More Support and Templates in SciFlow

SciFlow is an online editor for academics. They have recently updated and expanded the documentation, so should you ever get stuck, here’s how to. That said, the interface is pretty intuitive, so I’m not sure you’ll ever need to navigate to the support pages for basic editing.

There are some useful hints, though, like using zbib (Zotero) with Sciflow (instructions here). This gets pretty close to Authorea’s citation feature, and is also useful for collaborative texts (and doesn’t suffer from the slowness of direct Zotero/Mendeley connections if you have a large database of references).

The SciFlow team have also recently updated the Templates feature:

There are many journal styles to choose from. It’s not quite (yet) like typeset.io, but the social sciences are not well covered by typeset anyway. SciFlow offers some useful templates, but in most cases, it’s necessary to do some finishing before submitting to a journal. On the other hand, there’s a template for minutes — that’s useful for anyone working in a team, and who isn’t?

In most cases the generic templates will do, including the SciFlow templates which support many common citation styles.

Zotero!

If you aren’t, you should be using Zotero. It amazes me to see researchers ‘managing’ their references manually these days. It’s complicated, takes time, is prone to errors, and simply unnecessary. There are many options out there to manage your references, but you should look at the free and open Zotero. You can install it on all your devices, you’re not limited in the number of citations you can use, you can take it with you when you change workplace, and in fact you’re not even restricted to the feature of Zotero because you can use plugins. Seamless integration in word processors isn’t going to stand out from the competition, but getting stuff into Zotero takes no effort at all — it’s unparalleled easy with just one click in your web browser. You get free syncing, too. There really is no reason not to keep notes of what you are reading.

After grabbing Zotero, you probably want Zotfile, too. Zotfile manages your PDF versions of research articles. In my view, the most useful feature is the ability to extract highlighted text from the PDF. It’s so practical that I sometimes even don’t take proper notes (for the main points, you should store them in your brain anyway).

Image credit: Zotero, Zotfile

Collaborative writing in SciFlow now with Zotero

This deserves mentioning: The collaborating writing service SciFlow now supports Zotero. You can find instructions here and here; all you need is an account with Zotero for syncing. Like the Mendeley link they provide, fetching references from the connected (Zotero) account can be a bit sluggish if you have a large library. If you’re a student writing up a term paper or a Master thesis, you will probably not notice this. If you have a more substantial collection of references, you will notice this. A downside of the Zotero link is that it searches your complete library, including notes and extracted annotations if you have this. I would have liked a more selective sync to speed up things.

So I’m still waiting for a reference search like in Authorea or ZoteroBib. With the many export styles to choose from, SciFlow easily beats Google Docs, and it works in a limited way on a mobile phone (you can log in and edit the text, but formatting etc. are now disabled in recent versions).

Zotero on Ubuntu Does Not Update: How to Fix the Permissions

My Zotero did not update, showing a dialog that while there is an update available, I apparently lacked the permissions to update. First I tried to chmod the directory where I extracted Zotero to, and the Zotero binary, but that did not change the error message. It turns out there is another directory that needs to be changed:

sudo chmod 707 /usr/bin/zotero && sudo chmod -R 707 /opt/zotero

(in the terminal) and now everything works as it should.

Update 10 April 2019: see comments for a more appropriate handling of the permissions.

Zotero and Zotfile

Apparently there are still researchers out there (no, I won’t name you) who have not heard of Zotero and Zotfile. Zotfile takes Zotero to another level by managing PDF files, including the ability to extract highlights and comments from PDF files. Try them.