Request: bibtex / org-roam-bibtex for morons

I don’t understand how bibtex and bibliographies are supposed to work, as I’ve never had to think this way before, and thus never had to reach for these tools.

I’m running into some issues with org-roam-bibtex but I’m also discovering that there’s a lot of options for how to get things done and narrowing things down to a workable system is probably the most important thing… So I want to make sure that I understand how I’m supposed to think with these tools.

I would like to use the built-in org citations from org 9.5+.
I do not wish to use helm.

I think this means, if I follow the basic zettelkasten format and I want to use org-roam-bibtex, that I would have one org-roam note per book, instead of one bibliography file for all the books.

Past that point, I am lost.

Is there a way for me to get started manually, to sort of … test out the functioning, so that I understand better how I’m getting lost with bibtex? It looks like the ORG_ROAM_REFS variable doesn’t handle bibtex citations format (when I paste one from Zotero and try to save, it tells me that it’s invalid and it’s ignored).

What would a “bibliography note” looks like? What would a ORG_ROAM_REFS look like?
Would knowing this be enough for me to get something going, however manually it may be, so that later on I know what I’m supposed to do with org-bibtex-roam ?

Here are the three files I will show as a basic example:

  • FILE1. “bibliography note”
  • FILE2. A normal org-roam note (org file)
  • FILE3. .bib file (I guess you don’t need a sample, but just for completeness)


The relevant section of the user manual has two examples of roam_refs for org-cite. I have just tried the first sample format for a file-level node:

:modified: 2022-12-22T123033
:ID:       2022-12-22T122907
:roam_refs:  @ackoffDataWisdom1989
#+title: Ackoff Data to Wisdom
#+filetags: lit

[... my notes on this article continues ...]


I then create another note (org file) that has the following in the body:

This is the argument of [cite:@ackoffDataWisdom1989]...

The backlink of FILE1 now shows this paragraph containing the citation. Note FILE2 appears in the “Reflinks” section because of roam_refs.


I have one file that has my very small collection of bib entries. The item cited above has this entry in it.

  title = {From Data to Wisdom},
  author = {Ackoff, Russell L},
  year = {1989},
  journal = {Journal of applied systems analysis},
  volume = {16},
  number = {1},
  pages = {3--9},
  file = {/home/nobiot/snap/zotero-snap/common/Zotero/storage/WSH8FAZA/Ackoff - 1989 - From data to wisdom.pdf}


This is beyond showing the basic data I have, but related to what you wish to achieve overall:
If you are not using Helm, and using Vertico, it might be easy to set up Citar. There is some documentation how it might work with Org-roam and/or Org-roam-bibtex.

Ah, got it, that makes a ton of sense! Thank you.
I’m gonna open another topic for a separate question, which hopefully will finish explaining to me all the things I didn’t know :smiley:

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An old thread, but just to clarify one little thing …

Well, and likely also citar-org-roam as a potential alternative to ORB.

It’s deliberately minimal (less than 200 lines-of-code ATM), but integrates very well with org-roam and citar, and should be easy to setup.

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