Troubleshooting: Google Docs

Note: A new version of Paperpile is coming in summer 2024. Please visit our temporary new Help Center until these pages are updated.

Paperpile uses a service called Google Apps Script to format citations within your documents. Most problems with Apps Script are easily resolved, but like any cloud-based service, Apps Script can suffer occasional outages and is not immune to bugs. Here are some tips for what to do when something has gone wrong.


The Google Docs plug-in requires no special installation — if you have installed the Chrome extension and are logged into Paperpile, the plug-in will load automatically when you open a Google Doc. To verify this, look for the "Paperpile" menu and the "P" button on the right of the toolbar.

If the plug-in is not loading: make sure you are logged into Paperpile by visiting, then reload the Google Docs tab. If the plug-in is still not loading, try reloading the Chrome extension (instructions are here).

If you wish to disable the Docs plug-in at any point, you can access this setting from the Paperpile settings panel: Settings > Browser Integration.


The first time you format a Google Document, the Paperpile plug-in must be authorized. This allows the Paperpile plug-in to scan and modify your document with the same permissions as you do. Note that Paperpile will only process your document when explicitly triggered to do so.

When you click "Authorize plug-in", a window will pop up indicating that the script requires authorization.

Click Continue and a second window will show, listing the permissions to be granted to the Paperpile plug-in:

Click Accept and the windows should close automatically, allowing you to continue formatting your document.

In rare cases, an issue with the Apps Script service has caused this authentication to fail, yielding a message "The script has been denied access to your data." even when a user clicks Accept:

This authorization error is usually temporary, possibly caused by an outage in the Apps Script system. Please try again in an hour, or contact support if the issue persists.

Google Accounts

The Google Docs plugin can only be run when using Google Docs with your Paperpile-linked Google Account. Look at the upper-right corner of both the Paperpile and Google Docs browser tabs. If the email address shown in each tab is the same, then the Paperpile plug-in should work correctly.

Multiple accounts: The Paperpile plugin might not work correctly if you are using Google Docs (or other Google services) simultaneously with multiple Google accounts across different tabs. In that case, sign out completely from all Google Docs tabs and sign-in again only with your Paperpile-linked Google account.

Shared documents: Sometimes it can take up to 15 minutes for changes in the sharing status of a document to propagate to the Paperpile Docs plug-in. If a document was recently shared with you and you are seeing an "authorization" error when formatting citations, wait a while and try again before contacting support.

Unconverted Word files

Google Docs now allows you to edit Microsoft Word (.DOCX) files directly in Google Docs. At the moment, however, it is not technically possible for Paperpile to format your bibliography directly in such an unconverted .DOCX file. To fix, convert your document with "File > Save as Google Docs".

Formatting Problems

If an error occurs when formatting your document, Paperpile will display a list of messages indicating what went wrong. Here is a summary of known errors and potential solutions:

  • The Paperpile server took too long to respond.

    The Paperpile server takes your citation data and turns it into foramtted textual citations and a biliography, which usually takes just a few seconds. This message is shown when that network request takes longer than 30 seconds or fails entirely. The entire Paperpile server may be down or experiencing heavy load, or a temporary network glitch may cause the issue.

    Try formatting your document again. If the problem persists, visit @paperpile on Twitter for the latest status updates or contact support.

  • The document was modified during processing.

    Since Google Docs allows real-time collaboration, a document being written by several coauthors may be changing rapidly. If citations are added or removed while you are formatting a document, the plug-in may detect an inconsistent state and fail to continue.

    Try formatting your document again once the active editing of citations has slowed.

  • There was an error styling the text for one of your citations.

    In rare circumstances, Paperpile will fail to correctly set the style (e.g., italics, bold) for an inline citation. This may happen when a citation is at the very end of a paragraph.

    Try re-formatting your document; often these isolated errors go away after re-running the processor. If the problem persists, try adding or removing some text before or after the problematic citation and re-format again.

  • An error occurred when loading one or more of your citations.

    If something makes it impossible for Paperpile to find your citations in its database (e.g. a broken identifier in your document, or an unexpected database failure) you may see this message, along with the text "[Citation error]" somewhere in your document.

    The best solution here is to remove the "[Citation error]" text, re-insert the original citation, and re-format your document.

  • An unexpected / Google Apps Script error occurred

    The actual modification of your document is done via Google Apps Script, a programming environment for Google Docs. Since Apps Script is an evolving product, unexpected issues may arise that were not accounted for by the Paperpile developers. If you see this message, they have already been notified of this error and may get in touch with you for more details.

    You can try reformatting your document to see if the error is not repeated.

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