[ptsefton.com] | [CV & Bio]

Hacks to get bibliographic support in OpenOffice.org Writer


OpenOffice.org has some good points, and some bad points. Then there's the bibliography database; which ranks as horrific rather than merely bad.

Bruce D'Arcus says:

This point is clear in higher ed. Despite being a co-project lead for an offical OOo project, I still cannot recommend the suite to my colleagues, which is pretty much the point at which both OOo and Linux might become a real option for them. Without good bibliographic support, OOo simply has no chance in higher ed.


In the ICE project we're working with courseware where bibliographic support is important. Surprisingly enough some of our pilot users don't currently use bibliographic software, but then some of them didn't use styles either.

As the project lead on a project that's built around OpenOffice.org, in higher ed., I'm looking for a solution that will let my colleagues work with OOo, and I'm confident that at least within the context of the ICE project we will be able to get people working.

Here's my current thinking on how:

  1. We use will use EndNote as the reference manager. Apparently it has some problems, but we have a campus license.

    But EndNote doesn't work with OpenOffice.org to format citations or bibliographies because Writer's rtf export does not support the styles we are using, so we have a seek another solution.

  2. A user will maintain their library in EndNote and paste temporary in-text citations into their ICE documents, in OOo Writer. When they're ready to have a bibliography generated they will export their library to a place ICE can find it.

    (When we get around to MS Word support Word uers can just use EndNote directly on their Word docs if they choose, or do it the way I'm describing here)

  3. Behind the scenes, ICE will convert their library to MODS format, using Bibutils and crack open all their documents, turn the citations into an XML format, either based on DocBook or a new proposed format for OpenOffice.org, then create a bibliography in a separate OpenDocument document, either for an entire course or module-by-module.

    To perform this amazing feat we are likely to use a system called CiteProc, created by the aforementioned Bruce D'Arcus. Bruce has devised a citation language (CSL) that is designed to be independent of particular software implementations, so you can specify citation and bibliographic formats once only and have them work in any output format. We'll see how it goes in practice.

All this is still a bit speculative, but the experiments I have performed so far are promising, and the general approach should be able to evolve to deal with software other than EndNote, and improvements to OpenOffice.org.

And yes I know this is not an elegant solution, but it's a first step, and it should mean we can use OpenOffice.org in relative comfort while the OpenOffice.org community, us included, goes through the proper process to add real bibliographic support.

I think Bruce has a vision of a suite of open source tools and shared bibliographic data that will completely eclipse EndNote and other commercial tools, and we'd love to help.