Syncing Zotero files with WebDAV from Box

It’s hard to stay organized when you work on multiple computers, with multiple operating systems. My main notebook is a dual boot Ubuntu/Win7 machine where I have a shared partition for work files. I sync my work folder with my Ubuntu tower PC via BitTorrent Sync. This has now been working well for some time (the syncing happens under Ubuntu only, which is a drawback, but if BTSync under Windows also tries to sync the same shared folder it causes problems, thus I avoided doing so) although if you start with two identical copies of the folder on the two PCs it still wants to sync all of the files one way over the network. Not good when the folder is 100 GB large! (Update: this may have been solved in the latest version of the software).

Anyway, for the last half year I have been back using Zotero for my bibliography manager. It makes importing citations and the associated fulltext PDFs from a journal website relatively easy although there are some difficulties with importing PDFs from a local drive, particularly when an old file has no OCR layer. Then I sometimes have to input the metadata manually.

So my Zotero folder (data and files) went over the 300 MB free size limit for the online Zotero storage. That means that my library on Windows and my library on Ubuntu (I cannot share it locally, it seems, due to formatting and access rights issues – need two copies for now!) are no longer synced. I managed to get access to some papers under Windows and now I want to use them in Ubuntu and they are not there. It could easily turn into a big mess of files and folders and I want to keep it somehow automagically synced using Zotero.

So finally I turned to the WebDAV option in Zotero. This lets you keep the data (i.e. library metadata and collections) synced on the Zotero server and the files (i.e. PDF and other attachments) on a separate server. So, how can you get a WebDAV server?

I got a free personal storage account with Box (10 GB) and in the Zotero preferences I am able to setup a server, that is, https://dav.box.com/dav/zotero/

Don’t forget to create a folder named “zotero” in your Box account first! Also, you can now purge your files from storage using the Zotero web interface under storage preferences. This frees up all of that space that was previously clogged up with attachments.

There you go, you now have 10GB of free storage for your Zotero library!