Review: Paperpile Citation Manager

Are you addicted to Google Docs and are looking for a citation manager, PDF reader, or research workflow system? Do you wish you could just cite while you write in Google docs like you do with Zotero or Mendeley in Word? Do you have an extra $36 a year to spare?

Then you might want to try Paperpile!

Paperpile App Main Menu

Paperpile is a simplified reference management system and research workflow program for Google Chrome created by three computational biologists based in Vienna.


  • Easy to use
  • Can organize your sources when you’re trying to write a paper or doing readings
  • A lot of explanatory text in the app
  • Allows you to import metadata and PDFs from your browser (similar to Zotero’s one click import) and asks you if you want to add the item (PDF and details) to Paperpile
  • The annotations feature makes readings and notes for classes a lot of fun with very pretty colors
  • When the PDF is not encrypted, if you highlight the text it will copy the highlighted text into notes with your annotations that you can then copy and paste when writing a paper
  • Wide range of document types and citation styles
  • You can cite while you write in Google Docs
  • Provides look up to find similar journal articles to what you are researching, which allows you to do research through the app, especially if you’re doing research from science databases
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • 15 GB of free space through Google
  • Good customer service
  • Thorough explanatory material
Highlighted text with annotations in the Paperpile app

Excerpt from Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1).
And check out Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal and more great undergraduate research in IDEALS!


  • High cost ($36), especially compared to solid free options like Mendeley and Zotero
  • Requires Internet access
  • Although the company is in the process of developing a plugin for MS Word, currently, Paperpile is heavily reliant on Google and Google Drive
  • Paperpile is a proprietary software and a startup so there are risks that they will go out of business or be bought by a larger company
    • Though, should the worst happen Paperpile uses open standards that will allow you to get your PDFs, citations out — even if they are in an ugly format — as well as the highlighted text saved in your PDFs, which can be downloaded through Google Drive
  • Paperpile is a very new product and there are still a lot of features to be worked out
    • I will say however that it is a lot less buggy than a lot of comparable reference management / PDF annotation software that have been around longer and aren’t classified as in beta, like Readcube and Highlights

Paperpile is comparable to: Mendeley, iLibrarian, colwiz, Highlights.

Learn more about personal information management through our PIM Libguide, various Savvy Researcher workshops and more! Let us know about your strategies for keeping everything organized in the comments!


Introducing Mark Zulauf, Coordinator for Researcher Information Systems, University Library Office of Research

Picture of Mark Zulauf

This post is the second in our series profiling the expertise housed in the Scholarly Commons and our affiliate units in the University Library. Today we are featuring Mark Zulauf, Coordinator for Researcher Information Systems. Mark joined the library in August.

What is your background education and work experience?

I got my bachelor’s degree in German from Illinois College and a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Illinois. After earning my M.A., I left campus for a few years to work in publishing. I started as an editor with Human Kinetics and then came back to campus as a technical editor for the Illinois State Geological Survey. Most recently, prior to joining the Library, I worked for over 8 years at the Graduate College, where I managed the daily operations of the Thesis Office and the Postdoctoral Affairs Office.

What is your role here at the Library? What led you into this field?

I’m the coordinator for researcher information systems, which is part of the Office of Research. I’m currently working on building out the faculty and researcher profile system Illinois Experts (which, until recently, was called Illinois Research Connections).

Having worked at the Graduate College with graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty, this project interested me because I enjoy working with researchers to help them find ways to get the word out about the exciting and important projects they’re working on. That’s what Illinois Experts is all about–it’s an easily accessible portal into the University to show the depth and breadth of research going on here on campus. It’s intended to foster connections between faculty, students, postdocs and other researchers on campus and elsewhere and to showcase the importance of our work to government, industry, and the public.

What projects are you currently focusing on?

We launched the beta phase of Illinois Experts this past spring, and we’re continuing to build the project out. We’ve currently got about 1,800 faculty profiles for STEM and social sciences faculty, as well as for researchers within the institutes under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. What we don’t currently have publicly visible are profiles for faculty in the arts and humanities. This is because a lot of the publications information in our system comes from the Elsevier Scopus citation and abstract database, which doesn’t provide much representation for arts and humanities researchers. We want to make sure those faculty members’ profiles are representative of what they do. So we want to flesh those out before making them public. We’re also working to expand the number of profiles in the system to include non-tenure line researchers—specialized and emeritus faculty, as well as academic professional researchers.

What are your favorite work-related duties?

As I mentioned, I enjoy working with researchers and sharing in their sense of excitement about the projects they’re working on. I also enjoy the technical side of my job—getting into the administrative interface of the system, seeing what it has to offer, and leveraging the different bells and whistles to provide a thorough showcase of research taking place on campus.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

Illinois Experts! Beyond that, I like to highlight Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty. It’s a wonderful resource produced by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and, though it was written with biomedical investigators in mind, it covers a number of topics that are useful to all researchers. Things like negotiating a faculty position, mentoring, time management strategies, collaborating with other researchers and so on. There’s also a Chinese translation available.

For what sorts of research or questions should library users contact you for assistance?

Faculty and departments can contact me for assistance in interacting with their profiles and adding information to them. We’re happy to help them with that. Individuals can add portraits to their profiles, research statements, and other information to make them more discoverable. They can also add links to individual or lab web pages.

And anyone can contact us to ask how they can leverage Illinois Experts to find other researchers or current research. For example, graduate students can use the system to discover potential dissertation committee members, postdocs can use it find possible faculty mentors, researchers can use it to find reviewers, and so on.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Keep your eyes on Illinois Experts! We’re still building the system out and adding features. Just today we’re going through a system upgrade. In addition to the other information currently included in our researcher profiles, we’re now able to add media coverage that features Illinois researchers and the impact of their work. This is done via a connection to a service called Newsflo, which tracks media coverage for mentions of researchers and their findings.

To learn more about Illinois Experts visit their website at You can also learn about the system at the Savvy Researcher Workshop on November 15 at 3 pm.   Have any questions? Email Mark Zulaf or contact The Scholarly Commons.