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Making PDFs Searchable

You can search your Zotero library, notes, and tags. Now you can also search the text* of your PDF documents in your Zotero library as well.

Screenshot with Zotero drop-down menu highlighted and arrow pointing to Preferences

Open Preferences by clicking on the gear icon in Zotero (Square Box).

Then select Preferences from the drop down menu.

Screenshot of Search highlighted in Zotero Preferences Menu

Select Search in the Preferences menu.


In the middle of the Search screen you will find information pertaining to your ability to PDF index/search. You will want to follow the instructions to install the appropriate addon features.


More information on searching and indexing in Zotero.

Automatically Download PDFs


One helpful feature of Zotero is that it can automatically download PDFs when you add a new item to your library (and additional files that are associated with the item). While this is not 100% fullproof, it is a helpful option to have turned on. To do so you will have to enter into the Preferences menu, and then select General. Under Miscellaneous you will see the option to engage this feature, as well as many others that you may want to review. 

Check, Automatically attach associated PDFs and other files.

Screenshot with "automatically attach associated PDFs and other files" highlighted

Zotero Sync

Zotero's sync feature can keep your library up to date on all computers that you use and can also double as a backup.  Zotero can store a copy of your library on the server and check it for updates whenever you open your library on a different computer.  All your computers must be running the same version Zotero and be configured to sync to the server.

First, set up a (free, of course) user account.

Open Zotero preferences (via the gear menu) and select the Sync tab. 

Enter your Zotero user name and password. 

Check the "sync automatically" box.  Zotero will upload your library to the server. 

Repeat this configuration on each of your computers.  Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others.  This even works to synchronize your library among Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero Sync site.

Zotero sync settings screenshot