Install Zotero on Ubuntu

Instructions to install Zotero 5 in Ubuntu Bionic Beaver 18.04 LTS, as of January 2020.

I follow the installation instructions to install Zotero, but there’s perhaps not enough detail if you’re new to Ubuntu (or, like me, you just forget!).

Download and extract

First, download Zotero 5.0 tarball from then extract the archive using your archive manager.

Create a directory

Now you need to make a directory to install it in to. For ease you can just make this in your home directory, but I do like to keep software out of my home directory and use /opt like the installation instructions suggest.

Make a directory called zotero in /opt (i.e. /opt/zotero). You may find you need to be root to do this initially so open a terminal and type:

sudo mkdir /opt/zotero

and type your password.

Set owner and permissions for the directory

Next change the owner of the zotero directory you’ve just created so you can access it without root:

sudo chown user:group /opt/zotero

(where user is you and group is an optional group name (possibly staff or similar)). You may also want to change the permissions so that only you can write to this folder. For example, I want read, write, and execute permissions for myself (7), read permission (5) for group, and no permissions for everyone else (0) (so others can read it but not write to it and bodge it up):

chmod 750 -R /opt/zotero

The -R does this recusively (i.e. all files and directories in /opt/zotero).

Copy the files across

Copy the extracted files to /opt/zotero using:

cp -r path/to/extracted/files/* /opt/zotero

The * is a wildcard and means, “copy all files and directories in this directory”. The -r means copy recursively (i.e. copy all folders and folder contents). Thanks to Chris Erkal for the reminder.

Create menu item

So that you can run Zotero from your menu you need to run:


as suggested in the installation instructions. However, I find I also need to manually edit the zotero.desktop file to point to the correct directory. Open /opt/zotero/zotero.desktop in a text editor and change the line:

Exec=bash -c "$(dirname $(readlink -f %k))/zotero -url %U"


Exec=bash -c "/opt/zotero/zotero -url %U"

Before you create a symlink you may need to create the ~/.local/share/applications/ directory:

mkdir ~/.local/share/applications

Then you can create your symlink as described in the installation instructions:

ln -s /opt/zotero/zotero.desktop ~/.local/share/applications/zotero.desktop

Log out and back in

This might be an xfce/xubuntu quirk, but for the menu item to work I have to log out and log back in of my account. Once I’ve done this I can now open Zotero from the menu.