Web organisers book front seats

July 12, 1996

PROCITE INTERNET ENABLER, PERSONAL BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOFTWARE (Europe) (+44 1865 326612) Pounds 69 +VAT, Windows diskette

Just when it was beginning to get difficult to find clear distinctions between the three leading bibliographic software packages along comes a very interesting development concerning ProCite. (The other two are EndNote and Reference Manager.) In fact there are two developments to describe and both take ProCite into the Internet domain. Together they are known as the ProCite Internet Enabler; separately they are NetCite and BookWhere? Pro.

There is much talk and speculation in the computer industry about how the Internet will affect the development of hardware, software and operating systems. Some of the more interesting ideas relate to how the vast resources of the Internet can be made available to users in more flexible ways.

The traditional arrangement requires the user to load up a program such as Netscape Navigator that is designed for browsing the Internet. A more flexible approach is to make the Web accessible from within application software such as word processors, databases or spreadsheets. This is the approach taken by NetCite.

NetCite allows a URL (uniform resource locator or Web page address) to be placed in a ProCite record. When the URL is activated, the user's Web browser (Netscape or Mosaic) is launched with the instruction to go to the given address. If Netscape is already in memory then the process of activating the URL is just as fast as if the URL was activated from Netscape itself. Any record can contain a URL within any field and the "open URL" button effects the connection.

This opens up some very interesting possibilities for organising information. For example, ProCite can now be used as a tool for organising references to Web sites, as a database of super-bookmarks. The present tools within Netscape for organising addresses are very limited (the Smartmarks software notwithstanding). With NetCite the user can compile a very large database of URLs that could be fully indexed and searched by various criteria such as subject keywords, suitability and type of organisation. After a relevant Web page has been discovered through the database, it can be summoned directly.

Another use of NetCite is to link the reference to a published document from the ProCite database to the full text of that document where it is available somewhere on the Internet. To be more specific you might place the URL for an electronic journal article within a reference record in your ProCite database. Or you might link a book record to the full text in one of the various text archives on the Internet such as the Oxford Text Archive or Project Gutenburg.

NetCite also works with Netscape for the purpose of downloading information from Web sites into ProCite records. It does this by sharing the screen with Netscape as soon as the "Capture URL" option is selected from within ProCite. You may then highlight some text on a Web page and copy it to a particular database field by just clicking on the field name. The URL itself is automatically copied to the URL field and the Web page title to the title field.

Finally, NetCite has an additional output option for printing a bibliography in HTML format. This allows you to publish a reference list on the World Wide Web.

BookWhere? Pro is not part of ProCite. It is made by Sea Change Corporation of Ontario. It is sold by Personal Bibliographic Software, the makers of ProCite, because it has been adapted for capturing records from online library catalogues in ProCite format. For many years PBS has tried to persuade the manufacturers of library management systems to adapt their software to allow users to download catalogue records for import into ProCite. This has had limited success, so now they have tried a new approach which is based on an emerging standard known as NISO Z39.50.

This is a very important standard for the future development of networked information services for many reasons. For our purposes here it is important because it facilitates standardised structures for databases and, more noticeably, it enables a single user interface to be adopted for searching a variety of databases from different sources.

BookWhere? Pro is a Z39.50 client (or piece of user interface software). It is designed for use with library online catalogues that conform in their structure to the Z39.50 standard. The software comes preconfigured with the addresses of scores of university library catalogues throughout the world and the ability to add more. The user may search either a single catalogue or a number of catalogues simultaneously. Any records found can be viewed on the screen and downloaded in a variety of formats, including ProCite. In fact, BookWhere? Pro links directly to ProCite and allows the records to be inserted directly into a named ProCite database from within BookWhere.

As more library catalogues become compliant with Z39.50 -and most library system vendors are now committed to this - then this tool will be tremendously useful.

Together, these enhancements represent a very important development in personal bibliographic software. The next logical step would be to develop tools for publishing ProCite databases on the Internet.

Terry Hanson is sub-librarian at the University of Portsmouth Library.

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