You cannot view or change the references of this document


I created a Google Doc. I added references with the Paperpile plugin. I am logged in to the Paperpile app. I am logged in to Google.

I exported the doc as a Word file.

Now I click on one of the references in the Word file, and I see this:

You cannot view or change
the references of this document

You need access to the Google Docs Document and open this page via the Paperpile Chrome extension or Google Docs add-on.

This is not expected behavior.

I expect to see the paper linked by the reference. I don’t know what Paperpile will show me (pdf? paperpile app? google doc? website of the paper?). But I do expect to see something, and instead I get an error message.

Question 1: How do I enable expected behavior?

Question 2: When I share this Word file with my coauthor, how can I enable the expected behavior for them, too?


Those links are essentially for internal use; they link to the metadata which we use to format the references and are how we enable reference management in Windows. When accessed from within a Google Doc, they allow the user to view and edit the metadata in order to manage the references. However, when accessed from outside the document we block said access. We may update that page to show more relevant information, but at the moment we simply block it to prevent citation tampering by people whom you have shared a PDF or Word document with.


OK, I think I’m starting to understand the Paperpile developer’s perspective on this issue.

You might consider the user’s perspective.

The error message is uninformative for me and my coauthors. When my coauthor asked “Why am I getting this error?” I was not able to give any meaningful answer. Indeed, I was frustrated that I couldn’t even access my own references. This unexpected behavior convinced me to stop using Paperpile when I share Word documents with collaborators. In my network, Word is the software most people are comfortable with, so I need to accommodate.

Let me propose a new error message that might be informative for users:

Sorry, this link only works when accessed from a Google Doc with the Paperpile extension installed. It is not meant to be accessed anywhere else. Please contact the author of the document an ask them for access to the original Google Doc file. Then make sure you install the Paperpile extension. Finally, try clicking the link in the Google Doc.

If you’re interested, I’d be happy to give my criticism for any other message you’d like to propose to show users.


Hi, Jason. I recently paid for a 1 yr subscription to Paperpile. I am having the same issue as OP, but from within the google doc (of which I am the owner). I click on a citation that I’ve added, then I click on the paperpile citation link that pops up; when I follow the link I get an error page saying, “You cannot view or change the references of this document”. I have the Chrome extension installed and active.

How do I view info for the citations I added? Thanks!


Try restarting the extension by going to More tools --> Extensions, in the Chrome menu, then switch the Paperpile extension off, then on again, then reload your docs tab.

You should be seeing this when placing the cursor in a citation:

To open that reference in your library, click edit, then on the blue bubble, then on Open in Paperpile:

To view all references in the document, go to Paperpile --> View all References, in the Google Docs menu.


Thanks much, Jason. This worked in my case.



I downloaded a .pdf of my document and posted it to an online pre-print server. When anyone clicks on a citation now it takes them to this error page. Is there any way to save a .pdf of the document such that these links are disabled altogether? (store in-text citations as plain text instead of links to broken webpage).



@Matthew_Olm Our sidebar add-on has the ability to export a copy of the document where all the references are replaced with plain text.