Zotero has just started a regular beta release. The beta version replaces what used to be called the “branch xpi”. It is built regularly from the current release branch. In less technical terms that means that using the beta version you’re testing features that will be in the next minor relase. The current beta, for example contains, code changes that will be in version 4.0.18. The beta version is intended to be usable with minimal risk. It will typically not contain database upgrades, so the risk of data corruption is very low and you can easily revert to the regular version if you’re in a pinch. The beta channel is update a lot more frequently than regular Zotero.
The principal reason for releasing a regular beta is to encourage wider testing of Zotero versions pre-release. If you’re interested enough in Zotero to read this blog, there is a good chance you should run the beta version.
You may want to run Zotero beta If…
You (probably) shouldn’t run Zotero beta if…
- You want maximal stability when using Zotero
- You panic or get frustrated when something doesn’t work on your computer
- You have no time or no patience to deal with and report occasional problems on the Zotero forums
- You’re only using Zotero Standalone (the beta currently is only for the Firefox add-on).
OK, I want to be using the beta version, what now?
First, install the add-on from here. You can simply install it over your existing Zotero, your database will remain untouched. Heed the warning on that page: I’ve never had any trouble running pre-release versions of Zotero and I’m not aware of anyone who has lost data doing so, but it’s beta software and you want to make sure to have regular and automated back-ups.
You can see the currently installed version in the add-ons tab of Firefox or under “About Zotero” in the gears menu. As of this writing the current beta is 4.0.18-beta.r3+fadd486. This means you’re running the 3rd (r3) beta release for the 4.0.18 version of Zotero. The last part after the plus sign corresponds to the last commit to the Zotero source code that’s included in the version, so if you’re following commits (you should be looking at the 4.0 branch) you can easily check whether the version you’re running already contains an addition to the code.
Zotero devs will very much appreciate any error reports from beta users. As for all Zotero errors, you should report them on the forums, and you should provide plenty of details and, if possible, an error report ID. Also mention that you’re running the beta version of Zotero. I had some problems trying out the beta last night, and you can see my report (with quick solution) here.
Talking about shiny things…
The current beta version contains two major improvements in handling PDFs, both coded by community developers. Thanks to Aurimas, “Retrieve Metadata” has improved significantly and you’re now less likely to get locked out by google scholar. Thanks to Emiliano (whose add-ons I praised in my last post), indexing of large (or many) files is now several orders of magnitude faster—a large PDF like War and Peace could take minutes to index and freeze Zotero before, now it takes a couple of seconds.