I feel like Zotero should be easier to use than this
January 24, 2016 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I need the help of a Zotero expert--or at least someone with more skills than me. I had a beautiful system on my old computer: use Zotero plugin to download attachments and citations from Chrome, Zotfile to rename and sort them into a central folder, and I'd painstakingly deleted all duplicates and associated all PDF files without readable metadata to their proper items. Then I dropped my computer, and despite having my library on the Zotero server, I'm faced with going through aforementioned PDF files and doing this all over again. There must be a better way.

Preface: I use Zotero for lack of anything better. Mendeley runs even slower and EndNote did not have the functionalities I wanted.

I managed to retrieve the actual PDF files for most of my library, and my library (but not attachments) are all on the Zotero server. I didn't add attachments to it because I quickly ran out of room. I would now like to reassociate these files to Zotero's items. But 100+ of them apparently do not have OCR readable text or metadata.

First, that seems weird, because I could have sworn some of these files had said metadata in the past.

Second, right now my only option appears to be dragging each PDF to each Zotero item one-by-one. This is a pain in the ass and it does not seem like it's even working, since while the attachment is showing up under the item the little circle that indicates the presence of an attachment is not filling in.

Is there an easier way to do this? And how can I avoid this happening in the future? In the past I've had bad luck with creating and restoring from Zotero.rdf backups (i.e. the program crashes when I try to do this). Is there a way to sync my library to somewhere that's NOT the Zotero server? My school provides me ample free space through Box--it would be nice if I could put the attachments on there so this issue does not occur again.

I have papers to write, so I am dearly hoping a quick way to do this.
posted by anonymous to Technology (5 answers total)
Have you tried dragging them in, in bulk? And then highlight them all, right-click and choose "Retrieve Metadata"? You might have to approve an extra step that indexes the PDFs first, but you'll only have to do that part once, and it's really fast. And then, after that, you might have to do the "Retrieve Metadata" step again.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:14 PM on January 24, 2016

Sorry, or is that what you were saying, that they apparently aren't OCR'd now, so this process doesn't work.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:16 PM on January 24, 2016

Response by poster: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. That's not working.
posted by Anonymous at 4:39 PM on January 24, 2016

No experience with Zotero, unfortunately. However, I was frustrated with similar EndNote problems and recently migrated to Flow (formerly RefWorks). It's free with an institutional email and you get 10 GB of storage for your docs. You can batch drag and drop, add tags, dump into folders, etc. I've found it super easy to use. PDFs and metadata are a constant struggle for me though, no matter what platform, but it's fairly easy to edit the info on Flow. My only complaint is that the servers can be kinda slow sometimes but I figure I'm still saving time by not constantly fiddling around with EndNote.
posted by thebots at 12:22 AM on January 25, 2016

Could you add OCR to the pdf's and then try the bulk import? Looks like Acrobat Pro can do this in bulk, if you can find someone on campus with a license — I think there's also a free 30-day trial? This (pdfsandwich) is maybe another option, if you are using OS X or Linux. Can't vouch for either personally though.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:33 AM on January 25, 2016

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