[OS X TeX] plea for help with TeX bibliographic databases: the humanities, and unicode

Roger Hart rhart at mail.utexas.edu
Tue Apr 12 22:44:58 EDT 2005

After reading all of the very helpful and detailed responses so 
generously offered in the thread,

Re: [OS X TeX] Beginner: bibliography strategy?

I decided that I should revisit the problem, which I had two months ago 
given up on in complete frustration, of working with bibliographic 
databases in LaTeX, for publications in the humanities (following the 
Chicago Manual of Style), with unicode.

First I should note that I am in no way an expert in computers, 
programming, LaTeX, or TeX, but I have spent a considerable amount of 
time trying to resolve these issues to get something working.

In general, most of the tools I work with now handle unicode fairly 
well -- both the extended European characters (probably of most 
interest to others on this list) and CJK (Chinese, Japanese and 

TeXShop works perfectly, as far as I can tell, including complex regex 
expressions, and is a really excellent program,

most LaTeX packages work without incident,

other utilities like Terminal and Perl work fine, and finally,

XeTeX of course is an extremely exciting development.

But bibliographic databases and utilities seem to me to still have 
considerable limitations. My sense is that they probably work well for 
the sciences and medicine in English, but not as well for the 
humanities, which have more complex (or admittedly, arcane, if you 
prefer) citations and bibliographies, and almost always include several 

EndNote, as some have noted, crashes often, more than even beta 
software should, yet costs $100 per upgrade. While EndNote 8 *is* a 
significant upgrade -- it now handles unicode -- it does not import CJK 
properly so you have to type it in by hand. Import and export filters, 
and connection files are very good. But find/replace capabilities are 
very poor: for example, it is impossible to generate LaTeX keys from 
the author and year fields to be placed in the label field (that is, 
except by hand, one-by-one). For reasons I don't understand, exporting 
all the records as text does not work reliably, making it impossible to 
export the text, clean it up through perl scripts, and import it again. 
But EndNote is the only program that comes close to having the 
capabilities to handle humanities citations.

BibTex with LaTeX packages, such as natbib, etc., don't seem to me to 
have even the number of fields needed to be potentially capable of 
formatting a bibliography for the humanities.

BibDesk still seems to me not to handle unicode well. I turned off 
character conversions, set open and save to UTF-8, but I can't even get 
it to properly import European characters in a file, or by pasting an 
entire record. Only cutting and pasting field by field, or typing into 
each field, seems to work. BibDesk otherwise looks very promising, with 
excellent integration with TeXShop, so I hope this will be fixed soon 
(assuming I'm not missing something here).

Sente seems very nice for downloading files, but the choice of filters 
seems very odd, for example not including OCLC WorldCat, the most 
complete database for research university libraries.

So after having spent a couple more days looking in to all of this, I 
have again concluded that the most efficient strategy for formatting a 
humanities bibliography is to import from WorldCat into EndNote, export 
a formatted \bibitem ... entry, paste into my bibliography, and clean 
it up by hand.

This is not the approach I would prefer to take, and this is really 
another plea for help: I would, of course, be extremely grateful for 
any suggestions, or corrections to these very preliminary impressions.




Roger Hart
Assistant Professor, Departments of History and Asian Studies
University of Texas at Austin

office: Room 405, Garrison Hall
office phone: 512-475-7258
department fax: 512-475-7222
email: rhart at mail.utexas.edu


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