Group Design

Hello All,

A number of users have posted about the design of Groups in X2:

bluestar in
philosopherdog in
myoshigi in

I would like to add my voice to this chorus, with hopefully a couple of my own specifics.  I have found the grouping/tagging panel in Adobe Photoshop Elements, as well as Adobe Lightroom, to be excellent.  They each work a _little_ differently, but the basics are the same:

The tags (or “groups”) are *hierarchical* (as requested by myoshigi).  So, I can have a group called “Insects”, and embedded in that, “Lepidoptera” and “Coleoptera”:



   |-- Lepidoptera

   – Coleoptera

If I click on “Insects”, I get everything tagged with just the high-level Insect tag, as well as the embedded Lepidoptera and Coleoptera tags.

Furthermore, I can click on more than one “tag” at a time (eg, click on both “Coleoptera” and “Corn” groups), thus displaying all references (or photos, in adobe’s case) which are tagged with either tag.  Here is where Endnote could improve on Adobe’s model: There should also be an ability to select a number of groups to display only those references which belong to *both* groups.  Perhaps this latter function should be implemented in a harder-to-access search window.

The ability to manually order groups, as well as color-code, is important as well.

If you want to get even better, you could have groups of groups.  So that I could have my “coleoptera” subgroup not just under “insects”, but i could classify it under “libraries to share with John” as well.   That abililty is not as urgent as the others mentioned here.

Given that groups are moving users to have one-single-large-master library,  the ability to have multiple windows open on that library is important.  That is, I don’t want to have to close my view of “insects” to go look at my references in “corn”.  I’d like to be able to have two windows open, looking at the same library.

Thanks very much for listening.  Readers - if you have opinions, either different or similar to mine, please do add to the thread here.  The more voices, the more likely this issue will get addressed.



Message Edited by albo on 11-13-2008 09:43 AM


Color coding for groups would be a nice feature, although I think adding (nested) tree structure would replace the function. At this moment, if somebody has groups more than hundred (like me), it gets difficult to “group” the Groups. In the meantime, I make groups using commas, space, semicolons, which somehow display groups with nested design because Group names are sorted by alphabet and symbols. But when I want to add one reference to a certain group, I need to scroll the group window all the way down or up, or right-click the menu which also needs to be scrolled all the way.

I think many people have more than a few hundreds of references in their “master” library these days, improving Group function will be really the key to make existing users happy. I have talked with tech team during the beta testing process, and they are trying to do so, at least starting from search function for the group. The requests like color coding or tree structure are a bit cosmetic, so I don’t think they consider urgent.

I agree it would be nice if I can see multiple windows from one library, but it may have a big impact on the other operability of Endnote, so I don’t know. Excel opens “read only” if I open the same file. That may be the model for that.

I would prefer “Shift click” and “Ctrl click” to select multiple groups, such that I view references that belong to the selected groups with AND or OR boolean algorithms, respectively.


I hope you’re wrong about the endnote dev team viewing grouping abilities as “cosmetic”.  That’s like saying the folder format in computer operating systems, or the Dewey Decimal Classification, are “cosmetic”.  It would be a grave error on tomson scientific’s part to consider it as such.  Logical organization is what reference management, and much of knowledge in general (to broaden the point), is all about.

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We agree that the Groups functionality is an important and powerful part of EndNote and are currently working on several enhancements to Groups for the next version. We will certainly take the suggestions posted here into account. One particular challenge is “color coding” due to accessibility requirements - - we are limited to using color only in secondary applications; meaning, that we always need a textual or symbolic equivalent to anything we allow to be color coded. In our experience, most other software tools used in government research settings – or those funded by government grants – must meet the same requirements.

Jason Rollins, the EndNote team

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Thanks for the response Jason.  I mentioned color coding since others had.  I think it could be helpful as a secondary-organizing feature.  But the main way, IMHO, should be spatially embedding somehow (indenting in a tree-like fashion being the most obvious).


Thank you for taking suggestions here into account. As I advocating tree display in Groups pane, I think it would be nice if the “Add References to” menu from the right-click of each reference also display custom groups in tree structure, like the way Windows Start menu shows programs.

Best regards,

I would SO appreciate having a nested group structure. 

In X3, it has “two levels”. So, it’s getting better.

But, I now have 450 groups, reaching almost max numbers. When I right-click a reference, and try to add the reference to a certain group, the menu shows 450 groups WITHOUT tree structure, and WITHOUT a scroll bar. It shoud have a similar tree structure as the group pane.

Yeah, getting better, but not there yet.  When one makes a group of groups, it is automatically put way down at the bottom of the pane.  There should be unlimited nesting ability, and while it’s nice to be able to make totally different sections, the upper-level groups should live side by side with the other groups.  Hope that makes sense.

Sorry, I didn’t get the last part.

>upper-level groups should live side by side with the other groups

Would you explain a little bit more?

As it is now, group sets are pushed to the bottom of the pane, below all the groups which are not a part of group sets.  In my opinion, group sets should be able to be intermingled with all the other groups.  They should be able to be ordered alphabetically with all the other groups, or ordered manually, or by date of creation, etc…  Make sense now?

My Endnote (X3.0.1 for Win) doesn’t have groups that do not belong to a group set. They all became inside the “My groups” by default, as soon as I upgraded from X2. When I create a new group set, I can drag it over the My groups. I can rename My groups as well. However, groups inside any group sets are ordered only alphabetically, which is somewhat limited. So, I don’t know your Endnote (Mac?) allows you to have groups that do not belong to a group set, but I agree, groups and groups sets should “co-exist” at the same level, and the nesting should be at least 3-4 levels.

The problem would be: I believe (and I hope) T&R is working search algorithms to find out references that belong to certain groups. When groups are nested within such complicated tree structure, developing group (and group set) search algorithms become very complicated tasks. I feel like giving developers time for some incremental progresses, and until then, I want to keep feeding them users wishes and requests. As a user or a purchaser of the software, we always want perfect functions and requested features included in the very next version, but that doesn’t seem like a reality.

ah, you’re right!  i didn’t notice it, but yes, all my groups are in the My Groups group set also.  The groups are getting better, bit by bit.  Still a ways to go, but getting there.

Regarding incremental progress and complicated search algorithims, I can’t say I’m a very sympathetic party.  Endnote has had years to develop these capabilities.  The lack of competition, imho, has allowed them to be lackluster in their speed of feature development.  Hierarchical database structures are far from overly-complex, and programmers have been dealing with these kinds of problems since the advent of databases.

You’re probably right: lack of cutthroat competition resulted in the slow development. I’m not sympathetic either, and very often feel frustrated. Particularly, when I participate beta tesing and don’t see the features we often requested in the forum, frustration reaches to a certain level.

But what else can we do other than tell them what we want and wait? I have learned it from telling my kids “hey, you should be able to do this” doesn’t teach them anything. Unless you want to be hired as T&R’s programmer and develop what you want, there are little things we can do.

If it is my children, I have (and I need) patience to wait and see. But this is a business. If Endnote doesn’t have (or develop) what I want and something else has it, I simply go somewhere else. It’s that simple.

Current group design allows completely identical group/group set names. It even allows making groups with same names under the sam group set. I don’t know why programmers chose to make it this way, but it will create a big problem. It is already problematic, when I use “Record summary” to find out group register, I have some identical group names under different group sets, and I can’t tell which one.

For example: I have “Apoptosis” group under “Cancer Biology”, and “Apoptosis” group under “Developmental Biology”.

When I drag a reference to “Apoptosis” under “Cancer biology”, go back to All references,  and check the Record summary of the reference, I see only “Apoptosis” register. I can’t tell which “Apoptosis” group it belongs to.

Group register needs to be displayed somewhat like this: Group set name/group name

Message Edited by myoshigi on 11-07-2009 10:35 PM

Message Edited by myoshigi on 11-08-2009 05:07 AM

How they deal with identical names in the future will depend on how they choose to implement Groups.  If they are to be “Groups”, then yes, this is a problem.  If, however, they choose to implement them as “tags”, then your Apoptosis tag could be the same tag, just that it would show up in two different places in your hierarchy.

For example, if i have a “butterfly” tag, i might want it to categorize that tag both under an “insects” hierarchy as well as under a “indicator taxa” hierarchy.  This is a question that TR is going to have to address as they move forward to implement group hierarchies.  I would generally opt for flexibility over ridigity, which would mean going the route of tagging instead of grouping (since you can make tags work like groups by only placing a tag in one place in your hierarchy).

I agree that future of Group function depends on their implementation.

Having the same group name under several different group sets is actually not a problem. The problem is, it does not seem like Endnote is differentiating group-group set hierarchy.

Like the example above, if I have “Apoptosis” under three group sets, “Developmental biology”, “Cancer biology”, and “p53 Signaling”, I get “Apoptosis, Apoptosis, Apoptosis” in Record summery.

I want to see in the Record summary, like this:

Developmental biology/Apoptosis, Cancer biology/Apoptosis, p53 Signaling/Apoptosis

With the current implementation, if I see “Apoptosis, Apoptosis” in the Record summary of one reference, I can’t tell immediately which two “Apoptosis” groups this reference belongs to.

Current implementation even allows many “Apoptosis” in one group set. Please try making “butterfly” in one of your group set. You can make as many as you want. I also opt for flexibility and freedom, but this level of freedom leads to ambiguity.

Group function has been improved and still developing, but I certainly see some aspects are so called patch job.

Message Edited by myoshigi on 11-17-2009 04:19 AM

One thing I would likme regarding groups is if there were field in an entry telling me what groups something is in.  This would also be handy as a display field.

@gilbert1111 - you know you can right click on a record and choose “record summary” to see its groups, right?

This is why, with the current design, I prefer to use key words in a custom field and then smart groups to put those with that key word in that field in a group. Then it is a “field” I can view and sort - AND group.