Stripping links from PDFs - student work considerations


I work in an institution which has a subscription to paperpile.

I am currently marking some student work, which has presumably been written in google docs then exported and handed in as a PDF for me to mark. As you might expect we go to quite some lengths to anonymise student work and remove any problems with bias.

Imagine my surprise when annotating a student PDF in adobe acrobat I discover that I can click on the links in the bibliography and be taken to a page where I can see the student’s name, therefore breaking the anonymisation process.

Is there any way this can be stopped simply? I have seen the references to the workaround in this thread: Disable PDF Links/Bibliography Control . However, I am slightly reluctant to issue students with a set of instructions outwith paperpile depending on other software they may or may not use to ensure their reports are anonymised. That’s subject to all sorts of issues. Our admin staff already have a lot of things on their plate without further processing of student work.

I have also seen the references to a new menu item in this thread: Website links in references . However when I look under the export menu item under my copy of paperpile I cannot see any document export option (only reference export items as BibTeX or RIS). Has the feature been removed again?


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@Richard_Maguire I agree - critical feature! Same situation in academic writing, where papers most of the time have to be blinded. I do not understand the reasoning of the Paperpile staff, they don’t seem to understand the importance of this issue. And I am afraid users of Paperpile don’t even realize that the PDF/Word versions they export open up their Paperpile library to the whole world. I discovered this “feature” by accident.

You should be able to get to the menu below and export “clean” version of the document (in “just” about 6 clicks!): Add-ons menu > Paperpile > Manage citations > Gear icon > Export …

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@Richard_Maguire, as @Andrey pointed out, the option to make a copy with no citation codes is in the optional Google Docs add-on (available here).

We understand the concerns about anonymity, which is why we built the option to create a copy without citation codes. For technical reasons, we cannot do this with the Chrome extension alone, which is why it is in the add-on. The links are unfortunately necessary for key features such as collaboration on references and the ability to export the document to Word and later re-import it to Google Docs without losing your citations.

Ok, I understand the boundaries here, but this property of Paperpile-gneerated outputs should be documented and explained very prominently to your users. I am quite confident that your users do not know they are sending out links to make entries in their libraries editable, and linked to their identities.

Again, almost forgot it, and noticed only while reviewing the final PDF.

For the reference, below is the list of what anyone (no authentication of any kind is needed) can access from the Paperpile-generated document exported as Word or PDF (I tested this in Chrome “incognito” mode):

  • full list of Paperpile items from the bibliography
  • every Paperpile item will be accompanied by “Edit / Delete” buttons, although links to PDF are not included
  • name of the person adding each of the bibliography items (as it shows up on Google account)
  • link to the Google Document where the bibliography is contained (make sure you restrict access to specific users, if privacy is important to you!)

I agree that it could be clearer in the Paperpile documentation what information readers can access through the Paperpile hyperlinks.

Another good way to remove hyperlinks is to use the Text Cleaner extension created by David Rowthorn (A new and hopefully useful Docs add-on ). Simply select all text, then click on Add-ons > Text Cleaner > Remove links and underlining.

What would be helpful for me is to have an extension that downloads PDF/Word version without the links.

At the moment, I have to create a “clean” version of the document with the sole purpose of making Word/PDF. I have no other need for that “clean” version, it just pollutes my folders with dangling copies of the original document.

That extension would be of no use for me. I don’t want to remove the links from the master google doc, since I may need to edit/update references. I only need to remove them from the version I export.

@Andrey @jason Thanks very much for the clarification about the add on (I didn’t have it installed) and particularly @Andrey for the idiot’s guide to exactly where I can find the option! Not exactly obvious…

It seems to work now. I will let the appropriate people know so that students can avoid this in the future.

I will also echo @Andrey and @Rob that this really should be up front and centre in the documentation. I can perfectly see why paperpile should work this way around. It would be a pain having to enable sharing every time one wanted to collaborate and it would add unnecessary friction to the process. But there are real world applications where it is important that the links aren’t present.

It is quite natural for Academic institutions to buy a site licence, but then it shouldn’t be a surprise that it then gets used by students for their submitted work. It needs to be made absolutely and totally clear in the documentation that your identity will be leaked unless you take the appropriate steps. It’s good that the option is there. It should now be made very clear what the default assumption is and very obvious how to do it.

Thanks again, everyone.

Hi, sorry to jump in, I’m desperate here. I cannot even manage to do this, what did I’ve missed?
" To open the sidebar, go to Add-ons → Paperpile → Manage Citations. To export a copy without the citation codes, go to the gear in the sidebar → Export. "

Here’s my screenshots:

Nevermind, but should anyone want to read how to figure it out (with pictures) here is the links: