Single to multiple citations in Word Plugin

  • I think this is really a workflow/habit issue. People who are used to endnote's merging miss it, but really, there are very few workflows where adding a citation to a multiple citation is much different from adding a single citation. The one big problem currently is that you cant move around items within multiple citations and that is fixed on the trunk afaik.

    This really doesn't come up all that often, and then usually by people who are not fully aware of the way which Zotero works (by which I don't mean you, but e.g. granto above) which is why it's not high on anyone's agenda.

    And about helpful advice - even without me coming up with some less painful workaround - if Zotero can't do something I can't do much more than tell you "no" - what else would you expect?
  • Again, I apologize for my snippiness. And I appreciate the answers/explanation. By way of explanation for my assumptions...I've never used or seen any citation manager but endnote, which is probably used by 95% of my colleagues, so while I understand the notion of there simply being structural differences between the software, it doesn't necessarily occur to people that a feature (multi-references) isn't just another easily format-able change.

    The main issue is that with every revision, citations need to get swapped around, so treating them as individual entities made a lot of sense. Swapping one reference is just a matter of command-c/command-v rather than having to go into two different reference blocks (source and destination) and edit them. This seems like a more streamlined workflow overall to me.
  • Thanks for the suggestions. I may try toggling the field codes and removing parenthesis, though I'll probably have to keep a few versions running and do this repeatedly before it's all over with. There are usually a lot of stages between 'submitted' and 'done' when it comes to publication. My PI is making me switch to endnote for anything I collaborate with him on in the future.

    I suppose this is a learning experience all around; I now have a better idea how zotero works and, conversely, I sort of hope this serves as a truly non-hypothetical reason as to why this might be an important feature to some people in publishing fields. It's possible that most people using zotero right now aren't switching over from endnote (I currently know three people in academia who use, the person who referred me, and someone I referred) but are new users looking for a free alternative, so this and compatibility are not issues for them.

    I really have high hopes for the future of zotero. I'm a huge proponent of cloud type computing and simplification of workflow/interface. I wouldn't even be writing this if I weren't: A) completely procrastinating on re-annotating my paper; and B) really wanting a good alternative to endnote.

    Apologies for cluttering up a support thread and any panic-induced snittyness that may have ensued.
  • For what it's worth, I think that it would be very helpful to include transparent conversion of multiple individual-citations into a single multi-citation.

    I can open field codes, and handle things manually. No one else in my group will. Definitely not my supervisor. That means that I'll have to switch back to Endnote so that I'm compatible. *Please* include this feature, for as dumb as it may sound, this issue may prevent many people from using Zotero for more than a quick trial period.

    In an open document, can't you look for any Zotero field codes which are only separated by whitespace, then merge them?
  • An obvious use of the 'deleting selected citations', 'adding selected citations', and 'merging citations' features is to the process of writing scientific data or review articles.

    During the process of composing the manuscript there is a continuous remodeling of it, as new facts, ideas, and interpretations appear, from the main authors and from the co-authors. This information often needs to be backed up by or referred to existing literature therefore there is a continuous addition and subtraction of references. Commonly, this supplementation or subtraction is required within groups of preexisting contiguous references within the manuscript regarding a specific notion to be transmitted to the reader.

    Ultimately, the manuscript may need to be modified following the recommendations of the reviewers or the length restrictions of the journal. In addition, if a manuscript is rejected from a given journal and needs to be resubmitted to another journal, in addition to the format changes, there might be a restriction (or extension) in the number of words and references, therefore a few more could be selectively added or removed.

    In all these instances, the possibility of selectively remove references within a group or add new ones to an existing group would be of great use.

    I have not manage to encounter such flexible option within Zotero - a piece of software which, unquestionably to my mind, is leading its field with creativity, innovation, and recognition of a market need.

    Thank you
  • In all these instances, the possibility of selectively remove references within a group or add new ones to an existing group would be of great use.
    This is possible in Zotero-- just click in the citation and click the edit button in the Zotero toolbar. The selection dialog will appear and you can add and remove references.
  • Although I appreciate the 'multiple source' feature of Zotero, I do think there is a (more limited) case for merging citations. Apart from the case where the author doesn't realise that the 'multiple source' functionality is there (necessitating a lot of extra work), I think the real case for it is that as one is writing, one is often changing the text of a sentence together with accompanying footnotes. So I may have written three separate sentences which I then wish to merge together into one sentence, with one footnote. Right now, as far as I know, you can't just merge the existing footnotes, you have to go back into the citation and re-select - which isn't an enormous difficulty, admittedly, but also not terribly efficient, especially when you have to put pinpoints back in too.
  • sure, that'd a case where merging is useful - but you always have to remember that new functionality has trade-offs - it needs to be coded, it needs to be maintained, it can break, it may clutter parts of the interface, etc.
    Given that, a feature that makes a relatively rare operation a little quicker isn't necessarily a good use of resources.
  • Sorry adamsmith: this really is not a rare operation. I am trying to write my PhD thesis and am constantly having to edit the references, because I keep finding new papers that are relevant. That Zotero does not provide native support for something that every other reference manager (Sente, EndNote, RefManager, etc.) does automatically is seriously killing me. At the moment, I am considering throwing in the towel and just switching back to EndNote despite the face that I already have >100 references in my current document. I ended up on this forum because I could not believe that something this basic was not supported by Zotero.
    I repeat: this is NOT a rare workflow. I do this every 30 minutes or so.
  • Gavin -
    please read carefully: I'm not claiming that _adding_ references is rare - but that's already possible in current Zotero without any problems - I don't see why adding and auto-merging a citation (as in Endnote) is any faster than using the "edit citation" function of Zotero - and the multi-citation function has a bunch of advantages over merging.

    My claim is that having to _merge_ references is relatively rare and at least from what you describe I don't see why you would need merging much in dissertation writing.
  • If you are doing 4 + 3 citations, then the edit citation function is still incredibly tedious way of doing things. I can see from what you're saying that 5+1 is easy to do using the edit citation function.
  • I'm not getting it, sorry. For your 4+3 scenario you'd still have to add those three manually first and then merge them to the four- so unless you're constantly in situations where you shift large amounts of references around in the document and merge them this just doesn't seem to make a difference.

    If that's really common practice among many writers I guess finding some solution might be nice - I still think people underestimate the potential problems - Zotero's plugin is a lot more powerful than Endnote's.
  • Which is exactly the scenario when you are combining text from different papers or summarising a longer document.
  • Magic merging of citations (which from the frequent descriptions posted I take to be EndNote's behavior) sounds like it could be a real headache to implement and maintain. It would be simple, though, to add a little button to the word processor popup that grabs the following citation's references and imports them into the current citation. You would then need to delete the following citation by hand. Would that be useful, or is full-automagic the threshold desideratum?
  • Magic merging is not required and would be extremely annoying (imagine cutting and pasting a citation somewhere only to discover that it had been magically and unintentionally sucked into an adjacent citation).

    A simple button to merge/demerge references is all that I would need (e.g., what Sente does with "group citations" and "ungroup citations"). Select the citations to merge together, click the button, done. Click on a cluster of citations, press the "ungroup" button and it magically falls apart into separate citations that you can them move where you want.

    Ta very much in advance.
  • Recognizing selections in the word processor would require significant extension to the plugins, which would be a problem, because there are (so far) three separate platforms to support, which would be a drain on resources. Some sort of copy and paste mechanism might be implemented without touching the plugins, though. Might that suffice?
  • Ah. That would be less useful and probably not very different from the situation.
  • I guess it won't happen then. :)
  • edited March 25, 2011
    Adam, I see this thread is still going. I have been watching it with great interest for some time now. The title is wrong. What we want is:


    Let me take a shot at explaining it, since I research in the humanities (theology in particular).

    **Here is how a paragraph in its FINAL form is supposed to be footnoted.

    Sentence one. Sentence two. Sentence three. Sentence four. Sentence five. Sentence six. Sentence seven. Sentence eight.[23]

    Each sentence requires a reference (in our hypothetical case). Note [23] must thus read: [Source 1; Source 2; Source 3; Source 4; Source 5; Source 6; Source 7; Source 8.]

    **Problem. Researchers build paragraphs as below. It might take us WEEKS or MONTHS to "complete" one paragraph in a large document. (We're, um, "slow," as you have already detected . . . .):

    Stage one:
    Sentence two.[23]. Sentence one.[24] Sentence eight.[25] Sentence five.[26]. Sentence three.[27]

    Stage two:
    Sentence six.[23] Sentence one.[24] Sentence seven.[25] Sentence eight.[26] Sentence four.[27] Sentence three.[28] Sentence two.[29] Sentence five.[30]


    We have to keep our source reference notes discretely with each sentence, while we re-arrange or them, or add more sentences. We might even bring in a sentence or two, along with their note numbers from another paragraph, or move some sentences to a different paragraph. Moreover [23] and [26] might each contain, already, multiple references--a primary, and some "see alsos,"--with leading and trailing explanatory text added into the note as well.

    If we don't keep our sources attached to each sentence during the research and composition stage, they might easily become a confused jumble. The word processor, of course, automatically renumbers our notes as we move them around, so that part is easy. Zotero tracks along with that just fine, naturally.

    Once we are satisfied, however, that a paragraph is complete, we need to be able to merge selected note numbers from within the paragraph into a single note number, in the order they occur in the paragraph. "All" (ha ha ha) we need then is a button that says "Merge note numbers in this paragraph," followed by a dialogue that lets us select the "candidate" note numbers and the "target" note number.

    Easy. Sure . . . . Well, I don't know how difficult this is. I am certain the request involves a level of complexity. Some hotshot programmer may say "Yeah, I can do that, easy." If it can be done manually--and it appears that it can--then it seems it might be feasible to add it to Zotero (plugin) as a regular feature.

    I'm hoping you will consider bringing it up with a development committee. Just ask a couple of your research professors in the history department there at George Mason if they think a feature like this is important.

    Thanks again,


    P.S. I am thrilled with the improvements I have seen in 2.1. Kudos!
  • edited March 26, 2011
    I don't really have a dog in this fight - as I say above - if many people are really doing what you describe I understand why this would be useful.
    For what it's worth, though - Zotero was conceptualized by and continues to be led by (quite eminent as I understand) historians who apparently didn't find this feature indispensable, so this doesn't appear to be a universal requirement for historians, even though clearly some people really want it -

    It's probably up to developers if they feel this is important enough to add - adding new features is not as universally costless as it may seem: It also means more possible bugs, more code to maintain, more issues to troubleshoot, more GUI space taken, more features to document...
    Judging by my experience I wouldn't expect this to happen anytime soon for sure - there are _a lot_ of unfulfilled requests out there.
    If this is really something people want, depending on how fancy this needs to be it could likely be done by a 3rd party developer, possibly as a separate word/ooo add-in.
  • I think that if a 3rd-party developer did this and it wasn't terribly bug-ridden, it would be taken up by the core integration plugins. Cf. the Pubget team and the new locator engine system-- if certainly wasn't a priority of the core team, but the patches were encouraged and ultimately included (in Zotero 2.1).

    There are freelance development shops out there that will take projects like this-- I remember seeing a Mozilla bug that was solved on contract by a Polish freelance developer. Don't know how much these things run, but they may not be that expensive.
  • edited May 21, 2011
    It would be great if we could just "unformat" and "reformat" citations to combine several citations fields (reference records) next to each other to combine them to one citation field with multiple references. This "unformat" feature is already used in RTF scan feature. I hope it can be incorporated to word/OOo plugins.
  • This is a deal breaker problem for me. Zotero has to be able to merge this, "1,2,3,4,6,8,9" into this, "1-4,6,8,9". A paper with the former cannot be submitted for peer review. If there is a way to do this and I just haven't found it, please let me know.
  • Just to be clear:
    - Zotero does support citations like "1-4,6,8,9" - they'll automatically come out this way in pretty much every numeric style we have if you enter them as multiple sources:
    See under Citation with Multiple items:

    - Because it has that function, Zotero does not support merging adjacent citations.
  • I'll chime in and say that I'm another author that finds the absence of a way to merge adjacent citations unfortunate. I write mostly medical articles. I start with an outline with sources for each text snippet. As I massage the text, I often merge or split snippets, and therefore need to merge or split citations. In the current user interface, so far as I can tell, I would need go into the multiple sources dialog and delete sources from one citation, then re-add the sources to the new citation, which is much more time-consuming than if I could just cut and paste individual sources between citations, ideally without bringing up a dialog box at all.

    As it is now, I edit entirely using single-source citations, then go back and fix things up when the article is nearly final. (I actually just go and add superscripted commas between individual citations, rather than use the multiple sources functionality, since it's considerably less time consuming. I get away with that fix because I generally use the AMA format with superscripted footnote numbers. If I used a parenthetical reference style, my workaround wouldn't work.)

    For me, the ideal solution would be to automatically merge adjacent citations (assuming the citation style calls for merging). I've never used a document style that allows adjacent non-merged citations, but if there is such a need, then there would be a need to prevent merging of adjacent citations when required.

    I don't know whether fixing this problem is worth the extra complexity, but I do know that this aspect of the current word processor plugins slows my workflow.
  • edited October 1, 2012
    Merging adjacent citations will be simple to handle in a conversion script. If you watch this space, something should be available in the next week or two.
  • edited April 26, 2013
    It is April 2013 and I have this merging problem.I wish "field edit" dialogue box had some module that we could combine or decombine references with some radio box or something! or I wish there was at least an online script that we could copy and paste the codes into it and get what we should put into Zotero to combine our citations. it could be useful for some other citations style as well.
  • edited April 26, 2013
    I'm getting ready to put together a several hundred page document, and this is basically a deal breaker for me. I'm really hoping there's a fix for this that I'm just not seeing.
  • nothing new.
  • Just checking back for any news on adjacent citation merge.
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