Technological tools for historians

Zotero is really starting to grow on me. I added this bibliographic application to my browser in November and I now find that I use it constantly to create lists of books to read, to organize items relevant to my research, and so forth. I like that it’s far faster and easier to import data than EndNote (and I have been a devotee of EndNote for several years). I also appreciate that it works with my web browser so I no longer need to run a separate program while searching the web.

Another application that I’m growing fond of is Hiveminder, a task management system I’m using to manage my research goals as well as personal stuff like grocery lists and errands. What I like best about Hiveminder is that it integrates with both my browser (so I can add items via my searchbar) and with googlecalendar–showing my daily ‘to do’ list on the top of each day’s schedule. Hiveminder allows for recurring tasks and “before-after” tasks (as in, before I finish my grant application I need to contact my advisor to write a recommendation letter and after I finish it I need to go to the post office–all added seamlessly from one entry).

Are you using Zotero, Hiveminder, or other similar programs? If so, how are they aiding your research and writing?

Here’s a brief youtube overview of Zotero:

And a look at Hiveminder:

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6 Responses to Technological tools for historians

  1. Allison says:

    Oh, so timely.

    Just starting my first real seminar paper and am discovering the joys of trying to organize computer files. I’ve started using Journlr, a free Mac program, that is taggable and searchable and whatnot. Trying also to keep my book notes organized so I can find them easily for orals preparation. It’s working well, but since I haven’t started writing yet time will tell how easy it is to find things. Since I do compose at the computer rather than longhand, I think this will work better than stacks of paper. But I do love my stacks of paper…

    I’m taking a library introduction to RefWorks next week. I’ve heard good things about it. It’s free, unlike EndNote, and I found EndNote hard to use in the first few times I tried to create bibliographies after entering all my sources/notes…so I gave up eventually.

    I’ve also heard good things about Zotero from our American history reference librarian. I’ve been meaning to check it out. I’ll check out the Youtube thing…maybe this will solve my problem of flooding my inbox with book references and citations from OCLC etc. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. janaremy says:

    I’m curious about your RefWorks orientation. The appeal of a web-based application is what’s driving my interest in Zotero, as I’m just about to buy an inexpensive ultra-mobile PC that has a Linux OS (I am so eager to have a 3 lb laptop instead of a 6lb beast!). I wonder if RefWorks and Endnote will soon add a web-based component so they can compete with Zotero? And, yes, I think a major appeal of Zotero is that one can add the library info directly w/o having to import from the library website. Although EndNote offers a similar feature using their connection file feature, it’s still more unwieldy than Zotero (at least IMO).

    I’ve heard that Scrivener is a useful program for MacUsers–to organize notes for writing papers. I’m not aware of any similar PC programs. Journlr sounds similar.

    Do let me know how things go for you as you continue trying different programs. I love hearing how others are using them for their research.

  3. Larry Cebula says:

    I saw a presentation on Zotero at the AHA. As cool as it is, some even more impressive features are about to roll out. The one that most intrigued me is the ability to share your database over the web–sort of like “Oh, you are working on the fur trade around the Great Lakes? Here is my bibliography.” The professional networks of tomorrow will form around groups of today’s grad students (and the occasional old fart like myself) who meet via Zotero. is a tool I use a lot. It is a web based bookmarking site that allows you to share your bookmarks and to browse the bookmarks of other folks.

    Another tool the folks from George Mason were showing off was Omeka–see

  4. Ridjou says:

    I am using Zotero, and trying hard to get used to it. After years of 3×5 index cards, it is hard to change. I was used to arrange my cards in the order of a paper, or a book chapter (following Umberto Eco’s book on thesis writing). This approach, which is strongly oriented towards the rhetoric of a paper, is not easily imitable in Zotero, which seems more apt for the method of grounded theory. (see my comment on this in Zotero) and this blog, which discusses the problem very clearly :


  5. John White says:

    I’m wondering what you do about sources not available in electronic format. Google Book Search, for example, can give you a page snapshot, but that doesn’t seem to be something you can highlight.

    So do you just grab bibliographic information from somewhere then type in the quotes you end up using?

  6. Jana says:

    For some googlebooks (not all, it seems), you can select to view as text rather than as a pdf. Then you can cut and paste the relevant text into the “notes” field on zotero–at least that’s what I do. When I’m unable to select the text I do retype the material (but only the actual text that’s useful to me). There might be some other way to handle it, but so far that works for me.