for Zotero

Bringing Zotero Citations
to a Word Processor Near You


RTF/ODF-Scan for Zotero is an add-on for the Zotero reference manager, which allows you to insert plain-text citation markers into documents you write with any word processor. After saving such a document in the OpenDocument Text (.odt) format, RTF/ODF-Scan can then convert these plain-text markers into regular, active Zotero citations. With this workflow, the add-on provides Zotero citation support for word processors for which no dedicated Zotero plugins exist, such as Google Docs and Scrivener.

RTF/ODF-Scan requires Zotero, LibreOffice and Zotero's LibreOffice plugin.


Installing the RTF/ODF-Scan add-on will add a Scannable Cite export translator to the Zotero client and change the RTF Scan option to RTF/ODF Scan.

Zotero for Firefox

In Firefox, install the add-on by clicking on the Download Add-on button to the left. On the next page, click the download link to the .xpi file (e.g. "zotero-odf-scan-v1.0.32-fx.xpi"). Firefox will then ask you whether you want to install the add-on. Select Allow and then Install when prompted.
Zotero LibreOffice plugin
Visit Zotero's word processor plugin installation page and click the installation link for Zotero's LibreOffice plugin for Zotero for Firefox.

Zotero Standalone

Download the add-on by clicking the Download Add-on button to the left. On the next page, right-click the download link to the .xpi file (e.g. "zotero-odf-scan-v1.0.32-fx.xpi") and select Save Link As.... Then, in Standalone, go to Tools --> Add-ons, click the gear icon, and select Install Add-on From File..., and select the downloaded .xpi file.
Zotero LibreOffice plugin
On its first run, Zotero Standalone will automatically install the Zotero LibreOffice plugin. If necessary, the plugin can be reinstalled from the Cite tab of the Zotero preferences.


Even if you don't use LibreOffice as your word processor, you'll still need this free and open source program for the conversion of RTF/ODF-Scan's plain-text citation markers into active Zotero citations. Obtain a copy at the LibreOffice website.

Inserting Citation Markers

From the Zotero Client

To generate citation markers in Zotero for Firefox or Zotero Standalone, first set the Default Output Format for Quick Copy to Scannable Cite in the Export tab of the Zotero Preferences. You can now insert citation markers into your document in two easy ways:

From the Zotero Website

It is also possible to generate citation markers directly from personal or group libraries on www.zotero.org using the Cite Item(s) bookmarklet. To install the bookmarklet, drag and drop the following link to your bookmarks bar:

Cite Item(s)

If you click the installed bookmarklet when viewing a single item in an online Zotero library, a dialog box will appear with the citation marker for that item, which you can then copy and paste into your document. The bookmarklet also works for single or multiple items when you're viewing an item listing. First check the checkboxes next to the items you wish to cite, and click the bookmarklet.

Working with Citation Markers

Citation markers look like this:

{ | Smith, (2012) | | |zu:2433:WQVBH98K}

Each marker is separated into five sections, separated by vertical lines (pipes). The first section may contain a citation prefix. The second section contains the authors (or title) and year of the cited item; this section only exists to show you which item is cited by the citation marker. The third section may contain a locator, such as a page number. The fourth section may contain a citation suffix. Finally, the fifth section contains a unique item identifier (consisting of a user/group ID and an item ID).

You are free to change the first four sections, but be careful to never modify the identifier section. If we add a citation prefix, locator, and suffix to the above marker, we get:

{See | Smith, (2012) |p. 45 | for an example |zu:2433:WQVBH98K}

will can later be turned into, with e.g. the APA citation style:

(See Smith, 2012, p. 45 for an example)

Formatting Prefixes and Suffixes

Text in citation prefixes and suffixes can be formatted in italics with single asterisks on either side (e.g. *Weltanschauung*), or in bold with double asterisks (e.g. **strongly**).

Suppress Author

You can suppress the author in the active Zotero citation by putting a minus sign (-) at the start of the second section of the citation marker.

{ |-Smith, (2012) | | |zu:2433:WQVBH98K}

This allows you to write "Smith (2012)" (where you write "Smith " by hand, and "(2012)" represents the Zotero citation).


The following locator labels are automatically recognized and reformatted according to the citation style and locale selected in Zotero. Note that you must included a space between locator label and number (e.g. ch. 6 instead of ch.6).

Locator Recognized label(s)
article "art."
chapter "ch." or "Ch."
subchapter "subch."
column "col."
figure "fig."
line "l."
note "n."
issue "no."
opus "op."
page "p." or "pp."
paragraph "para."
subparagraph "subpara."
part "pt."
rule "r."
section "sec."
subsection "subsec."
Section "Sec."
sub verbo "sv."
schedule "sch."
title "tit."
verse "vrs."
volume "vol."

Multiple Item Citations

Citation markers that are directly adjacent will be merged into a single Zotero citation, such as "(Smith 1776, 1791)". RTF/ODF-Scan automatically produces adjacent markers when you create citation markers from multiple items at once in Zotero.

Customizing the Second Section of Citation Markers

You can customize how the second and the last section of citation markers is generated with two so-called hidden preferences. See the Zotero documentation on hidden preferences for instructions on finding and changing hidden preferences. Both preferences can be toggled with right-click --> Toggle in the about:config settings window of Firefox or Zotero Standalone.

Setting this preference to "true" will add the item title to the citation marker (default: "false", i.e. only "author, (date)").
Setting this preference to "true" will change citation markers to use zotero://select links instead of simple item IDs (default: "false:, i.e. citation markers as displayed above). Select links have the disadvantage of being longer, but can be used to access Zotero items directly, e.g. by pasting them directly into Firefox's URL bar. This preference affects citation markers produced with the Scannable Cite export translator, bookmarklet, and reverse conversion. Because of the way library IDs are constructed in Zotero, the group IDs used in default markers and select links differ. Trying to switch formats manually will break RTF/ODF-Scan.

Saving and Converting your Document

Once you are done writing and inserting citation markers, save your document in the OpenDocument Text (.odt) format. If your word processor does not export to the ODT format, you can save the document into a format like .doc, .docx, or .rtf, open that file in LibreOffice, and resave it to .odt. Be careful, though, as every file format conversion may cause undesirable changes in formatting.

Then, select RTF/ODF Scan in Zotero's gear/action menu. Select ODF (to citations) as file type, select your saved .odt file as the input file, and set a target destination for the output file. Finally, click Next to convert your document.

Setting a Citation Style

Now open the converted document — by default it will have (citation) in its file name — in LibreOffice. In the toolbar of the Zotero LibreOffice plugin, click the Set Document Preferences button and choose a citation style. Click OK and Zotero will format all references in your document. If you want a bibliography, move the cursor to the desired location and click Insert Bibliography.

After conversion of citation markers with RTF/ODF-Scan, the Zotero citations in the new LibreOffice document are now active — they will update to reflect changes made in your Zotero database and, if you want to, you can change citation styles or add items to your document as if it had been authored using the Zotero LibreOffice plugin all along.

Reverse Conversion

RTF/ODF-Scan can also convert active Zotero citations in an ODF document back to citation markers. This can be useful if you started writing in LibreOffice but want to switch to a word processor without a dedicated Zotero plugin. For this option, select ODF (to markers) as file type during the document conversion.


Please ask any questions and report problems to the RTF/ODF - Scan thread on the Zotero forums.