Best bibliography tool to use with Scrivener?

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dlp
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Wed Jun 13, 2012 2:28 pm Post

Hi all:

I'm new to Scrivener but am about to embark on writing a PhD thesis (humanities). I'd like to make sure I am off on the right start to save time and focus on the writing, rather than faffing with tools. I've read about some different workflows for academic writing, but can't seem to decide on which bibliography tool to use. I've read that Bookends is great and Sente (doubtless there are others). Which integrate best in your experience?

And how many of you are using Nisus or Mellel to do formatting too? Does your choice of one of these affect your choice of bibliography tool?

Thanks in advance for any support,

Damon

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Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:19 pm Post

This is a subject that has been discussed many times before on this forum. If you conduct a search you should be able to find the previous threads.

I've used both Bookends and Sente, and I'd say there is hardly any difference in the way they integrate with Scrivener. Both use temporary citations which you can paste into the text. I'd say the big difference is in the user interface (of Sente and Bookends). Which you prefer must be a question of personal choice, so the sensible thing to do would be to try them both. You might also try Endnote, which is widely used, though I don't like it myself. I have ended up using Sente because I find that the little operations that one has to carry out so often when working with software turn out to be quicker in Sente than in Bookends -- it is a little slicker for me in everyday use.

I use Nisus, though I also have a copy of Mellel, but I find the latter is not easy to get to grips with. Its approach to styles is a little unusual. In my view, the way they handle bibliographic software is pretty much irrelevant if one is intending to write in Scrivener. It might make a difference if one intended to write in the word processor itself.

Cheers, Martin.
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Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:35 pm Post

For those working in the field of the humanities, though, Bookends is generally considered the best choice.
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Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:53 pm Post

Timotheus wrote:For those working in the field of the humanities, though, Bookends is generally considered the best choice.


Forgive me, but I don't see how it is possible to know this without carrying out an extensive survey. (Perhaps there has been one, but I don't know of it.) By all means say "I know lots of people in the humanities who prefer Bookends", but to say "is generally considered" seems to be taking on rather a lot! And it would be interesting to know *why* people in the humanities consider it a better choice, if that is the case. Having used both programs in cross-disciplinary work, I can see no particular reason why Bookends would be better for working in the humanities, unless perhaps it is something to do with specialised formatting of bibliographies. Bookends does have a lot of power there, but it is not always easy to use that power. It is true that Sente doesn't handle date ranges of publications (e.g. 1858-70) as well as it ought to, but I find that is outweighed by other advantages in general use.

Cheers, Martin.
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Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:18 pm Post

I agree with Martin that Sente vs Bookends is a matter of personal preference. I've tried Sente 2 or 3 times since a number of people on the forum really like that, but I've never "got" Sente ... it just doesn't seem to click with me. On the other hand, with Bookends, I felt at home from the first moment.

For word processing, Nisus Writer Pro is my app of choice. I also have Mellel and have used it; the interface is quirky and has more of a learning curve, but I have never found that a problem, and if you need multiple note streams, Mellel is the way to go. On the other hand, I personally have a deal breaker with Mellel — I haven't yet found a version that will directly import .doc files in Chinese, which is essential for me. NWP ticks all the boxes for me, is totally intuitive, works extremely well with Scrivener compiled files ... and with Chinese.

All that said, I'm in no way a "power user" of bibliographic software — I haven't needed to become one. However, reading the threads here, Sente and Bookends both integrate really well with Scrivener, and Bookends works beautifully in conjunction with Nisus Writer Pro and Mellel when it comes to scanning to create full citations and the bibliography, without having to leave NWP — I don't know about Sente from that point of view. On the other hand, if your academic institution provides Endnote for free or virtually free, and you use Word, that way seems to be the way to go, but the integration with Scrivener seems less good.

The same goes for Zotero and BibDesk, both free. There are lots of members of this forum who are happy Zotero users. I have a student — one of the few with a Mac who runs OS-X on it! — who I pointed in the direction of Zotero — the Chinese have a pathological aversion to paying for any software — and I think she is quite happy with it, though I haven't seen her much since she started. Seems to me again that integration with Scrivener and NWP is not so straightforward.

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Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:35 pm Post

Agree on personal preferences. I also tried both Bookends and Sente and definitely liked Sente but not Bookends! Can't say the same thing for word processors. I tried and liked Mellel, never even tried Nisus. The best thing to do is to make an informed decision based on personal experience

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Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:43 pm Post

marcoiac wrote:Agree on personal preferences. I also tried both Bookends and Sente and definitely liked Sente but not Bookends! Can't say the same thing for word processors. I tried and liked Mellel, never even tried Nisus. The best thing to do is to make an informed decision based on personal experience


100% agree, personal experience and finding any feature/aspect that doesn't fit your needs. I have nothing against Mellel, except that it won't import .doc files in Chinese directly; you have to open them in TextEdit or Nisus and save them as .rtf and then import that into Mellel. That's a deal-breaker for me. But I still have an installation of Mellel, just in case ...

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Thu Jun 21, 2012 3:18 am Post

I am using Sente, and have been for about 2 years. I have tried Bookends off and on over that time. I personally prefer Sente because of its integration of reference management, search/browse databases, direct import of reference data, lookup of reference data from PDFs, annotation of PDFs, note taking, etc. The ability to use Sente on my iPad is also very nice (although I do not use that much at the moment). There are reasons not to like it, not the least of which is that there is no search within OCR'd PDFs, and some APA 6th edition formatting is not handled properly (but the bibliography formats can be edited by the user, and I have fixed a number of problems). The developers tend to be a little slow addressing problems, but they do often respond quickly.

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Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:38 am Post

I've used Bookends through a PhD and a post-doc, and have never felt the need to try other bibliography software (except Reference Manager on Windows, years ago -- a nightmare), so I can't make comparisons, but can say that the support for Bookends, via the forums and by direct email with Jon at Sonny Software is beyond excellent. He sorts out problems very quickly, frequently issues small upgrades with minor fixes, and has consistently made Bookends significantly more powerful and easy to use, incorporating a lot of suggestions from the user forum.

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Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:35 am Post

I like citing with Bookends better and I like Zotero a lot (I think--especially if you use Libre or Word--it's definitely all around the easiest to use), but I've been trying out Sente. Don't like the citation capabilities as much (I'm a humanist, use MLA usually for articles but my book uses Chicago notes), but the annotation capabilities have really seduced me. That is such a big part of what I do, I think I am willing to deal with a bit more manual revision of the notes later on.

I feel like it doesn't integrate with Scrivener quite as well as Bookends does, but again, I think it's pretty great for reading and taking notes and that kind of compensates for other weaknesses.

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Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:26 pm Post

It is of course all about personal preferences. That stipulated I'll offer this:

IF, as is the case with many folks in the Humanities, you are going to be compelled at some stage to use Word (to give drafts to advisor, to send to publisher etc.) then I'd suggest EndNote. Some learning curve, Thompson-Reuters are exploitive, but it is very very powerful, and has the largest list of humanities-publication templates I've found.

Just remember this: insert the unformatted reference in your footnote (e.g. {Jones, 1931 #21} and never convert it until the document has been converted from Scrivener to Word. I've found this works very well, and Endnote has the power to start with a standard template, and customize it in the most niggly ways until it does exactly what you want. YMMV

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Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:47 pm Post

kevinR wrote:It is of course all about personal preferences. That stipulated I'll offer this:

IF, as is the case with many folks in the Humanities, you are going to be compelled at some stage to use Word (to give drafts to advisor, to send to publisher etc.) then I'd suggest EndNote. Some learning curve, Thompson-Reuters are exploitive, but it is very very powerful, and has the largest list of humanities-publication templates I've found.

Just remember this: insert the unformatted reference in your footnote (e.g. {Jones, 1931 #21} and never convert it until the document has been converted from Scrivener to Word. I've found this works very well, and Endnote has the power to start with a standard template, and customize it in the most niggly ways until it does exactly what you want. YMMV


I support the above (albeit not from a humanities perspective). My university offered EndNote for free to all staff and students, so that was what I used for my doctoral thesis. It's UI is not slick but it is very powerful and very flexible. Just be sure that all reference entries are entered correctly and you should due fine.
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xiamenese
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Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:51 pm Post

I on the other hand would point out that Bookends has templates for an enormous range of publications — I've never used Endnote so I can't compare — and those templates are also completely customisable. It works seamlessly with Scrivener and with Nisus and Mellel — I am as nearly as possible a Microsoft-free zone, so I don't know about Word — and if, unlike Nom, you have to buy your own copy, I believe it is much cheaper than Endnote.

As for having to use Word for your supervisor, I don't believe they would know the difference if your .doc or .docx was produced by NWP, Pages, OpenOffice, Mellel ... surely all they want is Word .doc/.docx format if they won't accept .rtf?

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Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:28 pm Post

In my experience, Bookends works beautifully with Word. There's a set of scripts provided. See this page.

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Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:29 pm Post

Besides seeing what works better for you, I suggest to keep your advisor in the loop too if you're going to use bibliography software. Some (most) advisors don't know what embedded bibliogrpahy fields are. They may want to edit formatted biblio references. Some may not understand curly brackets, etc.

May I also say that still most graduate students don't use any bibliography software and yet they write well researched, well written dissertations that end up in publications. In the big scheme of things, fixing your bibliography by hand is just a couple of days, and it is even nice, repetitive work compared to the mind-bending exercise of deciding whether to use a "non-binding" or a "binding" quote symbol, or unicode errors in your bibliography scan. I do use bibliography software extensively (Bookends) but as time goes on, I increasingly use it to keep notes rather than to do citations.