In recent years, Google Docs has become a strong alternative to Word, providing a free and portable solution for writers. One limitation for researchers has been the difficulty with adding citations, but now a new app has appeared on the scene, offering a simple solution that works with Zotero and Mendeley.
Paperpile is a Chrome app that allows you to manage your research library from your browser and easily insert citations while working in Google Docs. You can collect references using the Paperpile icon, or import them from existing Zotero or Mendeley libraries. PDFs are also saved and stored in your Google Drive.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the interface is similar to Zotero. You can organise your references into folders and also apply descriptive labels and notes. I imported 1301 items from my Zotero library and it took just over two minutes, with clear instructions and helpful status messages.
Now, Paperpile doesn’t sync with Zotero and it has read-only access. This means you either have to import your Zotero library on a regular basis or just add new references straight to Paperpile. Fortunately, this is simply done using the toolbar icon.
Also, you’ll see a Paperpile icon in Google search results:
Once your library is set up, you can start using it with Google Docs
Creating citations in Google Docs
When the Paperpile app is installed, you’ll see a new menu and icon in Google Docs.
Either click the P icon or use the Ctrl+Alt+P shortcut to insert a new citation. Then you can search through your library. Paperpile displays matches as you type.
Click the one you want, then click on it again to add a page number, suffix or prefix.
Finally, click Add Citation and you’ll see an inline citation next to your quote. With the most recent update to Paperpile, you can also add footnotes with superscript numbers.
When you’ve finished, click Format Document under the Paperpile menu and your bibliography is automatically generated. You can also choose your citation style from the Paperpile menu and it’ll show you a preview.
I’ve given you just a very quick overview of Paperpile. There’s lots more you can do with it, such as sharing libraries for collaborative writing, and importing papers from databases.
The cost is $2.99 per month (billed annually), but they’re offering a 30-day free trial. The developers are planning to add PDF annotation tools and better support for mobile devices, all of which would make Paperpile well worth the money.
Zotero still works best with Word and OpenOffice, but if you’re a Google Docs user, Paperpile is a very welcome new app.
Find out more about Zotero in my ebook How to Manage References in Zotero.