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Implement special fields as separate fields

Context and Problem Statement

How to implement special fields in BibTeX databases?

Considered Options

  • Special fields as separate fields
  • Special fields as keywords
  • Special fields as values of a special field
  • Special fields as sub-feature of groups

Decision Outcome

Chosen option: “Special fields as separate fields”, because comes out best (see below)

Pros and Cons of the Options

Special fields as separate fields


priority = {prio1},
printed = {true},
readstatus = {true},
  • Good, because groups are another view to fields
  • Good, because a special field leads to a special rendering
  • Good, because groups pull information from the main table
  • Good, because hard-coding presets is easier than generic configuration
  • Good, because direct inclusion in main table
  • Good, because groups are shown with color bars in the main table
  • Good, because there are no “hidden groups” in JabRef
  • Good, because can be easily removed (e.g., by a formatter)
  • Good, because prepares future power of JabRef to make field properties configurable
  • Bad, because bloats BibTeX file
  • Bad, because requires more writing when editing BibTeX manually by hand

Special fields as keywords


keywords = {prio1, printed, read}
  • Good, because does not bloat the BibTeX file. Typically, 50% of the lines are special fields
  • Good, because the user can easily assign a special field. E.g, typing “, prio1” into keywords instead of “\n priority = {prio1},
  • Bad, because they need to be synchronized to fields (because otherwise, the maintable cannot render it)
  • Bad, because keywords are related to the actual content
  • Bad, because some users want to keep publisher keywords

Special fields as values of a special field


jabrefspecial = {prio1, printed, red}
  • Good, because typing effort
  • Bad, because handling in table gets complicated → one field is now multiple columns

Special fields as sub-feature of groups

  • Good, because one concept rules them all
  • Good, because groups already provide explicit handling of certain cases: groups based on keywords and groups based on author’s last names
  • Bad, because main table implementation changes: Currently, each column in the main table represents a field. The main may mark entries belonging to certain groups, but does offer an explicit rendering of groups
  • Bad, because groups are more a query on data of the entries instead of explicitly assigning entries to a group
  • Bad, because explicit assignment and unassigment to a group is not supported by the main table