Citing from shared folders

I was just testing PaperPile and Google Docs with a colleague on a shared PaperPile folder.

He tells me that in PaperPile, he could see all of the references in the shared folder, but when he went to add a citation in Google Docs, shared references were not recognised.

Any thoughts on on what the issue might be?


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If you search in Google Docs only the items in your own library will be searched. If you want to cite something from a shared folder, you need to import it to your own library first.

The reason is technical, as a user can potentially have many shared folders with potentially many items and searching across multiple libraries is not as efficient as just searching the library of one user. Since speed is important when inserting citations we have not added this to the search.

We are aware of the issue and think about solutions.

As ever, thanks for the quick response- It might be nice to let the user to decide whether or not to include shared folders in the search with a toggle in preferences (or even a preference for each shared folder - “Include in citation lookup”)… I see your point, but it depends on the set-up of each user.

So, if the following events happened, I suppose that the citation, added by two different authors, would result in two reference entries in the bibliography and possible a YYYYa/b scenario:
a) User A puts a reference in the shared library
b) User B copies that reference to her own library
c) User A corrects his reference, which would update in the shared folder, but not User B’s copy
d) Both User A and B cite from their own libraries.

To me, the shared folder is the key to the brilliance of PaperPile, so authors collaborate together from a shared library, but workflows like the one above cause some of the same complications that “non-collaborative” software might and are just a hair better than e-mailing one another RIS files. I guess my question has turned into a feature request for a more complete collaborative writing experience with PaperPile, which I find myself tending toward over my previous set ups more and more.


No, the scenario you describe is not possible. It’s important to note that there is already a special “shared folder” for each document which is the actual source of truth of what’s being cited.

You see this folder when you click “Paperpile > Show all references” in Google Docs.

If someone adds a citation it will get stored there and if someone else cites it again this copy will be taken.

Actually we designed to process to be fully collaborative form the ground up not just for Paperpile users but for everyone. Unfortunately these workflows get very, very complex and we still think about how to integrate normal “shared folders” in this workflow.

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I support this feature request. We have the same scenario: we are several collaborators editing a shared google doc, and using a shared paperpile folder. We have one person in our group who is responsible for curating the references (most of them added by other users in our shared paperpile folder), but this does not seem to work. The “curator” needs to make a copy of the reference in his local library, and his edits will stay in his local library and will not be reflected back to the shared google doc.

Maybe there is another way how this workflow is supported in paperpile?

Thanks for the great tool!

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There is clearly the limitation that you can’t cite directly from a shared folder.

However, there are workarounds. Every Google Doc has its own “shared” folder with all the references of the current document. That’s the final truth of what’s being used in the document. So the curator could just edit the references there (in Google Docs: Paperpile > View all references)

Also, the changes someone makes in his/her private library will be reflected back to the shared google Doc. Only if it’s changed by someone else in this special document specific shared folder I mentioned above subsequent changes in the private library won’t override these edit.

I’m sorry if that all sounds complicated but collaborative editing is complicated because there are many possible scenarios with many edge cases.

Thank you, Stefan! I totally understand that collaborative workflows are complicated (it happens that I work on them, too), and it is impossible to make everyone happy.

I just have a short question.
If i understand correctly, a shared folder means that collaborators can add/delete citations to it, but not that they can edit the “main” shared citation, if it was created by someone else. Is there a drawback from allowing collaborators to edit a citation (of someone elses) in a shared foider? (documents have their own copy of the citations, so they are safe).

Maybe that could be an additional type of permission (edit citations in the shared folder) that the owner of a shared folder can grant to her collaborators?


No, there is no reason why shared folders have this ‘read-only’ at the moment other than the fact that Paperpile is a young product and still evolving.

We had good success introducing features with limited functionality first. That gives us the chance to learn from real-life data and feedback what’s missing (and more importantly what’s not). We got great feedback about shared folders e.g. by @Kelapa and many others, so there will be definitely improvements in the future.

It’s basically a matter of allocating resources and finding the right balance between optimizing existing features and creating new features.

Thank you, Stefan. Yes, that makes perfect sense.

Looking forward to the new features! It is a great tool already.

Is there any update on this feature request? I am encountering the same problem, i.e., someone from our lab is responsible for curating a “shared database”, but when comes the time to actually use it and cite references from it, it becomes impossible, unless the shared folder is imported to the local library, which creates a duplication with all its inconvenience (local reference is updated, but the change is not synced with the shared folder).

Hi, friendly reminder about my post above 12 days ago.

There is no immediate update on that I’m afraid. Other that we are rewriting how sharing works quite fundamentally which will solve many issues raised here in the forum including this one.

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@stefan any chance y’all could find a way to at least distinguish the papers in a shared folder that are not in your local library so that we can avoid the duplication issue noted by @Julien_Cohen-Adad?


Thanks for the question, @Jeffrey_Hammerbacher! This is actually already indicated in the shared folder, if you notice a little symbol on the top right corner of each reference item:

And the legend for those (taken from this section of our Help Center)