Michelle P. Green, MA, MLIS
Optometry and Health Professions Librarian
John Vaughan Library 213D
Northeastern State University
The following is an update to my original review published in the October 2017 issue of Doody’s Collection Development Monthly. To see the original review, click here.
Zotero is a free, open-source citation management tool that offers ways to manage citations and research with an easy-to-use interface. This resource is appropriate for anyone who accesses, conducts, or collects research. Zotero is tailored to academics but can be used by anyone.
Zotero’s primary purpose is to help researchers of all types collect, organize, and access a variety of resources. It also assists with the writing process, providing a Microsoft Word plugin (for Mac-based Word, as well). With Zotero, a researcher can grab citations straight from their browser and insert them directly into their documents.
Since 2017, Zotero has gone through continuous but minor changes. Now on version 6.0, the overall look, feel, and utility of the citation manager has stayed relatively consistent. The content layout is also relatively the same, excluding interface updates over the years.
Many more citation styles have been added to the style repository. The Firefox browser extension is now back, along with the addition of a Microsoft Edge extension. The Word plugin remains, and a Google Docs plugin has also been added.
All the content updates are still highly appropriate for the intended audience and perhaps even serve to widen the audience through improvements and additions.
As with many “living” applications like Zotero, feature and functionality updates are done on a near-constant basis. Below are just a few of the key updates. For the full record, click here.
Zotero still boasts the same features and functions as mentioned in the previous review. The bulk of the updates are small tweaks intended to improve the user experience. Some notable updates include improvements to the PDF reader, note editor improvements to make it more like writing a Word document, and the ability to pin library tabs in a convenient order.
All these upgrades over the past five years have certainly improved the user experience. The interface remains reliably similar for those who may be returning to the citation manager from an absence, while these new and updated features make the interface easier to use and provide a smoother experience and more conveniences that make organizing research easier, such as the improved functionality of the notes option.
Zotero remains free and open access. It is still free to share, download, and use as needed or preferred.
Extra storage is still available at a low cost ($20/year for 2 GB of storage), and that cost seems to have been unchanged in the past five years.
Zotero’s prime appeal is likely its free and open-access business model. No license purchases are required and it is a fairly easy and smooth process to implement as an individual or an organization’s standard citation management system. It is not the totality or quality of the feature and functionality upgrades, per se, that makes Zotero so valuable and such a strong recommendation. Rather, it is the stability, free cost, detailed troubleshooting forum, and continuous improvements that make this resource so valuable in an era of inflation and instability. No doubt Zotero will continue to make improvements each month, thus increasing the value of this product.