MPG/SFX FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. What is SFX?
  2. How do I use SFX?
  3. What services can SFX offer me?
  4. Who may use SFX?
  5. Why don't I see any SFX buttons?
  6. Why is there more than one option for full texts?
  7. Why does the number of services in the SFX Menu vary?
  8. Why doesn't the Author Search in Web of Science lead to a results list?
  9. Why are there multiple windows?
  10. Where can I get more information or help?


Go to index of FAQ list  What is SFX?

SFX (an acronym for "Special Effects") is an innovative context-sensitive reference linking product based on the openURL framework originating from research carried out by Herbert Van de Sompel at Ghent University in Belgium and at the LANL Research Library in Los Alamos. It is now owned and being further developed by Ex Libris and has been licensed by the Max Planck Society (MPG) as an ideal tool for the "intelligent" integration of the various reference databases, library catalogs, full text repositories and other scientific information resources available to MPG staff and guests at over 80 sites in Europe.

SFX allows users to start with an item of interest found in one information resource ("Source"), view a menu of additional options ("Services") related to that item available via other information resources, and then directly access the selected resource ("Target") at the appropriate level. For examples and general information about MPG/SFX Services see below; for more detailed technical information on how SFX works see

Go to index of FAQ list  How do I use SFX?

Many information resources you are using (e.g. library catalog, reference database, etc) should have been "SFX-enabled", thus you should see the MPG/SFX button at the full record level or within particular data fields. If you already have the bibliographic information for the reference you are interested in, you might also use the Citation Linker to directly retrieve the relevant MPG/SFX Services. The exact location and size of the SFX buttons may vary slightly from one information resource to the other, but will usually look similar to the following example:

Clicking the SFX button will open a new browser window with the "MPG/SFX Services" menu (you may have to first enable JavaScript). The bibliographic information ("metadata") extracted from your selected item is displayed near the top of the menu. This is followed by a list of context-specific services available for this item via other information resources (see below for examples). Clicking the logo next to the desired service or on the name of the resource providing the service will activate a link to the respective target (again opening an additional browser window) and take you to the appropriate level within the new resource. You may return to the SFX menu to select a different service for the same item or return to your original information resource and repeat the process for a new item of interest as often as you wish.

Go to index of FAQ list  What services can SFX offer me?

Currently, MPG/SFX Services may offer you any of the following options:

Please note that implementation of SFX linking technology within the Max Planck Society is an ongoing process. The services that can be offered for a particular item are dependent on the metadata the producer and/or provider of the information resource can supply, the ability of the target resource to accept and correctly process a specific request sent by the SFX Server, and the definition and implementation of appropriate services by the responsible information specialists. Additional services may be added as they become available.

Go to index of FAQ list  Who may use SFX?

When an information resource is being accessed from within any authorized location of the Max Planck Society, all appropriate MPG/SFX Services will be functional for all users. When connecting to the same information resource from a location outside the registered IP-ranges (if permissible) MPG/SFX Services will also be presented; however, they will not necessarily be functional, since many target databases, catalogs and full text repositories restrict access to registered IP-ranges only.

Go to index of FAQ list  Why don't I see any SFX buttons?

This could be due to several reasons:

  • The information resource you are using may not (yet) be configured for MPG/SFX Services
  • The information provider hasn't recognized that you are belonging to the Max Planck Society, e.g. because your IP address is not correctly registered
    Please note: For PubMed it's required to enter the resource via following URL to see MPG/SFX buttons: More detailed information is available in the documentation (pdf) provided by the IVS-BM
  • The SFX button may be available at a different level (e.g. at the full record)
  • The SFX button was overlooked (location and design can vary depending on the resource being used)
  • You may need to enable JavaScript in your browser

Go to index of FAQ list  Why is there more than one option for full texts?

  • If the Max Planck Society has a central licensing agreement with the publisher or provider covering an electronic version of the journal (and the respective volume), SFX will take you as close as possible to the full text of the desired article ("Full text available via ..."). Dependent on the structure of the provider's web site, you will sometimes go straight to the full text (pdf or html), but sometimes you may first have to navigate the provider's web site to get to the article you are looking for.
  • If a central license is not in place, the MPG/SFX server requests the Electronic Journal Library (EZB) in the background to check if the full text is available via a local license. In the positive case a link to the provider's website is offered ("Full text available via Publisher's Homepage") as well as the appropriate EZB traffic light: A yellow light indicates that your Institute has a local license for the desired article while a green light will be displayed if access is free of charge to everyone.
  • If the SFX server fails in retrieving any license information it will offer several other possibilities helping you to localize the full text:
    The first option ("Check for this journal in the Electronic Journal Library - EZB") will check to see if an electronic version of this journal exists, and, if so, direct you to its home page. Even if the EZB indicates you do not have access rights (red light), we recommend going to the journal's home page anyway and trying your luck.
    The second option ("Check for library holdings in the MPG Journal Index") will check to see if either the print or electronic version of the journal is available in any of the individual Max Planck Institutes whose library catalogs have been included in the MPG Journal Index. Should your own library be listed as holding a subscription, you will be able to access the respective holding information (for questions, consult your local librarian).
    As a third option you might also run an internet search ("Search for more information using a Web Search Engine") to check for a free available copy (e.g. on the personal web page of the author).

Go to index of FAQ list  Why does the number of services in the SFX Menu vary?

SFX links are created dynamically, and they are context sensitive. The services offered to you are determined by the information ("metadata") available in the record you started with, as well as by what information resources are available as targets. When you click the SFX button, the system runs through the MPG/SFX database to see what services have been considered appropriate for that particular item. Only services available will be displayed in the respective MPG/SFX Services menu. For an overview of current services, see above.

Go to index of FAQ list  Why doesn't the Author Search in Web of Science lead to a results list?

For technical reasons it may be necesary to clear your browser's cache and to delete all cookies before accessing the Web of Science.

Go to index of FAQ list  Why are there multiple windows?

These correspond to the level within the logical search and retrieval process. Whenever you click the SFX button, it will open a new browser window to display the MPG/SFX Services menu for a particular item. Selecting a service from the menu opens a third browser window in which all activities generated from the SFX window take place. Unless the target service also spawns additional windows, there will only be three windows open at one time. You can use "alt tab" to easily navigate among the windows for the original information resource, the SFX menu and the target service. Once you have finished with the services for one item, be sure to close the SFX window before going on to the next record. Please be aware that your session in the original information resource remains active, but may time-out if you do not return to it in due time.

Go to index of FAQ list  Where can I get more information or help?

In many instances, your local librarian will be able to assist you further. If you would like to have more detailed technical information on SFX, please see

Max Planck vLib, 12 December 2017