Advanced search and powerful filtering of articles within your library - Papers 3 for Mac

Did you know you can search online repositories and filter your papers library in much more powerful ways than you might think? The possibilities we describe below are available in both search mode but also in the regular library mode (collections, labels, authors, and sources) using the search field at the top (read until the end to learn more).

Perform advanced search queries in search mode

You can search one or more online repositories in the search mode by simply entering your query in the search field. Every time you hit the enter key a so-called token is created:


You can enter multiple tokens in a row by typing your the first part of your query, hitting enter, typing the next part, etc:

multiple tokens

Notice how the second token "2013" is automatically recognised as a year and receives the YR qualifier, this means that this query will search specifically for the year 2013, not the text 2013 in other metadata fields. This great improves the relevancy of results. Below we show how you can set these qualifiers yourself.


Note also that by default tokens are separated by the AND operator. You can enter your queries in one go (e.g polymerase chain reaction AND 2013) and Papers will automatically split them into separate tokens. Again. the AND operator will be hidden after splitting the tokens as these are implicit.

Papers also supports the OR and NOT operators to mark token as either optional or exclusive, respectively. You can insert these operators by either typing them (they need to be in uppercase) or selecting them from the popover that shows below the search field:


If you want to protect a query from being split into separate tokens, or have "2013" not be recognised as a year but as text, you can enclose the query in quotes:


Complex Queries

You will notice that the popover also has the ability to insert brackets (you can also simply type them in the search field). These allow you to build more complex queries:

Complex Queries

Note that sometimes Papers inserts these automatically, this is to remove any ambiguity in your query. For example, the query Blue AND Red OR Green can be interpreted in two ways: Blue AND (Red OR Green) or (Blue AND Red) OR Green. If its not clear from the input Papers will insert a default set of brackets to choose one of the variants.


Earlier we already saw the YR qualifier appear. You can set these manually using the popover by clicking the field you want to limit the search with this token to:


Using manually typed qualifiers for faster and more advanced query building

Like with the operators (AND, OR, NOT), you can also type the qualifiers instead of selecting them from the popover

Manual 1

Manual 2

As shown above we support two formats, the google scholar format au:griekspoor and the pubmed syntax griekspoor[AU]. In both cases the au part indicates we want to search on author, and this is either prefixed with a colon or suffixed in between square brackets.

Not only can typing be faster, there's also a larger set of qualifiers you can use that is not accessible from the popover. The complete list of supported qualifiers can be found at the end of this document

Advanced filtering of your Papers library

One very powerful aspect of Papers is that all of the above also works to filter your library in collections, labels, authors and sources mode. For example, you can:

  • use operators like AND, OR, NOT, e.g. griekspoor AND groothuis

  • create complex queries using parenthesis, e.g. griekspoor AND (estrogen OR gfp)

  • use qualifiers to only search for specific fields, e.g. griekspoor[1AU] AND estrogen[TI] or so:nature AND vol:145

You can use the same qualifiers as listed below, allowing you to rapidly create complex queries like "All papers with the word cell in the title, published in 2012, with a rating of 4 and higher": ti:cell AND 2012 AND rt:4+


Using the same powerful syntax you can also filter your Papers library

Complete overview of search field qualifiers

Only available by typing and through the popover

all: All fields
ti:  Title
ab:  Abstract
au:  Author
1au: First Author
lastau: Last Author
so:  Source (journal)
pb:  Publisher
ed:  Editor
vol: Volume
nr:  Issue
pg:  Pages
yr:  Year
kw:  Keyword
id:  Identifier

Only available by typing:

acc: accession number
ad:  affiliation
av:  advisor
cat: catalog number
ci:  city
ck:  citekey
conf: conference name
cu:  country
doi: digital object identifier (DOI)
dp:  date published
gn:  grant number
ip:  issue (equal to nr:)
isbn: ISBN number
issn: ISSN number
ga:  group author
la:  language
lau: last author (equal to lastau:)
loc: location
org: organization
pat: patent number
ph:  photographer
pn:  part number
pt:  publication type (e.g. review)
rn:  report number
rw:  reviewer
sb:  subject
tw:  text words
ta:  journal/source (equal to so:)
tiab: title or abstract
tr:  translator
ts:  topic
vi:  volume (equal to vol:)

Only available when filtering your library:

nt:  notes
open: open access
pdf: full text PDF content
pt:  kind
rt:  rating (e.g. rt:3, rt:4+, rt:>3, rt:***)
rv:  review
suppl: supplemental files

Only available for certain search engines:

pmid: Pubmed ID
ut:   Web of Science ID
py:   published year
majr: major subject heading (Pubmed only)
mh:   MeSH heading (Pubmed only)
as:   assignee
aurv: author reviewed
bib:  bib code
cas:  CAS number
chem: chemical name
class: classification
coden: coden number
co:   comment
corp: corporate author
cy:   conference year
ic:   institution code
intl: internation classification
inv:  inventor
mr:   MR code
msc:  MSC primary secondary
latest: latest
obj:  object number
pacs: PACS number
pd:   predefined
pos:  position
sborg: sub organization
sc:   subject category
se:   series
sp:   conference sponsor
stn:  standard number
tirv: title reviewed
ve:   venue

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