Bibliographic Software

I spoke previously about my troubles with LaTeX, to which this post is related.

I’ve been checking out Papers recently. It seems to be unstable, I’ve had several crashes in the last couple of days.

Doesn’t provide the kind of system integration I expect from normal OSX applications.

For instance, drag & drop of URLs from Safari – this should open a new window (as if I’d manually done “File” -> “Open Custom URL” in Papers.) Also, when I drag a URL for a PDF document into the PDF section of a Papers document, it should automatically download and associate the PDF. Currently it does nothing.

Furthermore in bibliographic software I expect to be able to Copy BibTeX data from one place and Paste it into Papers. Unfortunately this Copy & Paste operation doesn’t do anything.

Doesn’t handle custom .bib files. For example, I have a custom BibTeX entry type called Software with fields for things like “Platform” (e.g., Windows, PS3, etc). When I try to import these into Papers the extra fields are ignored and silently discarded.

Doesn’t import PDFs automatically. When you import a document from the ACM you still have to manually click on the PDF link to download and associate the file with the bibliographic data. This should be trivial to implement and is an obvious usability improvement.

Can’t tag multiple papers simultaneously.

Doesn’t support ACM properly:

I should be able to open an ACM URL in Papers and have it parse the page to extract the metadata. Currently if you open the URL to a document on the ACM (through “File” -> “Open Custom URL”) the webpage will load, but if you import it the metadata will be incorrect (with no real data in it, and using the URL as the document title.)

This should be straightforward (after all there is already ACM-specific parsing code in the application as it extracts this data during an ACM search) and a clear benefit.

ACM DOIs are totally unsupported. If you try to match a document using its DOI it will fail (as Papers tries to get the doc from doi.org rather than acm.org as it should)

e.g., here’s a the BibTeX data for a document on the ACM,

@article{279166,
 author = {Russell,, Daniel M.},
 title = {User experience research group: understanding the complete user interaction},
 journal = {SIGCHI Bull.},
 volume = {30},
 number = {2},
 year = {1998},
 issn = {0736-6906},
 pages = {90--94},
 doi = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/279044.279166},
 publisher = {ACM},
 address = {New York, NY, USA},
 }

I’ve also just started to look at Mendeley, though the desktop application hangs a lot so I haven’t been able to really test it.

Another problem is its poor integration with other bibliographic applications. e.g., if you import a BibTeX database most of the fields will be discarded; export again as .bib as you’ll see vast swathes of your data missing in the new database.

Looks like I might be sticking with JabRef or BibDesk for the time being (though without ezproxy support this isn’t as useful as it could be – perhaps time to get involved with development?), with occasional use of Papers (just to associate PDFs with a subset of my BibTeX data?), as well as Yep and Leap.

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4 thoughts on “Bibliographic Software

  1. Hi Gareth,

    “I’ve also just started to look at Mendeley, though the desktop application hangs a lot so I haven’t been able to really test it.”

    If you like, please write a short e-mail to support@mendeley.com describing your system specs and the error so that we can have a look into why Mendeley hangs on your computer and a member of our tech team can get back to you with some solutions.

    Thanks
    Jan

  2. BibDesk seems to have problems searching for particular characters. For example, I searched for the following,

    User Experience Design for Inexperienced Gamers: GAP - Game Approachability Guidelines
    or
    Expert review method in game evaluations - comparison of two playability heuristic sets

    BibDesk shows no results. I do have a publication with this exact name though. When I search for the same title, but excluding the “-“, like this,

    User Experience Design for Inexperienced Gamers: GAP Game Approachability Guidelines
    or
    Expert review method in game evaluations comparison of two playability heuristic sets

    I do find the entry.

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