References in docx are erased upon any edit in Google Docs via the web


We’re hitting an issue with the Word Plugin and wondering if it’s a known problem and if there’s a good workaround.

We have a manuscript in a docx file which was created in Word, and has refs added via the PaperPile for Word plugin.

This file is stored in Google Drive (and mounted as a folder on our Macs). This works fine when users edit it exclusively via Word. The problem comes if any of the users who have access via that share happen to open it via the Google Drive web interface. When they do that, it opens in Google Docs, and edits are made anywhere in the document, it saves back over the docx file. From that point forward, when reopening it in Word (locally), the references cannot be found by the paperpile plugin (it gives a message ‘We could not find any PaperPile references in this documnent’)

This is a problem b/c the web interface for Google Drive opens any hosted docx in its web editor, which triggers this problem. Is there a way to keep Google Docs from squashing references inside docx files?


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Welcome to our forum, @jki! There’s an extra step in the conversion from GDocs to Word (and viceversa) which is required for citations to be editable on the other environment. Once downloaded, open the document in Word and click the Paperpile tab > Convert from > Google Docs:

On that same menu you can see the option to Export to Google Docs. Please let us know if you run into any issues there or need anything else.

Hi Vicente- thanks for the quick reply!

I did see that option, but it doesn’t quite cover my situation. In our case we have a file which never stops being a docx – it’s made in Word, references added in Word with the PP plugin, edited with Word, and things are fine. All this time, it is being stored in Google Drive.

The problem comes from the “Office Editing” mode of Google Drive, where it allows a user to make changes to a docx file in-place, without converting it to GDocs. (some info here –Work with Microsoft Office files - Google Workspace Learning Center ). This is the default action when you open a docx file via the Google Drive web interface. When we do this, and make any edit, even to text that’s not part of a reference (say add a space to the top of the file), the modified docx loses all the references the next time it’s loaded up in Word.

Hoping there’s a workaround, or if not, it’d be great if you could bring this to your team’s attention – it’s been a bit of a pain since this “Office Editing” mode has recently become the default behavior for our institution’s Google suite.


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Thanks for the clarification, Jacob. Since the “Office Editing” mode in GDocs was rolled out right around the time our Word plugin was first released as well, we did not consider supporting this additional environment would be necessary – nor had there been any demand for it until now. I’m afraid this means the only workaround for your institution’s case would be to open the document back in Word or convert it to GDocs as indicated in my previous reply.

Although citing in this editing mode might not be feasible for us to consider at the moment, I will open a new topic with your request on our tracker for the team to look into further down the line.

Please paperpile, pop out a warning. Or Google Doc will ruin your days of work without even tell you.

Welcome @Wei_Zhang to the forum. I am sorry for the inconvenience caused. I have passed your feedback on to the dev team.

FYI, we have had the exact same issue. While collaborating on a Word doc, if anyone edits it through the google doc interface, it destroys the Word paperpile references, and they have to be re-inserted all over again. This makes it hard to collaborate on a Word doc with paperpile.

Welcome to our forum, @Carlo_Maley! Unfortunately editing Word documents in Google Docs (without going through the conversion process mentioned above in this thread) is still not possible, nor something feasible for us to prioritize working on at the moment. GDocs does not support the special fields we use in Word to hold citation data, so the fields are simply replaced with plain text and thus not recognized when opening the document in Word again.

It is possible to use GDocs / GDrive as a backup or sharing point as long as the option pictured below (in Drive settings) is unchecked.

I have added your +1 to the topic on our tracker for the team’s consideration.

We have had the same issue. Not only has it been a HUGE headache to work around. It has taken quite some time to diagnose the issue… multiple rounds of going back to the last version of the docx with functional citations and re-updating the document with all recent changes only to have them mysteriously break again when a collaborator goes to edit the document. I would try to find a way to throw an error when someone tries to open a docx containing Paperpile citations in the Google Drive editing mode.