BibTeX file and Scrivener

I do not understand the process of producing footnotes and annotations in Scrivener.

I have created a bibliography entry in BibDesk, and have a cite key for the entry.
How do I use the site key from BibDesk in Scrivener?
and what is the process of producing text with properly formatted footnote?"
in other words, please describe process from cite key entry to output.

For instance, if cite key is Phillips:2000uq, then do I type the city key between brackets or braces after the text that I want to annotate or footnote?
What part of the citation do I highlight and designate as footnote or annotation? All of it including brackets (or braces)?

What (if anything) must I do so correct numbering of footnotes is produced?
What keeps footnote from reprinting over and over in full instead of citing short form (author, date, ibid) for subsequent footnotes of same source?

In Scrivener for Mac, how do I set path to my BibDesk .bib file?

Many bibliography managers have an alternate mode of usage for those not using Word. This involves the usage of a placeholder token, pasted into the document where the citation occurs. When the final document is compiled to RTF, all of those placeholders will be in the text, just as any other word or letter would be. This RTF is then scanned by the bibliography software. It looks for the cite keys, and generates the desired style for the citation.

That aside, most people who use BibDesk do so because they are writing in LaTeX, is that the case for you? If so, you would need to set up the bib file in the LaTeX code as per normal. There isn’t a device from within Scrivener for doing so. The only exception to that is if you are using MultiMarkdown. There is a meta-data field you can use to supply the .bib file and it will generate the LaTeX code for you. If you’re using that method, you should enclose your cite keys as described in section 4.9 of the MMD user manual.

I don’t know what I’m doing, and this learning curve is very painful. You’d think I’m having to figure out how to fly to the moon, when all I want to do is insert and manage footnotes and annotations in a researched document.

Please can you tell me the simplest way to do that with Scrivener without buying another expensive piece of software?
I cannot use Zotero because I have a Mac PowerPC, not an Intel machine, and I am not going to spend $1500-$3000 to use Zotero.

I do not need the Math and Science capabilities of LaTeX.
I just need software with which to organize my bibliography, that will compile footnotes in proper format.
I need to be able to enter a simple cite key (or what have you) in my Scrivener text, and have the bibliography software do the rest - number footnotes and annotations consecutively in order, and output them in proper format without repeating the full footnote every time the source is used more than once repeatedly.

Actually Zotero isn’t the best companion to Scrivener. It is getting better, but for a while they didn’t work well together. I would say either Papers, Sente or Bookends would be your best choice then. I’m not sure if either of those still have PPC builds available, but they both have favourable reviews amongst Mac users. But a lot of people like BibDesk as well, it isn’t just a LaTeX tool. What I don’t know is if it does the scanning procedure I referred to. It sounds like that is the route you want to take, so that is how you should base your decision. The three I mentioned are good for that. None of them are cheap but they come highly recommended by other users on this board.


  1. In the top menu bar select “Project > Text Preferences…” and make sure “Use footnote marker” is selected (you don’t have to do this, but you will probably find it best – the default marker is an asterisk).
  2. Make sure you have the Inspector open (click on the button in the toolbar with the white “i” if it is closed)
  3. When you are writing, leave the cursor at the point you wish to place the footnote.
  4. Press Cmd-Ctrl-8 (this will put a highlighted asterisk in the text and take you to a blank footnote in the pane in the Inspector.
  5. You can now type in the temporary citation for your reference (see Bibdesk documentation for this – curly braces, or whatever) in the footnote pane in the Inspector.
  6. When you compile to rtf, Scrivener will create endnotes which will be properly numbered, and will contain the temporary citations as originally entered. You will need to run the compiled rtf through Bibdesk to convert the temporary citations to permanent citations in your desired format (APA, MLA, etc).

Reference software

  1. You will need to get information on how to use this from Bibdesk. Typically, temporary citations are inserted using a format something like {Smith, 2001} but programs vary in this. I haven’t used Bibdesk much, and not for a long time, so you’ll need to look at their documentation.
  2. After you have compiled your writing from Scrivener, you will need to scan the resulting rtf using Bibdesk to convert the temporary citations to whatever format you require, and compile the bibliography. This will usually be placed right at the end of the document, but some programs allow or require a marker like <-bibliography -> to know where to put it. Once again, you will need to look at Bibdesk documentation to find your how it works.

Hope this helps. Sorting out referencing and bibliographies is often something of a nightmare, despite all the sophisticated software we have to accomplish it “painlessly” :wink:.

NB: in my haste, I might have left out a step, or failed to mention something, so don’t take what I’ve written as gospel.


Martin, per BibDesk Help, … html#SEC99
I must drag Custom Citation Strings from the BibDesk Drawer to Scrivener footnote in the Inspector pane.
Strings are citet, citep, fullcite, citeyear, citeauthor

I’ve inserted an example footnote using each string to test output.
I assume you meant to compile as MMM rtf, since otherwise footnotes don’t output as plain rtf for Word.
However, I’m getting a general error - data could not be written to specified location,
and an MMM Export Error - Bad CPU type in executable

What’s wrong that Scrivener won’t export MMM rtf?
I’m using Scrivener 2.3.1 on PowerPC G5 running OSX 10.5.8

What is MMM RTF? Do you mean MMD (MultiMarkdown)? If so it doesn’t sound to me as though that is how you are writing your project. Are you writing it using syntax codes for formatting, instead of rich text? I don’t believe MMD is compiled for PPC, so that would fit with what you are saying.

If anything it is the other way around (still assuming you mean MMD). MMD RTF is just a quick and dirty format-only snapshot of the HTML version. HTML has no footnotes, so it only makes “flattened” footnotes. That is, text that has been formatted to resemble them, but they are not real footnotes that will travel to whatever page the marker is present on and so on. MMD users who want to transition to a word processor should use the OpenDocument .fodt format instead.

The main RTF choice, on the other hand, exports footnotes to Word just fine, so I’m not sure what you mean by that.

I use BibDesk, and as far as I know it does not have an RTF scan function. As of now, I’ve not been worried by this, since I used to insert formatted references in my writings. The problem may arise when having to reuse existing text while living in different countries, where a different format is in use (for example, continental Europe vs. North America).

BibDesk uses templates to format references. Editing templates is not too difficult, but requires some basic scripting ability. Sets of templates can be found in the web site of academic institutions. I created my own templates for inline references and final bibliography.

When you have the needed templates, you go to the reference in BibDesk and right-click on it. The, you can choose one of the available templates to copy the formatted reference to the clipboard. A default format can be set for the ordinary Cmd-C command (I use it for inline references).

The final bibliography can be made by selecting all the items in the folder dedicated to the essay you are writing, copying with the bibliography template, and then pasting in the essay.


I meant MMD (not MMM).
Scrivener does not export my footnotes when compiling to RTF. Why?
If I compile as PDF, the footnotes are numbered and placed at bottom of page with cite strings, as should be, but not when compiled as RTF.

I don’t understand what I need to do to convert Scrivener exported document with BibDesk cite strings, so that bibliography info is printed instead of cite string.

I do not find any BibDesk documentation on scanning RTFs. If BibDesk cannot do that, then how can I convert Scrivener compiled document with BibDesk cite strings to fully documented footnotes?

I also don’t understand what a BibDesk template can accomplish. Will templates help translate cite string in a Scrivener exported document? The only BibDesk documentation I find for templates is here - … tml#SEC112

No, templates (as I use them) remove the need for cite strings and RTF scanning. Citations are directly formatted by BibDesk when copying them, according to the chosen template, and then pasted into the Scrivener document in their final form. When compiling from Scrivener, you get a finished document, including all citations.


Have you tried opening the RTF in a word processor that can read RTF footnotes? Stuff like TextEdit and Pages won’t work, but pretty much all of the other major word processors will, including OpenOffice (I know, it’s a drag, but it really is one of the better ways to make sure your compiled document will look good in Word, for free).

What Paolo is describing (correct me if I’m wrong) is copying the actual formatted citation out of BibDesk rather than a cite code, and using that to fill in your footnote field. This has the drawback of being unable to change references on the fly, or switch style guides, but if you do not need either of those, the old fashioned way works as fine as it ever did. And unfortunately, for free bib managers, that’s about as good as it gets. Zotero has RTF scanning now, but I’ve heard it isn’t to be relied upon—besides that won’t work for you on PPC, anyway.

Another alternative that I have not looked into at all, but it might be worth some research, is to see if there are any free managers that work with OpenOffice. If you could use placeholder cite codes in Scrivener, compile to RTF, open in OpenOffice and then have a plug-in convert them to formatted citations, that would do the exact same thing as scanning an RTF, with only a few extra steps.