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BibTeX > JabRef

How to use LaTeX with BibTeX for bibliography management


What is JabRef?

JabRef is a free bibliographic management tool for BibTeX, running on Linux, Windows, and MacOS. (See how to install it.) It also provides many options to customize the JabRef libraries.

Why JabRef?

This software allows to:

  • Search for keywords and expressions in specific fields in a personal reference library using the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT;
  • Organize references in groups;
  • Automatically generate BibTeX keys;
  • Import references from databases such as IEEE Xplore, Medline, Compendex, etc.;
  • Export references in various formats: .ris, .rtf, .txt, .html, etc.

Some settings

Display the menus in French: Options → Preferences → General → Language: Français

Change the font: Options → Preferences → Appearance → General

Enable the autocompletion of words & names already entered in the respective field of the database: Options → Preferences → Entry editor → Enable word/name autocompletion

Display the special fields (rank, relevance, quality and priority): Options → Preferences → Entry table columns → Enable special fields

Display other reference fields: Options → Preferences → Entry table columns → Field name:... and Column width: ...

New entries in a JabRef database

Create a new BibTeX reference with:

BibTeX → New entry... → Select entry type.

The default entry types are: Article, Book, Booklet, Conference, Electronic, Inbook, Incollection, Inproceedings, Manual, Mastersthesis, Misc, Other, Patent, Periodical, Phdthesis, Proceedings, Standard, Techreport and Unpublished. (See the BibTeX tab of this guide for more information.)

The entry editor has seven tabs: Required fields, Optional fields, Other fields, General (available for all entry types), Abstract, Review, and BibTeX source (showing the entry in BibTeX format).

  • To copy a URL in a reference, drag-and-drop it into the URL field of the respective reference.

See the table IEEEtran Entry types in the Entry Types and Required Fields box, under the BibTeX tab of this guide for the required fields for each document type.

The colors of the cells give information on references - see the help. For example, a red cell in the 1st column to the left means that the respective reference is not complete.

Create a unique BibTeX key for each reference

Every entry in a JabRef library must include a unique BibTeX key, automatically generated by clicking:

Quality → Autogenerate BibTeX keys

or the key  .

  • Edit a reference: double-click it;
  • Open the PDF attached to a reference, its URL or DOI:  
    • Tools → Open file; Tools → Open URL or DOI;


    • Double-click on the respective field of the reference.

(For how to specify your main PDF directory, consult the help.)

Remove duplicates

It is not recommended to have duplicates in your JabRef library. To remove them, click:

Quality → Find duplicates → Select the reference to maintain with Keep left or Keep right.

Create groups

To organize the references, JabRef provides for creating static and dynamic groups. The groups window is at the left side of the screen (View → Toggle groups interface).

Under Settings, there are options to combine multiple groups (union, intersection, etc.) 

A reference can be included in more than one group.

Export in .bib format

From EndNote:

  1. Export the selected references in the .txt format with the output style BibTeX Export;
  2. Change the file extension in .bib.

        To import this file in JabRef:

  1. Open the file with JabRef → Import in new database or Import into current database;
  2. Generate the BibTeX keys with Quality → Autogenerate BibTeX keys or click the key  .

From JabRef:

  1. Check if all the references have BibTeX keys;
  2. Export the whole library with File → Save database as...  *.bib.

       or to export only certain references:

  1. Select the references to export;
  2. Check if they have BibTeX keys;
  3. Export the selected references with File → Save selected as... *.bib.

Export from JabRef in RIS format

To export references from JabRef in EndNote format:

  1. File → Export → choose the format RIS (*.ris) → save the file;
  2. Double-click it to open it in EndNote;
  3. Check the references and correct the errors.

Insert references in a .tex document

Select the reference in the JabRef library with CRTL+K and paste it with CRTL+V where you want to insert it in the .tex document. The command \cite{BibTeX_key} will be automatically inserted there.

Export from databases to JabRef

  • Many databases offer the option to export references in the BibTeX format. Follow the first steps of the Importing instructions for EndNote and save the respective references in the BibTeX format instead of .ris. Continue with: File → Import into current database File: BibTeX select the file.
  • It is possible to perform searches in certain databases from JabRef with Search Web Search, which displays the search interface:


  • The number of references that can be downloaded this way is limited (for example, only up to 100 IEEE Xplore references will be returned), so it is more efficient to search directly in the databases and to export the selected references in the BibTeX format.

Correct references in bulk

To change the contents of a certain field in all selected references, click:

Edit → Set/clear/rename fields → Field name: enter the field; New field value → Set fields: enter the new information.

Journal Abbreviations

JabRef includes a built-in list with the ISO and Medline abbreviations, which can be completed by the user.

Tools → Abbreviate journal names (ISO); Abbreviate journal names (MEDLINE); Unabbreviate journal names.

Warning! Since the ISO abbreviations for IEEE journals are different from the official IEEE abbreviations, do not use them for IEEE journals!

It is possible to link the file IEEEabrv.bib for the official IEEE abbreviated titles with:

Options → Manage journal abbreviations → Existing file → Browse → find IEEEabrv.bib on your computer → Open → OK.

The button Toggle abbreviation, placed next to the Required field Journal for a journal article, switches between the string representing the name of the journal and its full title.

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