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Zotero: Google Docs

This guide will help you use the free online citation and research management tool Zotero to organize citations from Library catalogs and databases.

Using Zotero with Google Docs

When you open Google Docs in a browser that has a Zotero connector installed, you will see a Zotero option added to your menu. 

Interacting with the Zotero functionality for the first time in a document will prompt you to authenticate the plugin with your Google account. Once authenticated you can begin inserting citations from your Zotero libraries just as you can with Word and LibreOffice.

Getting started

When you open Google Docs in a browser that has a Zotero connector installed, you will see a Zotero option added to your menu.

zotero menu drop-down

To add a citation to your document, you can choose "Add/edit citation" from the menu or click on the Z button in the Google Docs toolbar. You will be prompted to choose your citation style. Choose the citation using the citation dialog. Add citations and create bibliographies as described under the Bibliographies tab of this guide.

There are only a few differences in how Google Docs works with Zotero from how it works with Word and LibreOffice: 

  • Citation inserts and edits slow down significantly as the number of citations increases. With 100+ citations, a single citation update can take up to 10 seconds, so for longer documents you'll want to disable automatic citation updates in the Zotero document preferences.
  • It's not possible to copy active Zotero citations between documents and keep them functional. Copying citations within a document should work without problems.
  • Google Docs provides limited facilities for text formatting. Styles that use small caps fonts will not use a true small caps formatting style in Google Docs and will instead fall back to the “Alegreya Sans SC” font. Citations that have been inserted with automatic citation updates disabled will be inserted with a gray background instead of dashed underlining like in Word and LibreOffice.
  • If someone views the document without having the Zotero Connector installed, or if you download the document instead of first making a copy and unlinking citations, active citations in the document will show up as links leading to URLs such as https://www.zotero.org/google-docs/?abc123.
  • As of October 2018, it is not possible to transfer active citations between Google Docs and Word or LibreOffice, but Zotero will be offering a workflow for converting documents between word processors in the near future.

Collaboration

One advantage of using Zotero with Google Docs is that multiple people can collaborate on a single document -- inserting and editing citations -- without being in a Zotero group. However, if someone cites an item from their personal library, only they will be able to update the metadata for that item. For large projects, Zotero recommends creating a group library that allows all collaborators to change cited item metadata.

It is not necessary for all collaborators to have the Zotero connector installed, but without it they will see active citations in the documents as URLs. 

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