What are citation keys and how can they be used?


In the Cite menu is the option to copy a citation key for a reference or set of references. It copies a string to the clipboard. Of what use is this? I can paste the text into a document, but can this later be turned into an active citation link? I assumed this was for pasting into a document, but it seems to be only text and has no link to my library. Am I missing something?


The citation key is used alongside a BibTeX file by people writing in LaTeX and similar environments. The keys are placed in \cite commands which are converted to the correctly formatted citation when the document is compiled. They also make it possible to write your paper in any text editor before compiling it.

The citations keys will do nothing in a Google Docs where we do not check for them.


Hi @jason, could you define how the cite key is generated for a reference in Paperpile? I see details in the reference are used to create the cite key, but could you tell specifically what the algorhythm is?


The algorithm is not deterministics; in general we use authorYYYY when author last name and publication year are available, or anonYYYY when only the year is available. However, we then append two random letters, so you get something like shona2019-ri. We do this to avoid duplicate citekeys in the library (so not entirely random either as we check the generated letters against what is already in the library).

As they are non-deterministic, it is usually best to copy the citekey (Ctrl + K) or cite command (Ctrl + Shift + K) from the Paperpile interface, rather than try to guess/remember the citekey when writing in Latex.