Getting Started with the Visual CSL Editor

Getting Started with the CSL Editor.

To start using the CSL editor, you need to make sure that you are using Mendeley 1.7 or higher. The latest version can be found on our downloads page here:

When you are upgraded to Mendeley 1.7 or higher, you need to log into Mendeley and go to the 'View' menu, then 'Citation Styles' and 'More Styles…'

Figure 1 'View' --> 'Citation Style' --> 'More Styles...'


This will bring up the Citation Styles window. The best way to set up a new citation style is to have an existing one as a basis (although you can start from scratch this can be a lot more time consuming). When  you have decided which style you want to base your new style on, locate it in the list of citations under 'Installed', right-click it and then click 'Edit Style'.

Figure 2 Right click the citation and 'Edit Style'


Your default browser will open, asking if you would like to allow Mendeley access to your account. Click 'Accept' to continue.

Figure 3 Allow Mendeley to access your accountby clicking 'Accept'


After you click 'Accept' the Visual CSL Editor should appear in your web browser.

Figure 4 The Mendeley Visual CSL Editor


Making Changes

The best way to make changes to the CSL is to click the element of the citation/bibliography that you want to change to make the options for that element available in the lower pane.
For example, if you wanted to have all titles in bold in the bibliography, you could click the title in the bibliography (which would turn blue as the cursor hovered over it), the lower pane would show the options for the title. Clicking the B button would make the title's text bold.

Figure 5 Clicking the title 'Shaping the Body Politic...' shows the title options in the lower pane

This is generally the quickest way to make simple changes to the citation style. For more advanced features, such as changing sort orders and adding conditional statements see the Advanced Changes section.

Advanced Changes

On the left hand side of the Visual CSL Editor screen there are a few headings and various expandable sections. These expandable sections are called 'nodes' and each one represents a rule or condition on the citation style. All the changes made in the 'Making Changes' sections are actually a more friendly way of changing these nodes: notice that when you click on a part of the bibliography or citation style, the relevant nodes are expanded to highlight the correct one you wish to change.
To begin to work out which sections are needed for specific changes it is best to start by looking at the different subheadings:

  • Style Info: this includes information about the citation style (such as name, authors, etc which can be changed under 'Info') as well as global settings such as how authors are displayed and what delimiters are used.
  • Inline Citations: these nodes refer to the actual citation used in text. Here you can change how these citations are displayed and how they act with different information.
  • Bibliography: this relates to the layout and setup of the bibliography for your citation style, including structure and ordering.
  • Macros: these are essentially rules that can be setup so they do not have to be re-entered everywhere in the citation style. For example, all titles to have the first letter of each word capitalised unless it was a Report in which case the whole title would be in capitals. Rather than setting that up all through the citation style, a macro can be setup for this rule and reused wherever you wish to implement this rule.
  • Advanced: contained here are more specific global settings than in Style Info. Here the style and layout of variables (so, any information field) can be changed and setup.

Each heading has its own options beneath it. Inline Citations and Bibliography tend to have 'Layout' and 'Sort', relating to how they are displayed and ordered respectively. Macros has a node for each macro which can be expanded to configure and change how that particular macro functions. Style Info and Advanced both have 'Global Formatting Options', the differences of which are described above.
If you click on a node it will expand it (if possible) and the current state of that node will be displayed in the lower pane. For example, clicking 'Sort' under Bibliography expands the 'Sort' node and shows the current sort order setup beneath it (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 Here the bibliography is ordered first by author, then by issued-sort

The nodes under 'Sort' can be dragged and dropped to change their order, with the highest being given priority.Alternatively, the higher the node on the list, the further to the left it will appear in the inserted citation.
Once a node has been selected it may show some options in the lower pane. Here, you can change the settings for that node, such as how particular entities for that node are displayed 


Figure 7 Under Inline Citations > 'Layout' >'Group' > 'author-short (macro)' > 'Names' clicking on 'Name' will display the options for the name field in the citations


Adding/Removing Nodes

At the top right of the node screen there are two buttons labelled '+' and '-'. These are used to add and remove nodes from the node tree on the left hand screen. Adding nodes allows more options to be added to the section you are changing, whereas removing nodes removes the option associated with that node. To add a node, selecting the node which relates to the change and then clicking the '+' button will give the option to add a node. The type of node created will depend on the type of node selected when clicking the '+' button.
For example, if we wanted to use the American Psychological Association 6th Edition style, but wanted the bibliography ordered by Title then Author we would have to do the following:
      1) Expand 'Sort' under Bibliography.
      2) We click the 'Sort by issued-sort' node and click the '-' button (see Figure 8) to remove it.


Figure 8 Click 'Sort by issued-sort' and click '-' to remove it.  

     3) Now, to add a new sort field, we click on the 'Sort' node under Bibliography and click '+'.

     4) A new screen will appear asking which sort of node we would like to add. We only have one choice in this instance, so we click the 'Sort key' option (see Figure 9). This will insert a 'Sort by author' node, which is the default node of the sort type (see Figure 10).

Figure 9 Click 'Sort key' to add a 'Sort key' node.

Figure 10 Another 'Sort by author' node added 

      5) Click this new 'Sort by author' key to bring up the node's options in the lower pane.
      6) Now we change the Sort option from Author to Title. Next to the variable drop down, change the option from 'author' to 'title' (see Figure 11). This will change the 'Sort by author' node to a 'Sort by title' node.
      7) Finally, we need to move the 'Sort by title' node so it is above the 'Sort by author' node. We simply click and drag the 'Sort by title' node above the 'Sort by author' node (see Figure 12).


Figure 11 Change the variable from 'author' to 'title'. 


Figure 12 Move 'Sort by title' above 'Sort by author' 

Note that we could have just chosen the top 'Sort by author' option in step 5, but I wanted to illustrate the dragging and dropping the nodes.


Saving and Sharing Your Citation Style

When the citation is finished, it can be quite easily saved. Clicking the button labelled 'Style' à 'Save Style'' on the top left of the screen. This will save the citation into Mendeley and automatically make it the current citation style.


Figure 13 'Style' --> 'Save Style' 

It is possible to share these created citation styles with other people using Mendeley: right-clicking one such citation style and clicking 'Copy Link Style' will copy the URL for this citation style onto your clipboard, in the same way as if you selected some text and clicked 'copy'. It can then be sent to someone else with Mendeley who can access it by going to 'View' menu, then 'Citation Styles' and 'More Styles…', then clicking the 'Get More Styles' tab and pasting the URL into the 'Download Style' text box.


Figure 14 Paste the URL into the 'Download Style' text box 

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