[TIP] Work around lack of offline support, limited capabilities of mobile app, lack of PDF search

Many people have been asking about / requesting

I know Paperpile team is working hard to resolve some of those issues, but for now the solutions are limited, and the issues above have been around since around 2014. Here’s a practical workaround to get all of those features, today and for free. I know I am going to mention an alternative platform, but I hope it’s ok, since it does not diminish the relevance and superiority of Paperpile in Google Docs.

Here’s what you can do: you can synchronize Paperpile Google Drive folder to the computer using Google Backup and Sync, install and register with Mendeley, and configure Mendeley to watch the Paperpile folder containing the PDFs of the paper synchronized to your computer. This way you have full functionality on the desktop - search, read, annotate, generate citations in Mendeley (sans ability to use Paperpile in Google Docs offline mode), you have a very capable app on your mobile platform (Paperpile mobile app is nowhere near the one from Mendeley), and when you are back online - you can use Paperpile just for Google Docs. You also get integration of your Paperpile library with MS Word via the Mendeley plugin.

I think Mendeley and Paperpile are complementary, and can help rid of major headaches. Maybe Paperpile does not need to invest effort into the tools that are robust and working well in Mendeley?

Disclaimer: I am a member of the “Mendeley Advisor” community, but I am not a member of the Mendeley/Elsevier team. I’ve been a user of Paperpile for at least 3 years now, and have been using Mendeley for many years before I switched to Paperpile as my primary reference manager.

I do hope this post is ok with the Paperpile team. I just want to help the users here.


I would love it if this could become an officially supported approach.

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This is a huge work around that seems to be saying “just use Mendeley”, what’s the advantage of even using Paperpile?

I have been using Paperpile together with Mendeley for a few months now. It works okay if you have Mendeley watch the folder that Paperpile uses for attachments. I have problems with references not coming over to Mendeley, though, which means that I have often have to enter information twice (once in Paperpile, then again in Mendeley). Paperpile has been a wonderful proof of concept sort of app–the ease of getting articles online into the app is second to none. The lack of Word integration, the need to use Chrome and Google Drive, the lack of an iOS app, and pretty much everything outside of the wonderful import features leads me to think I will be switching to something else soon. Paperpile is wonderful as long as what you work with is fairly recent (last 5-7 years), widely available via online journals, doesn’t need to be cited in anything other than Google Docs, and you are comfortable doing all of your work in Chrome (including reading/annotating the pdfs–I haven’t had much luck using external readers reliably). It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I do not fit this model, and neither do most of my colleagues.

Mendeley doesn’t work with Google Docs, and MS Word collaboration and other features do not make it a viable competitor to Google Docs for me.

If you don’t use Google Docs, there may be no advantage in using Paperpile.

Collaborative writing and citation for me is not as important as being able to write and cite while offline.

You are under a deadline, wifi is down, you have the time but no internet and you are stuck with Paperpile and an imense Google Drive folder with hundreds of subfolders with the references you need to cite, what are you supposed to do? Cry? No editing/writing manuscripts while “off road” or on trains/planes?

While trying it I loved how Paperpile handles reference managing, data retrieval and citation, truly unbeatable - but no offline access puts me off (and a lot of other scientists) as clients. So for now is “just use Mendeley” indeed!

@JBarau if this is the case, you should definitely use Mendeley. Paperpile exists because of Google Docs, and the main use of Google Docs is collaborative writing.

Speaking for myself, collaborative writing and citation is waaay more important for me than offline mode.

consider using your cell phone’s hotspot.

I tried this workaround and then abandoned it. My experience is that Mendeley is buggy, crashes frequently, eats up a ton of CPU and battery on a laptop, and has a crappy user interface/experience.

My workaround for editing PDFs on my mac is to install Google back up and sync, and sync PP folder to my mac. When I want to annotate, I hit command-space and type the author name and voila, I can read, annotate any PDF in PP with my PDF editor of choice. Granted it doesn’t address the use cases above, but I wonder if it can be adopted for such .

Note that there is a number of ways to run Android apps on Windows/Mac (Bluestacks is one of them, it’s free and easy to install).

With Paperpile Android app, a viable workaround is to have Paperpile via Bluestacks and either a synced library via GDrive Backup or via the Android app itself.

It’s a bit more cumbersome than the Paperpile webapp, but quite OK for offline travel.

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