20 years of JabRef - The early years - Tales from the User side

20 years logo

In the last blog post, we talked about the story of the creation of JabRef and its early development. Now it’s time to hear the story from Frédéric Darboux who reports about his experience as a user of the early JabRef versions and his engagement in the JabRef community:

Your Journey with JabRef: When, how, and why did you join/start to use JabRef? What were your initial impressions, and what motivated you to become a part of the team?

After starting to use LaTeX in 1996, I looked for a software to manage my BibTeX files. I used WinBibDB for years, up to 2006 (up to version 2.2). WinBibDB had a nice and simple GUI, but stopped being maintained around 1999. JabRef (version 2.1) was not too different from WinBibDB: basically a table listing my entries. So the learning curve was not too sharp. After some time, I started to test recent developments, to report bugs (on SourceForge!), and to help in the translation from English to French. For me, this was a way to give back to the community of developers and users.

Memorable Moments: During your active involvement, were there any standout moments or achievements that you’re particularly proud of?

To get the interface and the help fully translated in French, with the help of another person from Canada. I also stimulated other users to contribute to other languages, and so helped to make JabRef more international. I conducted a survey among users to better learn about their usage and their needs, helping to orient new developments.

The Bigger Picture: How do you perceive the evolution of knowledge management over the years, and what role do you think JabRef has played in this landscape?

When I started using a bibliographic management software, Endnote looked like the main option. It was expensive, with numerous bugs (by hearing my colleagues at the coffee machine), and databases were incompatible between major upgrades (!). Anyway, it did not manage BibTeX files, so it was not an option for me. Since then, many other software have been published: Zotero, Mendeley, etc. JabRef stayed focused on its key feature: managing BibTeX files, and doing it well. It became feature-rich (biblatex format, web import, cleaning, etc.), but kept doing its work well.

Reflections on Java: As a language that has been central to our development, how do you view Java’s evolution and its impact on projects like ours?

I do not program in Java, so I have no strong opinion on it. One nice thing that Java allowed me was to use JabRef on Windows and then to keep using it when I erased it for Linux. However, I feel like Java did not keep all of its promises: If I am correct, JabRef ships with its own Java virtual machine since version 5 or so (before, you downloaded a .jar file) because Java’s virtual machines are not as compatible as they should be, and this had caused headaches to JabRef’s developers.

Life After JabRef: What path have you taken on after your active period with JabRef? How have your experiences here influenced your work?

I continue to be active for translation, and occasionally for bug declaration and user support. Looking at how JabRef is being developed, it sometimes inspires me when developing my own software and managing projects.

Looking Ahead: What are your ideas for JabRef’s future? Are there any specific developments or directions you hope to see?

I do not have “big” ideas for JabRef development. My main wish is that it does not become a bloatware, trying to do everything for everyone. Used to command-line, I like a program to do very well what it is designed for. Anyway, I am not too concerned about it: JabRef developers have always been very focused in doing things right!

Thank you very much for answering our questions and your ongoing contributions, especially regarding the French translation. 🇫🇷 Merci beaucoup 🇫🇷 !

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.