Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I use JabRef in my work. Should I mention JabRef in my publications?

A: You are not obliged to cite JabRef, but we would greatly appreciate it if you do.

  author  = {Oliver Kopp and Carl Christian Snethlage and Christoph Schwentker},
  title   = {{JabRef}: {BibTeX}-based literature management software},
  journal = {TUGboat},
  issn    = {0896-3207},
  issue   = {138},
  volume  = {44},
  number  = {3},
  pages   = {441--447},
  doi     = {10.47397/tb/44-3/tb138kopp-jabref},
  year    = {2023},

Q: Is JabRef free for private and corporate use?

A: Yes it is. JabRef is distributed under the MIT License, which allows the following usage.

Q: JabRef does not start. What should I do?

A: You can try resetting the settings. Depending on your operating system, you may need to pass the command line arguments -d all -n to JabRef.

(E.g. in Windows this means jabref-X.Y.exe -d all -n, where X.Y means the version number of JabRef. If this does not help, run regedit and delete the folder HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\JavaSoft\Prefs\net\sf\jabref. Be careful with regedit, as you can easily corrupt the basic Windows configuration.)

Q: I have tried the latest version of JabRef. Since then, the library entries are no longer displayed in any old version. What should I do?

A: Don't panic. No data should be damaged in your bib library. Since version 5.0 the columns in the main entry table are stored differently internally. You can reset the preferences by command line. See above.

Q: I have a huge library. What can I do to mitigate performance issues?

A: Check your configuration. Disable some or all of following preferences:

  • disable fulltext index (File → Preferences → Linked files → Fulltext Index → ...)

  • disable time stamps (File → Preferences → General → Time Stamp → ...)

  • disable field formatters (Library → Library Properties → Saving → Save actions → ...)

  • disable autosave (File → Preferences → File → Saving → ...)

  • disable count of items in group (File → Preferences → Groups → ...)

  • Sort the maintable columns from A-Z (low to highest), not from Z-A. See issue 8977.

Any preference that has the potential to affect all your entries at once is worth inspecting.

We collect performance related issues here.

Q: Are there any publications dealing with JabRef?

A: We are collecting all publications we hear about at

Q: Does JabRef support non-English languages or UTF8 in general?

A: Yes. In File → Preferences → General, set "Default Encoding" to UTF8 and select an alternative user interface language in "Language" if required.

Q: If I double click a BibTeX file in the file browser, JabRef always opens a new window. Can JabRef open the libraries in the same window just in a different tab?

A: In File → Preference → Single Instance, ensure that "Enforce single JabRef Instance (and allow remote operations) using port [6050]" is checked. Note that 6050 is the default port and can be changed if desired.

Q: I have a DOI/ISBN/ePrint/etc. Is it possible to create an entry directly out of this identifier?

A: Paste the DOI in the table of entries, and JabRef will create the corresponding entry. Additionally, in Library → New entry you can select the type of the identifier in the field "ID type" and enter the identifier in "ID". A click on "Generate" should create the correct entry. If this does not work, try a web search. For more details, see Add entry using an ID.

Q: Why can't JabRef find any DOI/ISBN/ePrint/etc.?

A: There are several reasons why JabRef cannot find your identifier online. For example, your DOI is not listed in the CrossRef database if you are using the CrossRef fetcher. Another reason could be that the search result for your DOI on returns invalid BibTeX which is unable to be read by JabRef. Try a web search instead.

Q: I miss a field translator, lastfollowedon, etc. How can I add such fields?

A: To add this translator field to all entry types, you can use File → Preferences → Custom editor tabs and add a translator field under one of JabRef's general field tabs (see Customize general fields). To add this translator field to a specific entry type, edit the specific entry type(s) (File → Customize entry types) and add a translator field under required fields or optional fields, as you like (see Customize entry types).

Q: How do I prevent JabRef from introducing line breaks in certain fields (such as “title”) when saving the .bib file?

A: Open File → Preferences. In the “File” panel, you will find an option called “Do not wrap the following fields when saving”. This option contains a semicolon-separated list of field names. Any field you add to this list will always be stored without introduction of line breaks.

Q: Is it possible to append entries from a BibTeX file, e.g. from my web browser to the currently opened library?

A: Yes, you can use the parameter --importToOpen bibfile of the command line.

A: You need to override the default file directory for this specific library. In Library → Library properties you can override the Default file directory setting. There, you can either enter the path in General file directory (for it to be valid for all users of the file) or in User-specific file directory (for it to be valid for you only). If you simply enter “.” (a dot, without the quotes), the file directory will be the same as the .bib file directory. To place your files in a subdirectory called subdir, you can enter “./subdir” (without the quotes). Files will automatically be linked with relative paths if the files are placed in the default file directory or in a directory below it. More details on the help page about the library properties.

Q: Can I use a bib-file specific PDF directory?

A: In Library → Library properties you can choose a library-specific directory in the field “General file directory”. If you want to set a directory only for you (so that other users should use the default directory), use the field “User-specific file directory”.

Q: How do I export my bibliography entries into a simple text file, so I can import them into a spreadsheet (in LibreOffice, OpenOffice, MS Office, etc.)?

A: Use File → Export. As “Filter” choose “OpenOffice/LibreOffice CSV”.

Q: How do I add and remove keywords of multiple entries?

A: Select the entries and go to Library → Manage keywords. There you can manage keywords appearing in all selected entries or in any selected entry. New keywords are added to all selected entries. More details about keywords in JabRef.

Q: When linking a file, I cannot set the correct type. How do I add new types?

In File → Preferences, tab External programs, button "Manage external file types", you can add arbitrary types. See the dedicated page about external file types.

Q: When an organization is provided as author, my BibTeX style doesn't recognize it. For instance, why is “European Commission” converted to “Commission, E.”?

A: Use curly braces to tell BibTeX to keep your author field as-is: {European Commission}. In BibLaTeX, you can use label = {EC} to have EC05 as a label for a publication of the European Commission in the year 2005.

Q: Is there a FAQ on BibTeX?

A: Take a look at “Bibliographies and citations” at the UK List of TeX Frequently Asked Questions on the Web. For German readers, there is the dante e.V. FAQ.

Q: How do I export a subset of my library to BibTeX (or BibLaTeX) format?

A: Your JabRef library is already a file in Bib(La)TeX format. To export a specific subset of your library, select the entries to be exported and then choose File → Export → Save selected as plain BibTeX....

Q: I have the Bib(La)TeX code of a reference. How to add it to my library as a new entry?

A: Paste the Bib(la)Tex code of a reference into the table of entries, and JabRef will create the new corresponding entry.

Q: I have the PDF of a publication. How to make it a new entry of my library?

A: Drag & drop a PDF onto the table of entries (between two existing entries). JabRef will analyze the PDF and create a new entry. More details about Adding entries from PDFs.

Q: I am looking at a publication in my web browser. How to make it a new entry of my library?

A: Use JabRef Browser extension: with one click, JabRef browser extension identifies and extracts bibliographic information on websites and sends them to JabRef.

Q: I am missing the DOI of some of my publications. Can JabRef help?

A: JabRef can fetch the DOI for you: select the entries and go to Lookup → Search document identifier online → DOI.

Q: I am missing the PDF of some of my publications. Can JabRef help?​

A: JabRef can fetch the PDFs for you: select the entries and to Lookup → Search full text documents online.​

Q: How do I export a subset corresponding to my LaTeX file?

A: Upon compilation, LaTeX generates a file with the extension ".aux". This file contains the keys of the cited references (among other things). Using this AUX file, JabRef can extract the relevant entries. Choose the menu Tools → New sublibrary based on AUX file... , then select the AUX file.

Q: When I modify my library, I would like that JabRef performs entry cleaning automatically. How to do this?

A: In Library → Library properties, you will find a section named "Save actions". After enabling this feature, you can choose which actions should be performed for each field upon saving. That should help you keep your library tidy. More details about cleaning up entries, save actions, and check integrity.

Q: Search on Google scholar does not work anymore. Why?

A: Google scholar is blocking "automated" crawls which generate too much traffic in a short time. JabRef already uses a two-step approach (with the prefetched list before crawling the actual BibTeX data) to circumvent this. However, after too many crawls JabRef is being blocked. To solve this issue, see the section Traffic limitations in the Google Scholar database.

Q: JabRef does not push to vim, although I have configured the right path and server name. What is going on?

A: You have to start vim with the option --servername (such as vim --servername MyVimServer). If you get the Unknown option argument message, it means your version of vim does not include the clientserver feature (you can check with vim --version). In such a case, you have to install another version of vim.

Q: My plugins stopped working. Why?

A: In JabRef 3.0 plugin support was removed because the development team cannot keep up plugin support anymore. Nevertheless, plugins can be integrated in JabRef. See issue #152 for the current status and discussion. Please contact the author of the respective plugin and ask them to port their plugin into JabRef's code.

Q: In the preferences, I want to change the option XYZ. How to find it?

A: Enter XYZ in the search field located at the upper left-hand corner of the preference window.

Q: "Unable to monitor file changes. Please close files and processes and restart. You may encounter errors if you continue with this session."

A: This error message has been observed on systems that use inotify. System calls to inotify_init and inotify_add_watch set errno to EMFILE when inotify has reached its limit. The most common reason is that inotify is running too many instances. To solve this problem, contact your system administrator and request that they increase the limits defined in /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_* files.

Q: "I'm using JabRef with Linux (Gnome desktop version) and each time I want to see a pdf document in JabRef, the document viewer Evince is opened. I would prefer to open it with Okular."

A: JabRef opens the pdf document with the application Gnome has set by default: Evince. If you want JabRef to open another application (Okular or other), in your file explorer, right-click on whatever pdf file > properties > Open With > choose your application > Set as default at the bottom right corner. From now on, both when you double-click a pdf file in your file explorer or when you ask JabRef to open it via its document viewer, your chosen application will be used.

Q: How does JabRef support me in sharing my Bib(La)TeX libraries?

A: JabRef automatically recognizes a change in the bib file on disk and notifies the user of it. This is cool for network drives.

If you use version control, a few advices are given for a smoother sharing of a bib file.

In addition, we have many open issues dealing with collaboration.

Q: How to do collaborative work on a library?

A: You can either choose to use an SQL database or to share a bib file.

Q: Which network protocols and ports are used by JabRef?

A: JabRef uses https to connect to external catalogs to fetch bibliographic data. The concrete port used depends on the external service. Mostly, the standard port 443 is used. When connecting to a SQL database, the standard port for PostgreSQL and MySQL is used. JabRef offers a local interface used by the browser plugin. For that, JabRef uses a proprietary, text-based protocol offered on the configurable port 6050.

Q: My question is not answered here. What can I do?

A: After consulting JabRef's help and checking whether your question has been regarded as issue please head over to the Forum.

A: See How to improve the help page.

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