I am setting up an Overleaf account to work with my Zotero account and ran into an annoying issue. I have one folder within my Zotero library which contains all the references I want to use in a paper, but Overleaf didn't give me any options when linking to Zotero and has created a references.bib file which contains references to every single source inside my Zotero library. This is annoying because my library is quite a bit larger than the folder I want to use as my set of references.

Is there any way to use only a single Zotero folder as a source of references for an Overleaf project?

Thanks for any help or suggestions you may be able to offer!

  • Wrong stackexchange.
    – user117200
    Feb 11, 2020 at 22:35
  • 5
    @TheoreticalMinimum I believe it is a valid question for academia.stackexchange. Every question under the "reference-managers" tag for instance is of the same flavor. Feb 11, 2020 at 23:00
  • I also think that this question about reference management software (tools that are almost exclusively made for and used by academia) is perfectly on-topic and may be relevant for many. If it closes I will vote to re-open. As for the answer: maybe you can work around this by splitting up the library before importing it into overleaf?
    – Louic
    Feb 12, 2020 at 7:15
  • What exactly is annoying about having a larger .bib database? I don't really see the issue here. Feb 12, 2020 at 21:00
  • @FedericoPoloni (1) Zotero is slower when the .bib file has thousands and thousands of annotated entries as opposed to only the couple dozen that I need, (2) it is unsightly when I want to look inside the .bib file at a note attached to one of the entries, and (3) I have to use longer cite keys which wastes a little bit of time every time I have to type one (longer because while I may only have 1 paper by an author needed for this paper, I have 20 more in my complete library). Feb 14, 2020 at 21:56

4 Answers 4


One faster workaround that allows specifying a single folder of your library is using the automatic export of Zotero's Better BibTex plugin and the New File -> from External URL feature of overleaf (e.g. over google drive).

This will still require a manual refresh of the file after changes but it will be much faster.


My approach is to select my folder and then manually select the items that I want to export to Overleaf. That might be the entire folder, in which case I can press Ctrl + A to select all items; or it might be most of them. I then select "Export Items" and upload the resulting .bib file to Overleaf.

You can see an example here (selected all but one item I didn't want to cite):

enter image description here

  • 1
    That works fine but is quite annoying to do for a working draft of a long paper where the bibliography is receiving regular updates. Overleaf has a nice import feature which imports directly from Zotero and is kept automatically up to date, which is what I'm using. The only downside is that the .bib file is huge. However, given that I am adding to the bib file often, this is still preferable to exporting and reuploading for every single change. Feb 14, 2020 at 21:52

Currently, no you cannot import just one folder from Zotero to Overleaf and use that for the references. I have actually asked Overleaf for this directly in the past, and they have logged it as a feature request in their system. I would suggest emailing their support email to express interest in this as well, so that hopefully that will show there is enough interest for it to be added.

Until then, the workarounds given above will have to suffice.


I just setup Zotero for myself and was not fond of having all my references being added, even though I would only cite a few. Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of the Zotero API and Overleaf's option to add a file from external URL.

To get a URL for your collection, you will need your userID and a key for API access. You can get both from https://www.zotero.org/settings/keys (userID will already be listed, and create a new private key - remember to copy that key somewhere).

Then assuming that you already have a collection / folder created on Zotero with references / items listed, go to https://api.zotero.org/users/<userID>/collections?key=<privateKey> (replace the values as indicated), and find your collection by checking for data.name, and then copy its key. Finally, now your collection would be at https://api.zotero.org/users/<userID>/collections/<collectionKey>/items?key=<privateKey>&format=bibtex (replace values, and format as desired - refer https://www.zotero.org/support/dev/web_api/v3/basics). You can use this URL on Overleaf by pressing "Upload" and "From External URL".

The disadvantage to this, however, is that you will have to manually refresh from Overleaf to reflect changes but that has not been a major inconvenience.

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