Nota Bene
January 27, 2004 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Academics and scholars: anyone familiar with the text processing product on Windows called Nota Bene? A friend is switching to Macintosh and it's an application area I don't have a lot of experience with. In particular, he likes the fact that Nota Bene stores citation information separate from the formatting, so switching from MLA to APA (?) is easy to do... Any suggestions welcomed.
posted by JollyWanker to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
 
Your friend should convert from word-processing software to LaTeX, which is available for every OS imaginable and several that won't be invented for hundreds of years.

You maintain a bibliographic database -- one for all your works -- and you put cite commands into your .tex file. So you might write something like "As \citeasnoun{foo1993} argues, only a pervert who was wrose then Hilter would do teh thign that Bloznik did." Converting from one style of citation to another is as easy as deleting your \bibliographystyle{apa} and replacing it with \bibliographystyle{mla}, or maintaining different citation styles for different journals depending on where you're sending it next after you get dinged.

In addition to having built-in bibliographic facilities, it's vastly better than at least Word for long documents; it deals with parts-of-documents seamlessly; it's utterly fabulous at mathematical and scientific typography; it's very easy to switch into and out of putting all the tables and figures at the back or streaming them into text; it supports all manner of typographic widgetries; and will do just about anything but make sweet love to you and fix your breakfast.

There's a bit of a learning curve on it, especially in breaking from WYSIWIG to source-and-output, and doing tables is a bit of a dreary mess, but there are lots of helpful people and information sources out there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:22 PM on January 27, 2004


Oh, and it costs exactly nothing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:23 PM on January 27, 2004


OTOH, one could use plaintext ReStructured Text files, the DocUtils->XML conversion utilities, and Saxon/FOP with a set of XSL:FO files to have the best of all worlds. IMO. (Or DocUtils->Latex.)
posted by five fresh fish at 2:29 PM on January 27, 2004


OTOH, one could use plaintext ReStructured Text files, the DocUtils->XML conversion utilities, and Saxon/FOP with a set of XSL:FO files to have the best of all worlds. IMO. (Or DocUtils->Latex.)

I'm trying to imagine a bunch of technophobic English professors following that advice! I didn't know about Latex's bibliographic functions.

Endnote is a commercial offering that works pretty well and integrates with Msoft Word.
posted by mecran01 at 2:42 PM on January 27, 2004


OK - I've never used it, so all of this is just hearsay and my impressions. I know it has an good reputation among humanities faculty. Maybe 'cult following' too - the NB users I've known were very passionate about it. The first guy I met who used it was an older man who I took a Plato class from. (Nota Bene has had excellent support for non-Roman character sets).

I think learning a LaTex dev environment probably is not what the target user of this product wants to do with their time - Nota Bene is popular with bookish types. Also, while EndNote is a great product, Word integration also misses the point (as I take it) of Nota Bene, whose users seem to dislike Word. Often they were early (in academia) PC adopters who cut their teeth on Wordperfect for DOS.
posted by crunchburger at 3:25 PM on January 27, 2004


Oh wait, is the question that your friend is switching to Mac and has to find something other than Nota Bene?
posted by crunchburger at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2004


Bookends
EndNote
posted by mcwetboy at 4:36 PM on January 27, 2004


Here's a review of three PBTs--personal bibliography tools. Also, Openoffic.org has some sort of bibliography tool.

http://www.biblio-tech.com/html/pbms.html

Hey! I finally found the switch that auto-formats urls on metafilter! Cool!
posted by mecran01 at 4:36 PM on January 27, 2004


Speaking of LaTeX, does the LaTeX stack (in any incarnation) support UTF-8 input? Also, are there any truly decent WYSIWYG LaTeX editors? Those two features would seriously rock.
posted by azazello at 4:56 PM on January 27, 2004


TeXmacs is an emacs-based (La)TeX WYSIWYG editor. Haven't tried it myself, but friends like it.
posted by gleuschk at 5:11 PM on January 27, 2004


I think learning a LaTex dev environment probably is not what the target user of this product wants to do with their time - Nota Bene is popular with bookish types.

It probably really depends on field or subfield and tastes, and willingness to live with word-processor-looking papers instead of typeset-article-looking. That said, hardly anybody thinks about using LaTeX until someone evangelizes them.

Yo, Jollywanker -- what field does your friend work in?

Also, are there any truly decent WYSIWYG LaTeX editors?

I've used LyX a few years ago and didn't like it much. I know people who've used Scientific Workplace, and liked it okay, but had some problems when they more-or-less inevitably switched over to TeX -- lots of weird LaTeX code in there that, and some of it calls to proprietary functions.

Mostly, I've found it easier to just work in plaintext on WinEDT. It's especially easy on the eyes -- everything is allatime the same, with no THIS being in THAT font and so on.

There are also some TeX installs -- I think they're mostly unix though -- that will keep latexing behind the scenes as you type and pop up the dvi window
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:15 PM on January 27, 2004


My friend's in Media Studies and he justbarelytolerates computers as a necessary evil. I'm sorry, I should have said so upfront - I sure that LaTeX would be utterly out of the question for somebody like him. His attachment to Nota Bene is predicated on the format-citation content separation feature and apparently on its support for other languagues (he mentioned Greek, specifically). He's familiar with Word, so one of those add-ins for OS X is probably going to be best for him. Thanks, everybody.
posted by JollyWanker at 6:17 PM on January 27, 2004


If you're using LaTeX and a Windows platform, WinEDT is the end-all-be-all way to go for a frontend... I've never seen a WYSIWYG I've actually liked - all the LaTeX software in my Linux box has a nasty tendency to crash all the time, besides all of the standard documentation and user-friendliness problems found in such programs, so I tend to stay away from them...
posted by kaibutsu at 10:50 PM on January 27, 2004


Also, OpenOffice is pretty sweet from all that I hear. It's essentially a FREE open-source equivalent to the MS Office package. I don't know about its citation handling, but it should be a good alternative to plopping down a hundred bucks for M$ Word.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:53 PM on January 27, 2004


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