Getting Productive with Scrivener & Zotero (and Alfred & ZotHero!)

Scrivener is a writing app that has become popular with fiction and non-fiction writers alike. I’ve heard from academic writers that the lack of native support for a citation system, the kind of thing that is available for other writing apps like Microsoft Word, turns some people off using it. With your favourite reference management app (like Mendeley, Endnote, Bibdisk or Zotero) and Word, you can easily look up the source you want to cite and add it into your document. That sort of facility isn’t so easy with my two tools of choice, Scrivener and Zotero. This post is about how I solved that problem.

The old way to add a reference or citation in Scrivener was to add a footnote and enter it by hand, or else open Zotero, find the reference, copy it (which I can never remember, I think it’s CMD-SHIFT-C), and paste it into Scrivener. With the use of the app Alfred for Mac however, and an amazing workflow written by Alfred user Deanishe, this process has been reduced to a few keystrokes. Firstly, this solution needs the Alfred Powerpack which costs £29 for a version 4 licence or £49 for a lifetime licence. It’s a bargain. With the Powerpack, you get to use an wealth of workflows that users have created, or create your own.

By installing the ZotHero workflow, you can then (taken from the Workflow page):

  • Perform full-text search across your Zotero database, including only searching specific fields
  • Copy citations using any CSL style you have installed in Zotero
  • Copy citations either in citation/note style or bibliography style
  • Copy citations in any locale supported by CSL
  • Citations are copied in multiple formats, so the right data are automatically pasted into the application you’re using
  • Trigger search while you type using the Snippet Trigger (you must assign the snippet keyword yourself in Alfred Preferences)

Here’s Alfred and ZotHero at work in Scrivener:

You can hopefully see I simply open Alfred with a Hotkey (alt-space in my case), type Zot, then any field, it can search all fields or specific, it gives me the matches, and I can then choose whether to open the file in Zotero, copy the short citation, copy the bibliography entry, or open the attachment. I can also change citation styles to any supported by Zotero, which also allows you to create your own.

Here’s an example of me searching my Zotero database for an Ingrid Monson article and opening the pdf document.

I hope you can see how quick and easy it is to find what you’re looking for in your Zotero library, whether you want to get the attachment open in a hurry or simply cite the research. As long as your information is correct when you put it in Zotero, you’re guaranteed to have the citation correct as well. It’s a real time saver.

The guy who put this together did so because a few of us on the Alfred forums were asking if an old version could be fixed. Deanishe took a look, and decided it was a mess and wrote this workflow from scratch, even though he had no use for it himself and hadn’t cited anything in years. So if you do end up using it, go and buy him a couple of coffees or beers via his Alfred user page, and feel free to email if you have any questions.

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