Chromebook Zotero connections

I have an HP 14″ Chromebook, which I purchased about a year ago. It’s lovely – light, great battery life, and it has both USB-A and USB-C ports. It has a few limitations, though, as it only runs ChromeOS – the Chrome web browser, basically.

So, I still have a desktop computer for things that require more power or options – games, video editing, heavy spreadsheets or detail Word doc formatting.

Recently, I’ve been working on some new research, and have been using Zotero to manage my references. It’s free, integrates well with Google Docs, and syncs nicely across computers. It allows me to save sources to Zotero from the Google Chrome connector.

However, to insert in-text citations or a reference list into Google Docs requires both a) the Google Chrome connector, and b) the Zotero desktop application. The Zotero desktop app doesn’t have a Chromebook option.

So, I thought that I’ll have to do my inserting of citations from the desktop. Annoying, but not the end of the world. Then I went to Riga for a week, and needed to add sources to the Google Doc. Very annoying at that point.

Most modern Chromebooks allow you to run Android apps on them; I’ve done that for other software (like my VPN) without any issues. But Zotero doesn’t have a desktop client for Android.

Then, I discovered that you can run Linux directly on a modern Chromebook. It sets up a virtual machine, runs it on the Chromebook, and lets you install and run many popular Linux apps. There is a Zotero desktop application for Linux.

So, I installed it. It ran, and synced my sources to the computer. So far, so good. However, it didn’t sync with Zotero’s Google Chrome connector, so I couldn’t use it with Google Docs.

Some googling lead me to the solution. It turns out that the Linux virtual machine doesn’t have it’s ports configured to forward to the ChromeOS by default. Adding a port forward fixes the issue. You can find setup instructions for it here.