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Zotero: Setting Preferences

Setting preferences

You will find the Preferences option either under 'Edit' (Windows) or 'Zotero' (Mac). The Preference window is divided into the following six panes as shown below. Follow the instructions below to set up the preferences before you start using Zotero.

  1. General: Adjust appearance, import settings, and other general features.
  2. Sync: Set up data and file syncing.
  3. Search: Manage PDF fulltext indexing and see relevant statistics.
  4. Export: Set default settings for generating bibliographies and citations.
  5. Cite: Add, remove, edit, and preview citation styles and install word processor plugins.
  6. Advanced: Zotero data location, library lookup, and other advanced settings.


Screenshot of the Zotero preferences window.

1. General

Screenshot of the General option on Zotero Preferences

Begin with General and follow the instructions outlined below:

User Interface

  • Select the Standard layout as this will display the bibliographic information in a pane on the right-hand side.
  • Choose the Font Size which you are most comfortable with.

File Handling 

  • Choose the relevant file handling options.
  • Check the automatically attach PDF box if this is your preference. 


  • If you plan to add notes and tags to the bibliographic records, you MUST make sure these options are checked.

Restart Zotero to ensure the above changes have taken place.

3. Search

Screeshot of Search option on Zotero Preferences

Indexing on Zotero enables a full Search of your PDFs. If you index the PDFs, terms on the first few pages are used by the search box.

If you don't, then Search uses only the metadata (the bibliographic information) that you have entered or imported.

5a. Cite

Screenshot of Styles option in Zotero Preferences

This option allows you to select the default style for your citations and bibliography.

To obtain additional styles, you can search  Zotero's Style Repository by clicking on Get additional styles:

Screenshot circling the 'Get additional styles' option in Zotero preferences    

Screenshot of the 'style search' option in Zotero preferences.

2. Sync

 Screenshot of the Sync option on Zotero Preferences

Data syncing allows you to have a copy of all your references (your 'library') including any notes and tags you have added on the cloud (Zotero's server). The space for data is unlimited but if you sync full-text, you will quickly run out of the free space allocated by Zotero. 

You may want to purchase extra space so that you can access the full-text online on any computer with internet access. Alternatively, you may want to save your files on the N:\drive which is the network drive on the computers at UCL.

  • Add your username and password (the same one you used to register with Zotero).
  • In order to set up Data Syncing, simply tick the relevant box.
  • In order to set up Full-text Syncing, tick the relevant box.

4. Export


Screenshot for the Export option on Zotero Preferences

This option allows you to select the default referencing style that you want your citations to appear in when you Export your library or a single reference.

5b. Word Processors

When you install Zotero, it will automatically install the Word plug-in. You will see Zotero as a tab at the top of the menu bar.

Screenshot of Zotero tab on MSWord

This may look different on a Mac (depending on the operating system). You may see an icon and a drop-down menu or a series of icons. Hovering on the icon will bring up an explanation of what the different functions are.

Screenshot of Zotero tab on Mac.     Screenshot of Zotero series of icons on Mac.

6. Advanced

If you would like Zotero to find the resource in Explore, UCL's catalogue, add the URL exactly as it appears here in the Resolver field: 

Screenshot of the Advanced tab in Zotero Preferences

Once you have done this, you can use the Library Lookup function in Zotero to go straight to Explore.

You can set up the 'path' which tells Zotero where (i.e. in which folder) you want to save the full-text if you are automatically attaching the full-text of the document in Files and Folders sub-tab. If this is not of concern to you, leave the default option.

Screenshot of the Files and Folders sub-tab in Zotero Preferences

You can keep updated with published research on Zotero by using the Feeds option. Here you can either keep the defaults or decide how often you would like the feeds to be updated and choose to see the newest or oldest items first.

Screenshot of the Feeds tab on Zotero Preferences