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Manage References with JabRef

December 10, 2007

I came to JabRef quite late, in mid 2006. Before that I used a small 16-bit program called BibDB for windows. It was a bare-bone reference management program specified in BibTeX format. Good enough for me until I found JabRef.

Not overall impressed, however, I was quite fond of its import features since JabRef can handle most reference formats. I tweaked a little bit in Preview window so that it looked like the style we often used in references (just like BibDB).

Since I had Mac last month, I was reviewing which reference management program I should use: JabRef, for its platform-independent ability or BibDesk, for its better integration with other Mac softwares. They also have different features, so it’s not an easy decision.

Today, after I found out what I have missed in JabRef’s features, I now tend to solely use JabRef, unless there’s some killer feature in BibDesk I can’t live without.

What features did I miss? They are Groups and Files (I guess naming isn’t great here). Groups are just like tags (or labels as in Google). You can assign an reference entry with multi-groups (see the upper-left window in the screenshot). If you prefer, you can even auto-group an entry based on its keywords. As for Files, you can synchronize the file links (e.g. PDF or PS) with entries. If you have renamed the files to match with its BibTeX key, this process takes no time at all to finish. Of course, you can also manually assign any file links.

The result just looks like this screenshot (from the official site):

The icon on the right of PDF is for web link. The panel below the list is Editor window, which can turn to Preview window in one click.

PS: It always a good idea to think about how you manage your reference database and PDF files before collecting them too many. It takes little time to do when you save the bibliography info, but it’s tedious if you have to do all of them at one time.

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