How to manage files (PDFs) between Zotero and Scrivener

edited December 5, 2017
A newbie to both programs. When I add a resource to Zotero (a PDF, say), Zotero keeps track of it. But Scrivener has a way to keep track of research materials as well, and stores added PDFs internal to your Scrivener project. How do I get both programs to reference the same physical file? Do I add the file to Zotero (either a downloaded PDF, or directly from a web page) and then drag that file that Zotero is keeping track of to Scrivener? But will Scrivener make its own separate copy?

I'm interested in the correct workflow when using the two programs and to not duplicate the files that they are keeping track of. Thanks!
  • I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of Scrivener's file storage is, but I would recommend just storing and organizing all of your files in Zotero. I don't believe there is a way to get the two programs to easily share files, and I suspect trying will produce a lot of unnecessary headaches.

    You can use the Zutilo plugin (follow the link from to add a "Copy select item links" option to Zotero's right-click menu. This will copy a link to the item in your Zotero library (e.g., zotero://select/items/1_FM4LRKVJ) that you can paste into Scrivener to quickly access a relevant file for a particular section in your manuscript.

    To add citations from Zotero to Scrivener, you will want to install the ODF Scan plugin into Zotero (also follow the link from The workflow you will use is this:
    (1) As you write in Scrivener, copy citations from Zotero in the "Scannable Cite" format and paste into Scrivener.
    (2) Once you are done writing, export from Scrivener to .odt format.
    (3) Scan the file with Zotero's RTF/ODF Scan function to convert the placeholder citations into live Zotero citations.
    (4) Open the file in LibreOffice for final formatting.

    (By the way, when you are adding items to Zotero, you always want to attach PDFs to a proper Zotero bibliographic item—that opens up most of Zotero's functionality. See here for more details:
  • I know nothing about Scrivener, but in Zotero you can associate PDF files (any attachment in general) via a link to the file. In such cases, the PDF is just like any other PDF on your computer. If Scrivener has a similar feature, then yes, you can have both programs pointing to the same file.
  • I have installed everything (Scrivener, Zotero, Zotero plug in and set it as "Scannable cite".

    However, whenever I want to copy the citation (using command + shift + c for Mac or do it manually) it gives me this error

    >>>"An error occurred while trying to export the selected file."<<<

    I have tried with all my PDF files I have in Zotero and it always shows me this error. How can I overcome this problem?
  • This won't work for PDFs. You would need to do this for Zotero items that contain actual metadata like author, title, date, etc. For PDFs, either use right-click --> retrieve metadata or right-click --> create parent item to add that information.
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