Category Archives: Zotero

Zotero Is Here

For those who haven’t heard yet (it’s amazing how quickly the word spreads through the blogosphere and beyond): On October 5, 2006, at 10:47 p.m. ET, the public beta of Zotero went live on our spiffy new site. In addition to releasing the software to all comers, we’ve also expanded the documentation and set up areas of the site for Zotero users and those who want to build upon the software. If you have a question or want to discuss Zotero, we have some forums too. A few other release notes:

Remember that you’ll need Firefox 2.0 to run Zotero. Fortunately, Mozilla has just posted release candidate 2 of Firefox 2.0, which means that the final version is imminent and there’s virtually no reason not to upgrade. (If you have other Firefox extensions that don’t work with Firefox 2.0, the creators of those extensions had better get to work.)

Already, coverage of the launch has been fairly extensive, with some early reviews going up on blogs. Check our our home page for a live (and unfiltered) feed of what people are saying.

If you want some behind the scenes discussion about Zotero, check out Dan Chudnov’s podcast interview of me, Josh Greenberg, and Dan Stillman. The podcast has several exclusives, including the other names Zotero could have had (and why we went with an Albanian word).

As a beta release, Zotero still has a few rough edges, and undoubtedly it won’t please everyone on every matter. But we think it’s pretty darn good for a 1.0 beta and the basis for even better releases and features in the near future. And more important, as our unofficial motto from Voltaire at the Center for History and New Media asserts, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Had we gone for perfection, no one would be using the software today (or even next year). Zotero is actually shipping, and it’s free. So give it a try and tell your friends.

More here soon.

Zotero Needs Your Help, Part I

We’re ramping up here at Zotero headquarters for the big release of the public beta (it should be out next week). But we’re already thinking ahead to great new features—including nifty ways to share and collaborate, as I mentioned in my last post on Zotero—and to building not only a large and active user community, but also a community to help disseminate, support, and further develop this free and open software. In short, we need your help! In this post I’ll let you know about the official George Mason University announcements for full-time positions at CHNM (sorry for the officialese and also for the repetitiveness; it’s necessary to post these as they are recorded with GMU Human Resources). In the next post, I’ll let you know about other opportunities to help out.

Senior Programmer: The Center for History & New Media ( at George Mason University is seeking a programmer to work primarily on Zotero (, an open source bibliographic management and note-taking tool for the Firefox web browser. Applicants should have an advanced knowledge of JavaScript, XUL, XML, CSS, and other technologies critical for Firefox development, such as XPCOM. Applicants should also have a working knowledge of PHP, Java, and MySQL, and have solid command-line Linux skills. Ability to work in a team is very important. This is a grant-funded, two-year position at the Center for History and New Media (, which is known for innovative work in digital media. Located in Fairfax, Virginia, CHNM is 15 miles from Washington, DC, and accessible by public transportation. Please send a cover letter, resume, and three references to with subject line “senior programmer.” Applications without a cover letter and resume will not be considered. The cover letter should include salary requirements and a description of relevant programming projects and experience. We will begin considering applications on 10/15/2006 and continue until the position is filled.

Technology Outreach Coordinator: The Center for History & New Media at George Mason University is seeking a technology outreach coordinator for Zotero (, an open source bibliographic management and note-taking tool for the Firefox web browser. The technology outreach coordinator will be responsible for building alliances with scholarly organizations and libraries, encouraging scholars to try Zotero, developing and maintaining user documentation, and building awareness of this next-generation research tool. We are looking for an energetic, well-organized individual with excellent written and oral communication skills. Applicants should have at least some graduate training in library science or one of the humanities or social science disciplines as well as familiarity with relevant technologies (e.g., XML, RDF, metadata standards, and Firefox extensions) and scholarly research practices. This is a grant-funded, two-year position at the Center for History and New Media ( at George Mason University, which is known for innovative work in digital media. Located in Fairfax, Virginia, CHNM is 15 miles from Washington, DC, and accessible by public transportation. Please send letter of application, CV, or resume, and three references to with the subject line “Technology Outreach Coordinator.” We will begin considering applications October 15, 2006, and continue until the position is filled.

Web Designer: The Center for History & New Media at George Mason University is seeking a web designer and developer. We require an energetic and well-organized individual to work on a variety of innovative, web-based history projects. This position is particularly appropriate for someone with a combined interest in technology and history. The successful applicant will be able to create mockups and wireframes for historical, cultural, and educational websites and bring those ideas to fruition using the latest and highest web development standards. Fluency with current web design technologies (including ability to hand code HTML, CSS, and Javascript) and familiarity with web accessibility and web usability standards are essential. Some familiarity with web-database technologies (MySQL, PHP), contemporary trends in web development (e.g., AJAX, DHTML and DOM Scripting, Rails) and multimedia and graphic design applications (Flash, including ActionScript, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator) is a plus, as is prior work in history or the humanities. This is a grant-funded two-year position at the Center for History and New Media (, which is known for innovative work in digital media. Located in Fairfax, Virginia, CHNM is 15 miles from Washington, DC, and accessible by public transportation.Please send a resume, three references, links to prior web/multimedia work, and a cover letter describing technology background and any interest in history to with subject line “Web Designer.” Salary: $32-40K plus excellent benefits. We will begin considering applications on 10/15/2006 and continue until the position is filled.

About CHNM: Since 1994, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has used digital media and computer technology to change the ways that people—scholars, students, and the general public—learn about and use the past. We do that by bringing together the most exciting and innovative digital media with the latest and best historical scholarship. We believe that serious scholarship and cutting edge multimedia can be combined to promote an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past as well as a broad historical literacy that fosters deep understanding of the most complex issues about the past and present. CHNM’s work has been internationally recognized for cutting-edge work in history and new media. Located in Fairfax, Virginia, CHNM is 15 miles from Washington, DC, and is accessible by public transportation.

Please also see the second post in this series for other exciting opportunities to help out and extend Zotero.

Zotero News, Big and Small

So much for a modest, stealthy launch of Zotero. I promised a couple of weeks ago that I would return to my blog soon with a few updates about user feedback, some hints about new features, and perhaps some additional news items. With a modest private beta test and a few pages explaining the software on our new site, I assumed that Zotero would quietly and slowly enter into public consciousness. Little did I know that within two weeks I would get over 400 emails asking to join the beta test, help develop and extend Zotero, make it work better with resources on the web, and evangelize it on campuses and in offices around the globe. (Sorry to those I haven’t responded to yet; I’m still working on my email backlog.) Better yet, we received some fantastic news about support for the project, which is where I’ll begin this update.

The big news is that the Center for History and New Media has received an incredibly generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help build major new features into the 2.0 release of Zotero (coming in 2007). Included in this substantial upgrade are great capabilities that beta testers are already clamoring for (as I’ll describe below). I’m deeply appreciative to the Mellon Foundation and especially Ira Fuchs and Chris Mackie for their support of the project, and we’re delighted to join the stable of other Mellon-funded, open-source projects that are trying to revolutionize higher education and the scholarly enterprise through the use of innovative information technology. We have a very ambitious set of goals we would like to accomplish in the next two years under Mellon funding, and we’re really excited to get started and push these advances out to an eager audience.

My thanks also to the beta testers who have reported bugs and sent in suggestions. (For a few early reviews and thoughts about Zotero, see posts on the blogs of Bill Turkel, Bruce D’Arcus (1, 2), Adrian Cooke, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, and Mark Phillipson.) We’re planning on rolling all of the bug fixes and a few of the suggestions that we’ve already implemented into the public beta that will be released shortly. The most requested new features were auto-completion/suggestions for tags, better support for non-Western and institutional authors, full-text searches of articles that are saved into one’s Zotero collection, more import/export options, support for other online collections and resources, and the detection of duplicate records. The developers are working feverishly on all of these fronts, and I think the Beta 2 release (our public beta) will be considerably better because of all of this helpful feedback.

I have intentionally left out perhaps the most wanted feature: tools for collaboration. Some of those who have started to hack the software have noticed what we at the Center for History and New Media have been thinking about from the start—that it seems very easy to add ways to send and receive information to and from Zotero (it does reside in the web browser, after all). What if you could share a folder of references and notes with a colleague across the country? What if you could receive a feed of new resources in your area of interest? What if you could synchronize your Zotero library with a server and access it from anywhere? What if you could send your personal collection to other web services, e.g., a mapping service or text analyzer or translation engine?

I’m glad so many of us are thinking alike. Those are the issues we’ve just started to work on, thanks to the Mellon Foundation. Stay tuned for the Zotero server and additional exciting extensions to the Zotero platform.

And despite my email backlog, please do contact me if you would like to join the Zotero movement.

Introducing Zotero

Regular readers of this blog know that over the last year I have been trumpeting our forthcoming software tool for research that will enable vastly simplified citation management, note taking, and advanced scholarly research right within the Firefox browser. Over the past year, I have called this tool SmartFox, Firefox Scholar, and Scholar for Firefox. The domain for the original name was already taken, and the latter two names were too confusing (“Is that the same as Google Scholar?”). Last Friday, a final name was given to the project, a website launched, and a lucky group of people received the first beta. The word that will be on everyone’s lips this fall: Zotero (zoh-TAIR-oh).

I’ll write much more in this space about Zotero over the coming year (and beyond), since I conceive it not just as a free EndNote replacement (actually, it’s already much better than EndNote in only its 1.0 release), but as a platform for new kinds of digital research. The best place to begin to see what Zotero can do is by heading over to the site’s home page and the quick start guide.

But I wanted to devote this first post on Zotero to those who did the incredible job of developing the software: Dan Stillman, Simon Kornblith, and David Norton. While several of us at the Center for History and New Media thought deeply about what such a tool should look like, Dan, Simon, and David brilliantly executed our plan—and added countless touches and ideas of their own. When you see how amazing the results are, you’ll really appreciate their work.

Even though we’ve been relatively low-key about promoting Zotero as we fix some last-minute bugs, I’ve gotten dozens of messages over the last few days about the project. My blanket answer: we’ll have a public beta by the end of September 2006—thanks, of course, to Dan, Simon, and David.

Stay tuned to this blog and I’ll explain some of the more innovative features of Zotero. I’ll also show how researchers can best use the tool, describe how other software developers can extend it and link it to other web tools and services, and drop hints about our ambitious long-range plans.

ACLS Fellowships, Chicago Colloquium, Scholar for Firefox Update

I’m back from vacation and have lots to catch up on, but wanted to pass along some quick notes about upcoming opportunities and deadlines that might be of interest to this blog’s audience.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have received an American Council of Learned Societies’ Digital Innovation Fellowship for the next year. 2006-7 will be the first year for this fellowship, which is supporting five projects, including efforts involving GPS, corpus digitization, map mashups, text and data mining, and software development. The call for applications for 2007-8 has already gone out, and the paperwork is due in just a couple of months, on September 27, 2006. Having written one of these applications, I recommend getting an early start. Beyond the normal “what I’m going to do” narrative, you need to come up with a budget and think about institutional support for your project (digital projects often require such things).

The Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science has sent out a call for papers in anticipation of a meeting on November 5-6, 2006. The meeting is going to expand upon the topics discussed in the March 2006 issue of D-Lib Magazine. I’m going to try to be there. The deadline for applications is August 15, 2006.

Finally, we still have a few spaces for beta testers for our upcoming release of Scholar for Firefox. For those who are hearing about this for the first time, Scholar is a citation manager and note-taking application (like EndNote) that integrates right into the Firefox web browser. Since it lives in the browser, it has some very helpful—and, we think, innovative—features, such as the ability to sense when you are viewing the record for a book (on your library’s website or at Amazon or elsewhere) and to offer to save the full citation information to your personal library of references (unlike or other bookmarking tools, it actually grabs the author, title, and copyright information, not just the URL). Scholar will have “smart folder” and “smart search” technology and other user interface capabilities that are reminiscent of iTunes and other modern software. And we hope to unveil some collaborative features soon as well (such as the ability to share and collaborate on bibliographies and notes, find new books and articles that might be of interest to you based on what you’ve already saved to your library, etc.). If you’re interested in testing the software, please email me. The limited release beta should be available around August 15, 2006.