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Re: citations: org-cite vs org-ref 3.0

From: Dominik Schrempf
Subject: Re: citations: org-cite vs org-ref 3.0
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2022 09:16:35 +0100
User-agent: mu4e 1.6.10; emacs 28.0.91


I am trying out `org-cite' right now. It works much better than the last time (I
am using the `biblatex' backend right now). However, I can not find any
documentation about the available /styles/.

They are mentioned here: <https://orgmode.org/manual/Citations.html>

But no styles are provided.

For example, I need citations in the text (showing up as “Author(s) (Year)”).
With BibTeX, this would be `\citet{}' (or `\textcite{}' with BibLaTeX). But
there is a lot more. See: 

Thank you for working on `org-cite', and `org-ref'!

Timothy <tecosaur@gmail.com> writes:

> Hi John,
> Thanks for your considered response.
> When you contrast org-cite and org-ref, you say:
>> With org-ref, bib(la)tex export is almost fully supported, and is easy,
> I find this odd as org-cite supports bib(la)tex export, and rather easily.
> ┌────
> │ #+bibliography: references.bib
> │ #+cite_export: biblatex authortitle/authortitle-ibid
> │ (NO_ITEM_DATA:key) etc.
> │ #+print_bibliography:
> └────
> The limitation which I think is on your mind is that not all bib(la)tex 
> commands
> are supported, and not in the “usual” form. For instance, to get `pnotecite’ 
> one
> would use `[cite/locators:]’. However, to get a 1-to-1 name mapping, you can 
> just
> customise `org-cite-biblatex-styles’. For instance, `parencite’ is not 
> currently
> available, but if I just add `(“parencite” nil “parencite” nil nil)’ I can 
> then do
> `[cite/parencite:]’ or if I replace the first `“parencite”’ with `“paren”’, 
> just
> `[cite/paren:]’.
> A package could be created, say `org-cite-literal-biblatex’ which is just a 
> copy
> of `oc-biblatex.el’ with a different default `org-cite-biblatex-styles’ and
> `org-cite-biblatex-style-shortcuts’ (or just sets those variables in
> `org-cite-biblatex’). As far as I can tell this would provide exactly the
> functionality you say org-cite can’t provide but org-ref does.
> You can already use `.bib’ files, and so frankly I cannot myself see the 
> point in
> org-ref’s existence beyond bifurcating the community on this. At this point 
> the
> only remaining motivation I see is old documents and current users, and for 
> this
> a migration tool seems more appropriate.
> I don’t mean to be overly critical, however this is my current honest 
> assessment
> of the situation.
> All the best,
> Timothy
> John Kitchin <jkitchin@andrew.cmu.edu> writes:
>> I do not think it is productive for the community to say or consider it
>> is a sad situation. Many good things have emerged from these
>> discussions, even if it is not yet consensus on a solution. It is a
>> complex problem, with many years of effort by many people on each side.
>> That is an indication of how ambitious this project is and that there
>> may be more than one solution that is needed. It pains me quite a bit
>> there is a sentiment of fractionation, and that I may be contributing to
>> it.
>> My regular job workload the past few years has been crushing, and I have
>> not had the time to participate in this that I wish I had. I am not sure
>> I can add much here without sounding or feeling defensive about org-ref,
>> and my decision to continue supporting and developing it. I have thought
>> about this for most of the day, and in the (very long, apologies in
>> advance) response that follows I will do my best to provide a balanced
>> perspective (from my point of view) on the situation.
>> Some specific context that is important to me is that I wrote org-ref
>> long ago to solve a specific problem for me in the preparation of
>> scientific publications that are destined for LaTeX export. I intended
>> it to provide nearly equivalent bib(la)tex citation export, and as
>> reasonable an export as possible for everything else. I use org-ref
>> professionally, and it is a complete solution for me. I simply cannot
>> compromise on the capability org-ref provides me, or wait for an
>> alternative complete solution in org-mode. I have work I have to do now,
>> and org-ref lets me do it. This alone is reason enough for me to
>> continue using, developing and supporting org-ref. I understand org is
>> not intended to be a substitute for writing LaTeX, but it is a fact of
>> my job that I have to do that.
>> There are more than 8 years of legacy org-ref documents. I have written
>> 40+ scientific papers with it, and countless technical documents with
>> more than 8000 cite links among them. org-ref has exceeded 190K
>> downloads from MELPA, so I feel obligated to maintain org-ref for
>> myself, and those users. org-ref may be heavyweight in bundling a lot of
>> capability together that could be separated into individual packages,
>> but it is also convenient for people who need it, and a GitHUB issue or
>> pull request away from new features. I remain committed to supporting
>> this, and I do it in a way I can manage, hence the monolithic package
>> design.
>> org-cite was also developed to solve some specific citation problems for
>> others that org-ref did not address well at the time it was started. I
>> believe those were issues like better pre/post note support, and
>> integration with CSL.
>> I think org-ref and org-cite have different priorities, they solve
>> different problems with different approaches, and they have different
>> pros and cons. I believe there are mutually incompatible compromises one
>> must make here because the specific choices you make determine what is
>> easy and what is possible. There is not a direct mapping of bib(la)tex
>> and CSL as a citation processor. They are different programs and they
>> don’t share citation commands, or style information. It is inevitable
>> that something will be lost in the translation between these from a
>> single source like org, and whether that loss is acceptable depends on
>> what you need. For many things, close enough is ok for me, but for
>> manuscripts and proposals, they must be perfect, and in bib(la)tex form
>> for the journals I publish in. It is not that one thing is possible in
>> one and not the other; it is that you have to compromise one to do the
>> other no matter what you choose and that typically makes one thing or
>> the other easier to do. I am not even sure it is possible to do
>> everything one can do in bib(la)tex with CSL, for example, I don’t know
>> the equivalent of  in CSL. org-ref sides on making bib(la)tex
>> easy, and CSL is possible.
>> With org-cite, CSL can be readily used across export backends, more
>> bibliography database formats are supported, and it is also possible to
>> get LaTeX export, although there is no goal to fully support all of
>> bib(la)tex. A pure org approach (e.g. org-files as bibliography
>> database) can be used, there are a lot of CSL styles to work with, and
>> you can develop or adapt your own style if needed. With reasonable
>> defaults this should be a straightforward introduction to using
>> citations for new users that works out of the box. I support that.
>> With org-ref, bib(la)tex export is almost fully supported, and is easy,
>> and other exports via CSL are possible. Of course, you must have a
>> working LaTeX installation, only bibtex databases are supported, and
>> working knowledge of bib(la)tex is required to leverage this. Whether
>> you want it or not, you get a lot of extra utilities for getting bibtex
>> entries from a DOI, and support for cross-references, indexes,
>> glossaries and acronyms. This is a lot to ask of people who don’t need
>> it, and convenient for those who do. I support this.
>> Which one of these approaches is right depends on what you want to be
>> easy. Neither is right or wrong, that is determined by what you need at
>> the time and what you prioritize in your solution. It is even possible
>> you need both approaches at different times. The two approaches are not
>> compatible, but it is org-mode after all, and you can certainly convert
>> back and forth between them for the most part.
>> Both projects have benefited from this discussion a lot. org has
>> org-cite now, and org-ref now handles pre/post notes like org-cite does,
>> it supports CSL much better, and is even a little more modular, lighter
>> weight, and more easily integrated with other completion backends than
>> ivy or helm. That should broadly be viewed as a win-win situation.
>> Here are some factors that have prevented me from deprecating org-ref. I
>> spent about a month and half trying to get a solution to this at
>> <https://github.com/jkitchin/org-ref-cite>, and I don’t make these
>> observations lightly. That solution was complete and highly functional
>> for org-cite, but as I describe below not a replacement for org-ref at
>> this time. I still welcome a new maintainer for this code.
>> Cross-references are critical for me; without them, there is no path
>> forward for me with org-cite. I did work on a cross-reference approach
>> that leveraged org-cite syntax
>> (<https://github.com/jkitchin/org-ref-cite/issues/16>), but there was not
>> much appetite for the approach so I abandoned that. There are
>> cross-reference capabilities in org, that may be suitable for some
>> applications, but they do not come close to what org-ref offers, and
>> that the kind of technical documents I write require. For me, any
>> cross-reference capability would also have to support what is possible
>> in LaTeX, and preferrably look similar to the LaTeX commands. It has not
>> been possible to write an orthogonal package that could co-exist with
>> org-ref to address this; this would require a new syntax for
>> cross-references in my opinion. My opinion is that practically citations
>> and cross-references are just links to a place in your document (either
>> a figure/table/section/etc, or an entry in a bibliography). In org-ref,
>> both are represented by links; of course, they have different types and
>> functions, but they both have follow like actions. My opinion seems to
>> be in the minority on this.
>> I do not like the abstraction away from LaTeX cite commands in org-cite.
>> This is an example of a compromise between LaTeX and CSL. They do not
>> share common citation commands, so you can either choose one or the
>> other, or make a new abstraction that generalizes them. I strongly favor
>> the LaTeX commands because I write for LaTeX export, and there is
>> extensive documentation for how to cite in LaTeX and what to expect.
>> Clearly org-cite favors using the standardized abstractions in org-cite,
>> and then mapping them to the LaTeX commands I think. My perspective on
>> this is partially one of an educator; I have taught a lot of people how
>> to use org-mode for technical writing. This layer of abstraction adds
>> additional complexity to documentation, and in teaching people what to
>> do. As a LaTeX-centric user, that abstraction adds an additional
>> cognitive load while writing I find unwelcome. I concede that it also
>> reflects “what I do”, that org is not LaTeX, and that others may have a
>> more CSL centric perspective. org-cite is for them. I can see that the
>> abstraction away from the LaTeX cite commands strengthens the org is not
>> LaTeX philosophy, and will serve part of the community well. If I wasn’t
>> required to generate LaTeX documents, and teach others how to do it, I
>> would not feel so strongly.
>> It is my opinion that the modularity of org-cite is a challenge. I think
>> it is too difficult to configure, and difficult to support, even more so
>> than org-ref. I know my opinion differs from many on the list who want
>> modularity and configurability. I have supported org-ref since around
>> 2014, and even the modularity there (helm or ivy) has been a challenge
>> to support. org-ref has always been configurable, but monolithic. Still,
>> I learned a lot from Bruce (thank you!) that pushed me to redesign parts
>> of org-ref to be more modular and more easily pluggable to other
>> completion backends, and less specific on ivy/helm where practical.
>> There are limitations to this I learned about, compromises one has to
>> choose in doing it, and consequences in maintenance, support and
>> documentation from them. We still don’t fully agree on some of these
>> points, but org-ref is closer to that ideal than it was. Maybe one day I
>> will abandon ivy like I did helm many years ago and feel differently
>> about this, but that day is sufficiently far away that I don’t see it
>> now.
>> Finally, the org-cite code is magnificent, and written at a level well
>> above my coding skills. I am grateful to those who wrote it, and
>> especially to Nicolas, for the opportunity to learn from it. The code I
>> wrote in org-ref-cite was challenging. org-cite uses (IMO) advanced
>> emacs-lisp techniques, and more complex data structures than I am
>> accustomed to. I learned a lot studying the org-cite code, but I will be
>> honest that I find it difficult to make contributions to. That gave me
>> pause in continuing to develop it. It is fair to say that org-cite
>> showed me some ways to address limitations of org-ref that I did not see
>> before, org-ref is better for it, and the writing community that uses
>> pre/post notes and biblatex is much better served as a result.
>> Where does this leave me, org-ref and org-cite? I still have differences
>> of opinion on design choices between them, and those differences are
>> likely irreconcilable. These differences arise from my experiences in
>> writing, teaching, using, developing and supporting org-ref. For those
>> who need high fidelity LaTeX export like I do, I think org-ref is still
>> a superior solution. For everyone else, and especially if you do not
>> need sophisticated cross-references and don’t want the dependencies of
>> org-ref, org-cite is likely the better solution.
>> I am content to agree to disagree on these points and move forward with
>> both packages because they solve different problems, are suitable for
>> different communities, and they continue to benefit each other. I can
>> see not everyone sees this as a positive situation though, and that has
>> weighed heavily upon me lately. These times are heavy enough. Anyway,
>> this turned out much longer than I expected, so thanks everyone who has
>> contributed to making org better, I hope I got things mostly correct,
>> you found it a fair assessment, we might still be friends, and thanks
>> for reading to the end.
>> j

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