Zotero integration

I just want to echo the necessity for bibliographic software integration I’ve seen here on the forums, specifically with Zotero. I’m a huge fan of Scrivener - just started using it - but until it works seamlessly with Zotero I’m stuck using it for notes instead of actual papers.


Seconded! Scrivener + Zotero would be a ‘killer app combo’ for the PhD thesis. I have tried all the tips & tricks I can find to use Scrivener for Windows and Zotero, but am quite disappointed… at the moment none are really workable solutions for this type of multi-year writing commitment. At a minimum we need a way to add / remove inline citations (i.e., annotations) that would be automatically compiled into some type of bibliography.

I haven’t followed the discussions about Zotero too closely because I don’t like it and therefore don’t use it, but if you look around the forums I think you will find that the problem is mainly on the Zotero end of things, not the Scrivener end. It might be better to prod the people at Zotero if you want improved integration.

That said, I know that there are at least a couple of us (Mac users, it is true) who have used Scrivener for our PhD thesis. In my case I used a program called Bookends for the bibliography, while nom (I think) used Endnote. In my case I have now moved to a program called Sente. I don’t know if Sente is Mac only, but Endnote is certainly cross-platform. Nom is the resident “expert” on using Endnote, so it might be worth looking around for his advice on using the program with Scrivener. Bookends, Sente and Endnote all use the system of “temporary citations” (e.g. {Smith 2009@19}) inserted in the text, followed by scanning the final text to create the bibliography. The system works very well. Suffice to say, there are certainly ways of working with bibliographic software using Scrivener, and (for me at least) the advantages of using Scrivener far outweigh any problems of integration with bibliographic programs. However, I am using the Mac version, which is ahead of the Windows version in some respects (particularly footnoting, I believe).


Thanks for your response. I left Endnote some years ago and am totally sold on Zotero, so I would not go back at this point. I have been noodling around for a few days and have a workflow solution that seems acceptable. Some thesis writers have suggested using Scrivener during the early phases only. I think we can go much closer to the finished product with a Scrivener - Zotero - Word workflow like this:

  • Use Scrivener to generate the thesis outline your advisers need to approve.

  • Write, edit, rearrange the sections and chapters per usual. Type citations using Zotero markup. Example: {Smith, 2009} {Smith, 2009; Jones, 2010} {Smith et al., 2005} Note this is not drag & drop, but if you are like me you know many of your cites by heart already. During draft stages, compile into RTF then use Zotero’s RTF scanner to add a temporary bibliography. This will create a reference list at the end of your document. (RTF scan is not perfect yet, but does a much better job than it did a year ago.) Open the document in Word. Note that Zotero links are not dynamic in the text, and your bibliography has no title. Type it in, use Word’s TOC feature to add a quick table of contents, and send it off to your advisers.

  • As you near final revisions, choose a stage to compile and leave Scrivener behind. Open the document in Word. Spend one day going through the entire thing and replacing the Zotero links with live tags (a clever person could even do this while watching a movie on the telly!), and build your dynamic bibiliography. Spend the next day tagging all of your tables and figures and building the List of Figures and List of Tables. Add page numbers and the TOC.

This really doesn’t seem like such a laborious workflow at all, and in fact it keeps my mind off of fiddling with the layout and on my writing. Hope these suggestions can help someone else!

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The workflow you describe is almost exactly the one I used, except that I used Bookends and Nisus Writer Pro, rather than Zotero and M$ Word. I left compiling the whole thesis and creating the bibliography for it to the very last moment. I found it very simple to compile a single chapter and scan it to create the bibliography for it when I needed to hand a chapter to my supervisors for their comments. It all works very well. I certainly never missed Endnote/Word “Cite While You Write” – I tried it when it first came out years ago, and I hated it.


A Zotero plug-in would be ideal, particularly for those of us who use the Chicago citation style (hello historians). It would also be cool if the notes in Zotero could sync project notes in Scrivener.

I doubt that it’s going to happen unless those over at Zotero decide to do something about it. After all, why not also plug-ins for Endnote, Bookends, Sente, Papers, etc., etc.? That’s a lot of work for one man working on his own. And I also wonder if it would be technically feasible, given that Scrivener doesn’t use a flat file format, like Word. Compiling to rtf and scanning the file has always worked fine for me, so I’m not sure what a plug-in would give me, anyway.


The bottom line is that Zotero would need to improve their RTF scan support. Since that task would fall to an unpaid volunteer it has taken a long time (perhaps it will never happen).

However, I think people are keen on Zotero integration because it has the virtue of being free and is in wider/cross-platform use than other such solutions. (Endnote is the exception, but I suspect it won’t be for too long–Zotero use, especially in austere times, is likely to surpass Endnote sooner rather than later.) I also think (as a mostly-Sente user) that Zotero is easier for most non-techies to use and probably has a slightly safer future (that is, it will continue to be developed for a long time, I think.) In that sense-given Scrivener’s cross platform use–Zotero would likely be the best option to pursue. Still, as was noted, I’m not sure how this would work with a Scrivener file. I think the best and easiest option for Scrivener remains the post-export RTF scan function–which Zotero has unfortunately not prioritized. (Not a moral judgement–they have a small team and rely on the open source community.)

I would be willing to make an extra payment to Zotero for RTF scan. I wonder how many other people would, and if that would amount to enough to pay someone over there to work out the kinks?

I would be willing to pay them …

You do realise that this thread dates from 9 years ago and Zotero still has problems scanning RTF files, including failing if the citation has an accented character in it (reported a few weeks ago on the Nisus Writer Pro forum).


Not to continue this thread as it is, but Zotero’s RTF scan (as a separate plug-in addon) worked fine for me a couple of years back. Granted I didn’t have any references with accented characters…