Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Using DEVONthink Pro with Zotero for Historical Research

            Zotero is a marvelous tool to use for capturing, managing and citing sources but once the notes and sources are in a Zotero library collection, moving them around inside it is a very clunky process. It can be done, but not easily. In order to organize my notes with ease and print the information out, I move copies of the notes from Zotero into DEVONthink Pro and do my sorting, organizing and printing there.

            DEVONthink Pro (DT Pro) is a Mac-only app and unlike Zotero, it is not free. DT Pro costs $80. DT sells DT Personal for $50 but I decided to buy DT Pro primarily because it can create multiple databases—DT Personal can only create one database.
            I move copies of the notes from Zotero into DT Pro by dragging and dropping them into folders—DT Pro calls them Groups. Next, I tag each note using the same tag I used for the note in Zotero because I want to be able to find the note again in Zotero without difficulty, if I need to. Once the notes have been moved into DT Pro, it is easy to sort them manually or by the first words in the note, and then print the notes out.

            Before I drag and drop a note from Zotero into DT Pro, I copy the source’s title and paste it at the end of the note in Zotero. I do this so that later on when I am referring to the note in DT Pro as I am writing in Word, I can select the correct source in the Zotero word processor plug-in to enable it to automatically create the correct citation.

            The DT Pro databases are located on my computer, not in the Cloud, and are backed up on iMac’s Time Machine. I like the fact that I do not have to rely on being able to get on the Internet in order to access my research.
            If I need to find a note or source in DT Pro because I did not use the correct tag or put the item in the correct Group, DT Pro has a box that can be used to search for the missing item in all databases.

            DT Pro’s online help is rather extensive. You can find answers to questions in tutorials, a help manual and a user forum. If you continue to be stumped, DT can be contacted by email. They have answered my questions within one day.
            At this writing, I am researching and writing two major projects for two upcoming books. My workflow involves using Zotero and DT Pro. I plan to update this report on the use of these computer applications for historical research as I move forward.


  1. I've been using Zotero for quite some time, but am new to Devonthink and was curious as to whether it might be possible to set up Devonthink search the entire Zotero library (i.e., not the notes, but the pdfs). I've found that, as my Zotero database has expanded, it's become more difficult to isolate particular items in it. Unleashing the considerably more robust search options available in DT Pro on Zotero might have considerable benefits. But I wonder whether there might also be perils involved.

  2. You can use DevonThink to "index" the "storage" folder on your local harddrive (assuming you are storing your PDFs on your harddrive). Do this via the DevonThink menu: File >>> Index, then navigate to the Zotero folder on your harddrive. In that folder is the Storage folder. This folder has inside a single folder per PDF. You select the Storage folder and DevonThink will index all the PDFs.

    I have found that if I do not use the Zotero note function but instead write my note and then store it in the same folder as my PDF DevonThink gets those as well.

    You cannot (as far as I know, still searching) get at the Zotero notes automatically from DevonThink. If you find a way please post back. Thanks.


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