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[emacs-humanities] How do you use Ebib?

From: Göktuğ Kayaalp
Subject: [emacs-humanities] How do you use Ebib?
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2021 16:17:12 +0300

Hi all,

I wanted to learn about your workflows with Ebib, and ask for advice for
my own use cases as I look to switch to it as a Zotero user.

So my first question is what’s your workflow is like with Ebib?  My
second question is, how do you think the workflow I explain below can be
replicated with it, and what parts of it can be modified to make better
use of Ebib?

I have been using Zotero for a long while, at least for a couple years
by now.  It’s really limited in terms of how it interacts with the rest
of my system and in terms of ergonomics.  It’s also terribly hard to
hack on, way behind what Emacs has to offer, despite running on a
JavaScript interpreter.  I find it to get in my way a lot, and I don’t
have much chance of scripting my way around it.

I use Zotero to manage both references and their associated files,
sometimes more than one.  I have various collections: ‘inbox’ receives
new papers etc I find and is basically a reading list.  ‘software’ is
for citations of various software packages like R, Praat, etc. that I
might need. Apart from these, I make collections for assignments (I’m an
MA student and currently I’m studying for my thesis) and sometimes for
topics (e.g. I have ‘sex&gender’, ‘statistics’, etc. as topics).

I use Better BibTeX with Zotero to autogenerate my keys, and to
autoupdate BibLaTeX exports of collections while the relevant project is
active (I use biblatex exclusively; and I turn off auto-exports for
projects after they are concluded).

I copy around references into multiple collections as need appears, and
I like that the relevant files are not duplicated, because I heavily
annotate PDFs.

I make a lot of use of org-zotxt to link to items in collections when
preparing reading lists, and also in my reading notes file
(Reading.org), I create a heading and under it link to the relevant
entry in Zotero, even if I have no reading notes separate from PDF
annots for that particular item.  I’ve modified org-zotxt links to
export to ‘\fullcite’ for that purpose.

One of the Zotero features I make heavy use of is the ‘Save to Zotero’
bookmarklet.  I’ve adapted it to Qutebrowser where ‘,z’ triggers the
bookmarklet and the current ‘thing’ is saved to Zotero.  I find this to
be a double edged sword, as mistakes happen fairly often, and they can
go unnoticed for long times (e.g. recently I found that a ref I used a
lot in my assignments and would use for my thesis was actually a
reference to a review article for that book), but it’s also very

I currently have about 900 entries in my Zotero library, a decent chunk
of which AFAICT can be thrown away (I’ve ‘discipline-hopped’ a lot till
beginning my MA) and reduced to ~300-400 relevant entries.

I am thinking of how to be able to best move away from this.  I imagine
reducing collections to a single core one plus project specific ones
would help. Instead of topic collections, I’d create notes or separate
org files on topics (e.g. Stats.org, GenderStudies.org,
Linguistics.org::*Some cool research topic), and reference the relevant
stuff from within them.  I could add an ‘ebib:citekey’ link type in Org
mode (if not already done) to replace neat fns of org-zotxt like jumping
to entry, opening the file, and exporting to \fullcite in LaTeX (for
authoring in LaTeX I stick to using biblatex directly because it’s very
flexible).  One thing I can’t really figure is how I’d do copying into
various collections and managing files.  I’d really need to have single
copies of files so that annotations don’t go out of sync.  Also, I’d
like projects to have their own .bib files that I can check into VCS
along with their files, so that when the project ends, those .bibs
wouldn’t be affected by changes to the main library, thereby breaking
the projects they are part of.

I also like to be able to have multiple exports of the same collection
sometimes.  E.g., my thesis collection is exported to two locations:
~/Notes/MastersThesis where I do the private planning like reading
lists, study plan, etc., and ~/Research/MA_Thesis, where I’ll keep the
code and LaTeX sources and which I eventually wish to make public.  I
guess I could achieve this via making ~/Research/MA_Thesis the canonical
location of the .bib and then either \include’ing it where relevant
and/or via symlinking.

This turned out longer than I thought it’d be, but that’s pretty much my
full workflow and considerations.  If you have any advice or examples on
how to replicate it, achieve the documented modifications, or better
ways of achieving the stated goals, I’d really appreciate them, if you
don’t mind to share.  Ebib is not one of those packages like org(-roam),
evil, org-ref, etc. that gets a lot of exposure, tutorials, etc., so
it’s a bit hard to figure this stuff out when you can’t invest a lot of
time into it.

Thanks a lot in advance,
All the best,


İ. Göktuğ Kayaalp / @cadadr / <https://www.gkayaalp.com/>
pgp:   024C 30DD 597D 142B 49AC 40EB 465C D949 B101 2427

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