Using Scrivener with Bibliographic Software

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I have seen in more than a couple of posts about Scrivener a recurring question – Does Scrivener work with bibliographic software? The answer, in short, is “Yes.”

For those who are currently writing a dissertation without the aid of a bibliography/citation management software, I strongly advise that you look into getting one. I cannot begin to emphasize the joys that such software will bring to your life.

I use Scrivener and Bookends together with little to no problem. Here’s how I do it.

Footnotes in Scrivener are displayed in an unconventional manner. They are off to the right of the screen and are unnumbered. When you “compile” your final product (in .rtf or .doc format), they look like regular footnotes. The layout takes some getting used to, but within a couple of days, you don’t really notice it.

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You’ll note in the following image that many aspects of my footnotes look like gibberish (i.e., {Foster, 2007, #992@577}). This is the format in which Bookends enters and recognizes various citations.

The first step toward integrating Scrivener and Bookends is to select Scrivener as your default word processor in the Bookends preferences menu:

When you’re typing along in Scrivener and you need to compose a footnote via Bookends, simply click the “add footnote button” in Scrivener. Then, go to your bookends window, select the source (or sources) you wish to cite, and click the “copy citation” option at the top of the window:

If Scrivener and Bookends are linked, then after you click the “copy citation” button, you will be whisked away to Scrivener where you will see your citations represented in curly brackets. The numbers after the “@” symbol represent the page numbers you wish to reference. Everything between the curly brackets is replaced after you compile your document and perform a “scan” with Word (or whatever word processor you choose for final formatting):

After you have completed your document in Scrivener, you will compile it and proceed to the final formatting steps. When you open the compiled document in Word (or whatever), your footnotes will still look ugly:

To fix this, you need to “scan” the document. The option to do so is located in the “script” menu of Word which, after you install Bookends, will display the option, “scan document.” Perform the scan, and your citations will be properly formatted:

Well, almost. You’ll note that there are a few instances in these particular footnotes where the author needs to be removed, parentheses changed to square brackets, a stray period here and there, etc. This is part of the final formatting process.

Bookends is the only bibliographic software I’ve used with Scrivener. The integration is not perfect, but I am convinced that even with all the final formatting issues that exist after the scan, the program saves a great deal of time.

I cannot speak to the functionality of EndNote (which I despise) within Scrivener. Sorry.

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22 thoughts on “Using Scrivener with Bibliographic Software

  1. Hi, I am totally panicking! I am trying to get off a long chapter of my dissertation and have converted my scrivener document to Mellel, but the footnotes won’t scan from bookends!!!! What do I do? I can’t got through each one manually! Please help!

  2. Hey Lee. My experience with Mellel is extremely limited…I have used it for a total of 5 minutes, and not with Bookends. So, I’m not sure how much help I can be.

    I can say that the first time I exported a document from Scrivener to Word, I had a problem getting Bookends to scan.

    One thing to check from the get go is that you have Bookends and Mellel linked…this is from the Bookends side of things (in Preferences).

    Second, and this might sound silly but it threw me off for almost 30 minutes, make sure your cursor in Mellel is in the main text portion of the document and not in the footnotes. Not sure if it will make a difference, but when my cursor is in the footnotes in Word when I attempt a bib. scan, nothing happens.

    Alternately, I would pose the question to the Bookends forum…they’ve helped me more than a few times.

    Again, sorry for my lack of knowledge of Mellel! Please let me (and the readers) know what you figure out!

  3. It seems like the problem is that when I open a compiled document in Mellel, it doesn’t recognize the ref. links to bookends. it works with open office, but then the document is totally funky! (with monaco script, all 12pnt etc. I also can’t open the scanned, open office document in Mellel, which I would much rather use for formatting! I’ve been at this all day! And I am going insane! I can’t believe that it is so much formatting work, once I get the document out of Scrivener!

  4. ok, one problem solved: switched from crappy open office to Word for Mac!! This should be better now. but thanks for your help. I think it is suuuuch a drag that Scrivener is not compatible with pages!! boooo Mac!

  5. I have never been satisfied with Open Office…too many things that it is not good at. I’m surprised that Pages will not work with Scrivener…doesn’t Pages support the .rtf format? If so, it should work, at least in theory.

  6. Hi! I use scrivener for just a short time and i am searching for a citation manager…i have my eyes on bookends and sente…so I got the link to your explanation! Thanks for that!
    But there is a, i guess a basic, question! Why do you use a 2nd software to do the formating? couldn’t scrivener export a proper exported text? and shouldn´t it be possible to scan the exported text by bookends directly??
    Maybe this is a pro for sente??
    Thanks for your help!

  7. Hi, thanks for reading. I’ve never used Sente and so I can’t comment on its functionality. I still use Word for formatting because it has more formatting functionality than Scrivener does. Scrivener is for text entry and organization. I do think that you can accomplish probably 90% of your formatting needs with it, but for documents (like dissertations, journal articles, etc.) that need to meet specific parameters, you will need Word or some other software built with that functionality in mind.

    But formatting aside, you actually can’t do a Bookends scan within a Scrivener file, unless there’s been a change in the past year that I’m not aware of. I spent days trying to get it to work, and I finally discovered (on either the Bookends or Scrivener website, though I can’t remember which) that I was wasting my time. It’s just not possible.

    Hope this helps and thanks again for reading!

  8. Here’s a method that could be considered. I use Scrivener for content generation of long documents, Bookends for reference management and Mellel for final word processing. If you copy a citation into scrivener from bookends (in the text body not as a footnote) it will generate a temporary citation in the delimiters you choose in Bookends preferences – e.g. {}. Make sure scrivener is the word processor you select in bookends preferences. When you compile the document export it as a rtf or docx – the temporary citations will still be there in the {} delimiters. Then change your bookends preferences to Mellel and when you open that document in Mellel those temporary citations can be converted to the citation objects used by Mellel by using the edit / bibliography / convert text to citations. Voila…

  9. Hello, thank you for your insightful blog. I’m trying to solve the issues of choosing a bibliographic software before starting to write my dissertation. At the moment, I have to choose between Bookends and Endnote. Why do you despise the latter?

  10. The version of Endnote that I used (years ago, now) simply never performed the way I needed it to. Tweaking various styles was a huge hassle, and technical support (phone and e-mail) was never able to answer my questions. Plus, when I would share documents that I had created using Endnote, they would often crash the word processors of people I sent them to – something about macros running in the background – in at least one case the person who had trouble with a document was a journal editor, which was hugely embarrassing. Bookends has never given me grief.

  11. Thank you. So you would recommend Bookends also for citing in the text body (not using footnotes) in Scrivener, right? Also, one of the things that had me leaning towards Bookends is that it’s native on Mac.

  12. I’ve not used it for in-text citations, but I’m fairly certain it has that functionality. There’s a pretty generous trial version available – would recommend downloading that and playing with it before committing to purchasing anything. Mac-native software is always a plus!

  13. I have started using the Bookends trial, and I find that the in-text citations funcion works well with Scrivener. Since I need to format in MLA, I still need to understand how to diversify in-text citations from different works by the same author (because only the name appears without the year, and this confuses everything), but I’m sure it’s an issue of the parameters of the formatting system, not of the program itself. Anyway, your post was really helpfu.

  14. Hi, I have been writing in scrivener, and have compiled my document into Word, but I cannot find the Scan option in the Script Menu anywhere. Help does not help either … I am using the version of Word that comes with MS Office for Mac. Any pointers?

  15. If you are using Bookends, I would contact Jon over at Sonny Software (, I think?). I seem to remember having a similar issue when I first set things up, but I can’t remember what I did to remedy it.

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