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MELPA License: GPL v3

Renders Org mode citations and bibliographies during export in Citation Style Language (CSL) styles using the citeproc-el library.

#f03c15 !! Important note, read this first (last updated on 2021-12-18) !! #f03c15

As native support for citations including CSL-based export is now part of Org (see the announcement and the relevant manual section), and the most recent org-ref version also supports CSL-formatting (see this video), citeproc-org is obsolete and will be in maintenance mode (reported bugs will be fixed), with only occasional backports from the Org-native CSL infrastructure, which is under active development. The recommended way of getting CSL-rendering of Org citations is therefore using native Org cites with the CSL export processor or using org-ref 3.

#f03c15 !! End of note !! #f03c15

Key features

  • pure Emacs Lisp solution, no external dependencies;
  • extensive support for citation styles described in CSL (Citation Style Language), an open format used, among others, by Zotero and Pandoc;
  • support for both org-ref cite links and the (experimental/WIP) Org citation syntax;
  • only BibTeX bibliography files are supported at the moment, but other formats, especially CSL and BibTeX-based ones such as Org-BibTeX and CSL-JSON are easy to add;
  • acts as a simple preprocessor for the Org exporter. In principle, this makes citeproc-org compatible with any Org export backend (e.g., it works with the built-in HTML and ODT backends, and org-to-blog exporters like ox-hugo), it can even be configured to replace BibTeX/biblatex during LaTeX export.

Table of Contents

Requirements and dependencies

citeproc-org requires Emacs 25.1 or later compiled with libxml2 support and Org-mode 9.0 or later. Rendering org-ref citation links requires org-ref, while rendering cites in the Org citation syntax requires an Org version that supports the syntax implemented by the wip-cite org-mode development branch.


citeproc-org is available in the MELPA package repository and can be installed using Emacs’s built-in package manager, package.el.


Using citeproc-org currently requires adding its main rendering function (citeproc-org-render-references) to org-mode’s org-export-before-parsing-hook. This makes it incompatible with org-ref’s own citeproc, which also uses this hook. Org-ref’s citeproc is not activated by default, but if you have added its renderer function, orcp-citeproc, to your org-export-before-parsing-hook then it has to be removed before setting up citeproc-org.

citeproc-org provides the Emacs command citeproc-org-setup to add its renderer to org-export-before-parsing-hook, which can be used interactively by invoking

M-x citeproc-org-setup

during an Emacs session. After the command’s execution citeproc-org will remain active until the end of the session. If you want to use it on a permanent basis then add the following line to your .emacs or init.el file:



citeproc-org supports two different Org citation syntaxes: org-ref citation links and, experimentally, the citation syntax used by the wip-cite development branch of org-mode. During the export process citeproc-org detects which type of citations are present in the document and automatically uses the corresponding citation parser. The two citation styles cannot be mixed.

In its basic use, citeproc-org overtakes citation rendering for non-LaTeX Org-mode export backends and exported org-mode citations are rendered in the default Chicago author-date CSL style during export. The handling of citations for LaTeX-based export backends does not change (but see Ignored export backends for ways of changing this behaviour).

Setting the CSL style

The CSL style used for rendering references can be set by adding a

#+CSL_STYLE: /path/to/csl_style_file

line to the Org-mode document. (CSL styles can be downloaded, for instance, from the Zotero Style Repository.) Dependent styles (which are not “unique” styles in the terminology of the Zotero Style Repository) are not supported.

CSL locales

By default, the en-US CSL locale file shipped with citeproc-org is used for rendering localized dates and terms in the references, independently of the language settings of Org documents. Additional CSL locales can be made available by setting the value of the citeproc-org-locales-dir variable to a directory containing the locale files in question (locales can be found at The directory must contain at least the en-US CSL locale.

If citeproc-org-locales-dir is set and an org-mode document contains a language setting corresponding to a locale which is available in the directory then citeproc-org will automatically try to use that locale for rendering the document’s references during export (the used locale will also depend on the used CSL style’s locale information).

Org-ref citations

The syntax and usage of org-ref citation and bibliography links is described in detail in the org-ref manual. citeproc-org relies on a few extensions of the basic syntax and semantics to support using locators, cite-specific pre/post texts, and suppressing affixes and authors in citations.

Locators and pre/post texts in cite links

org-ref supports adding pre and post texts to references in the description field of cite links using the pre_text::post_text syntax. citeproc-org also utilizes cite link descriptions for storing additional citation information but changes the syntax to be compatible with how CSL represents citations.

The basic syntax, inspired by pandoc’s citation syntax, is pre_text locator, post_text. For example, the cite link

[[cite:Tarski-1965][see chapter 1, for an example]] 

will be rendered as

(see Tarski 1965, chap. 1 for an example)

in the default CSL style.

The start of the locator part has to be indicated by a locator term, while the end is either the last comma if it is not followed by digits or, in the absence of such a comma, the end of the full description. The following locator terms are recognized: bk., bks., book, chap., chaps., chapter, col., cols., column, figure, fig., figs., folio, fol., fols., number, no., nos., line, l., ll., note, n., nn., opus, op., opp., page, p., pp., paragraph, para., paras., , ¶¶, §, §§, part, pt., pts., section, sec., secs., sub verbo, s.v., s.vv., verse, v., vv., volume, vol., vols.. Similarly to pandoc, if no locator term is used but a number is present then “page” is assumed.

If there are more than one cites in a cite link then their associated locators and pre/post texts can be specified by using semicolons as separators. For instance, the link

[[cite:Tarski-1965,Gödel-1931][p. 45;see also p. 53]]

renders as

(Tarski 1965, 45; see also Gödel 1931, 53)

with the default style.

When an Org-mode document is exported to a LaTeX-based format that should not be rendered by citeproc-org the cite link descriptions (if present) are rewritten to a form suitable for org-ref’s LaTeX export. The concrete form depends on the value of the citeproc-org-bibtex-export-use-affixes variable. If the value is nil (the default) then the rewritten content will be simply the concatenation of the pre text, the locator and the post text (of the first block, if there are more). If the value is non-nil then the rewritten content will be pre_text::locator post_text.

In our experience, setting citeproc-org-bibtex-export-use-affixes to non-nil works well with Natbib styles but causes errors when using the built-in LaTeX bibliography styles because their \cite command doesn’t accept a separate argument for post text.

Suppressing affixes and author names in citations

In certain contexts it might be desirable to suppress the affixes (typically brackets) around citations and/or the name(s) of the author(s). With org-ref and citeproc-org these effects can be achieved by using a suitable cite link type.

The variables citeproc-org-suppress-affixes-cite-link-types (defaults to ("citealt")) and citeproc-org-suppress-author-cite-link-types (defaults to ("citeyear")) contain the lists of link types that suppress citation affixes and/or author names.

Org-mode citations and bibliography using the “wip-cite” syntax

Currently only the the wip-cite development branch of Org supports this citaton syntax.

Bibliography file and placement

The path of the BibTeX file to be used has to be specified by a

#+BIBLIOGRAPHY: /path/to/bibtex_file

line, while the location where the rendered bibliography should be placed can be indicated by a


line in the document. If the document does not contain a #+BIBLIOGRAPHY: here line then the bibliography is omitted.


citeproc-org supports all citation forms implemented by the wip-cite development branch of Org. Short form citations contain only a single item id prefixed with an @ character with or without square brackets to indicate parentheses, e.g.,

In his magnum opus [@doe2018], Doe contradicts the earlier @doe2010.

which would be rendered as

In his magnum opus (Doe 2018), Doe contradicts the earlier Doe 2010.

in the default style.

Long form citations, in contrast, have a far more elaborate syntax, which supports multiple cites and pre/post texts:

[cite:common_pre_text;pre_text1 @itemid1 post_text1;...;pre_text_n @itemid_n post_text_n;common_post_text]

(using pre/post texts and multiple cites is, of course, optional). There is a parenthetical variant as well:

[(cite):common_pre_text;pre_text1 @itemid1 post_text1;...;pre_text_n @itemid_n post_text_n;common_post_text]


Similarly to org-ref cites, citeproc-org uses post-texts to represent cite locators. More concretely, the post-text field of cites can have the form locator, suffix, where the locator starts with a recognized locator term such as “p.” and "chap.” (see section Locators and pre/post texts in cite links, above, for the full list), and ends before the first comma or at the end of the whole post-text field if there is no comma. For example, the citation

[(cite):see @Doe2018 p. 123, for further references]

would be rendered as

(see Doe 2018, 123 for further references)

in the default style.

Output format configuration

Ignored export backends

citeproc-org does not render cite links for export backends that are on the list citeproc-org-ignore-backends (the default value is (latex beamer)). Citation rendering for these backends is handed over to the active default rendering mechanism (org-ref, for instance, uses BibTeX/biblatex for the latex and beamer backends).

By changing the value of citeproc-org-ignore-backends citeproc-org can be instructed to ignore or take over the rendering for certain backends. Most notably, setting its value to nil has the effect that references will always be rendered with citeproc-el even for LaTeX output, and BibTeX/biblatex will not be used at all.

Mapping export backends to citeproc-el formatters

citeproc-org uses the org, html and (optionally) latex citeproc-el output formatters to render citations and bibliographies when exporting an Org document. Since the org formatter has some limitations (stemming from the limitations of the Org-mode markup) it is recommended to use the html and the latex formatters for HTML and LaTeX-based export backends that can handle direct HTML or LaTeX output.

The mapping between export backends and output formatters can be configured by customizing the citeproc-org-html-backends and citeproc-org-latex-backends variables—if a backend is in neither of these lists then the org citeproc-el formatter is used for export.

Bibliography formatting

Most of the bibliography formatting parameters (heading, indentation etc.) can be configured—see the Citeproc Org customization group for details.


Thanks to John Kitchin and his co-developers for creating the excellent org-ref package. citeproc-org was inspired by and borrows some implementation ideas from John Kitchin’s org-ref citation processor.


Copyright (C) 2018 András Simonyi

Authors: András Simonyi

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see

The “Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition (author-date)” CSL style and the “en-US” CSL locale distributed with citeproc-org are both licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license and were developed within the Citation Style Language project (see The “Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition (author-date)” CSL style was written by Julian Onions with contributions from Sebastian Karcher, Richard Karnesky and Andrew Dunning.