Multilingual Zotero: Getting Started

Photo by Jim Grant (Flickr)


There are four steps to installing a working Multilingual Zotero system:

First Reference


Go to: Nagoya University Library OPAC

Click through to one of the books listed in the search.

You should see a small blue icon in the address bar.

Address bar icon

Just click on it…


The MLZ Client

To find your saved reference you need to open up the MLZ client in the browser.

Accessing the MLZ pane


  • browser Tools menu
  • Multilingual “Zotero” icon in toolbar
  • keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl-Shift-Z on Windows/Linux or Shift-Command-Z on Mac OS X

Note: There are often (at least) two different ways of doing the same thing in MLZ. When you have an item(s) selected, try right-clicking on it for a menu of options. Many actions can also be performed via the top-row buttons (or the gear button). There are also keyboard shortcuts for some actions (check out the Shortcuts tab in Preferences). Click around and explore!


The buttons along the top row give access to a number of key functions including:

  • new collection/group
  • access to preferences and export functions
  • add new item/note/attachment
  • search

The three sections from left to right show increasing detail, from the broad overview of collections to individual item metadata.

  • Right (from the top): My Library; Group libraries I belong to; Tag selector
  • Centre: List of items in selected library/collection. Icons denote item type, an arrow (triangle) indicates there are attachments
  • Left: Item metadata tab views (Info, Notes, Tags, Related)

Centre Panel

Centre Panel

In the centre panel of the MLZ pane, you can sort by different columns and choose which elements to show.

The Item Info tab

Info Panel

  • Some fields are available for all item types (eg: Title, Author, Date, URL)
  • Other fields appear only on particular item types.
  • Most are free text fields, but Item Type and Jurisdiction can be entered only from a controlled list.

Important fields

Item Type
Click on this to see the list of all the available types. If changing the Item Type will cause a loss of data in existing fields you will get a warning message
Most items have a title. (Exceptions include Japanese court judgments and isolated provisions of codified US statutes.)
On this field you can: (1) change the creator type if others are available; (2) add more creators with the + button or Shift+Enter; (3) change between single-field and two-field mode.
MLZ does its best to auto-detect date formats
When a URL is entered in this field, clicking on the label will open the webpage

The Web Page item type is one of the simplest: you can explore the others by changing the setting in the Item Type field.

The limits on item types and fields within them are among the few absolute constraints in Zotero and MLZ: you cannot have custom item types or custom fields within item types.


Gear button

Click on the gear icon and select Preferences.

There are a lot of available options (most of which you’ll probably never change!). The ones most likely to interest you are:

Adjust appearance and set a number of useful features.
Set your zotero user account details to enable syncing functions
Turn full-text indexing of PDFs on and off (you might want this on)
Specify how bibliographies and data exports are generated, and drag-and-drop behaviour
Install word processor plugins, add and remove citation styles


General preferences

Preferences dialog

Noteworthy settings:

Automatically snapshots for webpage items
This can be useful for searching and to ensure you have an archived copy of the page
Automatically attach associated PDFs when saving items
If this is checked MLZ will attempt to download and attach PDFs, for example when saving from Google Scholar or an online journal.
Automatically tag items with keywords and subject headings
Some catalogues and websites will add a lot of keywords that aren’t necessarily relevant to your interests, so your mileage may vary with this one!
Data to be copied with items
Select whether tags, notes and attachments are also copied when copying items between libraries

Sync preferences


If you want ML to sync with a account and across multiple devices you will need to fill in your account details here.

You have the options to sync attached files as well as bibliographical information: bear in mind that if you turn this on it can eat into your storage allowance very quickly!

Your basic bibliographical references aren’t included in storage allowance limits though - syncing those is unlimited. And if you run out of storage space, MLZ doesn’t delete anything - it just stops syncing attachments beyond that point.

Zotero website

It’s quite possible to use MLZ effectively without a account. But you won’t be able to use the file storage, syncing and group collaboration without one.


Registration form

Registration page

After registering

You can do many things interchangeably between the website and your MLZ client, so long as you have automatic syncing turned on (see the note below about where your stuff is).

You can choose whether to make your library private (this is the default on registering) or public.

Note: accounts can be deleted from within the user account settings.


On most pages on there is a quick search bar in the navigation menu, which changes according to context between ‘people’, ‘groups’ and ‘support’. (In the search results you get the option to change to a different type of search if you want to.)

When viewing a library, you can use the search bar to search that library.

Where is your stuff?

The MLZ client is installed directly on your computer, and saves references locally, on your computer. If you don’t turn on syncing, that’s where it stays.

When you turn on automatic syncing, your references are all copied to Zotero’s storage servers in the cloud. You will be able to access them, make changes, add more, delete and so on in your personal library at, and any changes you make there will sync back (within a few minutes, usually) to your local installation.

You can then install the MLZ client on other computers, put in your account details and turn on syncing, and it will mirror your stuff across all those computers.

Syncing can’t necessarily be relied on as a perfect, complete backup of everything in your library (for example, as already noted, if it runs out of storage space it will stop syncing attachments). The safest way to ensure you get a backup of everything in your MLZ installation (including things like plugins, customisations, additional citation styles, and so on, as well as the database of your references), is to regularly backup your full Firefox or Standalone profile as part of your backup routine for your computer (and if you’re not doing that, then you should start right now!).

See: Locating your Zotero Library (also applies to MLZ)

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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.