September 2008 Archives

Sente 5.6 and the Release Process

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We are very pleased to have released the first official version of Sente 5.6 with all of the new features that you have seen during the prerelease period, if you were getting the incremental updates.  I just thought I would write a few words about they way we developed and released this version of Sente and invite your feedback on the process.

We began posting preview versions of 5.6 back in mid-June.  Rather than waiting until all of the features we wanted to put into this version were done, we decided to roll them out incrementally as previews.  We did this for at least two reasons:

One, we really wanted user feedback on some of the new features before they were locked down as official.  Specifically, we were concerned about the targeted browsing interface.  Did we have the right interface?  Would it actually work in the wide variety of contexts our customers operate in?  We were concerned about waiting weeks or months before getting it out only to find that we had made some fundamental errors in our design.  The feedback we received during the preview period was, indeed, very helpful to us as we refined our design, so I think we achieved our goal on this one.

Two, this was a very big release and we did not want to wait three months between major updates.  By putting out preview releases, we were able to incorporate numerous bug fixes unrelated to the new features, and squeeze in quite a few smaller items that we heard about during the development cycle.  Getting these fixes and features did mean jumping into the preview release cycle, but we tried hard to make sure that each release was tested enough not to break anything, and we were always standing ready to rush out a quick fix in case we missed something.  Overall, I think we achieved this goal as well, although there were a few, relatively small glitches.

So, all told, I think I am satisfied with how this process went.  We got good feedback throughout the process and were able to incorporate much of it into the product.  And users benefitted from the new features as they became available.  And I am aware of only a few cases where the preview-nature of the release caused people problems.

If you have thoughts on how this release was handled, please let us know.


Designing Formats to use Ibid.

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One of the recent changes to the Sente bibliography format editor was in the way Ibid is handled.

There is now a format-wide setting (in the General tab in the format editor) that indicates that the format uses the term "Ibid." or some variation when the same reference is cited twice in a row in a document.  This flag can also be used in cases where citing the same reference twice in a row does not use Ibid, but most of the details of the reference are to be omitted.  More on this below.

In the simple case, you might want something like this:

4. Perry, Gillian, and Michael Rossington. Femininity and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture. Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 1994, pp. 37-38.
5. Ibid., pp. 82-84.

To achieve this, you need only check the Use Ibid box in the General tab in the format editor, and enter "Ibid." into the text box found there.

In this case, everything will just work as one would hope.  Specifically, when a citation is repeated, Sente will automatically suppress every element in the selected format except for Cited Pages.

If you need the format of the Cited Pages element to vary depending on whether the citation has been repeated, you can add more than one Cited Pages element to the format, and make one apply in the context of "Ibid" and the other appear in the context of "not Ibid".  For example, if you needed a preceding comma normally, but not one in the case of Ibid, you would need to create two Cited Pages elements and apply the correct conditions.

Chicago 15 N (Notes) is a good example of using Ibid in this way.

A variation on this can be found in Chicago 15 AD (Author-Date).  Here is a portion of a document with the temporary citation tags in place:

and {Perry 1994@32} now is the time {Perry 1994@56}

Note that different pages are being cited, but the reference is the same.  After scanning in Chicago 15 AD, the result is:

and (Perry and Rossington 1994, 32) now is the time (56)

In this format, repeated citations do not actually use the string "Ibid." but everything other than cited pages is left off the second citation.  In this case, the text box after the Use Ibid box is left empty to indicate that the citation details (other than cited pages) should be replaced with nothing.

The New Bibliography Fields View

I would like to say a few words introducing a new feature in Sente: the Bibliography Fields view in the reference editor.  Here is a screen shot of the new view:

Picture 7b.png

The new view has three major sections.

The top section is where you select one of your favorite bibliography formats.  I would normally recommend that you select the style that you use most often.  Here, the selected style is "APA 5."

The first field in the next section is the reference type.  The value selected in this pop-up determines which fields are displayed in the rest of this section.  In the screen shot above, the selected type is "journal article" so the fields relevant to journal articles are displayed.  There may be data in fields that are not shown here, but fields that are not shown have no effect on the bibliography entry for the selected reference type.

For many reference type / bibliography format combinations, there are fields that are not used in the selected format, but are used in some other common format.  These fields appear below a label that begins "Items below this point..."  While you may want to enter values for one or more of these fields, the data will not appear in the bibliography entry for this reference in the selected format.

The bottom section of the Bibliography Fields view is the preview of the selected reference in the selected format.  This preview is kept up-to-date with changes to the fields above as you leave each field after making a change.  This lets you see just how each reference will appear in the final output in your documents.  (Obviously, the final results may differ slightly if, for example, the selected style calls for repeated authors to be replaced with three dashes.  The preview here is how the reference would appear if it were the only reference in the bibliography.)

The important point to remember about this new view is that the fields that are displayed are based entirely on the reference type.  This list of fields is then prioritized based on the selected bibliography format to place at the bottom any of the fields that are not actually used in the format for the selected reference type.

If you are a Sente user who gets most of your references from PubMed, this new feature will not make a big difference to you.  On the other hand, if you are in the humanities or any field where you regularly deal with many different types of references, and you regularly deal with complex bibliography formats, you should find this new view very helpful as you add references to your library.

Screencast from a Sente User

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One of our users, Dr. Kerim Friedman, has put together a nice screencast demonstrating the use of Sente to acquire references from Google Scholar and related PDFs from AnthroSource.  The video is included in one of his posts at Savage Minds, a site dedicated to topics in anthropology.

You can view the screencast here:

The basic flow works in many other fields, as well, so even if you are not an anthropologist, you might find the information valuable.