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Use # as indicator for BibTeX string constants

Bibtex supports string constants. The entry editor should support that, too. Affected code is (at least) org.jabref.logic.importer.fileformat.BibtexParser#parseFieldContent and org.jabref.logic.bibtex.FieldWriter#formatAndResolveStrings

Decision Drivers

  • Full BibTeX compatibility
  • Intuitive for the user
  • UI backwards compatible

Considered Options

  • Wrap string constants in #
  • Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character §
  • Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character %
  • Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character &
  • Replace the internal # in JabRef by a single &
  • Change the data type of a field value
  • Wrap plan # in curly braces: {#}

Decision Outcome

Chosen option: “Wrap string constants in #”, because already existing behavior.

Pros and Cons of the Options

Wrap string constants in #

When BibTeX on the disk contains field = value, it is rendered as field = #value# in the entry editor. The user then knows that value is a BibTeX string.

Example:

left: BibTeX; right: Entry Editor

@String{ value = "example" }

field1 = value     -> #value#
field2 = {value}   -> value

field1 = value # value --> #value# # #value#
  • Good, because In place in JabRef since more than 10 years
  • Bad, because # is used in BibTeX for string concatenation
  • Bad, because # is used in Markdown to indicate headings. When using Markdown in fields such as comments, this causes writing errors
  • Bad, because # could appear in URLs

Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character §

When BibTeX on the disk contains field = value, it is rendered as field = §value§ in the entry editor. The user then knows that value is a BibTeX string.

Example:

left: BibTeX; right: Entry Editor

field1 = value     -> §value§
field2 = {value}   -> value

field1 = value # value --> §value§ # §value§
  • Good, because easy to implement
  • Good, because no conflict with BibTeX’s # sign
  • Bad, because documentation needs to be updated
  • Bad, because § is not available on a US keyboard

Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character %

Similar to “Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character §”

Example:

left: BibTeX; right: Entry Editor

field1 = value     -> %value%
field2 = {value}   -> value

field1 = value # value --> %value% # %value%
  • Good, because a user does not write LaTeX comments inside a string
  • Bad, because % could be used in Markdown, too
  • Bad, because % is used for comments in LaTeX and thus migtht cause confusion
  • Bad, because % could appear in URLs: There is url percent encoding

Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character &

Similar to “Replace the internal # in JabRef by the non-used character §

Example:

left: BibTeX; right: Entry Editor

field1 = value     -> &value&
field2 = {value}   -> value

field1 = value # value --> &value& # &value&
  • Good, because Users do not write LaTeX tables
  • Bad, because & is a LaTeX command for tables

Replace the internal # in JabRef by a single &

Prefix strings with &

Example:

left: BibTeX; right: Entry Editor

field1 = value     -> &value
field2 = {value}   -> value

field1 = value # value --> &value # &value
  • Good, because near to C syntax
  • Bad, because & is a LaTeX command for tables
  • Bad, because & could appear in URLs

Change the data type of a field value

org.jabref.model.entry.BibEntry#setField(org.jabref.model.entry.field.Field, java.lang.String) changes to org.jabref.model.entry.BibEntry#setField(org.jabref.model.entry.field.Field, org.jabref.model.entry.field.Value) (org.jabref.model.entry.BibEntry#setField(org.jabref.model.entry.field.Field, java.lang.String)). This would bring JabRef’s internal data model even more close to BibTeX

  • Good, because more object-orientated design of BibTeX field storage
  • Good, because eases implementation of an advanced field editor
  • Bad, because high effort to implement