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

From: John Kitchin
Subject: Re: citations: org-cite vs org-ref 3.0
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2022 07:51:32 -0400
User-agent: mu4e 1.6.10; emacs 28.0.90

Vikas Rawal <vikasrawal@gmail.com> writes:

> Dear John,
> Thanks very much for taking time to write a detailed reply.
>  I do not think it is productive for the community to say or consider it
>  is a sad situation. 
> From the perspective of a user, this was only meant to express a
> sentiment that one finds oneself in a situation of having to choose
> between two good things, and that we have not been able to find a way
> to make both compatible with each other. It was in not meant as a
> disrespect in any way.

I don't think you have to choose. You can use org-cite for
citations, and org-ref for cross-references. The citation syntax is
orthogonal, you just should not mix them. You can even wire org-ref to
use org-cite-insert like this:

(setq org-ref-insert-cite-function (lambda () (org-cite-insert nil)))

or use your own key binding if you need the prefix arg functionality of

org-ref is more configurable and modular than it is given credit for.
This is not an either/or choice.

> My use case is very similar to yours and I have been an org-ref user
> for a long time (I was surely one of the earliest beneficiaries of
> your work), having written two books and innumerable research papers
> with org-ref citation syntax. Being able to export to LaTeX has been
> my primary use but the fact that citations were not exported easily to
> other formats thus far was a problem I had to struggle with every now
> and then.

with org-ref-3, this is much better, but org-cite also works well,
probably even better if you use footnote styles. Either way, it is not
trivial to get the same output from LaTeX and CSL for arbitrary styles.
They are often close though.

>  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.
> Given that it is not very difficult to convert a document from old
> org-ref citation syntax to the org-cite syntax, at least as far as
> citation is concerned, this should not be a big problem. Do these
> documents use citation commands that are not available in org-cite?
> Can those not be added to org-cite?

It is possible to convert, I wouldn't say not very difficult. In
principle one maps over the links and citations, and then in reverse
order replace the one format with the converted other format in a
buffer. That basically means change & to @ (easy), and provide the
mapping between org-ref link type and org-cite style. org-ref has 70ish
cite commands that it supports because those are in bib(la)tex. If you
only use the basic types, it "should be easy". If you use others, you
will have to settle for approximately correct in some cases.

>  I think org-ref and org-cite have different priorities, they solve
>  different problems with different approaches, and they have different
>  pros and cons. 
> It might be useful to discuss specific gaps (such as citenum) that
> need to be plugged in org-cite for it to be usable. In fact, making
> org-cite usable for a heavyweight user like you is a useful goalpost.

citenum and bibentry are the only two I am not sure have a CSL analog. I
guess that things like citedate and citetitle are not fully implemented
in citeproc. That is fine, org-cite does not need to fully support all
of bib(la)tex, no single user needs that. Lots of users need one part
or another though, and collectively bib(la)tex exists for them.

> I understand that you do not particularly like the modularity and
> complexity of org-cite way of specifying styles and variants. But if
> one is able to make the two compatible, filling the gaps, they could
> have a friendly co-existence with some way of being able to convert a
> document between the two styles. And if there are some
> incompatibilities that cannot be resolved, it would be good to know
> exactly what all those are. If somebody was to write functions to
> convert from one format to the other, they could choose how they want
> to deal with those incompatibilities.

I guess you won't know what all the incompatibilities are until you try
this. In my experience with org-ref, there is a years long tail of
discovery as people try different things and have corner cases of need.

>  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. 
> What org-ref seems to do with cross-references is very nice.
> Unfortunately this would not be available if a user chooses to use
> org-cite. Do the capabilities of cross-referencing have to be wedded
> to the citation system?

They don't have to be integrated. Someone could separate out that
functionality. I don't have unlimited time to spend on these things, and
org-ref is designed with the constraints I have so that I am able to
develop and support it. That is all you should read into this. I don't
have the time or energy develop and maintain separate packages that I
use together. I do not want to separate org-ref into separate core
packages for cross-references, indexes, glossary/acronyms, bibtex
utilities, and packages that integrate helm, ivy, etc. 

> Can this not be resolved? 
>  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. 
> Friendly co-existence should be our goal. But can that be a situation
> in which one is able to choose between the best of both and, as far as
> possible, switch from one to the other.

As far as I can tell, you can already do this.

> Thanks again for your time and effort,
> Vikas

Professor John Kitchin
Doherty Hall A207F
Department of Chemical Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Pronouns: he/him/his

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