Zotero and Obsidian Literature Notes
Setting up Zotero as a reference manager, and Obsidian as a note taking app for references downloaded in Zotero.
- Install Zotero.
- Sign in and wait for sync, this might take a sec. You can click the icon in the top right to force a sync if it’s not happening automatically.
- Download latest release from here and then in Zotero -> tools -> addons -> install addon from file, install the thing you just downloaded.
- Restart Zotero, and then click through all the default settings for Better BibLaTeX
- In Zotero, File -> Export Library -> Better BibLaTeX
- Save the exported file to somewhere (e.g. Obsidian vault).
- Install the Citations plugin in Obsidian (community plugin), and then point it to the .bib file exported from Zotero.
- Customize the folder name which is supposed to hold notes, and make sure you create the folder, otherwise you’ll get weird ENOENT errors.
- Customize the title to remove the @ because that doesn’t belong in filenames, and then change up the template slightly.
- Use Ctrl + Shift + O to open (or create if needed) the reading notes for a specific citation. Ctrl + O will open existing files only, which is convenient for letting you go back to things you just had open.
- Download a new paper via Zotero Connect to get it into your library.
- Open up Obsidian and use Ctrl + Shift + O to create the new reading notes for the paper.
- Click on the link in the top of the newly created note to take you to the Zotero citation for that paper.
- Open the paper and start reading it in the built-in Zotero PDF viewer.
- Highlight details in Zotero itself.
- Copy important information, thoughts, and figures into the Obsidian document.
I also purchased Obsidian Sync as part of this setup. The vault syncing works pretty well, but I had some trouble getting the settings sync to work. It looks like the second machine I set up with Obsidian overwrite the settings in the vault, but I was able to use the version history to restore the correct settings. Also, settings only sync on boot, so restarting Obsidian was required.
There’s a limit of 10GB per vault, of which I’ve currently filled ~80 MB of. Most of that comes from the .git folder, which I could definitely remove from the sync if necessary. Image below from TreeSize Free.