IEEEtran BibTeX annoyance

I’m busy as a bee writing two papers for ISIT 2007 (in Nice, woohoo!) and as usual I find myself at odds with the IEEE Transactions style formats. The BibTeX format by default puts the bibliography in order of how references are cited, and as far as I can tell there is no option for putting things in alphabetical order. One option is of course to use the \nocite command before any of the other text. This will put the citations in the bibliography without anything in the main text — a handy feature for sneaking in references that you don’t need but should cite (perhaps to appease reviewers). But that hack defeats the purpose of BibTeX, which is to stop you from futzing with your bibliography by formatting the thing in the correct manner, be it APA, MLA, ACM, or IEEE.

I understand that for a survey paper it would be advantageous to list references in the order that they are cited. That way all the papers on topic A will be in a big block together in the bibliography, and the cite package provides a nice shorthand that will list the references as [1 – 5] instead of [1][2][3][4][5]. For conference papers, which often have fewer than 10 citations, it seems that the aesthetic benefits of an alphabetized bibliography outweigh the minor inconvenience in typesetting. From looking at existing published papers, it seems that the IEEE isn’t particularly insistent on making the bibliography in citation-order. So why not provide the alphabetical option?

Perhaps its because the entire LaTeX package system is being maintained by Michael Shell, who I’m sure has better things to do with his time, like a real job. It almost boggles the mind that so many people in the IEEE use this LaTeX package and the Institute doesn’t really support it in the way that the AMS supports AMSTeX.

5 thoughts on “IEEEtran BibTeX annoyance

  1. RE
    “… and the cite package provides a nice shorthand that will list the references as [1 – 5] instead of [1][2][3][4][5].”

    Funny but my pet peeve is that the IEEEtran style breaks this very nice feature of the cite package. (At least the version I’m using.)

    Frankly, I wish IEEEtran could be given a new look. I don’t like the way it formats theorems and proofs. I’d prefer some boldfacing for the Theorem and Proof labels to better highlight the claims. I also don’t like Roman numerals for sections. Probably there are some sensible typographic reasons for the IEEE format. If I knew them, perhaps my personal preferences would change.

    By the way, regarding your New Year resolutions, I would vote for MORE work-related posts. This is the only blog I read that is even partly work related. I need more work-related blogs to distract me from the non-work blog reading. 🙂

  2. I agree that the IEEEtran look is not that great, but that’s an IEEE-wide issue that can’t really be solved without major movement.

    As you mentioned, the biggest problem is in the typesetting of Theorems — almost nothing is done to set them apart from the bulk of the text, and it definitely makes finding what you are looking for in a paper more difficult. It’s exacerbated by the double column format — single-column math journals don’t have that problem at all.

  3. Ahhhh, but IEEEtran.bst *is* available (since 2003) in a sorting variant, IEEEtranS.bst:

    http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/IEEEtran/bibtex/

    which some journals/conferences allow or may even use as a default. And, as of the January 11, 2007 release, IEEEtran.bst now has alphanumeric and natbib compatible versions, although these are not for IEEE use. Be aware that IEEE has not yet updated their website to carry the latest release as has already been done on CTAN (expect this to be done by next week AFAIK). Furthermore, the IEEEtran BibTeX packages carried by IEEE will not have the non-IEEE variants.

    As for the cite package, IEEEtran.cls automatically sets it up to use the [1]-[5] style IEEE does. For non-IEEE work, you can change this by altering cite.sty’s \citepunct and \citedash as mentioned in the cite.sty docs (cite.sty defaults shown):

    \makeatletter
    \renewcommand\citepunct{,\penalty\@m\hskip.13emplus.1emminus.1em}
    \renewcommand{\citedash}{\hbox{–}\penalty\@m}
    \makeatother

    As to the look of the IEEE style, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. After working with it for awhile, I like its uniqueness. 😉

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