What are citation keys and how can they be used?

@kynan @Kerim Actually we want to go one step further. There is a reason why we invested so much in our “Word” plugin and developed it as a generic desktop app for Windows and macOS instead of a sidebar add-in for Word.

The goal is to automatically generate and insert citation codes for use in Markdown (Bear, Ulysses, Notion, …) and other systems like Scrivener in a generic way.

Clearly, in such a workflow the last step would be to convert those codes to the final citations and bibliography.

I assume as end product when writing with Scrivener or Ulysses a Microsoft Doc format would be acceptable?


That sounds great, but would it require having Microsoft Word installed?

There are various scenarios and it depends on the specifics of the product (Bear, Ulysses, Scrivener,…) :

  • If the product exports to Word and you have Word isntalled, you could open the doc file and run our word plugin over it to get the final bibliography (which remains completely editable through the word plugin of course). That’s trivial as we do exactly that already for Zotero and Mendeley citation codes.

  • Another way would be to process the markdown file directly and replace the codes with plain text citations and a plain text bibliography. You could then either re-import to your product (if it supports it) or convert to any other format with other tools. That would not require word to be installed.

Actually it would also be possible to replace the codes with BibTeX codes and convert the markdown to LaTeX. I would assume that products already can export to LaTeX and there is always Pandoc.

Our “Word plugin” = “desktop citation app”, syncs all your library to your local computer so we can easily write a BibTeX file.

How about exporting the file from Ulysses as a word doc with the codes still unprocessed, uploading to Google Docs and processing it there?

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Yes, that’s also a possibility.



The solution that you pointed out would be fantastic. In the end, people write in Scrivener but the final draft is usually completed in Microsoft Word.

Hi Stefan, has there been any further development on the use of citation keys? I would like to use Pages and inserting citation keys would be easy if they could be auto converted in google docs to paperpile citations.

One undocumented use is that the string returned with ctrl-K can be used to search for the item later. I use it for my internal notes - eg “my summary text (Nauman2015-yh)”. The I can search for “Nauman2015-yh” in Paperpile later to retrieve the reference, or in the Paperpile popup in Google Docs to quickly insert the reference in a doc.


We have been thinking about Markdown a lot lately and we are getting serious about all those integrations mentioned in this thread.

In addition to what we’ve already learnt from you in previous discussion, we invite you to fill out a small survey to help us better understand the use cases and workflows for those Markdown based products:


hi Stefan.

I just completed your survey, and then thought a bit more, and concluded that would help most for the workflows I use is if Control+K were to optionally combine with “Share via Link or Email” and copy to clipboard the Markdown to link that citation, e.g.:

[Doctorow 2019](https://paperpile.com/shared/0jpweN)

(Unless there’s a way to do something like this already? I’m on a linux/pandoc/latex platform.)

Thanks, best

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Any progress on this front? I look forward to seeing the integration between paperpile and scrivener.

No relevant updates to share yet, @Jose, but developing a generic citation workflow for any word processor is still very much on our radar. We recently released betas for automatic BibTex sync and Overleaf integration and are currently in the process of rewriting our extension and UI.

Thanks Vicente. It would be good to put the development of a generic citation workflow a top priority for Paperpile.

Good day – I read the above; here’s what I did but it’s not working. Maybe I misunderstood. Working in Ulysses I copied citation keys (e.g., "Skinner1945-qt, Skinner1988-ka, Dvorsky2014-en, Sherman2010-bn) into a document. Then I opened the document in MS Word. I get the message that no Paperpile references could be found.

This workflow is something we wish to implement, but not yet a feature we offer. As stated by Stefan above…

…and by Jason in an earlier thread

… this is still very much a goal we’re moving towards.

Why would one choose a nondeterministic algorithm for something as vital as citation keys?

When changing from Mendeley to Paperpile I now must edit each citation Key to fit the nondeterministic Algorithm (in an existing document).
It would be nice if one could choose the format per bibtex automatic export file.

Or if it were simply deterministic, e.g. Mendeley uses authorYYYYtitle.


Welcome to the forum @DanielHabenicht. We understand this is inconvenient for many, and so the ability to customize BibTeX keys is a feature that we plan to implement in the future. I’ve added your +1 to our internal feature tracker.


Please, Please, Please! Implement this feature. This is the only barrier to actually using paperpile for research.

You can get some inspiration from other apps (BibDesk is what I use before and it deals with citekye pretty well). I use authorYYYY as default and append a, b, c … to duplicate items.

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Strong +1. Would be extremely good to be able to have something deterministic, and ideally configurable. When I see “authorYYYYtitle” I remember what the paper is. “authorYYYY-random letters” always makes me go “huh?”