What is the CSL Editor?
The citation style language (CSL) editor is a powerful tool hosted by Mendeley which allows you to quickly and easily modify a citation style. Citation styles control the way in which your references appear in a document you author using the Mendeley Citation Plugin. Mendeley provides access to nearly 7000 citation styles which already exist, however you may want to tweak a style to meet your own requirements.
Although the CSL Editor provides an intuitive interface, citation styles are complicated. As such, the CSL Editor should be regarded as one of the more advanced aspects of using Mendeley. This guide will explain some basic actions that can be undertaken, as well as providing an introduction to tackling more sophisticated objectives.
The CSL initiative is a cross-platform program designed to standardise citations in a format which can be used by multiple applications. Mendeley supports and contributes to this open-source project.
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Who should use the CSL Editor?
Although the CSL Editor allows for very sophisticated modifications to styles, the majority of users only use it to make minor additions or cosmetic changes. You may find it easier to follow one of the sets of specific step-by-step instructions that we've provided in this guide.
This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive set of documentation for the CSL Editor. If you have a specific question that you need assistance with, please contact our support team.
If you believe you've come across an error in an existing style and would like to get it resolved, you can contact the CSL Project Team using this form.
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Mendeley uses the Citation Style Language v1.0 to format citations and bibliographies in our Word and OpenOffice plugins. Although we provide styles for 1000+ journals, we realize this isn’t enough for everyone. If you need to customize a citation style and are not scared of editing a little XML (it’s actually not that difficult), read on…
Default styles location
After first installing Mendeley Desktop, 15 commonly used .csl files are placed in the following location: (may differ depending on your system configuration)
C:Program FilesMendeley DesktopcitationStyles-1.0
- GNU/Linux with Debian packages
Custom styles location
To search for more styles, go to the View menu and choose Citation Style -> More Styles….
These additional style files will be placed here: (may differ depending on your system configuration)
- Windows Vista and Windows 7
C:Users<USER_NAME>AppDataLocalMendeley LtdMendeley Desktop citationStyles-1.0
C:Documents and Settings<USER_NAME>Local SettingsApplication Data
Mendeley LtdMendeley DesktopcitationStyles-1.0
~/.local/share/data/Mendeley Ltd./Mendeley Desktop/citationStyles-1.0
/Users/<USER_NAME>/Library/Application Support/Mendeley Desktop/
Tutorial: Editing an existing style
Let’s say you’re writing a paper for a new conference, where the organizers have demanded you use the “American Sociological Association” style, but using square brackets instead or parentheses for in-line citations. So instead of this:
(Andersson et al. 2004)
You need to write this:
[Andersson et al. 2004]
Step 1: Create a new style file
Locate the asa.csl file by referring to the “Default styles location” above. Copy this file to the “Custom styles location” above.
NOTE: Never edit the installed files directly, always create a copy first.
Give the file a new name, say asa_custom.csl
Open the file in your favorite text editor (for Windows, try Notepad++) and change the 4th and 5th lines from:
<title>American Sociological Association</title>
<title>American Sociological Association (custom)</title>
(or something of your own choosing, the important thing is to ensure the id is unique. No two styles are allowed to have the same id, as Mendeley will not be able to load one of them)
Step 2: Customize the style formatting
Don’t worry about understanding everything in the CSL files right away. For now, just know that the bit describing the format of in-line citations starts with “<citation …>” and ends with “</citation>”, which is from line 120 to 130 in your asa_custom.csl file.
To change the parentheses to square brackets, change line 121 from:
<layout prefix=”(” suffix=”)” delimiter=”; “>
<layout prefix=”[” suffix=”]” delimiter=”; “>
Save your edited style file.
Step 3: Use the new style in Mendeley
Restart Mendeley Desktop. Open a new Word or OpenOffice document and select “More Styles…” from the citation style drop-down box. In the dialog that appears you should select “American Sociological Association (custom)” and click Use this Style and then click Done.
Congratulations! You can now cite in your custom style. Here’s a short video showing the process.
To learn more about editing CSL files, check out the official guide as well as reading and experimenting with the styles included with Mendeley (but remember to create copies first as in step 1!) If you’d like more tutorials going into more depth on CSL, please drop us a comment below.
We plan to make the process of editing styles simpler in future, and to expand our database of downloadable citation styles.