Scrivener with LaTeX/BibTeX for absolute novice

I use a reference manager (Mendeley) that does not have an RTF scan feature. Therefore the Scrivener workflow used by Endnote users (insert citation keys into Scrivener draft -> compile as RTF -> use Endnote to scan RTF and create document with required citation style formating) is not available to me.

However, Mendeley (although not bibtex based) does maintain a constantly updated bibtex file and I can use a couple of keyboard shortcuts to quickly insert bibtex citation keys from Mendeley into Scrivener drafts. Therefore I was wondering how to use LaTeX/bibTeX. I’d really appreciate it if someone would be kind enough to provide step-by-step instructions on what to do with the document that results from compiling a scrivener draft using the MultiMarkdown -> LaTeX option. I just wish to know the absolute minimum necessary to generate a document with citations and bibliographies rendered according to a specific journal style. For additional manual formatting, I’d like to convert the document from LaTex to .rtf or .doc rather than learn LaTeX properly.

Hi. I’m by no means an expert in this stuff, but since nobody else has said anything yet I thought I would offer something.

It seems to me that if your main problem is that Mendeley doesn’t scan RTF, then the best solution might be to find another citation manager that does. Learning how to work with LaTeX, although rewarding in itself, is time consuming, and will not solve your problem. That is, if what you want is a RTF document at the end of the process. LaTeX will not in itself get you that–it will give you a nice PDF. And because you say you want to know “the absolute minimum” to use LaTeX and Bibtex, I wonder if the best solution for you would be to just use something other than Mendeley. Maybe try Bookends, which just came out with their iPad app.

If you want to pursue the whole MMD to LaTeX workflow, that’s fine too! I use it (though on a basic level).

Thanks for your reply. Yes, the only reason for me contemplating this route is because Mendeley is not capable of doing an RTF scan, but does maintain a bibtex file. But if I can’t get an editable .doc or .rtf at the end of the LaTex/BibTex process, then it is not for me regardless of how complex it would be. Thanks for pointing that out.

My reference manager needs to be cross platform (Mac + Windows) so that rules out Bookends/Papers/Sente. I know Endnote does a good job at RTF scan, but in every other respect I prefer Mendeley. Zotero does have RTF scan, but this feature of Zotero is apparently quite buggy.

I don’t know enough about citation managers to offer any insights. Too bad Zotero is flaky. Maybe Endnote is the way to go.

The nice thing about working with LaTeX/Bibtex is that it’s free, and once you get it down, it does a beautiful job. It’s also cross platform (I believe). Is there a specific reason why you need to have your (final) exported document editable? Depending on your needs, you could conceivably change your workflow to MMD->LaTeX (granted the moderate learning curve). For example, one thing you could do is write in MMD, and from that you could export to either LaTeX or rtf. This process is not entirely smooth, since in both the rtf and the tex file you will need to do some formatting or replacements. But it could work for collaboration. The workflow could be something like this. You write in MMD using Bibtex citations keys. When you need to send off what you currently have, export as rtf. If the people at the other end don’t need a perfect looking document (and they don’t mind seeing citekeys instead of real citations, even better), this shouldn’t be a problem. When you get to your “final” draft, compile using MMD->LaTeX and run it through your LaTeX installation to format it, with proper citations, etc. And Bob’s your Uncle.:slight_smile: I do stress, however, the learning curve that lies ahead of you, if you choose this road, since you will have to learn both MMD (which is pretty easy) and LaTeX/Bibtex.

Maybe someone else in the forum has some advice.

Since I use BibDesk, I cannot use an RTF Scan feature. But, as soon as I have time, I would like to try this procedure:

  1. Create your bibliography with BibTeX or BibDesk; insert citations using the BibTeX syntax.
  2. When finished writing your essay, export your bibliography to a bibliography manager featuring the RTF Scan function, and capable of reading a format that BibTeX/BibDesk can export.
  3. Compile citations in your essay with this application.

I’m thinking to Zotero; and since I have a licence for Bookends, maybe I could try that one.

I would be happy to continue adding finished citations in my essays, just pasting all the references collected in a dedicated folder from BibDesk to my essay. But having dealt with different styles during the latest years has given me a desire to automatically generate bibliographies. The style used by my alma mather is not the same I usually prefer, and is different from the style used in North America. Being able to switch style on the fly would be very helpful.


Although that would be a whole lot easier than learning LaTeX! Granted you’ll probably need to pick up a little, to get out of pickles. But I still say Scrivener/MMD->LaTeX->LyX is a pretty easy to learn work flow that anyone can pick up with a little dedication and a weekend. LyX let’s you do most of the things you’d have to learn LaTeX for, to make “word processor” style decisions about the appearance and layout of your document. Scrivener/MMD handles the generation of the typesetting code using minimal, easy to learn syntax.

Yes. Almost all of my writing is collaborative. At some point after writing my initial drafts I need to get the document in .doc format so that I can write collaboratively with others in MS Word. None of the people I write with would be willing to work in anything other than MS Word.

I have not properly started using Scrivener yet. But the workflow I was hoping for was to start writing and inserting citation placeholders/keys in Scrivener. I would only be using Scrivener as a tool to aid my writing up to my first draft. Ideally my citation manager would do an RTF scan on the compiled Scrivener document and leave the citations and bibliography in a format that could be further edited using the cite-while-you write plugin in Word. I would then work collaboratively with co-authors on this document. However, this is not possible with my citation manager. For a few reasons that may be beyond the scope of this thread, at the moment I would rather not switch to the only cross-platform reference manager that would allow me to do this (Endnote).

Three other possibilities are 1) Manually replace citation keys one-by-one when I get the document into Word using the cite-while-you write plugin in word. 2) Abandon thoughts of using Scrivener because it is too much hassle to get it into my workflow. 3) Use an alternative, Bibtex-related route.

Following further thought and the helpful insight from the responses on this thread, the Bibtex route is now looking like a bit of a no-go for me. First of all, I don’t really comprehend the difference between some of the terms that have been used in this thread - LaTex, MMD, Lyx. Second, I think the level of effort required in the following suggestions and the hindrance they would put on my normal collaborative writing process would rule them out for me.

Doesn’t Word have built in bibliographic capability? I might look into that. Maybe writing in Word will solve your problems. Too bad. Word is so . . . boring:-) I wonder if there is a way to get Scrivener into the workflow. It’s really a fantastic program for organizing your project (the bigger the project, the more Scrivener becomes useful).

As far as the lingo that was thrown around in here, here’s the breakdown. MMD = multimarkdown. It’s a write-up language (is that what we call it? someone correct me), that enables you to write a single document, and from that document, be able to produce rtf or webpages (html), or other stuff (like tex, which is the document that LaTeX works with). If you were to write in MMD you would not, for example, hit a button in your word processor to change a word to bold or italics–if you want a word in bold you use stars, like this: bold. Italics would be: italics It’s actually very easy. Other stuff is pretty much just as easy to do.

Lyx is just a free program that allows you to use the LaTeX software more easily. It makes LaTeX look almost like a regular word process that most people are used to seeing.

LaTeX is…not a word processor. It’s more of a typesetting program, through which you can configure every single aspect of your document. In terms of my understanding of LaTeX, I am a ham-fisted luddite compared to others on this forum. But even in my novicity (I made that word up), I think it is elegant. But with the use of Lyx, I think LaTeX becomes much easier to use (but I’ve never used it, so I don’t know).

Anyway, I hope that helps.

Thanks, that’s a good run-down of the acronyms. LyX is nice because it is a lot like Scrivener in that it’s less on the “desktop publishing” end of the spectrum and more on the “print it like I mean it” spectrum. While working in LyX, things won’t look much like the final product. Where it is different is that it is more like a word processor in that it is one long spool, rather than small chunks. So once you compile to a .tex file and import that into LyX, you’ll have one gigantic file to work in—but it’s quite efficient, probably one of the best for handling very long documents. Where it really helps out a lot is when you want to change details about the final product—say you want to change how chapter titles are printed. You’d have to really get in elbow deep with LaTeX to do that without LyX, but with it, it’s more like editing a stylesheet in Word. It does have a learning curve though, like any complex program. Fortunately it comes with excellent documentation.

In my experience, the MMD3 output is better for LyX than MMD2, because it produces a cleaner .tex file.

@osm: I’m in a fairly similar situation to you, except I need to use Endnote (not through choice) as it is cross-platform, free at my University and thus used by everyone I work with.

Really, I would stick with Scrivener, and simply use the MMD export to go to either RTF or Latex. What I do is use an RTF > Doc for collaboration via Word and Track changes while collaborating, then manually sync back the changes to my Scrivener doc which is still the master document. I can use Endnote to go between formatted and unformatted citations, thus preserve the cite labels going back and forth (as simple as make a snapshot, then copy and paste text blocksback to Scriv). Not entirely elegant, but still better than writing not using Scrivener.

The main sticking point for me is the inserted citation style, how to get the {author, year #id} endnote style to be /cite{authoryear} read by bibtex for LaTeX output? I haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but I think writing a regex script that sits between Scrivener and MMD3 will be the best way. As long as there is something in the endnote citation that can be unambiguously referenced as the bibtex label (the #id is the most obvious, as author+year will break if author has multiple pubs in same year).

In my opinion, it is worth trying to always keep my writing (scientific papers), in Scrivener even after collaborative to and fro, as the density of meta-data (notes, comment narratives etc.) and the coherence of my reference material in one place make revisions and responses to referees more cogent. That Scrivener via MMD allows so much flexibility in output is yet further incentive, and both of these (along with all the other magic Scriv brings), is worth the minor inconvenience of the manual sync of collaborators changes.

I don’t know if Word has built in Bibliographic capabilities but all the reference managers I have experience with (Endnote, Zotero, Mendeley) have Word plugins to enable them to create and update formated bibliographies pretty seamlessly. I have used Word in conjunction with one of these plugins for academic writing for years, but I now want to incorporate Scrivener into my workflow, at least for the early drafting stage when I am deciding on the structure. As mentioned previously, the ideal solution (given that citation manager plugins for Scrivener are not possible) would be for the citation manager to scan the compiled Scrivener rtf and convert the citekeys into field codes that can be used by the citation manager Word plugins.

Thanks, T.C.M. & AmberV, for the explanations on MMD, LaTex, and LyX

Word for Mac 2008 does have built-in bibliographic capabilities, but it’s been a while since I’ve used it. I remember it didn’t do exactly what I wanted in terms of citing in APA style, so I had to do some manual editing. I assume all versions of Word have the same capability (at least the newer ones-- if you’re using Word 1.0 for DOS, you may have a problem. :slight_smile:

By manual sync, do you mean you will go through the word document and copy and paste changes back into your Scrivener document?

I don’t understand going between formatted and unformatted citations in Scrivener. I assume this would require an Endnote cite-while-you-write plugin for Scrivener, and my understanding is that such a thing does not exist.

Yes, track changes in Word means I know exactly what changed, and as I always structure my documents, I can either simply copy whole sections or just paragraphs. Using named Scrivener snapshots I then keep a historical record for each section changed in Scrivener. I really try to use Word only as collaboration format, Scrivener is the mothership! LaTeX will be where I want to go if things need to look sharp! For scientific writing, it offers me the advantages of always keeping my research, figure variants, the metadata and the words in one place through to completion and archiving; no fragmentation.

Sorry if I wasn’t clear, my citations are always unformatted text {author, year #id} in Scrivener, I only use formatting after RTF output if the other collaborator wants to see the references, then always unformat before sync back to Scrivener.

Ah, I see. I hadn’t realized it was possible to go back and forth between unformatted temporary citations and formatted citations using EndNote.

I use Mendeley with Scrivener and LaTeX all the time.

Mendeley lets you copy (command-k) a BibTeX formatted reference or reference to the clipboard, which I then insert in MMD format using a TextExpander snippet to paste the BibTeX \cite{foo} as MMD’s [#foo] format. I use the awesome LaTeX makefile and type “make” at a terminal and get a PDF from the compiled .tex file from Scrivener. The last element of my Draft folder is just


compiled as-is.

Include the lines bibtex: <your bibtex file> bibstyle: <your journal style> in your MetaData.

That should more or less work if you have LaTeX installed. I use LaTeX, so if something goes wrong I’m OK with diving in, but this should work even if you’re not.

Thanks for the link to latex-makefile! I suspect this could be automatically run via a folder action or from the script that calls MMD3…

Hm, using [#…] format is much better than HTML escaping the LaTeX citations, I had missed that before (was planning to HTML escape raw bibtex cite format) so thanks for that reminder too!