Papers + Word 2008 = Bibliography heaven

Papers is a Mac sofware aimed at simplifying the management, searching and reading of scientific litterature. It’s more or less iTunes for your science papers — you can browse through them by authors or journals, include all the relevant information (e.g. an author’s contact address or email, a journal homepage URL) and “match” a paper PDF with its bibliographic information using a built-in search facility that connects to bibliographic databases such as Web of Science or Google Scholar. It includes a nice full-screen PDF viewer. Papers has already been reviewed at The Apple Blog or Ars Technica, and a slideshow explaining its development can be found here.

Unfortunately, until now you couldn’t actually create a bibliography for your own writing efforts using Papers — you still had to rely on additional software such as Sente (my favorite), Bookends, BibDesk (latex-oriented but versatile) or even Endnote. This meant you had to manage two separate bibliographic databases, which requires duplication of effort and information, which leads to errors, confusion, chaos, depression and, eventually, rejected articles.

But everyone should rejoice, as the new beta version (1.7) of Papers, apart from a very nice generally speedup (obvious on my Powerbook G4), now includes the option to export a selection of papers into Word 2008 as elements of the main bibliography source:


Once this is done, the papers appear in Word 2008’s citation manager:


As the manager itself says, double-clicking an element will insert a citation at the typing point into the Word document. Creating the final bibliography is just one click away:


End result: a very nicely-formatted bibliography.

word08_bibliography The quoting style can be changed over the entire document and the bibliography itself on-the-fly by simply selecting another style in Word’s citation manager.

From my (admittedly limited) testing, Papers 1.7 and Word 2008 appear to be a very strong end-to-end combo for the management and use of scientific bibliography during writing. Of course, this means using non-free, proprietary and (worse of all) Microsoft software, so this solution might not work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

(for those wondering if they should upgrade Word, it is worth it if only for the fact that Command-left and Command-right now go to the beginning and end of a line, as they should.)

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28 Responses to Papers + Word 2008 = Bibliography heaven

  1. Raj Singh says:

    This is absolutely phenomenal news! I just last November did that excellent “purchase office 2004 now, get $10 upgrade to 2008 in Jan” thing, and am currently just waiting for MS to ship my copy of office 2008. I’m currently working on my master’s thesis, and as much as I love Apple’s Pages 3 for various short papers (which tend to include a lot of STATA charts/graphs, and various diagrams made in OmniGraffle), the need for real citation management has become abundantly clear.

    I’ve fallen in love with Papers, and was considering Bookends as yet another large-dollar purchase. However, thanks to you it looks like I’ll be saving $99 on a Bookends purchase, which, to be honest, still looked a little too close to EndNotes (the HORROR!!!) for me to be comfortable with.

    This next edition of Papers is HAPPY NEWS indeed! Now, if only Pages 3 would support auto-save and some friggin plugin-ability, and (wishful thinking) someone would create a citation management system working internally in Pages, Apple’s product could conceivably be used for real, academic writing.

    Like I said, I love Pages for certain things. I don’t necessarily believe Word to be the de-facto standard in academia anymore, since most all my professors have access to full-blown Acrobat (and can make comments on the PDFs I send them, their preferred choice of managing student papers), but I do believe that with Microsoft developing these relatively small, but immensely helpful features into their programs, they will continue to maintain market dominance in academia and business. Not to say that Apple cannot develop similar features, just saying that they haven’t *yet*.

    Still, I’ll continue to use Pages for image-heavy, citation-light projects, but (and I never thought I’d say this), thank god Mickeysoft has implemented a life-saver (and fund-saver) feature like they have in Word 2008!

  2. Thomas says:

    Where is it possible to get the beta version that can work together with word 2008?

  3. vnoel says:

    You have to request by email to be a beta tester, see :

  4. Mekentosj says:

    Papers 1.7 is now available from download from our website:

  5. Mark says:

    This is sort of good news until you find out that your document must be saved in the new .docx style of word. If you save your document as a .doc file, the whole bibliography goes to flat text which means you can no longer format it, which means collaborative writing nightmares with colleagues and graduate students.

    What the Mac academic world needs is a software company that can trump EndNote, but still play nicely with EndNote files from our fellow Windows colleagues. I for one am so sick of the $100 upgrade tax that EndNote levies every time Word compatibility is broken.

  6. Timtom says:

    Ok, I am not happy with all this at all.

    Papers does export everything nicely but then Word is all over the place! With EndNote you would just insert what you wanted into the text and the reference list would be updated accordingly. In Word it seems like all that’s updated is the reference list according to your citations tool bar list. So in your references you may well have refs that are not at all mentioned in your document but are in your citations tool bar. How stupid is that!

    This might work if you are planning to write something with two, three references but in my case I often have in the range of 100 refs cited. With Words “magic” I would always have to make sure that I delete a ref not only in the text but also in my list. Why double the work? There’s no need for this at all! Also – and this is absolutely crazy – Word doesn’t seem to be able to fit more then one reference between two brackets so if I want to ref a few papers they all appear beside each other in their own respective brackets.

    I would really like to say goodbye to EndNote and Office 2004 but you know what? At the moment it’s the only citation system that actually works on the mac. All the rest (including Papers & Word 2008) is just hopeless for real life work!

  7. vincersurf says:

    Totally agree with TimTom,
    it just does not work for scientific papers! Unfortunately at the moment there is not choice, word 2004 and Endnote, which I hate!!!

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  10. piminnowcheez says:


    I’ve just started evaluating Sente for the second time; I tried it on a creaky G4 running Tiger and it was not so great, but so far, on a Mac Pro running Leopard, it’s pretty good. Kind of like what BibDesk would be if I were willing to learn LaTex.

    But I’m not clear, from this post, on what the author’s endorsements would be when it comes to Sente vs. Papers. If my needs are more for a bibliography app than just file management, is Sente still the way to go?

  11. David Browning says:

    I have to use MSWord – collaboration reasons – but the bibliography tools really sucks – see TimTom above. So I use Bookends. Yes Bookends is expensive but no, Bookends is not like Endnotes. Bookends plays nicely with Word and is pretty straight-forward to learn (10 mins gets you up and running). Pushing bibliographic metadata to Bookends is straight-forward and works well. Reconstituting a 50 – 100 item ref list is no trouble at all. Yes, it’s maintaining a separate db but I would guess that most of us are doing that anyway. I mean who would trust a Microsoft product with a bib db? Maybe when I can trust MSword to get two-column formatting right with section breaks where I can do something about its craziness I’ll think about trusting MS with a bib database…

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  13. Pingback: Dipl.-Inform. Med. [S]imon P. W. Schmitt » Papers 1.8 und Word 2008 (Microsoft Office 2008)

  14. Karthi Sivaraman says:

    Is there any way to change the output styles in word 2008? it is beyond my patience levels to find that out. Worse, it has only 4 – 5 styles for output. Today, I bit the bullet and went for Sente. it works.


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  16. Chris says:

    Would you happen to know if the Word 2008 bibliography manager has customizable styles like endnote does? Someone emailed me an endnote style file and I don’t know what to do with it, I don’t own Word 2008 yet. Should I invest in Endnote or Word 2008?

  17. Cody says:

    I just wanted to say thank-you for this article! I do a fair amount of paper writing in Psychology, and this has been an absolute life saver for managing citations!

    The one caveat I have seen is that Word must be restarted in order for the exported Papers citations to be “importable,” so to speak. Any workarounds for this?

  18. ragrawal says:

    some of you (those who are using Windows machine) might also find this add-in useful: Reference Manager. It makes it possible to import BibTex, RIS and other standard formats and can also pull information from websites such as Amazon, CiteSeer, ACM Portal, etc

  19. bioanalytik says:

    for all german reader who want to use endnote in combination with word and papers; find some useful tricks at

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  21. Thanh says:

    For small paper this might help but if you need to deal with your thesis or longer paper, it is still very laborious to export bib and paste into word. This is why I think Papers still not good enough. With Endnote, you can do everything Paper do plus cite with you write.

  22. Daniel Rivera says:

    Thanks a lot, I’m now using Papers 1.9.3 and your information was really helpful for me

  23. Fernando says:

    I’m exploring Papers on the trial period. I can’t export my references into word. Is this because is just the trial?

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  25. Alain says:


    Very good question! I have the same problem here with version 2.04 in trial mode.

    I am actually loosing precious time!!!

  26. Ruan says:

    Use Mendeley, its free and it can insert citations in pretty much any style you want and then generate a bibliography.

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