Suppress Author in Author/Date-Style (APA)

Dear all,

just a question, as I was reading through the Zotero-Webpages in relation to the 'Suppress author' option in Zotero (refer to

While I really like this option, to my opinion, it is not yet 100% perfect.
I'll give you an example in relation to the APA Style (Author/ Date):

1st citation in the text: According to Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, & Jackson (2012), the following is…
2nd citation (same author) in the text: Additionally, Easterby-Smith et al. (2012) state, that…

If I now work with the suppress author option, I manually enter the author's names for both citations. But what happens, if I change the first citation into another author or even delete it? Then the (now) 2nd citation, will be the 1st one and therefore the format should change from "et al." to the "complete" naming of all authors. But that won't work automatically, as I enter the author details manually by text..

How may I avoid that problem? Or wouldn't it maybe make sense to present the author names in the suppress author function and let the user manually add the year??? But that might even cause problems, once the user has more than one item where the authors and the year are the same (-> e.g. 2011a, 2011b, 2011c)...

Or maybe I am totally wrong: How do other author/date-style (APA) zotero users work on that issue?

Would be glad to receive some feedback on that issue.

Thanks in advance.
  • You're right that Zotero does not attempt to write in the author name in "suppressed-author" citations. It's designed to work that way; you're not missing anything.

    This issue has been discussed pretty thoroughly in the past. Here are a few of the links, there may be more:
  • (FWIW, one of the things that makes this difficult is that the first citation in APA would _not_ be "Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, & Jackson (2012), the following is…" but rather "Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, and Jackson (2012), the following is…" i.e. the ampersand is only used in parentheses, not in the text.)
  • I also face the problem encountered by @Mr. Playboy and wonder whether there is a workable solution by now. I personally would prefer an alternative to "Suppress Author" of the kind "Authors Outside Parenthesis" that would create a Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, and Jackson (2012) field inside a manuscript at its first appearance and Easterby-Smith et al. (2012) from then on – thereby assisting with the specific requirements of APA style.
  • edited October 31, 2018
    No, there is no solution. It has been requested many times. This is discussed in more detail here:

    I wrote a Word macro for myself that will do this (details in the other thread), but must be customized to specific styles*, and it won't (currently) handle the sort of APA "&">"and" conversion.** If the "et al." issue is by default handled within parentheses as well, it would be carried over.

    [*It's not currently setup for APA. It wouldn't be too hard to switch it, but you'd need to work out a bit more regarding the text-replacement part of the macro where the year and pages are stripped, because APA's format has a little additional punctuation, like the commas and extra spaces.]
    [**You could relatively straight-forwardly also just replace "&" with "and", assuming that switch is exceptionless in all possible cites. One problem would be, for example, an organizational author with an ampersand, where you might not want to change it. Say, if "M&M's" was the author of something, you probably wouldn't want "MandM's" instead. Possible to do a more complex text manipulation, but not something I'm going to try to take at the moment. Regardless, like the rest, this really should be addressed within Zotero when generating the cite rather than by text-manipulation afterwards, but that's not the case yet...]
  • @djross3 Thanks for the info on your workaround. This appears to be a tricky issue to resolve. Apparently, the number of competing non-ideal solutions lead to an inertia about this matter.
  • No, it's not the number of competing ideas, really. It's the fact that anything that involves CSL and citeproc changes involves many people, different tools, and many projects so there is a) a substantial need for coordination and b) many people who aren't doing this full time and have varying amounts of time at any given point involved that need to agree and then coordinate.
  • edited October 31, 2018
    The difficulty of a 'perfect' solution has prevented any progress on one that works. For 10 years.

    If "suppress author" is possible, then "suppress all but author" should also be possible. It was lazily half-solved before, and then left alone. Sorry, but that's the truth. It's no harder to add the other half of the solution. Plus having the option to not include parentheses would be great, and allow for all options. This has been clearly outlined in the other thread many times.

    I do understand that this would take some coordination for multiple components, but having something that works even for just the most common cases (for example, only handling parentheses, even if other styles use some other symbols) would solve it for 99% of users.

    10 years, no progress. I don't understand why this isn't more of a priority. I also don't understand why "suppress author" was implemented in the first place, without plans for more. It's like if Nike decided to only manufacture left-foot shoes, without considering the need for right feet.

    The ironic part is that APA, for example, is a hard style for this, and that has prevented any progress. Yet if a general-case solution was implemented, I'm sure someone would step in to patch for APA too, and it would all be solved.
  • A great strategy to motivate volunteers to advance a project, by the way, is to lecture and harangue them. For me, when I think about which of the many projects I could be working on to turn to, "I'll get lectured by someone with virtually no open-source project background on how to do this right" is always a big pro.
  • edited October 31, 2018
    What's your suggestion? This has been left half-solved for 10 years, and it is probably the single most requested feature on the forums (no exaggeration). I've personally been talking about it for about a year, and you're correct that the polite/diplomatic thing for me to do would just be to stop talking about it. But that's not a solution either. I asked at one point about fundraising to get this feature implemented. I wrote my own (yes, very awkward) macro and shared it with everyone.

    Do you have any sincere suggestions aside from pointing out how difficult it is? And since you're making this personal now, I'm going to call you out directly: you've spent much of the last 10 years pointing out how complicated APA is, discouraging anyone from trying to solve this for the other styles that are not so complicated. (Not to mention the red herring of how this could make conversion to footnote styles difficult, which is clearly a secondary issue and not a priority for the users needing this on a daily basis.) You've also downplayed the importance of this feature, which is frustrating.

    If you don't personally want to be involved in solving this, I completely understand. No problem. But if you don't have anything constructive to add, then are you really not being hypocritical for criticizing me for bringing it up? I was not "haranguing" you personally about this, but you're the one who replied, and now you're making it personal about me.

    If there is any productive way forward, I'm in. I just don't see what it is, given that this issue is perpetually ignored, despite how many different people have asked for it. I'm essentially irrelevant here, personally. (Plus my macro works for me personally, so whatever...)
  • It is indeed the case that sometimes just being polite is the best you can do, yes, and I don't see why that shouldn't be an option.

    There's a recently opened ticket which is waiting for input from the citeproc-js dev, who is currently tied up in his academic work. So I guess taking over coding and maintenance of citeproc-js is a thing you could do -- I understand that's not a realistic "thing you [or I or most people] can do" but maybe it helps you understand why sometimes things just take a while and the nice thing to do is to ask "anything I can do to help" and not "you're dumb because you're not doing ABC".
  • It is indeed the case that sometimes just being polite is the best you can do, yes, and I don't see why that shouldn't be an option.
    Many people have been polite, for 10 years. And my lack of being polite here is calling out how long it has taken and asking for it repeatedly. So your suggestion is that I stop asking and go away?

    Your tone has come across as generally discouraging of this feature request, so I have assumed you would not be interested in implementing it. Again, I have no problem with that (but it is why I'm confused about your replies in these threads). If, on the other hand, I have misinterpreted this, and you do plan to work on it, that's wonderful, and, sincerely, thank you!
    There's a recently opened ticket which is waiting for input from the citeproc-js dev, who is currently tied up in his academic work.
    There was no mention of this in the main thread about this, or elsewhere on the forums. But that's great!
    So I guess taking over coding and maintenance of citeproc-js is a thing you could do -- I understand that's not a realistic "thing you [or I or most people] can do"
    You are correct this is not my area of expertise. Regardless, the actual implementation is best done by the developers who are intimately familiar with the source code because this is a minor change that is complicated to add.
    (I am an amateur programmer, by the way, mostly for web design and server-side languages, and as all programmers know the hardest thing is correctly integrating new features into old, unfamiliar code. That's why I haven't tried to dive into helping here.)
    but maybe it helps you understand why sometimes things just take a while
    That's incredibly condescending! This is why your tone comes off the wrong way on the forums often.
    More to the point, "things just take a while" doesn't usually mean 10 years!!! I'd genuinely by happy if someone just told me "yes, we're working on it, and it'll probably be ready by 2020" (assuming the timeframe was genuine). I'm not saying I need it today, or yesterday. Would be nice. But this has been a problem for 10 years, and it needs to be addressed. I am not, however, saying "hurry up lazy programmers". I'm saying "Please work on this when you can." The answers so far have been that no one is working on it. You've just said otherwise, which again is great.
    the nice thing to do is to ask "anything I can do to help"
    Is there anything I can do to help?
    (Again, I won't be much help coding Zotero.)
    I have already provided clear outlines for how this can be implemented in the other thread (as have others). I'm not sure what else there is to do, except to encourage the developers to take this idea seriously.
    not "you're dumb because you're not doing ABC".
    1. I have not said that. Not a reasonable accusation.
    2. What I have said, and what is absolutely true, is that this should be considered a real priority. That's very different from issues of delays or difficulty. I have said the developers should do this. I've also called the current half-solution lazy, which is literally true: it solves half of the problem. I genuinely don't understand why it was half-solved!

    All I've been pushing for is that this is added to the "to do" list. It sounds like it has. I appreciate that. And I hope the people with the right skills take it on soon :)
  • @djross3 You’ve made your concerns and preferences known many times, and you have been asked to moderate your conversational tone many times. Everyone involved in Zotero and CSL is aware of the need. Further snide comments to that effect really won’t help and just serve to make people working on this issue miserable. Please stop.
  • edited October 31, 2018
    Everyone involved in Zotero and CSL is aware of the need.
    For 10 years, with zero progress, and no updates. Often the response to concerns, suggestions, etc., has been dismissive too. Sorry, but that doesn't cut it.
    Further snide comments to that effect really won’t help and just serve to make people working on this issue miserable.
    Again, who is working on this issue? adamsmith's comment above is the first time any plans have been suggested on the forums, which is great, but explains why the question keeps coming up. If there is someone working on it, I'll happily stop spending my time bringing it up.

    I'm really not trying to make trouble, but this has been ignored for 10 years, and it is the biggest problem with Zotero, by far (aside from immediate issues like OS updates causing the software to crash, which of course get first priority). Others who haven't complained as much as me have just given up, and some have moved to other software because of it.


    Again, to be clear, my attitude of frustration is based not on the developers/volunteers doing something "wrong", but that comments in general on the forum are "yeah, we know about that, we've known for 10 years, and we don't have any plans to address it". It sounds like there are plans now, so I'm happy.

    But to be fair to me, isn't it because of me (and others!) complaining that this has finally caught the attention of the developers? I've tried to be as genuinely helpful as I can, and if there is anything else I can do, please let me know.
  • To continue off-topic:

    I am a great believer in open source software and I am immensely grateful for the swift and competent responses I have received from, for instance, @bwiernik and @adamsmith over the years. I think a weakness of such awesome projects such as Zotero is that they are severely understaffed and depend on the work of some key volunteers.

    While I understand the frustration that additional options to "Suppress Authors" have not yet been implemented, I also would not push this too hard. To bring this politely back to attention once in a while is surely a useful thing but not at the risk of loosing key volunteers on which Zotero support depends. Zotero is not ideal but it does a pretty good job. If other solutions seem better suited, one could always change.

    I wish @fbennett good luck for his writing project. Get it done. ;)
  • edited November 1, 2018
    @djross3 said "...if there is anything else I can do...

    Yes, there is. Please moderate your aggressive, belligerent tone. Your impatience doesn't help to motivate anyone.

    @adamsmith is a hardworking volunteer. He takes pride in his contributions. He usually patiently takes time to help people through their problems. Sometimes his tone can be abrupt. This is especially so when he reads what he judges to be unwarranted criticism of Zotero. Although he has taken me to task for my own comments I am defending him here.

    Things are constantly being done to improve Zotero even though the project has a small budget and few full time workers. The thing you are demanding involves more than the core Zotero paid and volunteer team. It involves the CSL processor and (maybe) CSL itself. The change can affect styles beyond APA and software other than Word so must be implemented carefully.

    The strength of one person's desire or even the want of a fairly large group cannot be the primary way Zotero's direction is established. There are many less obvious things to consider.

    Although there is little doubt that Zotero is currently the best reference management software available, there are many things to be done to improve Zotero. Some of these are being implemented but others must wait until Zotero moves to a new programming platform.
  • Just a note to say that there has been some progress on this front in the citation processor, and that a solution in Zotero is planned.
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