I’m using biblatex and biber, running on Mac OS X Mavericks, and am looking for a better bibliography manager. In a related question Java-based open-source JabRef and Windows-only Citavi were suggested.

My bibliography previously was managed by BibDesk (bundled with MacTeX), because it uses the BibTeX format natively, but I found its support for biblatex conventions seriously lacking (even with custom TypeInfo). Also its GUI, especially the dialog window for editing entries, feels very much as if no professional interface designer was ever involved in its creation – it’s an ugly key-value form from the nineties.

I switched to Zotero (Standalone) recently, because of the reasons mentioned above and for its browser integration, “magic wand” (automated entry from ISBN, DOI etc., even from snapshot with paid phone app) and cloud synchronization. These are three features I no longer want to miss.

It also is available for other platforms, because it runs on a XUL base being derived from a Firefox extension. That may seem a good thing at first, but there’s a lot lacking that I expect from an OS X application, e.g. fullscreen mode, (standard) keyboard shortcuts and proper text fields. I’m afraid JabRef suffers from similar usability nuisances, but haven’t tried it yet.

Zotero also doesn’t support crossref of any kind and journal/series abbreviations (i.e. short… fields) only for some types, which I would both very much like to use.

There are more programs that I have not yet used:

My ideal bibliography manager would also be able to search my local university library using Z39.50 or SRU. (I guess both are supported.) I expect it to be able to use PDFs anywhere on my hard drive, not only in its special hidden folder.

  • 2
    This feels rather 'opinion-based' to me: lots of people are happy with JabRef (generally)/BibDesk (on Mac), so the requirements here are at least in part about what you like rather than anything technical. At the same time, biblatex support isn't really that complex: I use JabRef without the 'biblatex mode' but take a little care on how I input my data, and everything is fine with biblatex.
    – Joseph Wright
    Feb 27 '14 at 12:57
  • Might also be worth differentiating whether you want a programs which can export BibTeX data or one that manages it directly. JabRef and BibDesk are both programs to managed BibTeX files (they open/save them directly) whereas most of the others you mention have their own formats and offer BibTeX data only by 'export'.
    – Joseph Wright
    Feb 27 '14 at 13:01
  • Either biblatex export or direct support is fine with me, but it needs to be more than just plain old BibTeX. That’s where BibDesk fails. I’ll repeat my major requirements: crossref, short…, non-BibTeX entry types, autofill by identifier (ISBN/DOI) and online database lookup, browser integration, cloud synch, “nice” handling of PDF attachments. Native GUI is almost a must, although that may border on ‘opinion-based’, as do other comfort features.
    – Crissov
    Feb 27 '14 at 14:30
  • 2
    Longtime biblatex and BibDesk user here. IME BibDesk is despite its shortcomings regarding biblatex still your best shot. Unfortunately, the developers are not interested. The simple fact that most apps (like Zotero) don't allow arbitrary custom fields (like origdate, booksubitle etc. etc.) which are then exported to the .bib makes them useless for me. But I agree that a BibDesk version with better support for biblatex/biber would be nice. I'd be actually willing to pay money for such a BiberDesk app.
    – Simifilm
    Feb 27 '14 at 16:08
  • Bookends allows the creation of any format and field for biblatex . I use it all the time without a problem. But there is no automatic push to the bib file. You have to export changes from the assigned folder in Bookends to the bib file. I use a script to automate the process
    – Nhaps
    Jan 26 '17 at 20:45

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