Query about Arabist-friendly reference managers

Letizia Osti's picture

Dear colleagues

Forgive me the very technical question. I am looking for a reference manager which would allow me to create custom reference types and styles. I have been using an old desktop version of Endnote for storing my bibliography for many years and now I would like to migrate to an online platform, but it seems difficult, for instance, to record modern editions of primary sources, or to use diacritics correctly. I would be grateful for any advice.

Thanks in advance and best wishes


Dear Letizia,

Have you tried Zotero? I find it works well with diacritics or with Arabic script. But I'm not sure what exactly you need with "modern editions of primary sources," so I can't speak to that.


None of the browser-based bibliography managers that I know of are friendly to Unicode, Hijri/miladi dates etc.

Current endnote, tho not super user-friendly, handles all these things just fine, and allows alphabetization exceptions like al-Shalab being alphabetized under "Shalab" which is very useful.

Though costly, Endnote is a pretty useful tool. I should add that I have no connections, get only the academic discount etc. But after some considerable searching around, at least for the Mac Endnote seems best.

Dear Letizia,

I use BibDesk, a program for Mac computers that has at its basis BibTeX. It handles Unicode very well (though I use only diacritics in my bibliographical entries, not Arabic script). It is primarily designed to be used with LaTeX and its spin-offs (XeLaTeX etc.), but I believe there are ways to use it with word processors. Andrew Goldstone has a helpful page on LaTeX that includes descriptions of BibTex/BibDesk as well (https://andrewgoldstone.com/tex/). This may not be the ideal solution, but I thought I should mention it.

Best wishes,

On the Mac, I use Sente, both to store PDFs and build bibliographies. I also only use diacritics, rather than Arabic script, but it does not seem to have problems with editing in Arabic script, and it sorts diacritics correctly, as far as I can tell. It has a reference format editor where you can build your own custom reference styles, in addition to the built-in variants.

Hi Letizia,

You don't mention what OS. I work on Mac and for many years now there are several capable bibliographical programs that handle Unicode and multiple scripts and symbols. I use Bookends. It's very robust and affordable. Sente is also popular. Zotero, as mentioned above also works. Something called Mendeley is most popular in the sciences. All of these also work as PDF anotators and have cloud back up. I left endnote many years ago because ineffective and expensive.

Making the program produce perfect bibliographies in our multilingual field is never as easy as it sounds. You often have to tinker and fix. But these programs all serve as excellent bibliography/PDF databases.