Zotero: The End of EndNote?

Just before the web burst into public consciousness, historian Roy Rosensweig demonstrated the power of multimedia to make history come alive with his CD-ROM “Who Built America.” Continuing to explore the possibilities of applying technology to scholarship, in 1994 Rosezweig founded the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As part of its mission to “combine cutting edge digital media with the latest and best historical scholarship,” the CHNM has created several tools useful for scholars. Zotero is the latest of these tools. It is described as a “next-generation research tool that makes it easy to gather, organize, annotate, search, and cite materials you find online and off” and is being called the “EndNote replacement” by many.

Like EndNote, Zotero can be used to store references to books, articles, and other forms of information. Unlike EndNote, it is integrated directly into your web browser, making this process easier. According to the Zotero web site (http://www.zotero.org) Zotero is a “free, easy-to-use research tool that helps you gather and organize resources (whether bibliography or the full text of articles), and then lets you annotate, organize, and share the results of your research. It includes the best parts of older reference manager software (like EndNote)—the ability to store full reference information in author, title, and publication fields and to export that as formatted references—and the best parts of modern software such as del.icio.us or iTunes, like the ability to sort, tag, and search in advanced ways. Using its unique ability to sense when you are viewing a book, article, or other resource on the web, Zotero will—on many major research sites—find and automatically save the full reference information for you in the correct field.”
I took it for a spin and found that it does what it claims, in an easy, direct way. Like other Firefox add-ins, Zotero sits in the corner of your browser window, available to be used when needed. Like EndNote, it allows you to create multiple libraries to store your references. These can be information about books, articles, web pages, or any number of resources. It can also store entire web pages, snapshots of pages, your own notes, and attachments like PDF files.
Its most interesting feature is the ability to “sense” reference information from a web page. For example, if you are looking at a book in Amazon or Google Scholar, Zotero will display an icon in the URL bar. Click on the icon and Zotero will automatically capture the reference and store it in the library of your choice. More importantly, it can do this for other sites as well, including most of the major online databases like WorldCat, etc. It can even grab reference information from sites that EndNote cannot, like JSTOR, the popular Arts and Sciences database. It cannot yet “sense” reference information from UVM’s catalog, Voyager.
Here’s a sample image of Zotero in action. The top half of the window shows a book listed in the Library of Congress’ online catalog, while the bottom half shows how Zotero has “sensed” the bibliographic information and pulled it into the library.

Is it ready to replace EndNote? Not quite. Still missing is the powerful “Cite While You Write” feature that lets you use EndNote from within Word to capture reference information in your documents as you type. However, this is the feature that Zotero is currently working on and promises to implement next.
In the meantime, Zotero provides an easy way to capture reference information. You can then export it to EndNote for use in the Cite While You Write feature.
You can download it from http://www.zotero.org. The installation is fast and easy. Give it a try! And let me know how you like it.

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