Update: Checkout my word 2007 Add-in plugin “Reference Manager” to import/export bibliographies using BibTex, RIS, and other formats and also to automatically import articles from many different journal websites such as ACM Portal, Nature, Amazon, etc.
Within the scholar community (or alteast for me), there is much excitement with the introduction of new bibliographic manager feature in Microsoft Word 2007. But, yesterday as I struggled to keep up with a paper deadline, I was thinking that the bibliographic manager feature is more of a nuisance than a feature. Not that the idea of bibliographic manager is bad; it’s a great idea. But, its the lack of support and it’s limited capability that are bad. It seems that the idea of Bibliographic Manager in Word 2007 is currently half baked. Below are some of the issues that even a novice can easily identify with Microsoft’s bibliographic manager:
1. Add/Import Functionality – There are two ways to add an article in microsoft’s bibliography manager. First, manually enter all the article metadata information by pressing thousands of keyboard keys. I feel laughing thinking how naive microsoft is. For eons, the scholar community has successfully used bibtex, RIS, and other standard metadata structure to share articles. However, microsoft word doesn’t offer any feature to directly import articles using these any of these standard formats. Luckily, I developed this Microsoft Word Plugin that allows directly import article from Memento, saving my finger from typing all the article details.
Second, import Microsoft bibliographic XML that someone else created. Agreed there are tools that can convert bibtex and other formats into Microsoft’s Bibliographic XML, but it means that to add an article you have to juggle data between tons of different softwares. In a time critical situation, which is common when trying to keep with a paper deadline, this seems a foolish idea.
2. References and Citations – The second most important feature that a bibliographic manager should provide is an ability to quickly cite article and build bibliography. Microsoft Word allows this. Great !!!. It also offer, by default, seven different ways to cite paper and list references. Great!!!. But wait – what happens if you are required to use some other format not available by default in word. hmm…Microsoft did think about it. They are using XSLT (XML Stylesheet) to format citations and references. Awesome! finally Microsoft learned to think ahead. But wait, don’t get too excited. The problem is even before you can create your custom XSLT, you will need to spend thousands of hours first trying to understand all the weird tags to format citation and references. I consider myself sufficient good in programming and also has an understanding of XSLT. However, even after spending hours, I wasn’t able to create a XSLT that I could have used to publish my bibliography in ACM Reference Format.
Then, think of digital immigrants (our old professors and people who avoid technology). Couldn’t microsoft have provided a simple GUI to quickly a custom XSLT. I can easily envision a simple user interface where a user can drag and drop different parameters and insert any extra text (such as [, ], “, etc). But, if Microsoft had thought about it before, then It would not have been Microsoft but Apple 🙂
3. Export Feature: How dare you even think about it :). Its microsoft and known for making thing worse (well not always 🙂 )
The Verdit: Adding Bibliographic Manager in Word 2007 is a step in a right direction and using XSLT to format citation and references is a good idea, but there is a long way before it can be used effectively and efficiently. My final words will be, TRY IT BUT DON”T RELY ON IT.