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Refer database fields (was: Re: Why does refer(1) have no database field

From: Oliver Corff
Subject: Refer database fields (was: Re: Why does refer(1) have no database field for "edition"?)
Date: Sat, 7 Aug 2021 11:15:36 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:78.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/78.10.1

Dear All,

refer(1) declares 19 fields, and the complete list of fields as used by
mom is documented here:

That list currently features 34 entries, which would allow for another
22 entries if strictly adhering to [A-Za-z] (well, not all of those
would then be easily recognizable mnemonics); yet any printable ASCII
character could be considered (as is done by Endnote, see below).

Then, not all refer(1) fields are used in mom, like "%X" and "%L" (I did
not yet undertake a deep dive to tabulate all fields). Naturally, a
number of mom fields, notably for internet sources, are not available in
refer(1), as is "%e" which gave rise to this thread.

I am not going to propose shorthands yet; this should be settled once an
agreement is reached on what type of contents should be included.

My personal wish list includes e.g. the original title of translated
works, as well as page total (not to be mixed with pages: a page total
frequently looks like "xii, 434", meaning the front matter ends at page
xii while the last paginated (!) page is 434 --- there may be more
non-blank pages, but they are not part of the book; typically these are
publisher's advertisements). The idea behind page total is twofold: one
one hand, the reader of the bibliography gets an idea of the size of the
text, and on the other hand, the bibliographer uses this information to
discern between otherwise potentially similar editions of the same book.

Another field (for which "%x" could be an apt suggestion as "%X" is used
already by standard refer, in violation of my own words two paragraphs
above) is cross-reference, which is extremely helpful when compiling
bibliographies with lots of proceedings. It goes beyond "%B" --- Book
title (when "%T" contains the primary title) as it pulls over more
information from the referenced record than just the main title, or for
referencing translations (here again, more powerful than just the
"original title" proposed above as it helps identify which book is the
exact match to a translation.

Another source of inspiration could be Endnote, the list of keys used by
Endnote is listed here:

Unlike refer(1) and mom, Endnote also uses digits and various
non-alphabetic symbols.

Similarly to the path from bibtex to biblatex which introduced a whole
new set of fields, I am convinced refer can be made much more powerful
in terms of expressiveness and thus be an attractive feature of *roff.
The charming aspect of refer-style reference databases is the
down-to-earth simplicity where just the most necessary fields are thrown
together and one immediately gets useful output, which is my main reason
for using refer databases for most of my research work, while sometimes
reformatting the needed titles in biblatex for final publications.

I am inclined to compile a list of field suggestions, but given my
current workload, I cannot promise when I'll sit down and do it.

Best regards,


On 07/08/2021 09:39, Dave Kemper wrote:
On 8/3/21, Peter Schaffter <> wrote:
On Tue, Aug 03, 2021, Tadziu Hoffmann wrote:
mom defines a new database
field for the edition.  If we consider this usage the status
quo, should it be documented with an appropriate entry in the
list of field names in the refer manual page?
Not unless (until?) it's implemented for all the canoncical macro
packages.  I proposed %e as a candidate for the edition field
because it's been around long enough in mom that it makes sense for
other macro packages to follow suit.  Plus it has the advantage of
being a meaningful mnenmonic.
I would think those factors warrant documenting it (as currently a
mom-only field) in the refer man page.  This way if someone wants to
take on the task of adding this field to another macro package, the
prior art is documented in a central place, and it's more likely to
get implemented in a compatible way.  (An mm hacker wanting to extend
refer functionality in mm will likely check the refer man page but may
not think to look at the mom docs.)

Mom implements five additional fields
for Internet sources as required by MLA:
For the same reasons, these should probably also be in the refer page
(also tagged as mom-only for now).

nowhere is there any indication what style of bibliographic
formatting is provided by the ms/mm/me implementations of refer(1)
I opened for this.

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