Zotero on LLRX

beSpacific reports that LLRX has posted a positive description of Zotero. The review does not mention that there is only a draft version of a citation style for the Blue Book, and nothing in the works to make Zotero work with our own inimitable Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation.

I think Zotero is the product of the near-to-mid future, and I expect legal writers will move to it as soon as there is a style for them to use, because most of us are fed up with the vagaries of Endnote and related products (lack of networkablility and lack of product support being the main ones). Here are links to the tools and info that Zotero provides to help create a style:

Forums, and the Law Forum
Developer’s page

and here is a draft style I have put together with the help of the Simple Style Generator:

zoteroMcGill (please change the .txt extension to .csl)

and finally, here is a link to a discussion forum for the style, hosted on the Zotero site:

A Canadian Legal Style, and its RSS feed (Atom, RSS2).

I call on all the XML-ing librarians and lawyers out there to have a look and see if you can contibute an improvement or two. If we can pull together a style that covers 4 or 5 of the major formats (cases, legislation, books, articles…), I think we’ll have something very useful. Imagine not having to install Endnote ever again!


  1. Thanks so much, Michael. I learned about Zotero at a recent un-conference One Big Library back in June and just downloaded it the other day. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but will contribute when I am up to speed.

    The one obstacle I can see in using it for legal research is that it is a Firefox extension (an application used with the Firefox browser), and many in law are tied to Internet Explorer. I have been using Firefox now for over a year and do love it. I recommend people give Firefox a try–it is a free open-source browser.


  2. Good point, Connie. I’ve been using Firefox and Zotero for so long now, I forgot there were other options. Of course, the fact that Zotero is attached to a browser is an advantage in many respects. Plus, the next upgrade of Zotero will allow synchonization between multiple desktops.

    Zotero’s explanation of why it cannot integrate with IE is a good statement of the inherent superiority of open-source software:

    No. We cannot reproduce the functionality of Zotero in most other browsers because of the way other browsers work with extensions. It is possible to build Zotero on top of Firefox because as an open-source project all of the code and underlying technologies of Firefox are available to us. Zotero can sense and grab citations in the browser because it can call on many different parts of Firefox’s code. Microsoft (and many other browsers) don’t allow extension developers to call on more than a tiny fraction of their code. This explanation may be no solace for inveterate IE users, but we hope that IE users who like the functionality of Zotero will give Firefox a try.

  3. Have you guys tried WizFolio (www.wizfolio.com) yet? It is a new web reference manager. Their citation tool allows you to customize your citation style into any form you want. They have a bookmarklet but too bad they are too focussed on science databases. What I usually do is to export my library from Endnote and import the references into WizFolio. I think it is easier to manage my library in WizFolio. The best part is that you can access your references everywhere. The other day I tried a beta version of Zotero but don’t know why I couldn’t make it work.

  4. Hi Dennis: I hadn’t heard of WizFolio. Thank you for pointing it out.

  5. I read about Zotero and WizFolio here. They are both very powerful software. I like Zotero’s capabilities but it is tied to Firefox. I use Chrome so I’m glad that WizFolio works for it as well.

    WizFolio’s ability to help me find the PDF after I found my references is such a great asset to me. I heard the citation tool is very simple to use but I haven’t tried it yet. Has anyone done so?

  6. So what you’re saying is that unsupported software should have better support than supported software like RefWorks?