About BibTeX and its fields

The data format of JabRef is Bib(La)TeX

JabRef is is a program for working with BibTeX and biblatex databases. JabRef program uses no separate internal file format but directly works with BibTeX and biblatex. That means, your BibTeX/biblatex file is kept as is when opening in JabRef and saving again: You normally load and save your libraries directly in the BibTeX/biblatex.bib format. In addition, you can also import and export bibliography libraries in a number of other formats into JabRef.

JabRef helps you work with your BibTeX libraries, but there are still rules to keep in mind when editing your entries, to ensure that your library is treated properly by the BibTeX program.

JabRef's conventions

Fields in the header of a bib file

JabRef stores the encoding of the file and (in case a shared SQL database is used) the ID of the shared library in the header of the bib file.


% Encoding: <encoding>: States the encoding of a BibTeX file. E.g., % Encoding: UTF-8

Shared Id

To enable auto save, JabRef adds % DBID: <id> to the header. This helps JabRef identifying the SQL database where the file belongs. E.g., % DBID: 2mvhh73ge3hc5fosdsvuoa808t.

Standard BibTeX fields

There is a lot of different fields in BibTeX, and some additional fields that you can set in JabRef.

The following fields are recognized by the default bibliography styles:

  • bibtexkey A unique string used to refer to the entry in LaTeX documents. Note that when referencing an entry from LaTeX, the key must match case-sensitively with the reference string. Some characters should not be used in bibtexkey as they are not compatible or not recommended:

    { } ( ) , \ " - # ~ ^ : '

  • address Usually the address of the publisher or other type of institution. For major publishing houses, you may omit the information entirely or give simply the city. For small publishers, on the other hand, you can help the reader by giving the complete address.

  • annote An annotation. It is not used by the standard bibliography styles, but may be used by others that produce an annotated bibliography.

  • author This field should contain the complete author list for your entry. The names are separated by the word and, even if there are more than two authors. Each name can be written in two equivalent forms:

    Donald E. Knuth or Knuth, Donald E.

    Eddie van Halen or van Halen, Eddie

    The second form should be used for authors with more than two names, to differentiate between middle names and last names.

  • booktitle Title of a book, part of which is being cited. For book entries, use the title field instead.

  • chapter A chapter (or section or whatever) number.

  • crossref The library key of the entry being cross referenced.

  • edition The edition of a book--for example, ``Second''. This should be an ordinal, and should have the first letter capitalized, as shown here; the standard styles convert to lower case when necessary.

  • editor This field is analogue to the author field. If there is also an author field, then the editor field gives the editor of the book or collection in which the reference appears.

  • howpublished How something strange has been published. The first word should be capitalized.

  • institution The sponsoring institution of a technical report.

  • journal The name of a journal or magazine. The name of a journal can be abbreviated using a "string". To define such string, use the string editor.

  • key Used for alphabetizing, cross referencing, and creating a label when the ``author'' information is missing. This field should not be confused with the key that appears in the \cite command and at the beginning of the library entry.

  • month The month in which the work was published or, for an unpublished work, in which it was written. You should use the standard three-letter abbreviation of the English names (jan, feb, mar, apr, may, jun, jul, aug, sep, oct, nov, dec).

  • note Any additional information that can help the reader. The first word should be capitalized.

  • number

    The number of a journal, magazine, technical report, or of a work in a series. An issue of a journal or magazine is usually identified by its volume and number; the organization that issues a technical report usually gives it a number; and sometimes books are given numbers in a named series.

  • organization The organization that sponsors a conference or that publishes a manual.

  • pages One or more page numbers or range of numbers, such as 42--111 or 7,41,73--97 or 43+ (which indicates page 43 and following pages). The standard styles convert a single dash (as in 7-33) to the double dash used in TeX to denote number ranges (as in 7--3).

  • publisher The publisher's name.

  • school The name of the academic institution where a thesis was written.

  • series The name of a series or set of books. When citing an entire book, the title field gives its title and an optional series field gives the name of a series or multi-volume set in which the book is published.

  • title The title of the work. The capitalization may depend on the bibliography style and on the language used. For words that have to be capitalized (such as a proper noun), enclose the word (or its first letter) in braces.

  • type The type of a technical report - for example, "Research Note".

  • volume The volume of a journal or multivolume book.

  • year The year of publication or, for an unpublished work, the year it was written. Generally it should consist of four numerals, such as 1984, although the standard styles can handle any year whose last four nonpunctuation characters are numerals, such as "(about 1984)". This field is required for most entry types.

Non-standard fields

BibTeX is extremely popular, and many people have used it to store information in non-standard fields. The information in these non-standard fields may be ignored by BibTeX.

Here is a list of some of the more common non-standard fields ("*" = not directly supported by JabRef):

  • affiliation* The authors affiliation.

  • abstract An abstract of the work.

  • doi The Digital Object Identifier, a permanent identifier given to documents.

  • eid* The Electronic identifier is for electronic journals that also appear in print. This number replaces the page number, and is used to find the article within the printed volume. Sometimes also called citation number.

  • contents* A table of contents

  • copyright* Copyright information.

  • ISBN* The International Standard Book Number.

  • ISSN* The International Standard Serial Number. Used to identify a journal.

  • keywords Key words used for searching or possibly for annotation.

  • language* The language the document is in.

  • location* A location associated with the entry, such as the city in which a conference took place.

  • LCCN* The Library of Congress Control Number. I've also seen this as lib-congress.

  • mrnumber* The number of Mathematical Reviews.

  • price* The price of the document.

  • size* The physical dimensions of a work.

  • URL The WWW Uniform Resource Locator that points to the item being referenced.

JabRef-specific fields

To help in managing your bibliography, and extend the features of BibTeX, JabRef defines some specific fields:

Define your own fields

You can create new fields by editing (or creating) entry types.

Hints on fields

  • Generally, you can use LaTeX commands inside of fields containing text. BibTeX will automatically format your reference lists, and those fields that are included in the lists will be (de)capitalized according to your bibliography style. To ensure that certain characters remain capitalized, enclose them in braces, like in the word {B}elgium.

  • An institution name should be inside {} brackets.

    If the institution name also includes its abbreviation, this abbreviation should be also in {} brackets.

    For instance, {The Attributed Graph Grammar System ({AGG})}.

Further information resources

BibTeX files

BibLatex files

Bib(La)TeX files in the JabRef repository

Good references for the BibTex "standard"

BibLaTex standard

BibTeX parser