2 things that could make Zotero better


I would give my 2 cents for improving Zotero:

1. a Visual Style editor that doesn't need a "if-else" or knowing json and formatting. Something more WYSIWYG

2. and easy way to say to Zotero: do not include it in the bibliography
  • this is the visual editor I talk about in point 1. To be able to do what you have to do you have to know what you are doing, it is not WYSIWYG
  • I'm not saying usability of the existing editor can't be improved, but I wouldn't even know how a WYSIWYG editor could look like in theory. Citation styles are conceptual guidelines with rules, not text documents.
    And you obviously don't need to know JSON (which is only used at all in a hidden advanced feature for which you don't need to understand it, just copy&paste it from Zotero) or formatting (whatever you mean by that?) to use it. At its most basic, you click on elements in the citation(s) and then modify where they are and how they're formatted.

    It does require a conceptual understanding of if/else, and I don't really see a way around that; certainly not with CSL as a language, which relies heavily on conditionals in describing styles, but even more generally if you want to describe a citation style, you're going to use conditionals ("If an item does not have an author, use the title instead" etc.)
  • Having an WYSIWYG make life easier. I'm not saying that editor.citationstyles.org/visualEditor/'s not enough, but with an WYSIWYG it would be much easier to take one of the configurations already present and modify them where you need them
  • I'm asking what WYSIWYG even means in the context of a citation styles editor. It makes no sense to me. Like -- what would you be "seeing"?
  • Look it's very easy and i don't know why u are complain about it.
    We could have some ref examples like dictionary ref or encyclopedia ref or articles and we could just formatting the ref and the editor will make the cfg for us. Very easy
  • I mean, that's programmatically very hard to do, _and_ it's insufficient since individual refs don't have all relevant info for a citation style (like et al, what to do with missing information, etc), so very much not ' very easy', no
  • edited February 7, 2024
    @salvodif If you are saying "it's very easy" and that adamsmith is complaining, it is possible that you are not clearly stating your request.

    Provide a very specific step-by-step example , in words, what you want to see on the screen and how the screen controls could be manipulated.

    @adamsmith and I only sometimes think alike (we use Zotero for very different purposes) but neither he nor I have any inkling of what you seem to desire of the Zotero interface. What you imagine might, indeed, be simple but that isn't my understanding of your request. My understanding of what you desire would be cumbersome on a screen and preposterously difficult to code. I could draw a logic tree to represent if-else on paper (I had to make sketches on paper of that path for a course on logic way back in 1969) but manipulating snippets on a screen to generate a series of scripts is something beyond my ability to visualize much less to code.
  • I actually think I understand what they want now -- "We could have some ref examples like dictionary ref or encyclopedia ref or articles and we could just formatting the ref and the editor will make the [CSL] for us." I just don't think it's easy. It's hard to program even at a basic level and it's hard to conceptualize right once you get into the details.
  • there is something close to this in endnote, and you can see a description for example here:
    I also remember way back when I moved from endnote to zotero, that endnote style creation and editing was faaar easier compared to zotero, and I would say it remains so, despite zotero now having a better style editor than it hat at the beginning.
    It may be that the endnote way is less elegant and less able to deal with specific complexities, but it is easier and more intuitive.
  • This is something that chatgpt/copilot might be interesting to apply to, but even then it won't be trivial to get correct results.
  • At least untrained chatGPT currently fails disastrously on CSL. (I've only tried with 3, but I believe I've seen people mention 4). But yes, I think it's certainly conceivable to for it to get pretty good at this.

    The Endnote example is closer to what might be possible -- it's basically a simpler syntax for describing citation styles, and several of the functionalities are broken down into more natural/non-technical terminology (e.g. how author formatting is described). It's in no way WYSWYG, though, if you look at the various syntax characters in the different item type formats in the screenshot. I'm also afraid that the way it's set up -- oriented heavily around defining each item type -- translates poorly to how CSL works and some of the things CSL can do and Endnote cannot (but I'd have to go deeper into Endnote style capabilities to say for sure; I remember that way back I lost interest because it couldn't convert note and author-date styles)
  • Interesting. Is there docu on the endnote style language?
  • edited February 7, 2024
    @migugg "close to this" might be right.

    When EndNote was new and only a Mac program by Niles, this was sort-of possible but it handled conditional punctuation very badly when bibliographic elements were missing or themselves contained punctuation .When EndNote and Reference Manager came under the same company, the punctuation problem between bibliographic elements somewhat improved but number-of-authors-before et al was buggy in-text and for the bibliography. There were lots and lots of pleas to tech support from students at universities that had their "own" styles. I haven't used EndNote for a decade or more but even recently I have tried to advise students who want to modify styles using EndNote. It isn't pretty. If-else-except-(A or B)-then C doesn't lend itself to WYSIWYG GUI. Even then, some careful editing of the final (reference-codes-removed) document was necessary.

    In summary, creating or modifying styles as a process that can easily be done by a first-time novice (while a nice thing to imagine) is going to almost impossible. Such a tool is a worthy goal. There are skills like style-building that will require time to learn to do well or efficiently. I suspect that it might be easier to have the world agree on a single standard universal bibliographic style.
  • I mean... that's APA, obviously.
  • the endnote style documenation is here: https://support.clarivate.com/Endnote/s/article/EndNote-X8-Windows-and-Mac-Style-Editing-Guide?language=en_US

    I agree that csl has advantages in generating good styles. I only brought endnote up, as it is more user firendly for novices, which is what prompted this discussion.

    I obviously agree that the millions of styles are the biggest problem. Followed by the fact that many journals still seem to be stuck in pre-digital times and do not even care to properly document their style, let alone produce their own csl and/or endnote style.
Sign In or Register to comment.