on its own without the companion desktop version.)


Princeton University Library now supports an institutional subscription for unlimited storage (e.g., for article pdfs), authenticated with a current Princeton University email address.  If you already have a Zotero account, but it’s not currently linked to your Princeton email, you can add your Princeton email in Zotero Preferences under Settings—> Account and the new unlimited storage will show up under Settings-->Storage.

If you’re not yet using Zotero for your footnotes and bibliographies, feel free to sign up for a 30 minute workshop and we’ll get you started!