How to hook up Scrivener & Zotero

Some months ago I thought I my era as a Windows User was finally over. Boy, was I wrong. When I started as a research fellow at university my new workhorse was a Windows PC. Powerful, but not what I exactly got used to in the last 2 years. Especially my writing workflow changed by 180° since I studied some Mac Word Processors. It totally took new ways when Scrivener came in my live. I love this tool and I would take it under my blanket if I could.

My normal Mac workflow contains Scrivener – Bookends (for cites) – Mellel (for final layout). And some other tools I need sometimes to get my tasks completed. Now with Windows at my neck some things have to change. Damn. But there’s always a solution. After some hours of thinking, trying, crying, research on the www, trial & error, I think I found a pretty good working cross-plattform workflow for my writing tasks which I like to share.

Intention: This one is for writers who are in need of using bibliography software and have to write on different plattforms for some reasons. The goal is to let you seemlessy work on your writing work with minimal notice that you’ve switched your plattform.

So, how can this workflow look like? Here is mine:


The basis for this is sofware that runs on all big plattforms:

Scrivener – Check!

Zotero – Check!

Final Word Processor – Well, Nisus, Mellel, LibreOffice, Word…ok.. Check!

Ok let’s go into detail. First, a list of links of some things we need and what may become helpful in the future:

Scrivener (Trial & Buy):
Scrivener Compile-Preferences (need CM Fonts):
Zotero (Win & Mac & Linux / Also install browser plugins):
Zotero RTF-Scan-Style CSL Export Style:
Computer Modern Fonts:
Latexeqedit (Win):
LaTeXiT (Mac):
MacTeX (LaTeX for Mac):
MiKTex (LaTeX for Win):
LibreOffice for final layouting (for the Win People):
Mellel or Nisus Writer for final layouting (for Mac People):
Templates for Nisus & Mellel:
Template for Libre Office:
Patience… I’m working on it…

Now do this:

1. Install Scrivener (whatever Version you need)

2. Install the Zotero Standalone Version for your OS, I recommend to install the browser extentions as well, since they are really helpful for getting Zotero filled.

3. Download and unpack the RTF-SCAN-STYLE.ZIP. Right click the resulting CSL File and choose “Open with ZOTERO”. Answer the Installation-question with “YES”. Now we have the most important things done.

4. We need to tell Zotero that it has to export (drag & drop) cites in a different style as usual (recognizeable by the RTF-Scan algorythm). Open the Zotero options and choose in the “Export” Tab the “RTF-Scan Style”.


You should also go to the “Sync” Tab and configure an account for online syncing. Thats perfect when you have Zotero on different machines.

5. Now open Scrivener with a document of your choice and drag & drop a cite from Zotero to Scrivener. You’ll see the cite in circled brackets. That’s perfect. That’s exactly what Zotero later needs for the RTF Scan.


If you ever get some formatting problems after draging & dropping the cite, convert the text to the default text format that is saved in Scrivener and all should be ok again.


6. Now a word on the other tools I listed up some lines above:

If you are into publishing your works your should have a look at the Computer Modern Fonts. They’re the ones from the LaTeX distributions and are well accepted fonts in academic circles. The serif-fonts are very beautiful and you won’t have any licence problems. Speaking of LaTeX you should have a look at the to tools LaTeXeqEdit and LaTeXiT. They can transform LaTeX equation code into PDF, PNG and so on… Get it? You can now insert LaTeX quality equations as a pic in Scrivener, combined with the CM fonts it’s going to be hard to tell if your document was made with Scrivener, LibreOffice or LaTeX. Remember: A working LaTeX installation is needed like MikTex or MacTeX to get these little wizards working.

7. When you’re done with writing, you can compile your document. It’s has to be an RTF File. Other formats won’t work with the further workflow. I uploaded a simple compile preference for Scrivener, which formats the text to computer modern, has a nice line spacing and a paper format that’s often used. I also find it very easy to to final layouting with this preset.


8. Go to Zotero and klick on RTF-Scan… in the dialog choose the output RTF File from Scrivener, and tell Zotero the new name of the scanned file output. Klick next and you’ll see the cites that Zotero found. Next, choose the Style (APA 6th in most cases) and the output file is written.

9. Now you can open the scanned RTF File with any wordprocessor you like and do final editings. Setting header presets and so on. The cites are formatted according to the style you chose in Zotero and the bibliography is at the end of the document. Usually the bibliography is inserted with Courier New and you should change the font here.

10. If everything went well you should have a document with formatted cites, a complete bibliography and text formatted in CM Font. Headers in Tahoma. A good basis for further editing and hey, it wasn’t that hard, was it?

I provided templates for Mellel and Nisus. Just open it and cut&paste your document in and alter it to your needs. Have fun.

This last note is for Keith and/or the Zotero team: Maybe you could improve the “work-together” experience of these to great programs. Both programs are available on three major platforms, they are syncable and affordable. This combination is by far the best productive “workhorse” for academic writing I’ve EVER seen (due to the crossover capabilities). Bringing these two closer together would be a great step forward in academic writing, a major improvement on the quality of academic papers and a great help for all the students and academics out there. Maybe this is a thought worth to be considered in the future.

Many thanks to the developers.


Small update: Zoteros RTF-Scan seems to have some problems with umlauts used in Author names. So if you dragged & dropped an entry to your document it maybe looks ok, e.g. {Börtz & Döring, 2010}. When running RTF Scan the entry cannot be found, since Zotero destroys the “ö”s in the Authors names. Solution for now: Replace the umlauts in the Authors name with a different (but correct) writing: ö=oe, ü=ue, ä=ae. Just change the umlauts in the Authors names. The other umlauts in your entry can stay untouched, since they are not important for matching and linking during RTF Scan. So after sucessful alteration drag and drop again and it should look like this {Boertz & Doering, 2012}. This is a correct writing style and much better: RTF Scan works very well with it.

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