Zotero on Nexus7 in Plasma Active

Zotero, in a nutshell, is a pretty sophisticated literature management tool. It lets you, “… collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.” In this post I briefly present how I got Zotero running on the Nexus7 tablet in Plasma Active.

Please note that this is a first proof of concept and that there are still many usability issues. However, this demonstrates that it is, generally, possible to run Zotero also on alternative architectures. Personally, my intention is to use Zotero this way while commuting and it should actually suffice for this purpose.

Zotero consist of two parts, a client and a server side. The client side is the user frontend. The server is used as backend for archival and synchronization. The client application is available as browser-plugin and standalone application. I got the standalone version running in PA on Nexus7.

Technically, the Zotero standalone version is a XULRunner application; the Zotero standalone client application itself does not contain any platform dependent code. So, to get Zotero running in PA on Nexus7 an armv7hl version of XULRunner is needed. Luckily, there is already a XULRunner package available in the Mer repositories.

For convenience, I branched the xulrunner version I am using plus some dependencies in a separate project on the Mer OBS. So, in order to get xulrunner and its dependencies it should be enough to add that repository and “zypper in xulrunner”.

The Zotero installation is straight forward. Firstly, a Zotero standalone archive has to be downloaded and extracted. After extracting the Zotero standalone application, one finds a xulrunner directory in there. This can be safely deleted as we are using the xulrunner from Mer. Furthermore, the “zotero” binary is useless for us as it has the wrong architecture. The remaining directory can be simply copied to the Nexus7, e.g., via SSH.

To run Zotero simply execute “xulrunner application.ini” in the directory that contains the application.ini and zotero.jar files. In my case I had to edit application.ini in order to adjust the xulrunner version. Below are some screenshots of Zotero running in PA on Nexus7 and Okular showing a paper from the Zotero database.

Note that I increased the font size via the Zotero preferences. Additionally I extracted the zotero.jar content and increased the icon sizes such that they are easier to hit on the touch screen (find . -name “*png” -exec convert {} -resize 48×48\< {} \;). Also note that some drop-down menus are not shown and other drop-down menus are shown in wrong places such that clicking some entries is rather a matter of anticipation or luck but as said this approach still has many issues. Fortunately, the sync feature, at least via WebDAV, seems to work well and opening *.pdf files from the Zotero database works as well. Nonetheless, you have been warned, the user interface on Nexus7 PA, right now, has quite a number of glitches. For me, it is already great to have Zotero with it’s “full” feature set available on a tablet.

Maybe, this proof of concepts motivates others to look into this as well and improve the user experience on touch interfaces. A nice aspect of this approach is that the official Zotero application is used and thus the application will benefit from the Zotero development and updates. Feedback and comments are, as usual, always appreciated. Please let me know if you are also interested in using Zotero on your Plasma Active, or Mer in general, enabled device. Last but not least, this should also apply to Plasma Active on ArchosG9 but I didn’t test it.

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One Response to Zotero on Nexus7 in Plasma Active

  1. I use Zotero regularly and I use my PA tablet mainly for reading scientific papers, so this this is great news for me, thanks for your work on this!
    Since Zotero is Free Software, it would even be possible to upstream any touch optimizations people make. Maybe Zotero is even interested in collaborating with interested developers to make an official mobile Version?
    I can only offer my help regarding interaction design, but I’ll offer that gladly.
    This would give another boost to Plasma Active as the preferred platform for “serious work” with a tablet.

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