Friday, July 11, 2008

Zotero 1.5 Sync Preview Adds Multi-Computer Sync, Auto Backup

The folks over at Zotero have made available a development release which shows off new features which will make Zotero an even better competitor to the proprietary RefWorks and Endnote citation tools.

Zotero is a Firefox plug in which captures and builds citation information (from a variety of web pages including most major library automation systems), stores this information locally (up to now!) and allows export in a variety of citation styles to OpenOffice or MS Office for inclusion in research papers. Other features allow the storage of PDFs, images and web pages. All of this goes into a searchable database on the user's machine.

As far as this goes, it's a wonderful, light-weight app that is also free and open source. However, up to now it has lacked the online features that make costly and proprietary products like Endnote and RefWorks so valuable for libraries. Unless a student was able to do all the research for a paper and write it in one sitting, the tool has not been too practical in computer lab settings, where the saved data would likely be erased at the end of the session.

But the new version, called
Zotero 1.5 Sync Preview, adds multi-computer synchronization, automatic backups, and support for thousands of existing Endnote export styles.

The Preview edition runs only on
Firefox 3, and like most other development releases, the notes include multiple caution and warnings about possible instability or data loss. (So, probably not a good idea to test this on the only copy of the notes for your dissertation!)

But for the would-be pioneer, the Preview edition shows how Zotero is developing into a real competitor for RefWorks and Endnote in the always cash-strapped, understaffed world of libraries.