Why Zotero and JabRef are two different apps?

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(Jorge Fernández De Cossío Díaz) #1

This is a simple question. I do not want to start a competition about which software is better. Rather, since the open-source community has limited man-power, I think we should know why we are developing two softwares, instead of focusing on one.

So, to the developers of JabRef I ask: What features (planned, or already implemented) make JabRef different from Zotero? Are JabRef and Zotero trying to solve different problems? Again, not a comparison about which is better. Just an objective presentation of the differences, I don’t care whether you like them or not.


(Dellu) #2

I am not a developer. But, I can see the difference between the two applications.

Zotero is supporting Bibtex format quite recently; mostly using addons. The bibtext is the main focus of Jabref. Jabref doesn’t attemp to insert references to word processors like Zotero does.

So, they are different with different audience. Jabref and BibDesk are primarily for Latex (bibtex). Zotero and Mendeley are primarily for word processors like MS. Word.


(Jorge Fernández De Cossío Díaz) #3

Zotero + Better Bibtex plugin is pretty good at handling LaTeX (although right now Better Bibtex does not work with Zotero 5, but it should soon). So there is an overlap here. Is there something that JabRef does with bibtex that Zotero misses in a fundamental sense?


(Dellu) #4

Yes, there are many tools in Jabref specifically designed for manipulating Bibtext. You can check out the feature lists in Jabref and compare them with Zotero yourself. I personally have tried Zotero a couple of times. It is a great application. But, it doesn’t give me the full control of my bibtex file as Jabref does.

I use Bookends and Jabref together.


(Matthias Geiger ) #5

I’m a developer, but not really an user of Zotero - so my knowledge upon Zotero is only limited. :wink:

I think JabRef is stronger in it’s grouping, searching and (table) sorting features.
It is possible to customize the set of “required”, “optional” etc. fields for standard entry types and it is also possible to create new non-standard types.
It is directly possible to fetch the bibliographic data (and the fulltext PDFs) by just providing an identifier such as a DOI, ISBN, … - as far as I know you’ll always have to lookup the source in the browser first in Zotero.

And - for me - the most important aspect is that JabRef is using a simple storage format (bibtex) which can be stored anywhere in the file system, can directly be used in LaTeX (without an additional export step), can be shared directly, can be simply versioned in version control systems, and can be even used in conjunction with SQL-Databases.

So to come back to your first post:

Are JabRef and Zotero trying to solve different problems?

I would say no, but both solve the same problem differently :wink:

You can also find an objective comparison of Zotero, JabRef and various other tools here provided by the Library of the Technical University Munich.


(Dellu) #6

The addon has been broken for over a year, actually. I have been checking it. Now, the developer is attempting to bring it back. The problem is Zotero itself is moving to a different direction before the addon catch up with the version 5. Check the conversations in https://github.com/retorquere/zotero-better-bibtex/issues/555.

Since Bibtext is not natively supported, there will be always issues. If you are working with Bibtext, I think it is wise to adopt either Bibdesk or Jabref. Furthermore, Cleanup tools in Jabref exist nowhere else.


(Retorquere) #7

Better BibTeX has not been “broken for over a year”. It did not support Zotero 5 for a long while, that is true, but Zotero 4 was (and is, for now) still supported during that whole time and Zotero 5 came out of beta only in June 2017. BBT works with Z5 right now, so there was never a time in the last year that there wasn’t a working BBT for a supported Zotero version.