Skip to Main Content

Zotero: Tips and FAQs

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.

Using Zotero with other browsers

Internet Explorer

If you're using Internet Explorer or a mobile browser, you can still save items to your Zotero library. A free Zotero account is required.

The Zotero Bookmarklet works with all desktop browsers and most mobile browsers (including Safari for iPad and the Android browser).

Visit the Zotero Bookmarklet page for installation instructions for your particular browser or device. You won't have to install any software -- just the bookmarklet

Use Google Docs with Zotero

Zotero works well with Word and OpenOffice, but you can also use it with Google Docs.

To insert a Zotero reference in Google Docs, use keyboard shortcuts:

  1. Open your Google Doc and your Zotero library.
  2. In your Zotero window, click on the record you want to cite. 
    1. To copy an end-of-document reference, use keyboard shortcut: CTRL+ALT+C. 
    2. To copy an in-text citation, use keyboard shortcut: CTRL+ALT+A.
  3. Paste it into your Google Doc.
  4. To add a bibliography at the end of your document, in Zotero, select the citations you used, right-click, select “Create Bibliography from Selected Items,” and choose “Export to Clipboard.” Then paste into Google Docs.

Portable Zotero

Install Firefox and Zotero on a USB drive and you can take your library with you to use on any computer!

First, download and install Portable Firefox for Windows or Mac on your USB drive. This is a special edition of Firefox designed to run entirely from a portable drive. It keeps its own settings, bookmarks and Zotero library separate from the settings installed on your computer.

Then, copy your Zotero library from your computer to your USB drive, using either method below:

  1. Open Zotero on your computer, click the gear button and choose Export Library (as in the image below).
  2. Save your library to a file anywhere on your computer.
  3. Close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive, open Zotero, click the gear button and choose Import.
  4. Import the file you just saved.


  1. Set up Zotero sync on your computer (see "Zotero Sync"  instruction on this page)
  2. Close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive and set up Zotero sync on there too (note: if you use the sync option, any changes you make to your Zotero library will update themselves in both versions of Firefox)

How to back-up Zotero files

How do I back up my Zotero library? Where does Zotero store my references, notes and files?

It is important to fully understand how Zotero stores its data, so you can correctly back up your Zotero library and, when disaster strikes, recover it. By default, your entire Zotero library is stored in the 'zotero' directory of your Firefox profile. The most important file in this directory is the zotero.sqlite file, which contains the majority of your data: item metadata, notes, tags, etc. The directory also contains a 'storage' subdirectory, containing all of your file attachments, such as PDFs, web snapshots, audio files, or any other files you have imported (note that files that are linked are not copied into this subdirectory).

Your 'zotero' directory will likely contain several other files. These can include zotero.sqlite.bak (an automatic backup of zotero.sqlite, which is updated when you quit Firefox and the existing zotero.sqlite.bak file hasn't been updated in the last 12 hours) and zotero.sqlite.[number].bak files (automatic backups of zotero.sqlite that are created during certain updates to the Zotero extension).

Warning: Before you copy, delete or move any of these files, be sure that Firefox is closed. Failure to close Firefox before moving these files can damage your data.

The quickest and most reliable way to find your Zotero data directory is through the “Show Data Directory” button in the Advanced tab of your Zotero Preferences window.

Zotero Standalone

Why use Zotero Standalone?

Zotero Standalone is a good option for you if you:

  • Prefer using Safari or Chrome to Firefox
  • Prefer to use your citation manager in a separate window, rather than in your web browser

Zotero Standalone runs as a separate program on your computer, rather than running in Firefox.

You can install both Zotero Standalone and Zotero for Firefox and use both versions on the same computer, if desired.

Installing Zotero Standalone

Zotero standalone is a 2 step download process.

  1. Download Zotero Standalone for mac/pc.

  2. Download the Chrome, Safari, or Firefox connectors.

What is a Connector?

Zotero Connectors allows you to save items to Zotero from within browsers other than firefox, using Zotero's site translators.

NOTE: You can use the Chrome and Safari connectors without switching to Zotero Standalone, you can actually use the Zotero instance in Firefox as your central repository, and the Safari and Chrome connectors can send citations to it.

Zotero for Mobile Devices

You can use Zotero in several different mobile browsers using a "Bookmarklet." The "bookmarklet" is a particular link that saves items directly to your Zotero account on the web.

To start using Zotero on your mobile device, you must first have a Zotero account. Your device must also be online to use Zotero.

Instructions for setting up your Zotero bookmarklet are available on the Zotero official website. Download the Zotero Bookmarklet here.

The set up process will vary slightly among the different browser options. You can use the bookmarklet with Safari on your iPhone/iPad, Android browser, Firefox Mobile browser, or Opera Mobile/Mini. A desktop version of the bookmarklet is also available.

Keep up to date with Zotero