[texhax] BibTeX and its limitations

Robin Fairbairns Robin.Fairbairns at cl.cam.ac.uk
Mon Nov 17 17:31:37 CET 2003

> overall, BibTeX is a great tool for keeping track of your references
> across different publications/papers. The output format is highly
> configurable using tools like custom-bib.  I never had a problem
> saving any reference in my .bib database. 

the biggest worry i see for bibtex in the near future is the need for
multilingual and multicultural entries.  i'm surprised jan (with a
german address) has not been bothered by the difficulty one encounters
when trying to enter \" into a bibtex string, but just \" isn't good

bibtex needs to free itself of its belief in 7-bit encoding, it needs
to learn to sort in more than just american, and so on.  (i know 8-bit
versions of bibtex are available; i don't know of any sorting
mechanism other than english, and i don't know how one might deal with
more than one 8-bit character set in a bibtex database, let alone any
unicode set.)

it also needs to get away from its american-centred naming model.
english names have a rather different structure than american ones,
yet even such simple matters as the name of the great physicist lord
rayleigh require special measures.

> If you followed the discussion on another TeX-related list
> (MacOS-X-Tex), though, you will have read about a problem I had
> recently. I tried to change the appearance of the bibliography
> header in the text (have it as a numbered \subsubsection in LaTeX
> instead of an unnumbered \section). 
> This is a much more complicated than I expected since the respective
> function is not easily changed. I finally retreated to using the
> bibentry package (which takes some of BibTeX's advantages, while
> adding much flexibility). 

aren't these latex issues, rather than bibtex issues?

i note that some of the issues raised in the latex 3 project papers on
ctan in info/ltx3pub mention citation problems (these papers relate to
work done some time back).  also, the camel package (ctan
macros/latex/contrib/camel) arose from latex 3 work, in some sense.


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