Disable PDF Links/Bibliography Control

When downloading a Google doc as a PDF, the Paperpile links are preserved, so that anyone with the PDF can click on one of the links and see the entire bibliography.

That’s great, but it also allows anyone with that link to edit or delete the citations in the document without the author’s permission. So if the author goes back to add a citation and attempts to reformat through Paperpile, the deleted sources will no longer work and will have to re-added.

Could we have an option to disable those links? Or could you somehow ensure that not everyone with the PDF has control over the bibliography?


Anyone with the PDF can click on one of the links and see the entire bibliography … it also allows anyone with that link to edit or delete the citations in the document without the author’s permission.

I tested this just now. I was credulous that it was true, so I downloaded a PDF, opened up an “incognito” window in Chrome (which means I am logged out of Google and Paperpile) and pasted a link from the PDF. Indeed, I could edit citation data from my Paperpile account, and these edits affected my bibliography. (I didn’t try deleting an entry, but there is a delete button.)

This is a major oversight and I hope it gets fixed right away. I can see how it might be nice to share the references in this way, but those clicking on the link should only see citation data, not be able to edit or delete. (Note: I didn’t see the PDF attachments listed in this view, which is as it should be.)

In principle, the sharing model should work like that. Everyone who has access to the Google Document should be able to edit the references. The references are part of the document so they should be editable.

However, once you share the final product as PDF you should be careful not to share the links with someone you don’t want have access to your references. That’s not an oversight. We had an option “export without markup”, see the discussion there: Plain copy without markup? What does it mean?

For technical reason we had to temporarily remove this option because it was broken and it’s currently technically not possible to fix it. We will bring it back together with a major update of the Docs plugin, which uses different Google APIs that make this feature possible.

For now, please refer to my tip how to remove all links from a word document in the thread above or remove the links from the final PDF before sharing it. Adobe Acrobat offers a way to do that:


Disabling this “feature” is a MUST! I bet users don’t even realize they give access to the PDFs under their library while sharing documents with Paperpile-generated bibliography. I discovered this by accident while reviewing the PDF-exported document. Wow.

Quoting here the workaround for completeness:

Alas, @stefan, your workaround above does not work! I made the document “viewable by everyone” in Google docs, opened the document in Incognito mode, printed into PDF (also tried exporting as PDF), and all items in the bibliography still have paperpile URLs, so I can edit/delete them even in “incognito” mode!

There I go, removing URLs one by one for 80+ references… This is extremely annoying.

And the Acrobat workaround is of limited use - I reference a lot of web resources, and I do want the URLs that are spelled out in the references list to be active.


This is a very old thread. Please use the export functions in the new sidebar add-on to export a “clean copy” without links.

Also the links in your document don’t give anyone access to the PDFs of your library (and they never have)

Thanks for clarifying. Would be great if setting Export option to “Clean copy” in the add-on applied to “Save as” and “Print”. I am not sure how many people know about the existence of “Export”, and also the gear icon in the toolbar creates an impression that it gives control to settings, but it (also) buries document actions.

Also, after changing that setting, I no longer see individual citations when clicking on the citation (cannot expand, cannot open in paperpile individual ones - can only open all in a new window). This is on the original document, not copy. Very confusing.

Which setting? You mean you exported the clean copy without the links? If you can’t see the “Edit citation” links in the document reloading the document usually helps. I doubt that’s related though.

Unfortunately it’s extremely restricted what’s technically possible in Google Docs for third party developers. We pushed the limits as far as we can but still many things are not as intuitive as we would have made it if we could do whatever we want.

Also the add-on was manually reviewed by Google and and the UI went through at least three rounds of revisions where we discussed it with a Google engineer. It’s always a tradeoff of “discoverability” and UI complexity. In a sidebar that is only a few hundred pixel wide there is not much space for prominent menus unfortunately.

Stefan, I will debug/try to reproduce from scratch later. Need to finish that paper and traveling for a conference next week.