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Zotero: Zotero Step-by-Step

What is Zotero?

What is Zotero?

Zotero is a free, open source citation manager developed by the Center for History and New Media at the George Mason University.

Zotero works as both an add-on for the Firefox browser (that works on many different operating systems) and (via the standalone version) with both Safari and Chrome.  Zotero also adds functionality to Microsoft Word (Mac or Windows) and OpenOffice (Mac, Windows, Linux) through a citation plugin.

Watch this brief overview video to see Zotero in action.

Installing Zotero

Step 1: Install Zotero

Zotero will run on any operating system. It requires Mozilla Firefox 3.0 or greater. Installation only takes a few seconds.

To install, go to and click the red "Download" button. Click "Install Now" and follow the instructions.

If you see the message “Firefox prevented this site from asking you to install software on your computer," click "Allow".

Restart Firefox and you're all set! You'll see a small Zotero button at the bottom of your Firefox window.

If you have any problems, check the Zotero installation page.

Step2: Install the Word or OpenOffice Plugin


Using Windows?

Install the Microsoft Word citation plugin (or the OpenOffice plugin if you're using OpenOffice). These allow you to easily cite items from your Zotero library in your papers.

Using a Mac?

Please note these instructions from


The latest version of the Mac Word plugin for Zotero 2.0 is 3.0b3. The plugin is compatible with Word 2004 and 2008 and OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or newer:

Install PythonExt:

  1. Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 users should install PythonExt from (Firefox extension, 11MB). This custom build of PythonExt fixes several issues with the official releases, including the alpha release for Firefox 3.6. For instructions on how to update PythonExt, see the troubleshooting page.  Firefox 3.0 users should install PythonExt from the official site. Note that this build of PythonExt will work only with Intel Macs. Users with PowerPC Macs must upgrade to a newer version of Firefox.

  2. Install the Word for Mac Plugin (Firefox extension, 126KB).

Word 2008 users: The Word 2008 plugin uses the Word script menu rather than a toolbar.

Word 2016 users: The Word 2016 plugin using the Word Add-Ins menu.

Creating Your Zotero Account / Zotero Groups

Setting Up your Zotero Account

Use this form to register for a new Zotero account. You need a Zotero account to use the groups features and to enable syncing.

Watch this video for visual instructions for setting up a Zotero account

Sync your Zotero Account with your Zotero Installation

Open Zotero, Select the "gear" menu and "Preferences"


Select the "Sync" tab from the Preferences menu and add your account information.


When you sync the first time, you may need to use the sync now button  to get the sync started immediately.


Using Zotero Groups

Zotero's Groups feature allows you to share references with other Zotero users online. It's a great way to work on collaborative research projects.

Watch this video for a good overview of Zotero Groups

First, log in at There's a "Log In" link in the top right corner of the page.

You can search for existing public groups or create a new group. Groups may be public (searchable, and anyone can join) or private (users can only join if invited).

Quick tip:  Be sure to setup Group settings This is where you name your group, invite group members, and determine access rights for your group members.  On the Library Tab for your group, be sure to give your group members rights to add and edit (if that's appropriate).

Setting your Preferences / Citation Format / Associating PDFs

Zotero works with an enormous number of citation formats.  You can set your default format from the preference menu:


If you would like any associated PDFs attached to your Zotero citation information, you must select the box "Automatically attach associated PDFs and other files when saving items" from the "gear" menu / preferences / general:



More about Zotero and PDFs: Retrieving PDF Metadata 


Find It! and Zotero

 You've probably seen the Find It! button in some article databases that allows you to locate the full text of an article online. Zotero allows you to use the same feature.

To enable Zotero to access the Find It! server, click the gear button on the Zotero toolbar and choose Preferences. At the bottom of the preferences window's advanced tab, paste this url into the "OpenURL" box:

Then select OK. Once you've set this up, you can click the Library Lookup button on any citation you're viewing to search for the item online.

Preferences: Proxies

It might seem like a great idea to check the box to "enable proxy redirection," but it's really not.  Especially if you do research at several universities, this option can cause problems and general proxy confusion.  Please keep the box un-checked:


Collecting References

Hands-on activity: go to EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete and do a search (sample search: intimate partner violence). Select any single item. Click on book icon in location bar. Open Zotero window, click icon to see reference added to library.

Search PsycINFO (EBSCOhost) for aspergers syndrome

Try adding citations from a publisher web site - Elsevier - Child Abuse & Neglect

Try adding items from Amazon, New York Times

Zotero also works with ProQuest databases, such as Dissertations Full Text (sample search: intimate partner violence).

Using Zotero with Voyager (our Library Catalog) 

Taking Snapshots of Web Pages

Zotero can't automatically capture citation info from regular web pages, but you can still add them to your Zotero library.

To save a citation to a web page: Open your library by clicking the Zotero button Click the “Create new item” button to save the citation.

Zotero automatically attaches a “snapshot” of the page to the citation.

A snapshot is a copy of the page saved to your computer. It includes the page's text and images, so if the page is removed later,

Using the New York Times search results, choose a blog entry and "Create New Item from Current Page."



In Zotero Standalone, you will not see the icon from the Zotero panel.  You can find the snapshot functionality from the "right-click" menu.

Managing References & Folders

Click the folder icon () at the top left of the Zotero window to create a new collection (Zotero calls folders "collections").  To populate the collection/folder, you can:

  • Drag items from the center pane into the collection/folder.
  • Click on the folder to select it, then add new citations from database searches.  These "new" citations are saved in whichever folder is highlighted.

Important Notes About Folders:

  • Citations are automatically saved to your "My Library" folder.  You can also copy a citation to as many difference folders as you like, but the citation is always part of your over-all "My Library" folder.
  • If you delete a citation from your "My Library" folder, the citation is moved to the Trash folder.
  • If you delete a citation from another folder, the citation will no longer show up in that folder, but IS still part of your "My Library" folder.

Writing with Zotero

Download the Plug-in for Word or Open Office from  From Word, you can now access Zotero from the Add-ins tab.


More about Using Zotero with Microsoft Word 

Backup Your Library

After all the care and feeding you will do to grow your Zotero library, is there anything more important than backing up your files?  No?  I didn't think so.  Please backup your data early and often.  The details are available at: