Add support for offline mode

Right now it is not possible to use Paperpile offline. If my PDFs are stored locally on my computer, I would like to be able to access them while offline. Also, Google Docs works offline, so I would like to be able to use Paperpile there at any time.


Offline mode is essential


If you sync your Google Drive to your hard-disk it’s possible to read your PDFs offline. That works for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and with some caveats also on Linux.

We don’t have plans to add an offline mode for the Paperpile web-app. We have planned mobile apps though which will by default work offline.

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I think it is important to realize that the capability to access PDFs offline is absolutely not the same as using paperpile offline. What application should provide in offline mode is, most importantly:

  1. capability to manage citations in the google doc while offline (on the plane, or other situations when there is no internet connection)
  2. capability to search publications metadata

If all I needed was to have my PDFs offline - well, I would just save them on my computer, or have them on a USB stick. I do not understand why offline mode is not a priority. It seems clear, based on this thread, that this functionality is in demand by users. I guess it is just very hard to do with the architecture of the app, where all these searches seem to be server-side.


I understand that a full offline version would be helpful for some users. We carefully keep track of user requests but the data is extremely clear here. We just don’t see any demand for it. We get emails every day about Word plugin, PDF annotation, mobile app, ez-proxy support,… But almost nobody has asked for offline support. That’s why it’s not on our roadmap.

Paperpile can’t be everything for everyone, there are plenty options available for offline reference managers.

Stefan, naturally, I do not have access to what your users are requesting by email. But based on the number of likes this offline support issue received (10 likes) it seems to be quite competitive with the other issues you mentioned: Word plugin: 2 likes, PDF annotation: 14 likes, mobile app: 9 likes, ez-proxy support: 3 likes. Almost nobody asked?

BTW, I recall when this forum started, it was possible to sort requests by the number of likes, but then that feature got axed…

Yes, I agree paperpile can’t be everything for everyone, but offline support seems to be a basic feature. I am not aware of other reference managers that support google docs, and offline mode. If I learn about such reference managers, I will definitely give them a serious consideration. I am somewhat surprised and disappointed by your response. I am also puzzled about what you actually use to decide on priorities for the development of this product. Your decision making approach does not seem to be as transparent as it is, for example, for Mendeley (see Well, mendeley support of google docs is under review. Let’s see.


Andrey, I’m truly sorry if you feel disappointed by my response but I’m afraid this is all I can say at this point.

I don’t think we can be more transparent. We answer individual e-mail requests in detail typically within 24 hours including questions about our roadmap. In addition we’ve created this forum to discuss these things publicly.

The difference to Mendeley might be that you actually talk directly to people who make the decisions and can give clear answers. I could label this thread “Under review” and say “we are looking into it” and let users vote for 4 years even though I know it’s not going to happen. It don’t think that would help anyone.

I’m happy to discuss more why this particular feature is not on our roadmap. The short answer is that almost nobody asks for it while it would be very hard to implement. If we use our resources on such features we would be out of business soon.

We would love to make everyone happy but we can’t. We give everyone a 30 day trial see if the product is right and we are quite proud to say that nobody asked for a refund yet.

Again, I understand you being disappointed about the lack of the feature. But I don’t think there is reason to doubt my honesty here. Greg, Andreas and I have written thousands of support e-mails in the past 12 months and offline support just did not come up as something people are missing.

The sorting by votes feature was removed by not by us: We hope to bring it back if technically possible at some point.


Stefan, no problem - you guys are doing amazing work in many regards, I was just trying to clarify this particular issue.

But I do think you can be more transparent. If indeed the features you are developing are driven primarily by private requests in emails, not by this forum, you could consider publishing a blog entry, or google+ post, once in a while, saying something like “hey, these are the top 10 hot requests, we are working on them, and please consider using forum instead”. Community has no clue what emails you are getting, this forum is hard to use to get an idea what is actually “hot”, and as this discussion shows, the number “likes” given to feature requests on this forum is not representative of what users demand in private emails…

Please take this as a constructive criticism (I hope it is constructive)! :wink:

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I don’t need full offline functionality, but being able to write offline is key.

I hope as your users start to write papers with paperpile, they will clarify that it is important to them to be able to use the citation feature offline.

One would hope that as the google app ecosystem evolves that creating an offline mode would become less difficult.


Independent of the discussion above I’m afraid to say that the Google Docs plugin will not work in offline mode any time soon.

We use Google AppScript to interact with Google Docs and that’s a server based technology. Even if we manage to locally cache our data and get independent of our servers, AppScript would not be available in offline mode.

It took them years and several failed attempts to take core Google Docs offline. I don’t think we can expect offline AppScript any time soon.

Sure, I definitely take your posts as constructive criticism. The forum is brand new and we still have to figure out how to make best use of it. One way would be to label topics as “Planned”, “Started”, “Probably not” or whatever. That would give a more structured way to figure out what’s on our roadmap. At the moment I try to qualitatively give an idea how we think about a topic and where we are at.

But it’s also important to realize that the forum is only one part how we gather feedback and how we make decisions. Building a complex product like Paperpile is not about counting votes for individual features. I wish it was that easy. There are so many things to consider. We try to explain our decisions but sometimes not everything that goes into a decision can be easily shared and discussed publicly.

Hi, I’d like to add my two cents. I’m evaluating Paperpile for our lab. Offline reading of PDFs is an essential feature for us, considering we often have to deal with limited or no Internet in various offices, and read articles while traveling. I’ve already run across the problem several times - at first I thought I had configured something wrong before I figured out it’s not possible to use Paperpile offline. Finding PDFs to read with a file browser is too clunky to use when all the other article managers have offline support (Papers, Mendelay, Zotero, Readcube, Endnote, etc.). I conferred with a couple other labs at BU and they agreed they wouldn’t want to use software that doesn’t work without an Internet connection, so I’m surprised it’s not a priority for the Paperpile team. Thanks for the clear communication about the issue. It’s very helpful.

We do edit Google Docs offline as well, but if it’s not possible to implement putting in references then we can just put in placeholder text and go back to fix them later.


Thanks for the input. I think the key point is that Paperpile is a web-app while all the others you mention are Desktop apps, which are by default offline. If you have to work in an office without internet at BU, a Desktop app might be the better choice.

Only very few webapps actually have an offline mode. E.g. thousands of businesses run on Trello these days which does only work online. The big exception is Google Apps, but it took them years to get this working and they had to develop the browser technology along the way. Unfortunately HTML 5 offline technologies are still a mess. They might be good enough to take a TODO app offline like shown in pretty much every demo but managing and syncing a database of tens of thousands papers is still tricky and way beyond what’s possible for us at the moment.

It sounds like the only way to do it would be to make a separate offline app (for each platform) which accesses the Paperpile directory via google drive.

Obviously a lot of work!

But maybe the need is only for “offline paperpile reader app” that doesn’t provide import, annotation, or editing support but just let us access our collections and tags so we could use it to check references when offline. I find the Gdrive with starred files directory sufficient for reading on a mobile device, but often times during scientific discussion we don’t know in advance what papers we might need to check.


Dear Paperpile Team, dear Paperpile users,

I fully agree with Cox: I’ve started using the app yesterday evening and was impressed with how easy and fast I had my libraries imported, cleaned and updated. However, right now I am on a commuter train to my work place and realized that I cannot access my library without internet connection (meaning I’d have to invest some of my scarce mobile data, which might hurt when downloading pdfs). Therefore, like Cox, I would also really appreciate an offline reader app that lets you search your local pdf library.

However, if I have synced my pdfs from google drive with a location on my hard drive (which I have not done yet), would I then be able to only use the internet connection for the search and then open the local copy of the papers I’ve found? Then, I guess, traffic would be so little that it’s o.k. to do this via mobile connection. I’ll better check the FAQs and other forum entries … as soon as I’m out of this tunnel :wink:

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For your specific use case you don’t have to worry at all: Paperpile actually stores copies of the PDFs locally within Chrome. So you don’t have to re-download a PDF if you want to view it.

The other network traffic caused by Paperpile is typically modest so you should be all set using your mobile connection.

You can check how many local files you have stored on a particular machine in “Settings > Storage and Sync > Local file storage

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Yes if the actual PDFs are loaded locally from the gdrive and only the metadata is sent through the web then tethering on mobile data would be an acceptable interim solution…

I read this discussion with lots of interest.
I am also convinced it would be very useful to have an offline reader to be able access the pdfs that are stored locally.


Just another user requesting an offline functionality (perhaps as a Chrome extension).

I just started my 30 day free trial. So far Paperpile is great, it really fits my working style. The UI and the seamless integration with Google Scholar are excellent, much better than the clunky interfaces of Papers and Mendeley.

But right now, I have a fast wifi connection at work and the office. If I wanted to continue writing when I’m doing field work , I’d be out of luck. If I wanted to read/take notes on my PDFs on a plane/train or the beach, I’d be out of luck.

These concerns are weighing heavily on my decision on whether or not to subscribe after the trial period.


I would like to add to the discussion and idea that I had.

I don’t know about the workflow of others but for me it would already be great if the offline mode supports just the inserting of citations in a Google Docs.

Since Google Docs can already be edited while offline, I hope it is technically not that complicated to allow the user to:

  • Search and insert new citations
  • Edit existing citations

Looking forward to your opinion!