Core: BibTeX {With Description of Fields}

Formatting of how to cite this document’s BibTeX:
producing software = Augmented Text Author
producing software url =
author = last name, followed by first name, followed by middle name; delimited by , and delimited by . between author names
title = plain text
date = time in year, month, date and time in 24 format, timezone delineated with ,
location = city name followed by country name
keywords = plain text separated by ,
responseto = citation information in this or BibTeX and/or URL to document this document is a response to

author = {Millard, David E.},
title = A reader on Reading},
date = 2010, June 2, 4:25, GMT},

Implementation Notes

Notes from the core design team of Frode Hegland, Stephan Kreutzer, Adam Wern, Peter Wasilko, Christopher Gutteridge, David Millard, Mark Anderson and Günter Khyo.

Please feel free to join the discussion on Our dialog continues there as well as on the open weekly calls we call Open Office Hours.

Guiding Principle

The guiding principle is to preserve as much useful metadata in a human-readable form in an appendix at the back of a document in order for reader software to parse it to allow for advanced interactions, including citing with just copy and paste. The includes citation information as well as preserving structural data such as what text is a heading and so forth. If a competent programmer can read this and figure it out, we’ve succeeded. If not, there is a problem so please feel free to get in touch should you have any problems so we can make an effort for the next implementation information to be better. Therefore please feel free to email and we can discuss it via email or Zoom (or equivalent).

Interactions to Support

Initial Visual-Meta Use Cases.

An overview of the interactions Visual-Meta should support.


It is important to note that Visual-Meta is only an approach and as such, not all implementation of authoring and reading software will support all BibTeX content. The minimum is author, title and date. This allows for flexible choice of what BibTeX is relevant for producers of documents.

The Be-All and End-All of Visual-Meta @{visual-meta-start} & @{visual-meta-end}

‘ @{visual-meta-start}’ and ‘ @{visual-meta-end}’is not valid BibTeX, they are the external wrappers for Visual-Meta. Implementations are of course open but parse documents from the end so that the end page is what marks the inclusion of Visual-Meta. They could have looked like anything but Visual-Meta started as simply a BibTeX embed so this is early legacy.

Extending Visual-Meta : Wrapper around Sections

Extending Visual-Meta is in principle as simple as stating with the the ‘@{visual-meta-start}’ and ‘ @{visual-meta-end}’ markers, though preferably after the BibTeX basic information, what the wrappers contain, using the this format ‘@{Dublin-core}’, ‘@{augmented-text-author-mind-map}’ where the syntax is to specify the contents but also its origin (as in the case of the Author Mind Map) unless generally known (such as Dublin Core).

Extensions Outside

Visual-Meta can potentially also support metadata to bind the document(s).

Method of Writing

Visual-Meta is never indented and line breaks matter for parsing.

An outline of the sections of Visual-Meta is described below. You can also see Visual-Meta Example with Headings or Visual-Meta Plain.

Well Formed Visual-Meta

A well formed Visual-Meta Appendix includes the Minimum Requirements and any optional elements.

Minimum Requirements

Visual-Meta must have the Intro and Descriptive including author, title and year, where further BibTeX fields can be added but not all Readers will parse them. You are strongly encouraged to include the full Description to make the Visual-Meta useable by anyone who wants to parse the data, today on in a thousand years.

Optional Elements

Everything else is optional, including Structural information. Optional element sections must be enclosed with a start of a line of ‘@name of section{‘ followed by a line of ‘}’, as shown below, where the line breaks are important for parsing:

@name of section{
specific contents

For example, to add metadata in Dublin Core format you need to specify ‘@dublin-core{‘ at the start of that section.

External References

You may also choose to reference external resources, though this has not been specified yet.

Connecting Documents

Reader software can use the Visual-Meta to ‘know’ what documents are in the user’s system (hard drive/cloud etc.) and therefore provide affordances for clicking on a cited document which they have and opening the document, straight to the cited page, without having to go through a web portal.

Experimental Variables

Experimental: If the value you are adding is not fully accurate, place a ? after that field. 
For example: year = {2020},?

If you are not sure about the spelling, you can append ‘sp?’. 
For example author = {Frode Alexander Hegland},sp?



The benefit of the Visual-Meta approach is that the PDF viewer software can interact with the document in richer ways, while not loosing the robustness of being a normal PDF document. For example:

  • The reader software ‘knows’ the citation information of this document so that a reader can cite with a simply copy and paste
  • The view/presentation of the text since the reader software is aware of the document’s structure and since this metadata is visible at the same level as the content of the document, it will not be stripped out as document formats change and it will not interfere with viewers which are not Visual-Meta aware.

There are further Immediate User Benefits, different User Community Benefits and Visual VS. Embedded Benefits.

Visual-Meta Unleashes Hypertextuality and advanced interactions such as Augmented Copying (copies with full citation information), References and Glossaries, as well as included information for how to parse tables, images and special interactions for graphs. This enables dynamic re-creations of interactions with sophisticated visualisations, which no longer needs to be flattened when committed to PDF.

The Future of Connected Documents

Citations are the literal backbone of academic discourse, it is the means through which explicit links are threaded.

In the move to digital environments, the combination of the old and the new has not produced the most convenient, accurate or robust systems.

Citations have received some benefits of digital interactions, including the ability to use web-links associated with the cited material, which point to download sites and use handles, such as DOIs. Links are not robust, they are brittle connections, which break when a server goes down or a domain is no longer paid for, so this does little to create a long term, robust connection environment.

In the rush to embrace digital technologies there has also been a strong force to maintain legacy systems of work, which is why PDF documents act as the medium in which to freeze academic documents, which is a vital part of the academic process, but freezes them without adding necessary meta-data. This creates digital objects which are devoid of many benefits of being digital, such as meta-data to allow the document to be able to present itself for what it is, which can foster richly interactive ecosystems.

In the book The Future of Text I have addressed this problem: The book contains an appendix called Visual-Meta which adds human-readable metadata in the well established BiBTeX format. For example, the title of the book, which is rarely the same as the name of the document, looks like this: title = {The Future Of Text},. When someone copies text from the book, this Visual-Meta is appended to the clipboard so that when it is pasted, the copied text is pasted with full metadata for citing the book. The result is a clean and robust citation in the word processor, which can be styled as desired on export and automatically added to the Reference section. This has been implemented in my Reader PDF viewer and Author word processor, both on the macOS platform.

Visual-Meta also adds formatting information so that the reading software knows where headings are and who wrote specific sections, which is important for works such as The Future of Text, which features 180 contributors. Visual-Meta can also address high-resolution citing and computational text, as well as surfacing the values inside embedded images and tables, and more.

This is how I made citing instant (simply copy and paste), accurate (only one copy operation, based on the published metadata for the document is used) and robust since the PDF can even be printed, scanned and if OCR’d, no metadata is lost. The data cost is a page of small type and the admin cost is minimal, since this is an open standard with self-described fields, which software can easily be updated to create on authoring and parse on reading.

The system is ready to step out of The Future of Text and into everyday academic use, where it can provide time saving, robustness and enable whole new levels of advanced interactions for academic authors and readers.