Searching within the library

The search bar is located in the icon bar.

Screenshot of the search bar

To make the cursor jump to the search field, you can:

  • click in the search field.

  • press Ctrl + F.

Search settings

At the right of the search text field, 2 buttons allow for selecting some settings:

  • Regular expressions

  • Case sensitivity

    • Whether or not the search query is case sensitive.

Simple search

In a normal search, the program searches your database for all occurrences of the words in your search string, once you entered it. Only entries containing all words will be considered matches. To search for sequences of words, enclose the sequences in double quotes. For instance, the query progress "marine aquaculture" will match entries containing both the word "progress" and the phrase "marine aquaculture".

All entries that do not match are hidden, leaving for display the matching entries only.

To stop displaying the search results, just clear the search field, press Esc or click on the "Clear" (X) button.

Search using regular expressions


In order to search specific fields only and/or include logical operators in the search expression, a special syntax is available in which these can be specified. E.g. to search for entries whose an author contains miller, enter:

author = miller

Both the field specification and the search term support regular expressions. If the search term contains spaces, enclose it in quotes. Do not use spaces in the field specification! E.g. to search for entries about image processing, type:

title|keywords = "image processing"

You can use and, or, not, and parentheses as intuitively expected:

(author = miller or title|keywords = "image processing") and not author = brown

The = sign is actually a shorthand for contains. Searching for an exact match is possible using matches or ==. Using != tests if the search term is not contained in the field (equivalent to not ... contains ...). The selection of field types to search (required, optional, all) is always overruled by the field specification in the search expression. If a field is not given, all fields are searched. For example, video and year == 1932 will search for entries with any field containing video and the field year being exactly 1932.

Pseudo fields

JabRef defines the following pseudo fields:

Pseudo field




Search in any field

anyfield contains fruit: search for entries having one of its fields containing the word fruit. This is identical to just writing apple. It may be more useful as anyfield matches apple, where one field must be exactly apple for a match.


Search among the keywords

anykeyword matches apple: search for entries which has the word apple among its keywords. However, as this also matches pineapple, it may be more useful in searches of the type anykeyword matches apple, which will not match apples or pineapple


Search for citation keys

citationkey == miller2005: search for an entry whose citation key is miller2005


Search for entries of a certain type

entrytype = thesis: search entries whose type (as displayed in the entrytype column) contains the word thesis (which would be phdthesis and mastersthesis)

Regular expressions

Regular expressions (regex for short) define a language for specifying the text to be matched, for example when searching. JabRef uses regular expressions as defined in Java. For extensive information, please, look at the documentation and at the tutorial.

They can be used in the normal search mode and the advanced search mode

Regular expressions and casing

By default, regular expressions do not account for upper/lower casing. Hence, while the examples below are all in lower case, they match also upper- and mixed case strings.

If casing is important to your search, activate the case-sensitive button.

Searching for entries with an empty or missing field

  • . means any character

  • + means one or more times

author != .+

Searching for a given word

  • \b means word boundary

  • \B means not a word boundary

keywords = \buv\b matches uv but not lluvia (it does match uv-b however)

author = \bblack\b matches black but neither blackwell nor blacker

author == black does not match john black, but author = \bblack\b does.

author = \bblack\B matches blackwell and blacker, but not black.

Searching with optional spelling

  • ? means none or one copy of the preceding character.

  • {n,m} means at least n, but not more than m copies of the preceding character.

  • [ ] defines a character class

title =neighbou?r matches neighbour and neighbor, and also neighbours and neighbors, and neighbouring and neighboring, etc.

title = neighbou?rs?\b matches neighbour and neighbor, and also neighbours and neighbors, but neither neighbouring nor neighboring.

author = s[aá]nchez matches sanchez and sánchez.

abstract = model{1,2}ing matches modeling and modelling.

abstract = modell?ing also matches modeling and modelling.

year == 200[5-9]|201[0-1]​specifies the range of years 2005-2011 (200[5-9] specifies years 2005-2009;| means "or"; 201[0-1] specifies years 2010-2011).

Searching for strings with a special character (()[]{}\^-=$!|?*+.)

If a special character (i.e. ( ) [ ] { } \ ^ - = $ ! | ? * + . ) is included in your search string, it has to be escaped with a backslash, such as \} for }.

It means that to search for a string including a backslash, two consecutive backslashes (\\) have to be used: abstract = xori{\\c{c}}o matches xoriço.

Searching for strings with double quotation marks (")

The character " has a special meaning: it is used to group words into phrases for exact matches. So, if you search for a string that includes a double quotation, the double quotation character has to be replaced with the hexadecimal character 22 in ASCII table \x22.

Hence, to search for {\"o}quist as an author, you must input author = \{\\\x22o\}quist, with regular expressions enabled (Note: the {, _ and the } are escaped with a backslash; see above).

Indeed, \" does not work as an escape for ". Hence, neither author = {\"o}quist with regular expression disabled, nor author = \{\\\"O\}quist with regular expression enabled, will find anything even if the name {\"o}quist exists in the database.