December 21, 2005

I Am Using Bookends, And Its Better Than Pulling Teeth

Well, we've had discussions earlier in the Macintosh Bibloiblog regarding bibliographic software. Primarily, the question has been, can we get by with Bookends, or do we need Endnote. I owned a previous version of Endnote, but I finally went out on a limb, and this time I've thrown my hat & my dissertation in with Bookends. Deciding factor: I like supporting small Mac developers. While I'm confident that at the end of the day it will work, it hasn't been easy. I've got 198 references entered in the bib so far, and I would've hoped for a more robust import strategy from the software. I was reduced to doing way more manual entry than I should have had to do. The very responsive (although mysterious) "Jon" from Bookends support had this to say:

Bookends has no idea of the reference Type it is importing. If you mix books and journals, and they have the same tags, you'll get some data imported into the "wrong" fields. In this case, you need to separate the types before import.
And my response is... "Why?" When I'm collecting references from ATLAS OCLC, I'm not ONLY searching books, or edited books, or chapters of books, or journal articles... that's absurd. It's a program for crying out loud... one of the import fields is telling it what "Type" of reference it is, so let it import data depending upon the type. I think that that is just one illustration of a general observation, namely, that the application is somewhere past infancy, but not yet full-fledged. Since I see in the About box that the program has been around since '88 (???), I guess this really indicates "small operation". This was, for me, the selling point. Endnote was just too bloated.

I've never had an application crash this much on OS X. And that just frustrates me. It's nice that there are several "Reindex/Repair/Rebuild your database" tools, because I have needed to use them a ton on account of the crashes.
I continue to rack up the questions of things that are taking me awhile to figure out how to accomplish. My format calls for using Chicago Manual of Style, supplemented by SBL Handbook of Style. And if I can't figure out how to get it do this in an hour or two, the problem does not lie with me.

Current questions include:

  1. Why so few User-defined custom fields?
  2. Why only two "Source" input fields that can be parsed to assign various data to their appropriate fields?
  3. Where is the expected web page of additional (some being user-created) input filters and bib formats for download?
  4. How about fuller pop-up context help for the NUMEROUS preference & customization dialogs?
  5. Why doesn't the tutorial explain how to make an in-text temporary citation that cites a particular page number? Am I just being egocentric in thinking this has got to be one of the most common needs out there? (It's taking me a long time to figure it out, and I'm still not sure I'm doing it the canonical way.)
  6. Why such a big minimum List View Window width? (This kind of lack of control bugs me.) I can see why the large Single Reference width.
  7. I confess that I am biased against carbon apps. They bug me most of the time. They can be made to flow with Aqua, but too often they don't take advantage of some OS X technologies they could. (ie. no service/spell checking/contextual menus). What on earth was going on code-wise in 1988 or even 1998 that was worth keeping as a holdover for Bookends?
Right now, I think that if I had given Bookends this much of a workover before I decided to purchase, I would've thrown in another couple hundred and went with Endnote. But, I have a good feeling about "Jon's" abilities and his interest in the project, and his responsiveness to feedback. In the long run, I think I WILL be able to work with Bookends, and I think I may end up being glad that I went with it.


Craig (mars-hill) said...

Thanks for the run-down. I'm a recent Mac convert, and I've seen Bookends around. It may be better than pulling teeth, but I think I'll stick with Endnote for now!

Chris said...

Joe, I hope your confidence is well placed. I too have placed my thesis in the hands of Bookends, but I confess I haven't had to import too much. I used endnote for a while, but also found to too bloated.

I haven't had any crashes so far, but perhaps that is because my database is not too large as yet.

danzac said...

1) Bookends shouldn't be crashing so much, have you mentioned this to Jon? I've been using it for two years and it has crashed once, and it was a corrupt database file.
2) I am not sure if your frustration with "more manual" work was from importing from Endnote or from ATLA/OCLC, etc., but my ATLA import works just fine. I think you have my email, and if you want to try my import filter it may help. (You are using RIS format right?) I know for ATLA at least, you only need to parse one Source field.
3) More fields are on the way- you can see the screen shots on the forum now.
4) the webpage for input and bib filters is a good idea I think, right now you can post forum threads to see if anyone can help, but that's it.
5) I'm not sure what the problem is for in-text citations that you are having. For Windows, you paste your citation {Weaks, 1999 #123456} and in the boolean marker you use the '@' sign to signify cited page- {Weaks, 1999 #123456@23}
6) I don't know the first thing about coding, so I'll take your word that Carbon is annoying :)

I hope this helps a bit. Danny Zacharias

R. Mansfield said...

Joe, it's been a while since the last discussion on this, and since that time, I decided to throw all my eggs in the Bookends basket, too.

However, I am still curious to know if you ever tried out the latest release of Endnote (v. 9, I think) and what you thought of it. I thought it was more full-featured that Bookends, but I tell you, I am not exaggerating when I say that I think it was the buggiest program I've ever run in OS X. I downloaded the demo and it constantly crashed, and I could absolutely NEVER close it without it crashing.

That and Bookends' integration with Mellel (which I have decided to use for my dissertation) were my two deciding factors.

Bill Combs said...

Any idea if the lastest update to Bookends will solve some of your problems?

Craig (mars-hill) said...

On reference-related things...I noticed that spotlight doesn't search within my endnote files -- fair enough. But since I keep all my quotes there along with bibliographical data I thought it could come in really handy.

I've taken to copying and pasting everything into openoffice then exporting as pdf -- which spotlight does search. Wonderful!

But is there an easier way to do this?

Does spotlight search Bookends data?