How to import your Papers 2 for Mac library to Papers 3 for Mac

How to import a Papers 2 for Mac library to Papers 3 for Mac?

When you first start Papers 3, you can choose to import your Papers 2.8.3 library to Papers 3 during the first run experience and it will get imported into a new Papers 3 library. Papers 2 and Papers 3 have separate libraries and you can still keep using your Papers 2 library normally after importing a copy of it to Papers 3. You also have the possibility to import Papers 2 library later on in Papers 3.

Import a Papers 2 library during first run

  • Start Papers 3
  • If you already have Papers 2 on your computer, Papers will detect this automatically and offers you the option to import your Papers 2 library.
  • Select 'Import' and the library import starts.
  • Once the Papers 2 database has been copied to Papers 3, the application opens.

Import a Papers 2 library later

If you have already used Papers 3 for some time and would like to import your Papers 2 library to Papers 3, follow the steps below:

  • First check the location of your Papers 2 library by going to Preferences > Library in Papers 2.
  • Select the path to the library location and right click > copy and close Papers 2.
  • Open Papers 3 and go to File > Import > Papers2 Library.
  • Hit cmd+shift+G and paste the path to the Papers2 library into the prompt, then hit Enter.
  • Select Library.papers2 inside the Papers 2 folder and click 'Import Library.papers2'.

Note that the copying of PDFs still happens in the background after the main Papers 2 library database has been imported to Papers 3. You should keep Papers 3 open until you can see that all the PDFs from your Papers 2 library has been imported to Papers 3. If you have a large library, this process can take some time so please be patient.

How can I import my Papers 1 library to Papers 3?

Unfortunately it isn't possible to import your Papers 1 library directly to Papers 3. Instead you first have to migrate the library to Papers 2 and then import your library as Papers 2 format. To do so, please download Papers 2 from here.

Once you have migrated your Papers 1 library to Papers 2, you are prompted to migrate the Papers 2 library to Papers 3 during the initial start up.

Migrating your Papers1 library the first time you start Papers2:

When Papers2 starts for the first time, and if Papers1 is still installed on your computer, Papers2 will prompt you to import your Papers1 library.

Note that if you don't have Papers1 installed on the same Mac or if Papers1 it is not setup to display your current Papers1 library you will have to do this first.

Click on "update" and your entire Papers1 library will be imported into Papers2. This does not affect your library in Papers1, and you can still continue to use Papers1 as you did before.

How to migrate your library if you skipped the migration step in Papers2:


If you skipped updating your library the first time you started Papers2, you can still migrate your Papers1 library to Papers2. For this, we will need to make sure your Papers2 library will not be reloaded by Papers2 and will be ignored by the program, so that it will start with a fresh new library. This means you will need to delete your Papers2 library folders. If you have already added PDFs to your Papers2 library, those will be removed by the following steps. Thus, you may need to first make a copy of your current library folder in a different location on your hard drive to be able to add back the PDFs later.

Locate your library

Before removing your library, you should locate your Papers2 library file using the Finder:

Typically, the folder will be at the following path, which will be assumed to be the case in the rest of the instructions: /Users//Documents/Papers2 (or it will be next to your Papers1 library in another location)

This folder also contains the library.papers2 folder, as well as all documents you might have added to Papers2 since installing it and that you may want to copy before the next steps.


  • quit Papers2 if it's running (also make sure the Citations icon is gone in the menu bar, which may require you turn Citations off in the preferences)

  • throw away the preference file /Users//Library/Preferences/com.mekentosj.papers2.plist

  • throw away the folder /Users//Documents/Papers2 (or the folder you located above)

  • throw away the folder /Users//Library/Application Support/Papers2

  • Start Papers2 again. You should be prompted to import your library from Papers1, which will start after you click 'Get Started' and then 'Update'

Note that on OS 10.7 Lion, to access your Library folder, you need to use the Go menu in the Finder and press the option key. This will add a 'Library' item to the list, and will give you access to the hidden folder.

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