Thursday, 27 October 2005

Getting IT Together

A very important part of doing research is being organized, and keeping your references and notes in a format that makes the information easily retrievable and easily editable. One way people do this is a card index. Nothing wrong with this at all. It has worked for generations of scholars quite well and I'm not denying its simplicity and effectiveness.

But there are a couple of software programmes that allow you to easily organize your references, keep each piece of bibliographical information in a place that can then be organized easily, through a template style, into whatever format you want (such as MHRA, or Chicago) at the click of a button. You can also keep all of your notes attached to these records, and then do a simple search within the programme for everywhere you noted an author's name, or a title, or a word. I started out using Endnote, which is not a bad piece of software. It is not a great piece of software either, and there is a learning curve. It's very much geared towards the sciences and making changes to suit your own needs takes nerves of steel and plenty of patience.

Then I found Bookends. I find it excellent. It is easy to use and integrates with my word processor seamlessly. The advantage is that I don't have to worry about compiling a bibliography, because as I write and insert my references in footnotes, each of these references is linked to Bookends. When I want to format them, Bookends will compile the bibliography based on the references I have inserted in each footnote. All pain free. And their support forum is excellent. The main man, Jon, will reply to questions in sometimes lightening speed - I'm serious. I've had replies within five minutes from him on queries, all cleared up effortlessly.
Now all you have to do is throw Word out the window and get yourself something sleek and sexy like Mellel. Writing a thesis in Word is simply not very clever. And if you're clever enough to write a thesis, you should be clever enough to get rid of Word. Buying Bookends and Mellel was the best software purchase I ever made.
Now if only I could remember what my thesis was about....

4 comments:

hesitant hack said...

tell me more about mellel. I need to get a programme for my new ibook (my free trial of word has run out, and i have NO word processing programme).
is it practical? For writing, e.g. fiction and scripts? And articles?
And if I send it in an attachment, will it open on the computer of someone who doesn't have it?

Miglior acque said...

Mellel is completely practical! I'll ring and talk to you about it.

Tara said...

XeTeX, baby. It's the way of the true nerd.

Miglior acque said...

You are right Tara, and I did try my very best with XeTeX. I just found the learning curve too steep. Mellel is just very simple and I like it a lot. I use Gentium, a beautiful font with lovely classy glyphs for Greek and ME characters and whatever else I need. It was going to be much more complicated to get XeTeX to recognize the font bla blah blah.
I'm just not enough of a nerd!

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