Refworks goes offline: Exciting new features 1

For an introduction to Refworks click here. If you have used it earlier, read on…

A few months ago when Refworks announced that they are going offline, I was excited. I am doing my field work in rural India and had decided not to take full time internet access. I started regretting not having Endnote; I need not do that anymore. Refworks’ new Write-N- Cite III makes available most of the important features offline.
The new Write-N-Cite III has an offline database that downloads all references from our online database to an offline location. This enables us to search and insert references offline. Earlier, once the paper was ready, we had to format it online. Now the Write-N-Cite plug-in can format the paper in our PC itself. This represents a giant leap in the functionality of Refworks. The only limitation it has now is that we cannot add, delete or modify references offline. This is no doubt a limitation, but for those who can access the net now and then, it is not a major practical limitation.

Formatting and Un-formatting

When I revisit papers that I wrote sometime ago it was a little frustrating to use Refworks. My references were in coded format e.g. {{23;Agarwal,Bina}}. Often I did not understand what it refers to and I had to go to a formatted file to understand what the reference was. The problem with the old system was that I cannot work on a formatted file to update it. That problem is no more. The new Write-N-Cite III uses field codes when we insert references. Thanks to this, we can do all our work in just one file. We can format the file and then continue to edit it.

Co-authoring made easier

This is especially useful when working with a co-author. Earlier, I had to send a formatted file to my co-author for her to understand what the references were. After she edited it, I had to make those changes in the unformatted file. Now, that hassle is no more and we can both work on the same file.
Interestingly, the new plug-in also permits us to un-format papers. I am yet to discover its utility, but it would be worth exploring it.

Converting old papers

Write-N-Cite III includes a facility to update old papers. But this works only with unformatted files. For example, I had a formatted paper that I tried converting and un-formatting. Though WNC claimed that it did the job without any mistakes, it had actually done nothing. But if you were careful enough to store the unformatted files, we can continue using it with the new features.

Font trouble

For some strange reason, after formatting the references appear in times new roman, though the text elsewhere is in a different font in this file. This should be easy for us to correct, but it’s a feature Refworks has to take care of.

Giant leap

The new features represent a giant leap in the functionality of Refworks. This is true even if you have continuous access to the internet (thanks to the ability to edit formatted files).

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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