Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mixed Case Titles

Writing pointless academic papers requires citing other pointless academic papers.  Thus do academicians, in a symbiotic process eerily similar to those of lawyers and nuclear weapons manufacturers, keep each other in business.  Since I write in LyX and generate the documents with LaTeX, it is unsurprising that I process bibliographies using BibTeX.  My preferred tool for maintaining BibTeX databases is JabRef, which is cross-platform, has a decent feature set, and just plain works.

When I add references to by BibTeX databases, I'm careful to capitalize most of the words in the title.  Anyone who has had the misfortune to deal with journals  knows that every journal publisher employs at least one or two people with obsessive/compulsive disorder, who are tasked with ensuring that this journal formats various things (possibly tables or figure captions, but always, always references) in a way that visually distinguishes it from every other journal in the galaxy. Thus I have to find (or cobble together) a BibTeX style file specific to whatever journal makes the mistake of accepting of my paper.  BibTeX style files can "downshift" titles to lower case, but as far as I know they do not "upshift" to what I'll call "title" case (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and initial articles capitalized, other articles and conjunctions not).  So it behooves me to insert the reference into the database in "title" case.

On the other hand, I'm a firm believer in copying and pasting to avoid retyping.  So I frequently copy article information from a web page or PDF file and paste it into JabRef.  Small problem: as far as I know, JabRef does not have an editing feature to adjust cases.  That led me to some searching, which in turn led me to discover that gedit (my primary editor on Linux) comes with a preinstalled plug-in to shift cases.  Said plug-in can shift to lower, upper or (drumroll) "title" case. On Windows, NoteTab (including the free "Light" version) has a similar feature.  If I recall correctly, NoteTab's converter is available with no configuration.  In gedit, though, it needs to be turned on (Edit > Preferences > Plugins > Change Case), a revelation to which I have recently (and belatedly) come.


  1. I wanted to bring another LaTeX editor to your notice: LaTeX editor or LeD. One thing I really like in LeD is that you can fold a part of the text (e.g., one long paragraph, or section), just like you can fold codes in Eclipse of Visual Studio. That helps me in creating large docs.

    I have used JabRef in the past and had liked it. Haven't used it for a while though ...

  2. Thanks for the pointer. I usually don't build long docs (no good ever comes of my writing that much). LeD looks pretty nice, but it seems to be Windows-only, although maybe it would run under Wine on Linux.

  3. Good point - yes, I use the Windows version.

  4. I agree JabRef is a very good off-line program to handle your references. You can change the case in the title by right clicking in the title field when editing a reference.

    Another lifesaver I can recommend is which is an on-line version of JabRef. I use it to collect all my references first (it can save all the information of an article with a click) and afterwards export them to a BibTeX file when I have to write a paper in LaTeX.

  5. Lars, thanks!! I suspected JabRef could change cases (it seems like a common enough need), but I looked at the Edit and Tools menus and did not find it. For whatever reason, it did not occur to me to check the context menu (which I normally do). This is very helpful.

    I just recently created an account on Mendeley ( I have it on my to-do list to check out CiteULike (with which Mendeley can interface). It's good to know that you like CiteULike. Unfortunately, online research tools are following the same trajectory as online networking tools: no options - one option - too many options.


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