Multilingual Zotero: Doing More

Photo by Huhu Uet (Flickr)

More on adding items to MLZ

It needs to be emphasised that MLZ import is only as good as the metadata an online source provides.

  • You should check metadata after adding new items, especially if not familiar with the source.
  • Often some editing or tidying up will be needed.
  • Occasionally the results might not be what you expect at all…

Multiple import

Many catalogues and search engines (not all) will show a folder icon in search results pages which enables you to import multiple items from the results list.

Example: Google Scholar (Legal documents)


This is convenient for rapidly adding a lot of references for subsequent weeding and editing (eg, when exploring sources for a new or proposed research project).

Example: Grace v. MacArthur, 170 F. Supp. 442 (E.D. Ark., 1959).

(click on scales icon to add to MLZ)


This is pretty good - it’s got the right item type, jurisdiction, court name, reporter, volume, date of decision, and URL.


  • Add Related link(s) to parallel reporter(s)?
  • Docket number, if known?
  • Add short title

A caveat about legal resources: when the layout or format of a website changes, the MLZ translator may break. If you have problems downloading items, please report the problem so that it can be fixed.

After import, metadata from some sources will need some (or a lot of) editing:

Example: UN Charter


Errmmm… where to start?!

If the MLZ importer does not “know” a site, it will be treated as a Web page item. That is what has happened here, and the item must be fixed manually with complete and correct metadata.

For this particular example, the item type should be changed to Statute, the date should be set in the Date Enacted field, and the Jurisdiction should be set to “United Nations”. The corrected item will look like this:


Manually Adding Items

What to do when you only have a printed document or a PDF files? In that case you will need to create an item yourself and enter the details manually.

Example: Martha Olcott, “Regional Study on Human Development and Human Rights: Central Asia” (UNDP)


Click on the green plus icon.

The example item is a report, so choose the Report type. Enter the UNDP as the Institution (not the author!), and fill out the other fields with as much information as you can. For documents collected from the Web, be sure to enter their address in the URL field.

After creating the item, you can attach the PDF itself to the item (see below).

Adding Attachments

You can attach links, a snapshot of a webpage, files from your computer or from the web, etc, to items. You can add as many different ‘child’ notes and attachments to any MLZ item as you like.

(You can also save notes and items directly to MLZ without needing to attach them to anything, but they’ll have more limited metadata and options. We recommend creating some sort of parent item for objects if possible.)

Example: Martha Olcott, “Regional Study on Human Development and Human Rights: Central Asia” (UNDP) (the same example as above, saved to your Desktop)

The item we have created manually (in the previous section) does not yet have a copy of the text of the report itself. Attaching a copy to the item will allow us to search it, and to call up the report when we are offline.


Select Attach Stored Copy of File… from the menu, find the document you want to attach, and click OK (or Open or whatever).

Things to know:

  • You can rename the attachment by right-clicking on the item and selecting Rename File from Parent Metadata from the menu.
  • You can also rename the attachment by clicking in its title.
  • After using Attach Stored Copy of File…, you can remove the document from your desktop: the full copy is now stored in MLZ.
  • To get a copy of the document (to send as an email attachment, etc.), right-click on the attachment and select Show File.



Notes are another kind of attachment: click on the Notes tab, then the Add button. You can quickly type or paste in rich-text notes, transcripts, summaries – any kind of annotation that seems useful.


Organising Items

You can use collections, tags and relationships to organise and link items.

Collections and sub-collections

“My Library” is a big bucket containing all items that you capture for personal use. The collections underneath it (folder icons) are bundles of items from the parent library.

An item can be put into multiple collections. A change to the item anywhere – in the parent library or in any collection where it appears – takes effect everywhere (i.e. in the parent library, and in all collections).

Example: Create a Collection titled “Human Rights”, and sub-collections “Human Trafficking” and “Refugees”.


To add the top-level collection click, on the “New Library” button (top, furthest left) or right-click on My Library for a menu.

To add the sub-collections right click on the parent collection (“Human Rights”) and select “New Subcollection”.

To add an item or items to a collection, just select them in the centre panel, drag, and drop.

If you want to remove an item from a collection, right-click on it and select “Remove from Collection”. (This does not delete the item from “My Library”; to do that, select “Move to Trash” instead.)

To remove a collection from the panel tree, right-click on the collection. The menu option Delete Collection will remove only the collection (and its children). It will not remove the items it contains: they will still exist in “My Library”, and in any other collections where it appears.

To remove a collection and the items it contains, select Delete Collection and Items… from the right-click menu. This will remove the collection an put the items into the “Trash” folder. Be careful with this option – it may delete items that you want to keep on file in “My Library”!



In item view, go to the Tags tab.

  • click on the Add button to add a new tag and type whatever you want.
  • Hit Enter to complete the tag and start a new one.
  • Click on existing tags to edit them
  • Delete tags using the minus button to the right of each tag.

Note that items captured from the Web may include automatic tags. If any tags shown in the list do not seem useful, you can delete them.

Tag Selector

This is located at the bottom of the Collections section on the left hand side of the MLZ pane. If you can’t see it, use Ctrl-Shift-T to bring it up (Cmd-Shift-T in Mac OSX).

You can drag and drop single or multiple items into tags shown in the Tag Selector, and you can also edit and delete tag names here (using right-click).

Try these steps:

  • Add several items to the “Human Rights” collection.
  • Select one item in the collection, and as described above, open its Tags tab in the right panel.
  • Click on the Add button, enter “Human rights” as the tag name, and press the Enter key.
  • Open the Tag Selector (if it’s not already showing).
  • Select all items in the “Human Rights” collection, drag them to the “Human rights” tag, and release the mouse button to drop them.
  • Click on the items in the centre pane to check that the “Human rights” tag has been added to all of them.
  • Click on “My Library”.
  • Click on the “Human rights” tag to show only the tagged items.

Collections vs tags

Collections and tags do something similar: each shows a subset of the items in the “My Library” bucket. There are some differences:

  • Collections are hierarchical: you can create sub-folders, but you can’t create sub-tags.
  • Multiple tag selections are cumulative: you can select multiple tags to narrow a selection: you can’t select multiple collections.
  • Tags are portable: when you drag an item to a separate group library (we’ll learn about groups in the next lesson), its tags are copied with it: collections are not copied between libraries.

Which to use?

Each researcher has their own working style. Here is how I use collections and folders in my own work:

  • I create collections for particular projects, such as my CV, or a specific research project I am working on.
  • I add several short tags to every item in “My Library”. The tags allow me to fetch all of the items related to a certain subject by choosing the tags that describe it, such as “Civil Code” and “Japan”.

See: Collections and Tags

Relationships: another option

You can also link items by creating a relationship between them, using the Related tab. I use this only to link the chapters of a book, or parallel reports of the same court judgment.

Importing and Exporting Data


If you already have a library built using another tool (such as EndNote), you can move it to MLZ by importing it. MLZ recognises several import formats.



Similarly, you can export libraries in various structured data formats (including BibTex, XML). You can also produce formatted bibliographies directly from items in your MLZ library.

To export, right-click on the collection or selection of items you want to export, and choose the Export Collection or Export Items option. You will see a dialogue to choose your required data format and any available options for that format (e.g. whether to export notes or files with the references) before downloading.



Exporting from Libraries at

You can also export single or multiple items from personal or group libraries on the website:


Click on the export button and a dialogue will come up allowing you to choose a format to download. You will then be able to import this reference into your MLZ library or another reference manager or tool. (As far as I know, it does not export attachments; you’d need to upload those separately.)


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This page is licensed by Frank Bennett on behalf of Nagoya University under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Credit to original author Sharon Howard must be retained.