Zotero: The Next-Generation Research Tool

6 January , 2009

Zotero: The Next-Generation Research Tool

One of the tools I have began to love the most is this free add-on for FireFox. I used to be a fan of EndNote, which is a great program, but it wasn’t free… And I AM the CHEAP researcher after all.

Zotero allows you to store references in a database, and later on insert the references into, say, Microsoft Word. Inside Word, you look up the reference you want and automagically a bibliography is created at the back. There’s a great little feature that you can store files with it, so that the pdf’s you refer to are in the right place. Another extremly handy function is the way you can get references into the database. Whenever you are on a library site or a bookstore site, you get a zotero icon next to the URL. ‘Click’, and the reference is added to your database. Great. The coming version of zotero will support external cloud storage of references, so you can reach your references from whatever computer you are on. At present the best way might be to keep the zotero files in a folder that you sync with DropBox, mentioned earlier on my blog.

Try this add-on for yourself, and see if you are satisfied!

Dropbox – my sync’er of choice!

19 December , 2008

Researchers…teachers…students… a lot of us have a computer at work, a computer at home, and a laptop to boot (sorry, bad pun). I must admit to also have a mediacenter PC and a work laptop. What I wanted was an easy way to keep folders in sync between all or some of these computers, without relying on ftp or windows drive mapping etc.

I went to several sync softwares before landing on DropBox for now. First I considered Syncplicity, and this was really great with excellent service – until they went out of beta. The free version ended up supporting two computers,

and having three or four I wanted to sync, I had to look elsewhere. Syncplicity comes with a 2 GB account, that grows when you invite friends (up until 5 GB I think).

Next up I went for Foldershare – a microsoft product. This is another concept, syncing as many computers as you like, but only when they are online at the same time. There’s no cloud storage, just moving files over networks. Foldershare suddenly changed into Windows Live Sync, but it is still good. I used it all the time for syncing my iTunes libraries, my iPod libraries, a few movies so that they are available on all computers etc. Another fancy way to use it is to sync a folder with torrents in – that way it’s easy to start torrent downloads from other computers than the one you are downloading to. The freeware uTorrent supports watching a folder for whether a .torrent suddenly pops into it.

I finally ended on Dropbox, the main reason over the others is that it has a 2GB cloud storage, and it allows for several computers to be kept in sync. It also has a clever way of using a public folder, right click a file in the public folder and you get a link you can send a friend. No more swearing when MSN spends seven hours transferring big files. Dropbox also worked on my heavily firewalled work computers, where Foldershare and Syncplicty had troubles installing due to some strange bugs in the Windows Install System (I think it’s called MSI, but not sure…).

Lifehacker also wrote about this in an article about using Dropbox to sync your passwords across computers. Hope you who read this will leave some other clever uses in the comments! I can think of some, like syncing your library of references, to be used in EndNote or Zotero or similar reference managers. Sharing pictures with your family and friends is also pretty easy with this software. And it’s lightning fast!