Link multiple references to a single PDF file

I’ve read a bunch about being able to attach a PDF to my Endnote references, choose whether to have these links be “Relative” or “Absolute”, and have even learned that I can attach many files to a single reference.

However, I would very much like to be able to link several references to a single PDF file without Endnote creating multiple copies of this file in its PDF DATA folder, and I have yet to see if this is possible.  I am willing to shift all my files into this DATA folder and away from my current Desktop organization if only I could figure out this feature.

My reasoning is as follows: I have multiple PDFs that comprise several entries/ articles/ authors within them. Each entry or article has its own reference in my Library, but for ease of organization I have the actual PDFs saved within a single document.

Can I have multiple references linked to a single PDF document? My first attempt succeeded only in Endnote creating two new clones in its DATA folder, which wastes disk space and is redundant. I’m also extremely hesitant to go in and separate out my large PDFs into smaller chunks to match my references: in many cases this is actually impossible given the format of the original publications.

I appreciate any help, advice, or workaround solutions.  And if this is not currently a feature of Endnote, I sincerely wish that it could be made one very soon.


Wouldn’t this work if you use absolute and drop that file onto two different records?  It would keep the link and both would like to the same file? 

It’s possible to link multiple references to a single PDF file that was placed in one reference but while it can be done by identifying the relative path of the pdf, however, it isn’t a good idea to do so. First let’s discuss how to do so then why not. 

To link multiple references to a single PDF file is done by identifying and listing the relative path of the PDF which is prefaced by the format: File///

For example, let’s say that the “My EndNote Library” is located in My Documents.  In the EndNote library, the “Smith.pdf” was dropped in the File Attachment field of the reference. Based on this info it’s a matter of identifying the path leading to the Smith.pdf which for this example is shown below and which would be placed in the EndNote URL field:


Note that spaces in folder and file names should be replaced with: %20

Now why it’s not a good idea to link multiple references to a single pdf:

  1. References with pdfs are “flagged” in the library with the paperclip, giving a visual reminder that the reference has one or more attachments. However, the URL path needs to be listed in the URL field (not the attachment field), so it won’t be obvious that such references are linked to a “master” pdf unless the URL field is displayed in the preview window or if the reference is  opened.

  2. Listing the path in the URL field may cause the field info to appear in the bibliography if other entries have valid web URL address information. 

3. Each URL path will have to be identified individually so it’s a tedious process.  Moreover,  if the EndNote library and/or  .DATA folder change locations on the hard drive this will break the URL path to the pdf and it will need to be reconstructed.

  1. There may be a potential problem when opening multiple references that all point to a single pdf file so if you decide to go forward, try running a test.

As an alternative to linking multiple references to the single pdf, a note could be added to the Research Notes field to see the “master” ref which has the pdf attachment.

@leanne wrote:

Wouldn’t this work if you use absolute and drop that file onto two different records?  It would keep the link and both would like to the same file? 

I tried this, and it simply created a duplicate file to link to the second record, rather than creating a path to the original PDF.

CrazyGecko: Thank you for a detailed reply. I will address your points, then explain my decision on how I think I will move forward:

  1. I have a custom field called “Personal location” where I indicate where my copy of a reference can be found in my personal collection. I have actually never used the small paperclip to indicate the existence of a PDF version of the reference (because I had never added them as attachments to my records!). I list hard copies as “Bookshelf” if I own the book or journal, or I indicate the name of the binder in which I keep a photocopy. “PDF” indicates an electronic copy, and I add in the name of the file if it is a case where multiple articles are found in a single document, rather than individually by author. Therefore, this would be the place where I can record the existence of a “Master” file.

  2. I have no files with a valid URL, so hopefully this data would never appear in any bibliography.

  3. You are correct about the tedium of linking 400+ individual path names for all my files. Currently, all my PDFs are stored in a regular folder with the occasional idiosyncracies in their naming structure (IE: for multiple sections of an edited volume, rather than being named individually by author, these files may have Chapter names and are gathered within a folder representing the book or volume as a whole by its editors). That’s simply owing to my own lack of personal consistency in naming practices, and is probably something I should fix.

  4. Perhaps the best solution for me will be to link these larger pdfs to master references (perhaps for each volume as a single unit), and then have a notation added to my “Personal Location” field of each reference indicating the file within which that particlar article can be found.  This process will hopefully be less tedius than your suggested File Path route, and is by no means as streamlined a process as Endnote could conceivably allow, but without a feature that intrinsically allows for the linking of multiple references to a single PDF without the creation of redundant files in the Endnote DATA bank, it will have to do.

Thank you for your help. It seems I must spend some time fixing my PDF file names for consistency, and then attaching them in a careful way, ensuring the notation of “Master Files” in my references where needed.

Do you have your preferences set for “absolute” rather than relative?  The last box on this preferences page (attached) would need to be “unticked” (ticked as default). 



Looks like you’ve reached a thoughtful conclusion to define a working environment that fits your needs. Just a couple of comments based on your response:

1. Just an fyi - another way to contain pdfs - albeit “outside” of EndNote - might be to consider options such as indexing which would enable compiling pdfs and making them searchable. (Adobe Acrobat’s “full” program has this feature and there’s a 30 day free trial version if you’d like to test this option.) 

  1. For item #2, if you prefer you could create  custom field such as “PDFurl” which could be dedicated storing the relative links and allow leaving the URL field free. (Any modifications to the reference templates should be exported as an .xml file as a backup copy.)