Paperpile vs Zotero


Zotero has been good to me for the last ten years. Never lost any data across multiple operating systems and computers.

But as we move more and more to cloud based work it’s not quite doing what I want it to do.

So, after months of consideration, because we talking about thousands of PDFs and hours upon hours of work, it’s all in with Paperpile. I’m tired of having to manage different apps or folders on different computers or tablets. I just want to login and forget about management, so, you know, I can do just actual work and creation.

I just hope for a few things.

  1. Papers was a hip young start up at one point. And look what an almighty mess that’s turned into.

  2. Therefore, I hope you don’t get bought out.

  3. And getting a Word add on is crucial at some point. The number of universities with Office 365 is huge, and I still have to do my final edit in Word and gDocs lacks some basic features (starting new sections with new page numbers being one of them)

  4. And if you’re truly cloud base then you’re going to have to hop on to iOS at some point. Good chance it takes over MacOS in the next ten years for actual work. No one is doing good citation management for iOS. Sure Mendeley and Papers sync, while Bookends now has some rudimentary, but clunky citation tools, but none offer the ability to actually integrate with a word processor on iOS. There’s surely a chance here for Paperpile to dominate iOS?

Keep up the good work!


Just a few thoughts here from someone who has been with Paperpile since it’s early days when the founders brother announced in on Reddit.

Paperpile does one thing very very well - it grabs papers and puts them in the cloud. It lives in the browser. If you ask me, this was its simple trump card. Nothing else does the job of sequestering papers better than Paperpile. And for this, I’ve loved it.

Now comes the sucky part. Paperpile only works with Google Docs. This makes it instantly useless in the workflow of about 90% of academics out there for ‘cite as you write’. I don’t know why, but over the years it feels like the founders are really not understanding the idea that Google Docs is not exactly the most pleasant, or efficient or feature packed word processor out there. Ask 5 people and they will give you 5 different answers on why they prefer Word/Writer over Google Docs. The expansion of Word features with Word Online, OneDrive and the ability to collaborate has eroded any miniscule charm Google Docs had even further.

It seemed last year, the company finally started to get the message and started a beta program that involved a Word add-on. I was hooked. If I had Paperpile with the capability to cite in word - the search for the proper citation manager was over. Alas, the promised Word beta seems to have been shelved in favor of a mobile application. Really…because people write papers on the bus on their phones and tablets. Right? Oh no, they said, it is for reading papers.

I realised I was doing it wrong. Here I was thinking Paperpile was a citation manager, when what it really is ,is apparently just a PDF reader. To get a proper citation manager , I had to hunt until I found

This one actually does everything that Paperpile does - Google Docs, saving articles etc. AND it has a Word add on, Libreoffice add-on and an offline desktop client. Brilliant. The catch? It’s $9.99 per month…about 3 times more than Paperpile’s $2.99 per month. I honestly do not think that the extra 84$ per year is a serious dent in the grant budget of any academic. Guess where the geese are flocking?


Hmm. I’m trying not to be sceptical. You mention you’ve been using Paperpile since the very early days, yet you joined the Paperpile forums just one hour ago to promote a rival product.

Perhaps I should give you benefit of the doubt even though your post read like an advertisement for a rival product.

I’ll address a couple of your points.

I did try f1000 a few weeks ago. I found it a huge, stinking, pile of clunky turd. My subjective opinion of course, but it was a horrible user experience. Using it was as ‘sucky’ as their ‘sucky’ name: F1000 sounds like an oil company.

I wonder about the geese flocking to them. It would be interesting to know how many university libraries are recommending f1000. Certainly, not the some of the major ones in the UK where I spend my time (Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Warwick). I’m yet to hear of my peers or colleagues talking excitedly about it.

Here’s another bugbear: the ‘geese’ always seems to mean just scientists as if people in the humanities don’t have piles and piles of references. F1000 is set up for scientists, so not so many of numerous arts and humanities researchers will be flocking to it. These ‘geese’ will be going elsewhere.

What about the ‘geese’ who use chromebooks? A huge market in the education world. Paperpile reigns supreme here. Clunky f1000 has a chrome extension, but from what I’m hearing it doesn’t work properly on a chromebook. That’s more ‘geese’ that f1000 have lost.

By the way, it’s 2017, plenty of people do now write papers, serious papers, on their tablets, and it’s likely more will over the coming decade. So I guess those ‘geese’ won’t be using f1000 either if the f1000 people have a distaste for tablets. Hopefully, the Paperpile tablet app will move from read only to full usability with time. But in the meantime I welcome reading and accessing my papers on the bus.

But yes a Word add on for Paperpile is a must.

Otherwise, creating a new account to promote your product and trash another product seems a little bit ‘sucky’ to me, and makes me want to avoid the clunky STEM bias crappy software that is F1000.


Hmm. I’m trying not to be sceptical. You mention you’ve been using Paperpile since the very early days, yet you joined the Paperpile forums just one hour ago to promote a rival product.

Different Google Accounts (Suite versus Personal) require different logins as Paperpile treats them as independent. Just a clarification that this isn’t the first time I’ve posted on the forum, just the first time from this account. As for your doubts, I personally informed the company of the existence of F1000 quite a long time ago.

I share no affiliation with them. And this is not an advertisement. It is information - hopefully something to shake the Paperpile team into frantic action. Call it tough love.


After suffering through Zotero and not wanting to pay for Endnote, I searched and found PaperPile. I immediately was almost dissuaded because it uses Google docs. So glad I changed my mind. I needed a software where I can annotate my PDFs retain electronic copies of my articles and documents. PaperPile has been wonderful on both fronts. I have not had any issue using Word and citation with me cutting and pasting have worked as well.


“instantly useless in the workflow of about 90% of academics out there for ‘cite as you write’”. Which academics are you working with? All grants and all bar one paper I have written in recent years has used GDocs. Simply because as academics work in larger teams they need cloud-first, platform independent, collaborative writing tools.

Have you tried to use the Word cloud versions for a large collaborative writing exercise, like writing a paper or grant? True it is getting better but in my view falls short of the simplicity and power of GDocs. Indeed far from eroding the ‘charm of GDocs’ they illustrate the problem of trying to maintain compatibility with an offering which is desk-first. Meanwhile, GDocs is constantly getting incremental improvements which further erodes the advantages of MSOffice (single landscape pages and captioned figures… cough, cough).

Paperpile is not costly if your school has brought it (thank you University of York). Rival (free) offerings have a catch, e.g costs of cloud storage once a limit is reached.

As a long-term Paperpile user (my library has just topped 17,000 references) I have found that is by far the most robust and feature-packed of the bibliographic software tools. The mere fact that I can log on anywhere to an indexed and organised collection of 14,400 PDFs is remarkable.


So true. Yes, people “like” to use Word, because that’s what they’ve been using for most of their lives. Often they feel like they don’t have time to look outside the box, and shell out money for Office and EndNote (clunkiest tool ever), or ask local “EndNote experts” to make references for them, send countless Word document attachments in emails and inundate Dropbox folders with various flavors of modified version with no provision history…

We write grants in Google Docs, and only rarely need polishing of the final version in Word (and that is due to GDocs limits on handling tables, figures, captions etc). For 99% of work GDocs is just perfect. Yes, Paperpile has limitations, but there is no comparable other product out there that would support Google Docs. I have my wishes and complaints, which have been expressed in various threads on this forum, but I have no plans to drop my Paperpile subscriptions. I do wish there was a bit more competition in reference management tools for Google Docs.