Titus Stahl

Edit your Zotero Notes with Vim (or any other Unix editor)

The program Zotero is, hands-down, the best Free Software academic reference management tool. As such, it is indispensable for academics who want to remain in control of their own means of production. It works together very well with LibreOffice and it’s quite doable to create any citation style that is not yet available in its big library.

Since recently, I have also begun to use its note-taking features, as it is quite convenient to have notes directly attached to references in its library; especially as you can then also share them in groups, etc. However, one downside is that the note-taking interface is slow – and by slow, I mean that it often takes up to 10 seconds for a key press to appear on the screen. In addition, the custom note-taking interface does not allow me to make use of the years of muscle memory for the vim commands that I have acquired.

As I found out now, there’s a wonderful tool called zotero-cli which lets you manage your notes from the command line.

Installation is easy (once you have pip installed):

sudo pip install zotero-cli
zotcli --configure

Once installed and provisioned with a Zotero API key, you can choose your favorite editor by setting the VISUAL environment variable (gvim -f in my case), and take advantage of all the advanced features that you are used to, like this:

zotcli add-note query-string.