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Tinderbox Training Video 57 - Working with Tinderbox and Zotero

Tinderbox Training Video - Working with Tinderbox and Zotero

Level Intermediate
Published Date 8/20/21
Revision 1
Revision Note
Acknowledgements Bernardo Vasconcelos @Bernard-0
Type How To
Tags 4Cs of Knowledge Management and Exchange, Action Code, BetterBibTex, CSL4CKMEl, Pandox, Tinderbox, Zotero, aTbRef
Video Length 13:29
Video URL https://youtu.be/nrzVwQDLrYM
Example File TBX L - Working with Tinderbox and Zotero.tbx (189.1 KB) Zotero RIS-citekey.js.zip (33.7 KB)
TBX Version 9.0
Instructor Michael Becker

In this Tinderbox lesson, I provide a high-level overview of my workflow and how I use Tinderbox and Zotero (https://www.zotero.org/), an online reference manager. I show how to add items to your Zotero library. I demonstrate how to use the Zotero RIS export translator and pull references into Tinderbox. I explain the RIS file format and discuss how Tinderbox parses the file. Finally, I provide an overview of how I’ve modified the built-in Tinderbox Reference prototype. I give a quick overview of the $Edict I’ve written. I show have I’ve added a plug-in to Zotero, BetterBibTex (Better BibTeX for Zotero :: Better BibTeX for Zotero), which helps me add a citation key to me references. I then demonstrate how I use this cite key, in combination with Pandoc (https://pandoc.org/) and a few other automatically steps I’ll explain in a future video to dynamically pull my styled references from Zotero and render them in Tinderbox to any style (e.g. APP, Chicago, etc.). I also am able to have the references inserted and properly formatted (again, this is an advanced step for a future video).

Table of Contents:
00:00 - Introduction
00:16 - Introducing Zotero
00:37 - Adding a reference to my Zotero library
03:10 - Pulling references into Tinderbox
05:46 - Example of my workflow
06:13 - Review of modified reference prototype
06:34 - A review of my action code
07:28 - Introduce cite key and BetterBibTex
08:36 - Importing a reference
09:32 - Ex. using Pandoc and citepoc
13:15 - Wrap-up and thank you

Here is the $Edict I use to parse my BetterBibTex enhanced RIS file.

if($CitationKey==""&$ReferenceRIS!=""){$CitationKey="@"+$ReferenceRIS.following("LB - ");};if($CitationKey!=""){$Name=$CitationKey};if($ItemType==""&$ReferenceRIS!=""){$ItemType=$ReferenceRIS.following("TY - ");};$Tags=$Tags+$ReferenceRIS.following("KW - ");$ZoteroURI=$ReferenceRIS.following("LC - ");$Name=$CitationKey;$Text="Abstract: "+$Abstract;$Text=$Text+"\n"+"\n"+"Q: How does this answers my research question?Q: What’s the Author’s question?Q: What’s the Author’s answer to their question?Q: Are there additional helpful details?"+;$DatePublished=$ReferenceRIS.following("DA - ");$DateAccessed=$ReferenceRIS.following("Y2 - ");$PublicationYear=$ReferenceRIS.following("PY - ");$Tags=$Tags+$ReferenceRIS.following("KW - ");

Zotero RIS with CItekey translator
The Zotero RIS with Citekey translator needs to go in your Zotero translator directory. For example, the path to mine is ~/Zotero/translators/. On macOS yours should be the same.

Note of gratitude: Here is a big thanks to @Bernard-0 (a TBX community member) who set me on the right path and helped me figure our Pandoc and the automagical process.

Get the complete list of Tinderbox training videos here: Mastering Tinderbox: Training Videos (Complete List).


Hi Michael,
great tutorial again! Thank you very much for it.
The basic idea works with Bookends (replacing Zotero as reference manager) too. Bookends supports the RIS format too. Some RIS Tags are unknown to me (LB, LC or DA) but this doesn’t affect the idea behind your approach. With Bookends $ReferenceRIS.following("T1 - ") would be the value I use for $Name. And how about a “\n” after each of your questions? But those minor issues don’t touch your nice concept.
I’m still trying to fix my personal “Zettelkasten” workflow and I don’t see the reason why I should copy a reference from Bookends into Tinderbox. I copy just the citation ({Niehaus, 2009, #195239}) and so if I export my Zettel at a later time and work on my article in Scrivener, everything is there with this little reference?! If I manage the reference in Tinderbox I would need a much more complex $Edict. I need to parse the different types of the reference. For example I need Y2 only if I accessed the reference online. This is no problem if I keep the reference in Bookends and move the citation string over to Tinderbox.
Did I miss something important here?
Thanks a lot for the effort you put into your tutorials - they helped a lot working with Tinderbox!
Thx and regards, Detlef

1 Like

I don’t think it’s necessary to copy every citation to Tinderbox — at least, not for everyone.

One place where this might help is the situation where you’re examining a source and, as you read the source, are adding Tinderbox notes on various issues that note suggests, and also connecting the source to other pertinent sources. If you’re doing that, you might well want the full reference in to be handy in Tinderbox.

Another case would be the situation where, when you come back to this next year, you’re going to immediately recognize what you meant by “Pauline Kael, Trash, Art, and the Movies”, where {Kael 1969c} could be nearly anything.


I completely agree. You can either pull the entire reference in or you just brig in the CitationKey as an attribute. It really just depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what works for you.

How does Zotero compare to Devonthink? Aren’t they the same or similar?
Does one work better than the other with Tinderbox?

Zotero and DEVONThink are apps built for entirely different purposes.

Zotero is a reference manager, it helps you manage your citations and if integrated with other apps in your workflow to automatically pull and insert your citations in your work. It does have limited file storage and the new version is introducing a PDF viewer and highlighter.

DEVONThink is a powerful document repository tool with deep AI and machine learning capabilities for document discovery and management. While you can add citation keys to your files in DEVONThink, as it stands now DEVONThink is not going to help you automatically format and manage your citations.

The beauty of Tinderbox is that you can use with for what it does best, 4Cs of knowledge management, and use other speciality apps for what they do best.