How to custom format footnotes?

Can someone please advise how I can customise my formatting of footnotes. I use a different style of formatting from the standard MLA, APA etc. If I can’t format my footnote references to suit my university, Scrivener will not be a useful programme for me for my PhD thesis. Thanks heaps.

I’m not an expert in this matter, but in general I think most people who have very specific requirements for this use a citation manager and formatting tool, such as Bookends or Zotero, and only specify links to those systems in Scrivener, via placeholder codes that can be easily copied from them. So with that in mind, you can write your thesis in a plain-text editor if you want—there isn’t a burden for your writing tool to satisfy all of the myriad requirements for final submission. I would say that should never be a criteria in choosing a writing tool, because writing is such a very different process from formatting.

Hi, just an aside:

I totally concur with using a bibliography manager when writing a PhD Thesis. That said, you don’t say whether you’re Mac or Windows based. If you’re a Mac user, there has been a thread about Zotero on the Nisus Writer Pro forum in the last couple of days:

with the following warning:

The problem with Zotero is, however, that if you have an author whose name contains an umlaut or a diacritic, Zotero will fail to execute the RTF Scan command, thus making it impossible to create a bibliography.

The problem is well known among Zotero developers, but they are not interested in fixing it or are unable to do it. The answer I got from the developers last year was:

“Yeah, it looks like this was just never implemented — I think you’re the first to report this in the 10+ years that RTF Scan has existed. (RTF Scan doesn’t get a lot of use.)”

Just posting this as general information.



You are right, Amber. I had a nightmare working on my Masters thesis on Word. As I look at going into my PhD research, I need to find a better way. I am considering LaTeX but still need to look at a citation manager. Since I have Scrivener which I use for my creative writing manuscript, I wondered if I could still stick to that. I will look into Zotero and Bookends. Thanks for your prompt advice.

Thanks for the heads up about authors’ names that contain umlaut. I definitely have some references with names like that. I may have to look at other ways to manage citations and references. I use a MacBook for my work which is why I also use Scrivener for my non-thesis work. There’s been talk that it is possible to use Scrivener for academic writing but I’m not sure how it may be better or not than LaTeX. Both will still require me to use a reference manager programme that will link seamless with whichever one I go with.

If you are on a Mac, then Bookends works seamlessly and allows you use a wide variety of formats. And, if I recall correctly, you can also create your own custom format.

Here is an older thread about the Pros and Cons of various citation managers for Mac. Zotero didn’t fare well.

Thank you very much. I am so amazed at the advice I’ve received. I wish I could return the favour but I know so little about Scrivener. Perhaps one day when I get better at it. Thanks heaps.

Actually Scrivener and LaTeX can work hand-in-hand (crack open a copy of the user manual PDF—yup, that’s LaTeX). Given the former’s completely general purpose approach to writing, it can be used to put together source material for almost any conceivable workflow. It’s just that the most commonly used and “on the nose” workflows you see in it are those oriented toward word processor users—for obvious reasons. It’s the most marketable and mainstream approach to writing.

But have a look at two different options:

  • The LaTeX non-fiction starter project template. This will be best for those fluent in it, who prefer to write closer to the source, but are looking for some help from the software in generating routine syntax, like figure and equation syntax, etc.
  • Scrivomatic: is a script created by a forum user that taps into Pandoc’s wealth of flexibility. In this approach, one doesn’t write using LaTeX directly, but rather uses Markdown, which is much easier to work with. This script is specifically designed for academic work, and has extensive support for citation manager integration.

In that thread that I linked to you will find some really expert academic writers who are members of this forum. They have developed some powerful tools that could be of use to you.

The other question in my mind is you don’t mention your field of research. As you mention possibly using LaTeX, I assume something scientific.

When it comes to Reference managers, with LaTeX I believe you need to end up with BibTeX references. I use Bookends, as does @nontroppo—the creator of Scrivomatic mentioned by AmberV—who also uses Bookends. One of the enhancements of the latest update of Bookends is…

Create a synced and updating .bib file containing all your references in BibTeX format. This is a one-way (Bookends → file) sync on demand, which may be useful to those who use Bookends references with other apps such as LaTeX, Pandoc, or TeXstudio.




Thank you AmberV. I will certainly check out Scrivomatic to see how it might work for me. I am not needing to write formulae; I am a historian working on my PhD so my work involves mainly words with some images. I had a dreadful time with Word and I don’t particularly like Endnote. Right now, I am at the end of my academic year so would like to spend the next month or so finding a programme that I can use to write my PhD thesis, and a better reference manager that will seamlessly link with the writing programme I settle on. I particularly need to be able to format my footnotes and Bibliography in a way that my university requires which most of the standard options do not absolutely fit. Thank you to one and all for the pointers and the advice.