MPG/SFX Server: Using COinS

Why care about COinS? | What are COinS? | Firefox | Internet Explorer | Support of Zotero | Useful links

Why care about COinS?

Today, the MPG/SFX link resolver is quite well integrated into information resources licensed by the MPG. But, many resources freely available do not offer SFX buttons because they don't "know" you as a user. Thus they do not know either which link resolver you might be interested in. Consequently, you have to bridge the gap to the full text yourself.

COinS are a possible solution to this problem and some internet resources have implemented the standard to enable links from their references to your link resolver (see a selection of COinS implementers below).

COinS are also used by other client software, like Zotero - the firefox extension which helps to collect, manage, and cite relevant resources (see further information below).

top of page

What are COinS?

ContextObjects in Spans (COinS) is a method to embed bibliographic information about available references into the HTML code of a web page by using a "span" element. Span elements are hidden in the HTML code and therefore internet users won't notice COinS unless they have installed a modern browser software (e.g. Firefox) and a specific extension which discovers the hidden information. COinS re-use the elements defined by the OpenURL standard, e.g. the article title is marked as "rft.atitle". This is how HTML code looks like with COinS element included:

<span class="Z3988"

The COinS Generator can be used to create COinS manually by entering the bibliographic metadata for a citation.

top of page

How to get COinS working with Firefox?

Note: Mozilla Firefox offers the most convenient way to display COinS. These instructions describe the installation of a specific COinS extension. For help on Internet Explorer, please check the instructions below.

It just takes three steps to make your Firefox browser "COinS" aware:

Step 1: Install the OpenURL Referrer provided by OCLC Openly Informatics by following the link "Download Firefox Version":

download page

After the installation is completed, you are asked to "Restart Firefox". This will close and re-open all browser windows.
Please note: If the download does not start automatically after clicking the link, you probably need to add "" to the list of sites from which downloads are allowed. To do so, please select the "Edit Options" button from the yellow banner at the top of your Firefox window.

Step 2: Configure MPG/SFX as your institutional link resolver. From the Firefox program bar choose "Tools -> Add-ons" and select the options available for the "OpenURL Referrer". Add a new profile with following settings:

configuration panel

Link Server Base URL:

OpenURL version:

Image location:

Step 3: Test your setup. You should now see an MPG/SFX Button below:

top of page

How to get COinS working with Internet Explorer?

News: OCLC released the OpenURL Referrer for Internet Explorer in October 2007. This browser extension seems to be slightly more comfortable and stable than using bookmarklets as suggested before.

Option 1: Install and configure OCLC's OpenURL Referrer

Step 1: Download the OpenURL Referrer from the Openly Informatics homepage: Download IE version. Launch the application "openurlref.exe" and restart your browser.
Please note: Detailed installation instructions are available at the bottom of the OpenURL Referrer homepage.

Step 2: After the installation is completed, you will find a new entry called "Insert OpenURLs" in the "Tools" as well as the context menu. Selecting this command will replace all COinS stored in the code of the HTML document currently loaded by an OpenURL link. Test it on this page and you should see a button below:

Step 3: By default, the OpenURL Referrer directs all OpenURL requests to the WorldCat Registry, but you may configure the browser extension by editing following settings in "C:\Programme\OpenURL Referrer\openurlref.htm":

    var baseurl = "";
    var button = "";
    var alttext = "Fulltext and other MPG-specific services";

Option 2: Use Bookmarklets

By using bookmarklets, you can interpret COinS with your Internet Explorer, but unfortunately this way is less comfortable than the OpenURL referrer add-on. To install a MPG/SFX bookmarklet, right click on the link below, select "Add to Favorites", accept the security warning and choose a folder to store the bookmarklet.

MPG SFX COinS lookup

Afterwards, a small javascript program called "MPG SFX COinS lookup" is available via your browser's favorites. Clicking on this favorite will replace all COinS stored in the code of the HTML document currently loaded by an MPG/SFX button. Test it on this page and you should see an MPG/SFX button below:

top of page

How does Zotero use COinS?

The firefox extension Zotero enables you to collect, manage and cite information resources relevant for your scientific work. Citation information stored in a COinS is recognized by Zotero and can therefore be be transferred easily to the collections stored locally. Every MPG/SFX menu provides a COinS, thus Zotero places a small icon at the end of your location bar. Clicking the icon downloads the reference to your Zotero database:

Downloading reference from a sfx menu to zotero

Please note: Sometimes the popup window displaying the SFX menu has no location bar and therefore does not support the Zotero download. This can be changed by adapting the JavaScript options in your Firefox browser, see for further information.

top of page

Useful links

Systems and interfaces using CoinS:

Further information and tools:

top of page