Word 2008 = bibliography mess

After my last post about the joys of using Papers together with Word 2008 to create nice bibliographies, I tried to actually use the thing during the writing of an actual paper. I’m sorry to say I have to agree with the answers to the previous post: the bibliography tool in Word 2008 is a sad joke.

The Papers part, I have no problem with. Right now it’s the best tool to manage a lot of scientific papers,  the built-in search and organizing tools are definitely useful. But as soon as you export a bibliography to Word 2008, all hell break loose.First, something I don’t understand: when you open the Bibliography pane in Word, it’s empty. You first have to go into the “main source” and copy the references you want to use into the current document, THEN they appear into the pane. This is an unnecessary step: once in the document, you’ll have to select the references you want to use anyway. And I ended up copying the entire reference list anyway (I don’t want to have to *choose* which references I need beforehand, what’s the point of an integrated reference manager otherwise ?) — all of ~700 references.

The reason why you have to do that extra step becomes clear once you try to add a reference into the document by double-clicking on its entry in the Bibliography pane: it’s extra super-slow. My powerbook beachballed for what seemed like an eternity before the reference actually showed up. Moreover, the Bibliography pane is very small, so you don’t see a lot of details about items — if you have ten papers by the same first authors you’re out of luck telling them apart. You have to scroll within the list, vertically to find the first author and horizontally to check the publication years. There’s no built-in search. You can’t organise the references in folders, it’s just a flat list of 700 items. Switching to the Bibliography pane beachballs. All in all, finding the right reference is pretty hard, when it shouldn’t be.

I must admit that at this point I was already feeling discouraged — I couldn’t picture myself going through this ordeal for all ~30 references I wanted to add. But when I tried to create the actual bibliography inside Word, the “Insert/Document items/Bibliography” menu item was grey and inactive. I tried several things to get Word pick up the fact that I had actual references in there, but nothing worked.To sum up, a pretty disappointing experiment.That’s when I realized that all the other tools I had to manage references (Endnote, Zotero and the others) don’t work with Word 2008. Sucks. So I ended up going through all the references manually, using the “copy as reference” tool of Papers to create the bibliography.

2008, indeed. I had an easier time using latex back in 1998.

Check out the comments for other Word 2008 niceties.

Update: Thinking about it, now that I can’t envision using Word 2008’s bibliographic tools, I don’t see any reason using it at all. No reason to wait for Microsoft getting their shit together. The copy-n-paste of references, I can do it in Pages, and I will do it faster and with better style.Bleh.

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19 Responses to Word 2008 = bibliography mess

  1. madilyne says:

    I actually just googled “Word 2008 bibliography” because i’m having a terrible time with this as well and your blog popped up. I was previously using End Note for my scientific publication citation archiving but the newest version of endnote doesn’t work with word 2008. You do not suffer alone!

  2. izzy says:

    Bookends works with Office 2008 and if you really need to use bibliographic software you should give it a try.

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  4. bonaldi says:

    The real disheartening thing about this is that Word 2007 for the PC handles this really well, allows you to put key sources right in the toolbar, and is fast.

    PC Word is now strides ahead of Mac word, and Mac users simply don’t have a good word processor.

  5. Pingback: Dipl.-Inform. Med. [S]imon P. W. Schmitt » Papers 1.8 und Word 2008 (Microsoft Office 2008) - Cite while you write ?

  6. NeuroStudent says:

    I just tried it and actually, in order to get the “bibliography” into the document you use that tabbed panel at the top that says “document elements”, then click on the little bubble that says “bibliographies”..it’ll put all of the sources in your source list into the word doc. My problem with it is the limited citation styles available. Hopefully my thesis will need one of the ones listed…or I’ll be able to find some downloadable styles.

  7. Jan says:

    Hi Vincent,

    in case you don’t already know it: ever tried out LyX (http://www.lyx.org/)? It’s basically a WYSIWYG front-end to LaTeX. Personally, I am not very fond of LaTeX but I’ve come to like LyX for paper writing. I almost never have to touch the TeX source and it already comes with many important templates such as RevTeX4.

    Since Papers->Bibdesk seems to work nicely and since bibtex is nicely supported in LyX it might not be the worst thing to try out.

    … who wished he had a Mac at work…

  8. menphix says:

    I actually find the solution to this problem. You have to click on “Gallery” button (besides “Toolbox”) to make the gallery strip appear.
    Then you select “Document Elements” -> Bibliographies -> Works Cited or Bibliography. That will do the trick.

  9. David says:

    Bibliography tools such as Bookends, EndNote, and Sente work easily with Nisus Writer Pro.

  10. Alan says:

    Memphix, you’re a star! I had a dissertation research proposal to be submitted by midnight and at about 11:30 realised I couldn’t get the bibliography function to work. After nearly crying reading the earlier posts, I scrolled down and saw yours – and it worked fine! Phew.

  11. Paul says:

    Menphix, thank you a lot! I could not get my head around the bibliography, but thanks to you…Why does Microsoft discourage consumers so vehemently from writing texts (e.g. by hiding all these features) if they are selling text-processing tools?

  12. Brenton says:

    If anyone comes to this page looking for a great bibliography program integrated with word, try Zotero 1.5 Sync Preview. http://www.zotero.org/support/sync_preview It’s been pretty stable for me (despite the warning of data corruption on the webpage), it’s got quick keystroke shortcuts within Word, and supports Chicago-style footnotes. Pretty sweet.

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  14. Nat says:

    I finally figured it all out!! but I still dread the fact I have to work with word instead of making everything easy with LaTex 😛
    Anyway, the grey-out thing seems to be a bug, you can still insert the references by clicking on “Document elements” on the bar above the text… it is the same where you add charts in Excel (?). Once there you choose bibliography and then you can pick a style of the 4 options… if you want something else just click accept. Ta-da! you have a list, now to choose the style you want you click on any of the references in the text and on the toolbox (the floating thing that you used to add the references in the first place) go to citations and change the style back to what you wanted. Yeah, it does seems like voodoo but it seems to work.
    I got most of it from :
    Thank those guys :0)

  15. Thanks Menphix says:

    Menphix great post, thanks for the tip,
    i was pretty despondent there for a minute!

    happy writing everyone 🙂

  16. maya says:

    thank-you menphix n_n

  17. many thanks! you’ve saved me a lot of work!

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  19. Jenn B. says:

    I had to change my document from a .doc file to a .docx file to make the choices under document elements change from grey to black…but it worked.

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