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 Files\Mendeley Desktop\citationStyles-1.0
- GNU/Linux with Debian packages
- Generic GNU/Linux
- Mac OS X
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>\AppData\Local\Mendeley Ltd\Mendeley Desktop\ citationStyles-1.0
- Windows XP
C:\Documents and Settings\<USER_NAME>\Local Settings\Application Data\
Mendeley Ltd\Mendeley Desktop\citationStyles-1.0
~/.local/share/data/Mendeley Ltd./Mendeley Desktop/citationStyles-1.0
- Mac OS X
/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.