[texhax] bibtex

Philipp Gesang pgesang at ix.urz.uni-heidelberg.de
Tue Aug 17 12:15:12 CEST 2010

Hi Bryan!

On 2010-08-16 <13:58:16>, Lepore, Bryan wrote:
> >> Can you, or someone, correct the facts on Wikipedia?  I looked at it
> >> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BibTeX) but it was not obvious to me how
> >> to change the things in the box.
> > ... has been done anonymously the same day -- cheers, Uwe.
> hmm, wonder who that was :^)
> but i'm still wondering  - what is the latest greatest bibliographic system for tex/latex?


Seriously, ditching bibtex in favor of lua half a year ago was the best
thing tex-related I ever did. Calling external programs is outdated by
now, as is the restriction to the .bib format. With lua you can use
standard .bib markup, xml, s-expressions, you name it -- just have to
write a parser… Only think about the multi-language sorting which always
was a pain with 8 bit programs: with lua you won't even notice it as
long as you're using appropriate sorting tables (albeit they're not
trivial to build). Same for bibliographies with sections, bibliographies
that output tables etc.

(Reasonably advanced macro packages already provide uncountable lua
tools for string manipulation, sorting, .bib parsing, and the likes.)

In general, expect things to go a bit slower when using lua, but in many
cases you'll save one tex run as there's no need to externally process
data.  (For some bib styles as author-year that build citation strings
(e.g. “Einstein 1905b”) based on the whole set of cited works, you
still need a second run, though.) But as long as you don't typeset
volumes of bibliographic data, it won't be noticable at all.

Don't get me wrong: the bibliographic capabilities---and that was
synonymous with bibtex+jurabib back then---were the main reason for my
switching to tex in the first place. But since we have lua in our tex
machine there's just no point in calling some third party binary which
needs to be fed a cryptic input and returns code that is strongly biased
towards latex. Sure, these days you still have to implement a lot
yourself, but (no prediction, just a guess!) you can expect some user
friendly biblatex-compatible solution in the long run, which will make
it very convenient for latex users to forget about the 8 bit era.

The “Greatest bibliographic system” is not _for_ tex anymore, it's
already _inside_ tex.

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