This page documents my Emacs + Zotero based setup for working with references and bibliographies. I maintain and organize libraries in Zotero. Earlier I used to keep a local BibTeX file but switching to Zotero helps while working with other people. I am still trying to iron out a few issues while working with these two systems at the moment, specially maintaining pdfs and syncing notes.

With Zotero, one issue had been of cite-keys which didn't work out well with my older Emacs only setup. But I found BBT that solves all these problems. I use the following cite-key format for BBT: [auth:lower][year][veryshorttitle1_0:lower].

1. Capture

Saving items to library is very easy thanks to Zotero connectors. Syncing this to Emacs is also easy because of BBT's pull feature. Here is the script I use for that.

2. Reading and annotations

Although Emacs has a really decent pdf reading facility in pdf-tools now, it still provides a brittle experience. Text selection and scrolling doesn't feel as good as your regular pdf reader.

I am now using okular for reading all non plain text documents. It comes with really good support for file extensions and has complete annotation tooling (plus I am a KDE refuge). For seamlessly working with Emacs, I found openwith really useful.

3. Using references

Not much to say here. org-ref is a very feature complete solution for working with references in Org files. I am managing the following three locations using it:

  • The main bibliography file, org-ref-default-bibliography. The helm functions from org-ref make it really easy to search and add citations.
  • Notes file, org-ref-bibliography-notes. This is published as a page here.
  • PDFs in org-ref-pdf-directory. PDFs kept here are picked up by org-ref allowing you to open/send email etc. Since pdf download features requires more metadata (at least DOI, if I read it right), I am keeping it a bit manual as of now.

Cross linking items is easy since they all are keyed by their cite-keys. Plus there are functions to extract document specific bibliographies so that I can keep pages here self contained.