[Feature Request] Auto-sync to a BibTeX File

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iandol
Posts: 336
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:31 pm

[Feature Request] Auto-sync to a BibTeX File

Post by iandol »

Those of us who either write in LaTeX or use Markdown tools like Pandoc have to maintain a .bib "copy" of our Bookends database. It is possible to automate exporting using applescript (though there is a ongoing memory leak (in WindowServer, not Bookends) using applescript for export for large libraries, and it is slow). Otherwise we can do this manually every week or so, and though this is not a major issue, it would be nice if this was automatic. On testing the Mendeley desktop app (importing ~6900 refs from Bookends), I noticed it offers an automatic sync feature:
Screen Shot 2020-09-20 at 18.37.27_SML.png
Screen Shot 2020-09-20 at 18.37.27_SML.png (33.03 KiB) Viewed 147 times
On my brief testing their feature seems to work well. I imagine us BibTeX file users are in the minority of Bookends users, and developing a sync to file (so only new refs are added) is a non-trivial feature to add, but it would nevertheless be nice to have in Bookends.

Jon
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Re: [Feature Request] Auto-sync to a BibTeX File

Post by Jon »

This has been discussed on the forum (several times, I think). It's not possible because, as you say, it's slow. Imagine Bookends formatted 1000 references as BibTeX every time you change a comma in a field.

I'm guessing (really just a guess) that Mendeley keeps a BibTeX-formatted copy of each reference in the database and writes them to a file with each reference import/edit (which would be much faster, because the formatting has already been already done). That adds lots of overhead to benefit a small number of users. Since Bookends can export the necessary file on demand, with or without an AppleScript, it's unlikely we would implement such a feature.

Jon
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iandol
Posts: 336
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:31 pm

Re: [Feature Request] Auto-sync to a BibTeX File

Post by iandol »

Indeed, it seems this is the most comprehensive previous thread also inspired by Mendeley's feature from 2016: viewtopic.php?p=18492#p18492 —— which I even posted on and completely forgot about. :oops:

Theoretically, this doesn't have to be slow —— Bookends does something similar with its iCloud support. Synchronisation is atomic, only refs that change get refreshed in the background. This is increasingly common for apps that rely on the cloud, running sync parallel to other operations and with whole programming paradigms dedicated to this kind of work (async coroutines working separately from a main thread etc.)

However, for example the iCloud sync mechanism has been designed and coded by Apple (probably 10s-100s of dedicated programmers), and I do realise you'd need to write a sync mechanism from scratch which is a technical challenge, and writing to a local structured text file is different to using a database for data storage. Thanks for your consideration anyway!

Nhaps
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Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:05 pm

Re: [Feature Request] Auto-sync to a BibTeX File

Post by Nhaps »

Bookends is a swiss knife that conforms to many text editors but does not fit nicely to the needs of LaTeX users. For that I'm using JabRef, which offers native bib sync right out of the box. Also, the creation and maintenance of reference fields is more flexible, in my view. I actually use both reference managers, for different needs.

iandol
Posts: 336
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:31 pm

Re: [Feature Request] Auto-sync to a BibTeX File

Post by iandol »

Jabref has some really nice management features, I agree! I actually utilise Jabref to cleanup my Bookends library, the "Check Integrity" tool returns a brilliant "health report" on the state of the database items like duplicate DOIs, malformed journal names, rogue HTML entities and lots of other checks. I thus export .bib from Bookends, load it into Jabref to run the report then find refs in Bookends to clean up. It works super fast directly on the .bib file even with thousands of references. The options to manage journal abbreviations are brilliant, as is the interface to merge online information into an existing reference. Really nicely designed and powerful. But, the workflow with bookends overall is better, management of author names is better, global changes are easier, note taking from PDFs more refined, the iOS app is brilliant, and Bookends is much easier to integrate into my workflow, so that the small inconvenience of having to regenerate the bib file is worth it... But yes, Jabref is an excellent choice especially for LaTeX / Pandoc users otherwise.

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