How to Use Citavi for Reference Management (A Detailed Guide)

What is Citavi?

As a reference management software and knowledge organizer, Citavi comes in handy for your entire research process. Right from searching for sources, analyzing content, structuring ideas until you write your paper.

Citavi is managed by Swiss Academic Software GmbH, in Switzerland. It is applicable for use by organizations, students, researchers, libraries, businesses, government agencies as well as non-profit organizations.

The latest version in use is Citavi 6.

How to install Citavi

Currently, Citavi only operates on Windows operating systems.

  • To install on your PC, do the following:
  • Go to
  • Download the setup by double clicking on Citavi6Setup.exe.
  • Pop-up windows will appear, to assist you in the installation.
  • When ‘Citavi was successfully installed’ appears, you are ready to go.

To install Citavi on a Mac,

  • Use third party options. These virtual programs can operate Windows on your Mac for you. They include Oracle VirtualBox, VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop.

How to access Citavi

  • Once you install Citavi, it operates in free mode (Citavi Free) as long as you use 100 references or less. This option doesn’t expire. For more than 100 references, you have to get a license.
  • For students, if your institution has a Citavi site license, you can access it for free by creating an account.
  • Citavi licenses are available from their online shop. Create an account and fill in all login credentials.
  • If using Citavi on your PC, your license information is saved onto your computer. This enables you to use the tool offline.

Citavi comes with an extension known as Picker. It allows you to get more details from PDF files and web pages. However, it is optional for use.

Now that you have a Citavi account, let’s get started, shall we?

How to start a Citavi project

  1. When you open Citavi, a start-up window prompts you to ‘Let’s go’. Click on it.
  2. A log in window will appear. Log in to your account and click ‘Next’.
  3. The welcome screen displays different icons.
  4. At the bottom, click on ‘New project’. Here, there are two locations for your new project:
  5. Cloud project – when you create a new project here, you will be able to access it on any computer. You can also share it with others.
  6. Local project – this location stores your projects either on your hard drive for individual use or on a network drive for small teams.
  1. Name your project and click ‘OK’ at the bottom.
  2. A new window appears, displaying the interface. Citavi has three workspace editors namely References, Knowledge and Tasks. Each of these has a three column layout also.

We will look at how each of the three functions.

How to add references

Method 1

  • Click on the ‘References’ editor on the top left, below the main menu bar.
  • To add existing references from your desktop,
  • Locate, drag and drop the files onto the first column on the left. Citavi will scan all citation data for the documents you want to use.

Method 2

  • Alternatively, go to ‘File’ from the menu bar. Click on ‘import’. A pop-up window will display options to choose from. Click the appropriate one. This opens a new window from which to locate the folders containing references.
  • When you select the folder, Citavi then scans the documents for citation data.
  • Click on ‘Add to project’.
  • To add a book, click on the ‘magic wand’ from the toolbar. This is labelled as ISBN, DOI, Other ID. A pop-up window will prompt you to fill in the ISBN number. Citavi will scan for information from the library. Click the ‘Add to project’.

Method 3

To add references manually,

  • From the toolbar, click on ‘References’.
  • From the pop-up window, select your preferred reference type. There are upto 35 types to choose from.
  • A new window will open. Here, enter all the fields. Other field labels are in blue. This means that you can enter additional information.

The references editor has other tools you can use. These include:

  1. Content – use this to add the abstract, table of content and an evaluation.
  2. Context – allows you to add categories, groups, links and keywords.
  3. Quotations and comments – use this to jot down any ideas for your article.
  4. Tasks and locations – use this to add tasks for your references. Additionally, the locations pane allows you to save locations for your references and link files stored on your computer.

To create a bibliography for your references,

  • Click on the ‘Project bibliography’ icon from the toolbar.
  • Select the first option ‘print in current citation style’.
  • Your bibliography will appear in the editor.

How to export references

Most online databases provide this option. Some come as ‘export to’ while others like Citavi have the ‘Download citation’ option.

  • Click on the ‘Download citation’. A pop-up window appears.
  • Select the format in which you want to download. In most cases, the RIS format is preferred, as it can be imported to numerous referencing softwares. Click on ‘RIS’ format.
  • Citavi will scan the downloaded documents for citation information.
  • You can then save the downloads in your library folders.

To save web pages,

  • On the web page you wish to save, right-click on it.
  • Click ‘Citavi Picker’ then ‘Add web page as reference’.
  • The reference will be added onto your current project as an internet document.
  • From here, you can add any missing citation information.
  • Save the web page as a PDF file. This comes in handy in case the web page disappears from your browser.

In online databases, you may come across the Citavi symbol next to books or journal articles.

This means that you can import those resources as references. Once you click on it, it will have a green tick, indicating that the reference has been downloaded.

When downloading references, only the citation information is added. To obtain the full text, click on ‘Find full text’ on your Citavi’s toolbar.

How to plan your tasks in Citavi

Staying on track with your research can be daunting. With Citavi’s Task Planner, your research process becomes manageable.

This tool allows you to view all tasks for your projects.

To create tasks for your references

  • Select the reference.
  • Open the references menu.
  • In its main editor at the centre, you will see several toolbars. Click on ‘Tasks and locations’.
  • On the editor, click on the ‘Tasks’ icon.
  • From the drop down list, choose the task you want to add, for example, discuss, read or go through bibliography .

To add tasks for several references

  • Select all of them and right-click.
  • Choose ‘Add task’.
  • Some tasks are not applicable to multiple references at once. However, a task like ‘Verify bibliographic information’ is viable.

How to view your tasks

  • Go to ‘Tasks’ from the main menu bar.
  • All your tasks will be listed.
  • The task planner allows you to sort out the tasks accordingly. For instance, you can sort as per the due date, task type, location or status.
  • You can also print your task list and pin it nearby, as a reminder to work on them. Go to ‘Task list’ from the mini toolbar. Select ‘Print task list’.

How to read and analyze sources

Analyzing sources is a crucial research process. With Citavi, this is simplified by the Preview Pane. Use it to read e-books, web pages and PDF files.

Citavi allows you to convert web pages and e-books into PDF documents. With this, you are able to annotate them.

To convert sources into PDF documents

  • Select the reference. The preview pane will appear on the right side.
  • Click on the ‘save as PDF’ icon. You can change the layout and view mode as you desire.

Annotating PDF files is simple. Here are a few ways:

To create highlights

  • Use the ‘highlight text’ icon from the toolbar at the top. You can then save this highlighted text and use it in your research later.

To add quotations

  • Select the text and right-click on it.
  • Choose the ‘Add as quotation’ option.
  • Enter the page number if it does not appear.
  • State the main context of the quotation in the core statement field. This helps you when adding references.
  • Insert quotation marks.
  • If you already know where to place the quote, assign it a category before saving it.

You can also add your own paraphrases, summaries and comments of the texts.

To paraphrase PDF texts

  • Click on the ‘Thought’ icon at the menu bar. This icon is represented by a light bulb.
  • In the pop-up window, type in your ideas. Fill in both the core statement and the text. If necessary, you can add the keywords, categories as well as groups.
  • This tool comes in handy when you don’t want to forget ideas.

How to annotate images

This is similar to annotating texts.

  • Use the snapshot tool to highlight the image.
  • Right-click on the image and select ‘Add’ as image quotation.
  • Enter a caption and a description if you want.

How to add quotations manually

Sometimes, certain sources cannot be converted to PDF.

To add quotations from these sources,

  • Select the source,
  • Go to the page from which you want the quotation.
  • Select ‘Quotations and comments’ from the toolbar.
  • Click on ‘New’ and choose ‘Direct quotation’.
  • Type in your quotation and add the page number.

How to manage research outlines

When it comes to outlining and connecting ideas, Citavi’s Knowledge organizer is your go-to tool.

  • Click on the ‘Knowledge’ icon from the toolbar.
  • Having your project in mind, create appropriate categories for it. You can use the categories as outlines for your paper.
  • As discussed above, also assign categories to any quotations. This saves you time when searching for them during referencing.
  • You can also add sub-categories. Click on the category and go to ‘New subcategory’ from the ‘Add’ button on the top-left.

To move categories, either drag and drop or use arrow controls.

You can also compare ideas and make connections using the saved quotations.

Use the Control key to select multiple core statements. The quotes will appear in the preview pane on the right.

How to write using Citavi

Since Citavi is compatible with Windows, you will use the Word processor to write your papers.

Citavi offers the Word Add-In tool for your writing.

How to use Word add-in

  • Open a Word document and click on the Citavi tab from the menu bar.
  • On the left side, click on ‘Citavi pane’.
  • You will then be prompted to assign a project to your Word document.
  • A pop-up window will appear from where you will assign.
  • Choose your preferred citation style before assigning a project.
  • Once you select your project, the categories you had created when saving sources and quotations will appear.
  • Use these categories as headings for your paper. To do this, right-click on the category and select ‘Insert as heading’.
  • From here, you have options on which categories to use as headings, for example, knowledge items, core statements or all categories.
  • Citavi will then insert the outlines in the editor. You can choose your outline layout.
  • From here, you are ready to start writing.
  • On the left, you will see four toolbars to assist you during writing. These are ‘References’, ‘Knowledge’, ‘Chapters’ and ‘Citations’.
  • The Chapters option allows you to only view quotations for the chapter you are currently writing.
  • To insert citations, quotations or images on your paper, double-click on them.
  • To insert multiple citations at once, use the control key and select all references. Right-click and select the ‘Insert’ option.
  • Use the ‘Insert advanced’ tool to customize your references.
  • Citavi creates a reference list at the end of your paper. You can also change your citation style and the reference list will adjust automatically.


Whether you are a student, researcher or in a team, Citavi streamlines your research projects by providing you with appropriate tools for each step. Right from brainstorming on research ideas upto the final writing stage. It enables you to create references, annotate PDF documents, manage tasks, analyze sources, connect ideas and write effectively.

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Grace Njeri-Otieno

Grace Njeri-Otieno is a Kenyan, a wife, a mom, and currently a PhD student, among many other balls she juggles. She holds a Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Economics and has more than 7 years' experience with an INGO. She was inspired to start this site so as to share the lessons learned throughout her PhD journey with other PhD students. Her vision for this site is "to become a go-to resource center for PhD students in all their spheres of learning."

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