Monday, October 20, 2014

Google doc + Flow: an imperfect online reference management solution

Working on a manuscript simultaneously with your collaborators in Google doc is such a fun thing!

How about inserting references?

We usually download the manuscript into Word (*.doc) when it's nearly done and insert references in MS Word with external software such as Papers, EndNote etc. Most of the reference managers are not free. Now, this pain is over!

Solution: use Flow!

Flow supports to save the references from website to your Flow account and then from your Google doc Add-on, you can insert and format citations easily.

Here is the steps:
1. Set up a Flow account (you can also create a collection and share with your collaborator)
2. Import references from web sites (or other tools such as Mendeley etc.):
3. Install Google Add-on for Flow:
3. Done!


  1. Hi Xianjun! I'm Nicky, the Community Manager for Flow. Thanks for this great guide to Flow and Google Docs. We love feedback, so if you have any to share with us about Flow, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

    1. HI Nicky, nice to see your visit here. Actually I found Flow every convenient, except that (1) when I (or my collaborator) move to work on the manuscript from Google doc to MS Word - this is specially the situation at the end of writing - the reference tags inserted in Google doc are not recognized by MS Word. (2) when I use the friendly browser plugin to get reference from website such as PubMed, it won't get the abstract, even though you do have a field for abstract. (3) Can I set tag or label to my reference? It would be good to add a field so that I can group my references by tag/label. Thanks.

  2. Cannot sign up a flow account using Wuhan University email. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. I don't have the problem with my Harvard email. You can sent them email. They are pretty responsive.