Scrivener and bibdesk

Hi there!

I’m a big fan of scrivener, it has made my (humanities grad school) writing life a lot easier. But I have a question…

I use scrivener to write, and zotero as a bibliography manager.

At the moment my workflow is this: write in scrivener, using temporary (braces) citations like ‘{wolf, 1982}’. Compile draft as rtf. Then run this though zotero’s ‘rtf scan’, which returns a version with the citations converted to nice footnotes and a bibliography at the end.

This works very well, but I don’t like zotero – in particular, I don’t like firefox, or working inside a browser.

Is there a way to duplicate this functionality with bibtex/bibdesk. What is really important to me are the following:

  • ability to only insert temporary citations whilst writing
  • at the end of writing, generate an rtf file with the citations done and a bibliography at the end.


I’ve recently written a dissertation using Scrivener and BibDesk. I simply don’t use temporary citations. Here is what I do:

  • I created my inline and full citation formats.

  • When an inline citation was needed [Rossi 2008] I copied the reference from BibDesk, using the inline citation template, then pasted it in Scrivener.

  • When I finished the dissertation, I checked the references I really needed, and those that were not to be included in the bibliography. These latters were moved to a different folder in BibDesk (to keep them still separate, but not in the bibliography for the dissertation).

  • I then copied all references in the bibliography using the full bibliography template, and pasted them in a final chapter of the dissertation.

I didn’t feel any need for the intermediate step of temporary citations, but I will be happy to let someone explain if I’m following the wrong route.


The benefit of the intermediate step is that the final step of collecting the full bibliography can be automated - the bibliography manager replaces the temporary citations with formatted final citations and adds a bibliography of all cited works.

There are two tools to do this in BibDesk, using either Pages or Word:

I don’t know how these work when writing with Scrivener, though I suspect at least the former should.

Alternatively, Bookends and Sente could replace BibDesk, but they’re not free.

Scrivener is not yet scriptable, so the CiteInPages scripts will not work.

OK, thanks for the help everyone – unfortunately it doesn’t really look like any of them can do it for me!

(bibtex2word comes closest but I don’t want to get tied to MS word)

I guess I’ll stick with scrivener+zotero, or maybe scrivener+refworks.

Thanks anyway!

Thanks Sampsa,

But isn’t this the same as copying the folder containing your citations in BibDesk, and then pasting them in Scrivener (or any other text editor)?


My process might be close to what you want, but it can be painful to get it set up.

I write in Scrivener and export to MultiMarkdown. I then use pandoc ( to convert the result to an OpenOffice document or PDF, depending on what I need (pandoc also converts to RTF). Pandoc can process citations using zotero’s csl style files.

It is painful to set up, as I said. Briefly: (1) pandoc needs to compiled with support for citeproc-hs ( But (2) before you can compile pandoc, you need to install the haskell platform And (3) to get pandoc to work directly with bibtex files, either (a) citeproc-hs needs to be compiled with hs-bibutils (, which I couldn’t get to happen, or (b) it needs to be patched as described here,, and you need to install the command line tool bibutils


And then you need to download whatever style files (CSL files) you want from the Zotero Style Repository

So that’s all a serious pain.

But once it is working, the writing is easy. “Temporary references” are put in square brackets, with optional page or chapter numbers, e.g., [geach1977@p. 77]. Scrivener exports to MultiMarkdown. The resulting text file is converted by pandoc into your choice of RTF, ODT, PDF, or LaTeX. In the process, pandoc converts your citations and generates a bibliography.

So I’ve got that set up. And I use the nice little firefox extension zot2bib ( to bridge the gap between zotero’s wonderful citation scraping abilities and bibdesk’s reference management abilities.

hi dsanson - thanks for this suggestion - I would be really grateful for some more guidance in getting all those things installed though - step by step and completely explicit would be great. I’m not usually intimidated by fiddly things, but on this I’m stuck on installing bibutils - just don’t know what to do with the command line. book due in a week and I’d really like to sort out the bibliography in Scrivener, so thanks a million in advance for any help.