Bibtex yesterday, today and tomorrow, O Patashnik

Tags: bibliography style, bibliography styles, bibliography, reference list, file, LA, Donald E. Knuth, Leslie Lamport, Patrick Daly, bibliography database, BOOK entry, citation style, Scribe, bibliographic database, TEX distributions, TEX source file, bibliography program
Content: BibTEX yesterday, today, and tomorrow Oren Patashnik San Diego, CA
Abstract This paper looks back at the last 20 years of BibTEX, and also looks ahead, if not to the next 20 years, then at least to BibTEX 1.0.
Introduction BibTEX is the bibliography program designed originally to accompany Leslie Lamport's LATEX; it now works with other incarnations of TEX, too. BibTEX removes the tedium, and adds some flexibility, in producing a reference list.1 When BibTEX creates your reference list, it's BibTEX, not you, minding the minutiae like ensuring that your reference-list entries are in the correct order, that every comma is in place, and that the information is formatted consistently across entries. Furthermore, a single, simple, change of bibliography-style name lets you convert your reference list from style A, which might order the entries alphabetically, and spell out journal names in full, and list all authors as first-name then last-name, to a completely different style B, which might order the entries according to their order of mention in the text, and abbreviate journal names, and invert just the first author's first and last names. This paper is an updated version of a paper [7] from the 1994 TUG meeting in Santa Barbara. It gives: a history of BibTEX to the present; the general goals for BibTEX 1.0, which will be the frozen version of BibTEX (just as TEX 3 is the frozen version of TEX); some specific new features for achieving those goals; and the plan for releases of BibTEX leading up to BibTEX 1.0. Before all that, however, primarily for those who are unfamiliar with BibTEX, comes a section that explains its rudiments. Using BIBTEX To use BibTEX, you'll have your bibliographic information in a bibliography database, and, to make use of that information, a few (LA)TEX2 commands sprinkled throughout your (LA)TEX source file. 1 Throughout this paper, the term `reference list' is used generally to refer to what might also be called a `bibliography' or a `list of sources' or anything similar. 2 The term `(LA)TEX' is used to mean either LATEX or plain (or other variations of) TEX.
For example in a file mybib.bib (database file names end with .bib) you might have an entry like: @BOOK{knuth:tex, author = "Donald E. Knuth", title = "The {\TeX}book", publisher = "Addison-Wesley", year = "1984", } The @BOOK tells BibTEX the entry type. (The bibliography style will instruct BibTEX on how to format a BOOK entry type.) The knuth:tex is the database key, which is a sequence of characters to be used as the symbolic name for this entry. And the rest of the entry comprises four field = field-value pairs appropriate for a BOOK entry type. In general you will have many such entries in a database file; you might also have multiple database files. And in your (LA)TEX source file you might have a citation like ... in the \TeX{}book~\cite{knuth:tex} ... The \cite command's argument knuth:tex, called a cite key, must match the corresponding database key. (LA)TEX might typeset this \cite command as . . . in the TEXbook [41] . . . or . . . in the TEXbook41 . . . or . . . in the TEXbook (Knuth, 1984) . . . depending on the citation style. LATEX's default citation style uses a number in brackets, and for that citation style, together with an appropriate bibliography style, the corresponding reference-list entry might look like: 41. Donald E. Knuth. The TEXbook. AddisonWesley, 1984. Besides the \cite commands, your (LA)TEX source file will also have two BibTEX-related commands: \bibliography{mybib} \bibliographystyle{plain}
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Oren Patashnik The \bibliography command does two things: It tells (LA)TEX to put the reference list at that spot in your document, and it tells BibTEX which file(s) to use for the bibliographic database, here just the single file mybib.bib. The \bibliographystyle command tells (LA)TEX nothing, but tells BibTEX which bibliography style to use, here the standard style plain; bibliography style file names end with .bst, thus the relevant file is plain.bst in this case. So with your database file(s) and your (LA)TEX source file structured appropriately, your citations are formatted according to the citation style, and your reference list is formatted according to the bibliography style. To actually produce the typeset document, you run (LA)TEX, BibTEX, (LA)TEX, (LA)TEX. The first (LA)TEX run writes, to an .aux file, information for use by BibTEX -- which bibliography style to use, which database file(s) to use, and which database entries to include. The BibTEX run reads all that information from the .aux file, reads the specified database (.bib) file(s), formats the reference list according to the instructions in the bibliography style (.bst) file, and writes its output onto a .bbl file. The next (LA)TEX run reads the .bbl file and incorporates the reference list into the document. The final (LA)TEX run fixes the references into the reference list. Figure 1 shows the files that BibTEX uses. The .blg file is BibTEX's log file, in which BibTEX records any warning or error messages. To try using BibTEX with LATEX, put the sixline BOOK entry shown on the previous page into a file called mybib.bib, and then, into a file called mypaper1.tex, put these six lines of LATEX: \documentclass{article} \begin{document} The \TeX{}book~\cite{knuth:tex} is good. \bibliography{mybib} \bibliographystyle{plain} \end{document} Exactly how you run LATEX and BibTEX is system dependent; on my system I issue four commands: latex mypaper1 bibtex mypaper1 latex mypaper1 latex mypaper1 To try using BibTEX with plain TEX, create the file mybib.bib as above, and then put into a file called mypaper2.tex these seven lines of plain TEX: \input btxmac The \TeX{}book~\cite{knuth:tex} is good. \medskip \leftline{\bf References} \bibliography{mybib}
.aux .bst .bib d dd c© BibTEX Ўe ЎЎ ee .bbl .blg Figure 1: BibTEX's input and output files. \bibliographystyle{plain} \bye To run mypaper2 through TEX and BibTEX: tex mypaper2 bibtex mypaper2 tex mypaper2 tex mypaper2 The file btxmac.tex, which mypaper2.tex \inputs, contains the macros that make BibTEX work with plain TEX. Those macros are a standard part of most TEX distributions, but if they're not a part of yours, you'll have to go fetch a copy. That's a brief introduction to BibTEX. The following sources provide further details. Leslie Lamport's LATEX manual [4] explains how to use BibTEX with LATEX. In particular, section B.1 describes the .bib-file format in detail. The file btxmac.tex [1] documents its own use, with or without Karl Berry's eplain.tex package (for which the btxmac macros were originally written). The "BibTEXing" document [5], which is distributed along with BibTEX itself, contains further hints for BibTEX users. The "Designing BibTEX Styles" document [6], also distributed with BibTEX, explains the postfix stackbased language used to write BibTEX bibliography styles (.bst) files. The LATEX Companion (2nd edition) [2], by Michel Goossens, Frank Mittelbach, et al., and Guide to LATEX [3], by Helmut Kopka and Patrick W. Daly, summarize much of the information in the sources above, and describe some of the tools available for helping with BibTEX. BibTEX's standard bibliography styles, like plain, are based on Mary-Claire van Leunen's A Handbook for Scholars [9]. That book is worthwhile reading for anyone wanting to design a bibliography style from scratch. History Leslie Lamport patterned LATEX after a document production system called Scribe [8], written by Brian Reid in the late 1970s at Carnegie-Mellon University. One of Scribe's basic tenets was that, to the extent possible with a computer program, writers should be allowed to concentrate on content rather
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than on formatting details. Or, as Reid so amusingly put it:3 Not everyone should be a typesetter. I think of LATEX as a fairly successful Scribification of TEX -- LATEX is almost as easy to use as Scribe yet almost as powerful as TEX. In any case, Scribe had become popular in certain academic circles, and Lamport decided that, to make it easy for Scribe users to convert to LATEX, he would adopt Scribe's bibliography scheme in LATEX. But TEX macros alone were insufficient in practice to do all the things, like alphabetizing, that a bibliography processor needs to do; he decided instead to have a separate bibliography program. That program would manipulate the bibliographic information in Scribe-like database files according to the instructions programmed in a special-purpose style language. The postfix stack-based language he had in mind was to be powerful enough to program many different bibliography styles. My own work on BibTEX started in February 1983. Just for the fun of it, I went back and dug up the original email: 15-Feb-83 0908 To: [email protected], [email protected] Oren, Leslie Lamport is working on a new macro package for TeX82, and needs someone to write a support program or two. We are volunteering you. His address is [email protected] Why don't you get in contact with him, and see whether his requirements are within the scope of what you're willing to do. This was described as a "three-week project", and the first time I gave this talk, at Santa Barbara in 1994, I compared the "three-week project" to the "three-hour tour" of the 1960's American television series Gilligan's Island, in which an afternoon's harbor cruise became a shipwreck adventure lasting years. (Many of us at that TUG conference really did go on a three-hour harbor cruise.) This year's meeting was on the Big Island of Hawaii, though, and it struck me that there's an even better metaphor for my work on BibTEX than the Gilligan's Island adventure: I started working on BibTEX, it turns out, within days of when the current eruptive phase of Kilauea began, in early 1983. And a volcano aptly describes my work on BibTEX -- a burst of activity, followed by a dormant stretch. (2004 will be more active than dormant.) 3 -- to a Bell Labs Computer Science Colloquium audience that included some troff true believers
But back to 1983. Over the course of the next year and a half I implemented Lamport's basic design, with a few enhancements. The first working version of BibTEX (0.41) trudged forth in the summer of 1984. Lamport wrote, and Howard Trickey modified, a bibliography style based on Mary-Claire van Leunen's suggestions in her Handbook for Scholars [9]. Trickey's modified version was to become btxbst.doc, the template for BibTEX's four standard styles plain, abbrv, alpha, and unsrt. (By the way, these are called "standard" styles not because they are supposed to be some sort of standard, but because they are in the standard release of BibTEX.) The first public release of BibTEX, in March 1985, was version 0.98, for LATEX version 2.08. Several upgrades, including one for LATEX 2.09, followed later that year. Version 0.99, which added many new features, was released in January 1988; two minor upgrades followed the next month, but BibTEX itself has remained unchanged since then. The standard styles have been unchanged since March 1988. In 1990 Karl Berry wrote some macros, for use in his eplain.tex package, that made BibTEX usable with plain (and other versions of) TEX. He and I modified the macros and released them as btxmac.tex in August 1990, usable with or without the eplain package. Several upgrades followed, the last in March 1995. The current versions are: 0.99c for BibTEX itself; 0.99b for btxbst.doc (the standard styles' template file -- but version 0.99a for each of the four standard styles); and 0.99k for btxmac.tex. That's for the software I've worked on. There has, in addition, been work that others have done to support BibTEX, especially in the last decade: · software for the handling of database (.bib) files (my personal database-handling preference is the text editor Emacs's BibTEX mode, but I don't recommend that others join the Emacs religion just for that); · the amassing of many database files for public consumption, minimizing the amount of work it takes to create new entries (Nelson Beebe has been particularly prolific in that regard); · software for generating new bibliography styles automatically, without having to know details of the somewhat arcane .bst bibliography-style language (Patrick Daly's custom-bib/makebst package has gotten widespread use -- more on this later). That brings us up to date.
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Oren Patashnik Goals BibTEX has been very stable for some time now. Software stability is nice; it helps others build tools that augment the software. As suggested above, many tools have grown up around BibTEX. The popularity of (LA)TEX, however, has taken BibTEX into places not anticipated, necessitating changes. Here are some general goals for BibTEX 1.0: · Easier nonstandard styles: The most frequent requests I see are for new bibliography styles. Creating a new bibliography style generally entails programming in the .bst language, which, for most users, is not an easy task. Patrick Daly's custom-bib/makebst package has made it reasonably easy for ordinary user to create new bibliography styles; for BibTEX 1.0 the situation will improve even more. · More international: BibTEX has spread to the non-English-speaking world. BibTEX 1.0 will address associated issues. · More Fields of Study: The original BibTEX users were from the technical world of mathematics and computer science. The BibTEX 1.0 standard styles will do more to accommodate those in other fields, like the humanities. · Enhanced sharing capabilities: There now exist huge .bib-file bibliographic databases, some available to users world wide. BibTEX 1.0 will make the sharing of those databases easier. · Better documentation: The BibTEX 1.0 documentation will be more extensive. · FroZEN: For even better stability, BibTEX 1.0 will be frozen. As with TEX 3.0, it will be upgraded for bug fixes only. Some of the features planned for implementing those goals appear in the next section. New features Over the years I have accumulated a list of new features and probable changes for BibTEX 1.0 and its standard styles. The list below is certainly not exhaustive, but it contains the most important items. Each one listed has a high probability of existing in BibTEX 1.0. · Software for generating customized bibliography style (.bst) files: In Santa Barbara I had claimed that there would be a Bibsty program to do that, similar in spirit to the processing that creates the four standard styles from the current template file btxbst.doc, but with lots more options. That Bibsty program, however, would partly duplicate what Patrick Daly has
bibliography-style customization c .aux .bst .bib d dd c© BibTEX Ўe ЎЎ ee .bbl .blg Figure 2: BibTEX 1.0 input and output files. done with the custom-bib/makebst package. So he and I have decided to collaborate for BibTEX 1.0 on a system that will include the options of his current code, along with some things planned for the Bibsty program. This system will have, among other options, an easily changed symbolic name for each string that a bibliography style outputs to the .bbl file directly (such as `editor' or `volume'), making it easier to, for example, convert bibliography styles from one language to another. Figure 2 shows how the new style customization system will fit into the scheme. · Eight-bit input: Most current BibTEX implementations can handle 8-bit input; BibTEX 1.0 will guarantee, at a minimum, to support the character-set conventions of TEX 3. In addition, BibTEX 1.0 may be able to accommodate Unicode. · Multiple bibliographies within a single document: Many large documents contain several bibliographies -- one bibliography per chapter for a book, or one per paper for a Conference Proceedings. Several solutions have arisen for handling such situations, but BibTEX 1.0 will support multiple bibliographies directly. · Enhanced sorting: The current BibTEX does well with English, but doesn't gracefully handle certain unusual sorting conventions of other languages, like Hungarian; BibTEX 1.0 will have more powerful sorting capabilities for handling them. · Reference-list back pointers: BibTEX 1.0 will provide a direct mechanism for indicating in a reference-list entry where in the text that entry was cited. This is a useful feature that I suspect will become widespread now that our new typesetting technology makes it painless.
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· An @ALIAS command: Suppose you have an entry in a database file that uses a different database key, say knuth:tex, from the cite key you prefer, say texbook; this might happen, for example, if that entry is in a shared database file. With BibTEX 1.0 you will be able to keep the cite key and database key as is, as long as you put a command like @ALIAS{texbook = knuth:tex} somewhere in your database. · A @MODIFY command: With BibTEX 1.0 you will be able to create a slightly altered version of an entry. For example, you might want to add a note field to an entry in a public database file without having to repeat in your own personal database file all the information in that entry: @MODIFY{laws-of-the-game, note = "Law~8 discusses restarts", } The @MODIFY command's database key should match the one from the public database. · Distinguishing among identical database keys: If you are using two different database files that happen to use the same database key for different entries, you will be able to specify which entry you want by using a citation of the form \cite{filename::database-key} · A .bib-file extraction mode: BibTEX 1.0 will have a mode that will let you extract just the information you need into a small .bib file. For example if you are submitting a paper to a journal that wants a .bib file in addition to a .tex file, but the bibliographic database you are using for the paper is huge, you can use the extraction mode to put just the entries you need for the paper into a separate .bib file that you can then send to the journal. · A \bibtexoptions (LA)TEX command: Communication from (LA)TEX to BibTEX 1.0 will improve with this command. · Extensions to the \cite command: Many citation styles aren't handled very gracefully by (LA)TEX's current \cite command. BibTEX 1.0 and (LA)TEX will more directly support more flexible \cite commands. · Also appeared as: Sometimes a work appears in two different forms, for example as a journal article and then later in the author's Collected Works. BibTEX 1.0 will have a mechanism to handle this.
· Name handling: BibTEX 1.0 will have enhanced (but upward compatible) name processing, for example for complicated Spanish surnames, and for inverted-order Asian names. · Standard-style changes: There will be lots of additions to the BibTEX 1.0 standard styles, allowing many more options. · New fields: The standard styles will also include a bunch of fields that are not now a part of the standard styles, including day, isbn, issn, keywords, eprint, translator, and url. · New entry types: There will also be a few new entry types, including @PERIODICAL and perhaps @PATENT. · .bst-language changes: There will be a few minor (but compatible) changes to the .bst language. · btxmac.tex update: These macros will be updated so that the user interfaces to BibTEX 1.0 from LATEX and plain TEX are as similar as possible. · Documentation: The "BibTEXing" and "Designing BibTEX Styles" documents [5, 6] currently distributed with BibTEX are neither as widely known nor as complete as they could be. For BibTEX 1.0, the main documentation will be in a book, and will be much more thorough. Among other things, it will include a .bib-file grammar, so that those who are writing tools to manipulate the database files can make their software more robust. Planned releases 2004 will see the release of an updated version of the btxmac.tex macros. Probably toward the end of the year will come a bug-fix version of BibTEX 0.99. (There are just a handful of actual bugs to BibTEX itself, the most annoying being its mishandling of URLs, which didn't even exist when the current BibTEX was released.) There will be several beta releases of BibTEX and its standard styles, leading up to 1.0; eventually one of those beta releases will be declared to be 1.0 and frozen. Until BibTEX 1.0 is finished, I will skim the comp.text.tex newsgroup for BibTEX-related postings, so it suffices to post there anything you think I should see. In general that's a good place to post questions about BibTEX -- usually someone posts a useful reply. (Occasionally I'll reply by private email.)
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References [1] Karl Berry and Oren Patashnik. btxmac.tex. Macros to make BibTEX work with plain TEX; current version 0.99k, 13 November 1995. [2] Michel Goossens and Frank Mittelbach, with Johannes Braams, David Carlisle, and Chris Rowley. The LATEX Companion. Addison-Wesley, 2nd edition, 2004. [3] Helmut Kopka and Patrick W. Daly. Guide to LATEX. Addison-Wesley, fourth edition, 2003. [4] Leslie Lamport. LATEX: A Document Preparation System. Addison-Wesley, second edition, 1994. [5] Oren Patashnik. BibTEXing. General documentation for BibTEX users, contained in the file btxdoc.tex, 8 February 1988.
[6] Oren Patashnik. Designing BibTEX styles. Documentation for BibTEX style designers, contained in the file btxhak.tex, 8 February 1988. [7] Oren Patashnik. BibTEX 1.0. TUGboat, 15:269­ 273, 1994. [8] Unilogic, Ltd., Pittsburgh. Scribe Document Production System User Manual, fourth edition, April 1984. Chapter 12 and appendices E8 through E10 deal with bibliographies. [9] Mary-Claire van Leunen. A Handbook for Scholars. Oxford University Press, Revised Edition, 1992.
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O Patashnik

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