Scribe to Zotero Transition

Scribe 3.5 makes it easier to migrate your research database from Scribe to Zotero, the new, more powerful research tool developed at CHNM. To transfer your records, first download Scribe 3.5 and import your records from an earlier version of Scribe.

To export your records, choose "Export Cards as RDF" from the Export menu. Only currently found records will export. To export the entire database, choose Show All first. Depending on how many records you have, the export may take from a few minutes to several hours. If you have a large database, it is probably a good idea to run it overnight.

Your records will be exported into the file exporteditems.rdf in your Scribe3 folder. Your PDF, image, and other files will be exported into the Media folder in your Scribe3 folder.

Install Zotero in your Firefox, if you haven't already. Instructions are available on the Zotero website. To import your records into Zotero, choose Import from the Zotero Actions menu and navigate to your Scribe3 folder. Choose exporteditems.rdf. The import should be faster than the export from Scribe3.

If you get an error message or an alert that the script is taking too long, your file may not be correctly formatted. In that case, inquire on the Scribe discussion list or post on Zotero forums.

Note: In rare cases, your export may contain control characters that are invalid in XML files. One solution to this problem is to delete them after export: use search-and-replace feature in Oxygen, Zap Gremlins feature in BBedit, or use any other text editor that deletes XML-invalid control characters.

In 2008, Zotero developers will implement a hierarchical item types system which will make it possible to add composite item types like "letter in book" and create custom item types and fields. In the meantime, the import works as follows:


Most fields in Scribe have equivalents in Zotero. Data from Scribe fields for which there are no equivalents is always stored in the Extra field, with the exception of author address and source type (in cases when Zotero doesn't have equivalent item types), which are stored in the Abstract field. If you have been using Scribe custom fields and want to make sure that your own field labels get exported, go to Settings > Card Types and reenter your field labels - Scribe will automatically update labels in Zotero export.

Item Types

The following card types map to Zotero item types with little or no loss of data or formatting:

Notecard (Note in Zotero; page number and title import into the first line of the note in brackets; support for italics and bold in notes is coming in Zotero version 1.5)
Image, File, Audio, Video (Attachment)
Section in Book (Book Section)
Journal Article
Magazine Article
Newspaper Article
Letter (author address imports into the Abstract field; a dedicated address field is coming in version 1.5)
Poem (Manuscript)
Poem in Book (Book Section)
Poem in Journal (Journal Article)
Poem in Magazine (Magazine Article)
Poem in Newspaper (Newspaper Article)
Obituary in Journal (Journal Article)
Obituary in Magazine (Magazine Article)
Obituary in Newspaper (Newspaper Article)
Radio or TV Program (TV Broadcast)
Radio or TV Broadcast (TV Broadcast)
Video Recording
Sound Recording (Audio Recording)
Sheet Music (Book; authors of music & lyrics & performers import as contributors)
Song in Sheet (Book Section; authors of music & lyrics & performers import as contributors)
Blog or Forum (Forum Post)
Email, IM, or Post (E-mail)
Web Site (Web Page)
Web Page (Web Page)
Computer Program

The following card types will be imported with some loss of data and/or formatting. They map to Zotero item types as follows:

Person, Institution - Sorry, currently there is no way to import these into Zotero; this will become possible in version 1.5
Letter to Journal - Journal Article
Letter to Magazine - Magazine Article
Letter to Newspaper - Newspaper Article
Letter in Book - Book Section
Artwork in Book - Book Section
Artwork in Journal - Journal Article
Artwork in Magazine - Magazine Article
Artwork in Newspaper - Newspaper Article
Interview in Book - Book Section
Interview in Journal - Journal Article
Interview in Magazine - Magazine Article
Interview in Newspaper - Newspaper Article
Advertisement - Manuscript
Advertisement in Book - Book Section
Advertisement in Journal - Journal Article
Advertisement in Magazine - Magazine Article
Advertisement in Newspaper - Newspaper Article
Sound Track - Audio Recording
Archival Collection - Manuscript
Periodical - Book
Chart or Table - Artwork
Equation - Artwork
Other Source - Manuscript


Currently Zotero provides no support for Outlines, Timelines, and other lists available in Scribe. These are not currently planned as basic features but it is possible they will be added as plugins in the future. On the other hand, you can use Zotero extensions that are not available in Scribe, such as Vertov, a plugin for annotating media files.