Scrivener – and Zotero


scrivenerIf you are doing a lot of writing (or hanging out with writers…) you may have come across Scrivener – a well, this is a bit hard to describe… sort of word processor for serious writing, especially long texts – like the ones that Word loves to play funny stuff like strange formatting with – or at least makes it seriously annoying to deal with (scroll through 100 pages… sure!).

Scrivener isn’t, of course, only for people writing long novels. It can actually be a pretty neat tool for academics, too. Especially if you are a bit like me, and like to forget what my next argument was going to be… Because Scrivener handles parts of a document more like a set of “cards”, which you can move around at will, it makes it easy to think through an outline of a chapter or even a paper, and then organise all the arguments before sitting down to write everything up – before rendering it into that final copy that will appear in the next masterpiece ready for the Journal of Superlative Academic Papers.

Scrivener also has a lot of other tools to make writing easier: From a split screen allowing you to quickly browse through research documents, like key articles, to productivity meters giving you target word counts and progress for sessions (for example, if you take part in #acrimo) or sections of you documents. BUT …as much as all of these things are useful and make it easy to write, Scrivener has one serious limitation for academics – and that is the lack of integration with referencing software like EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero. But that does’t mean you can’t use them or Scrivener – it just requires a bit of extra work. Depending on how you feel about Scrivener (especially as a useful substitute to something like Word) – you may think it is worth the extra effort.

I haven’t tried Scrivener with EndNote or Mendeley, but with Zotero there are two relatively easy ways to ensure you can work with Scrivener and Zotero and let Zotero format your references etc.

1) The easy way 
The easy way is to simply use {Author, 2000} as a place holder for reference. Once you are finished with the document, Scrivener will export it as an RTF-file. In Zotero, you can then scan the RTF file for all the references, and it will insert them so that you can edit them later, change the style … and work with the file as you would normally.
However,.. while this seems like a reasonably easy way of doing it, be warned that the Zotero RTF scan will not like little spelling errors (it will then ignore the citation), you can not format the citation (e.g. just year, no author) without doing it manually later – and if you have more than one paper by the same author in the same year, Zotero doesn’t like it. If these are not issues for you – then, the easy way is pretty ok. Otherwise, you may want to think about the second way:

2) The better but more complicated way
This way avoids the limitations from above, and makes it possible to copy and paste citations. However, it is a bit more geeky – but once set up, it isn’t all to complicated (and probably easily offset by the positives of Scrivener).
1) You need to get a plugin for Zotero called RTF/ODF Scan here.
2) Follow the instructions how to install it – they are on the same page and depend if you use Zotero Standalone or as a plugin.
3) Change the preferences for “copying” references to “Scannable Cite”: To do that, go to the Zotero Preferences, click on Export and then select “Scannable Cite” as the default output format (it’s under the Export Formats heading).
4) You can now copy formatted citations by selecting the reference and clicking ctrl+alt+c on Windows or cmd+shift+c on a Mac – and insert the reference into your Scrivener document by using ctrl+v or cmd+v.
5) The result should look something like that:
{ | Dahl, et al., 2009 | | |zu:421423:KK67XCB8}
If you just want to keep the reference as (Author, Date) then you are fine and you can now continue writing away…
but if you want to format the citation, you can amend it as follows:
For example
{ | -Dahl, et al., 2009 | | |zu:421423:KK67XCB8} – will suppress the Author e.g. (2009)
{cf. | Dahl, et al., 2009 | | |zu:421423:KK67XCB8} – will put cf. (or whatever else you type) in front of the citation e.g. (c.f. Dahl, et al, 2009)
{ | Dahl, et al., 2009 |p. 20 | |zu:421423:KK67XCB8} – will format the reference to point to page 20 (note: a space between p. and number is required!) e.g. (Dahl, et al, 2009: 20)
{ | Dahl, et al., 2009 | |just whatever you wanted to say |zu:421423:KK67XCB8} will result in (Dahl, et al, 2009 just whatever you wanted to say)
6) Once your opus is finalised – simply run it through the Zotero RTF scan, and it should insert the correct citations and convert them correctly! And bingo :-) !

Let me know if you are using Zotero or Scrivener of any other helpful tips!