JabRef can be either installed (the preferred way) or be used as a portable application.

Installation instructions

To get the latest version, head to, download the installer for your system (e.g., dmg files for MacOS and msi files for Windows), run them and follow the on-screen instructions.


JabRef 5.6

macOS 10.14 or higher

JabRef 5.12 (dev)

macOS 11 or higher

GTK 3.8 or later

Alternatively, on Windows, you can use the chocolatey package manager and execute choco install jabref to get the latest version. On Ubuntu, you can use snap install jabref to get the latest stable version from snapcraft.

Getting started

Portable version

The portable version of JabRef is designed to be run from a USB stick (or similar) with no installation.

Download it from These are generic archive files (e.g., tar.gz files for Linux and MacOS, and zip files for Windows) which need to be extracted. Inside the archive files you will find the file needed to run JabRef:

  • for Windows JabRef.exe.

  • for Linux

    • either runbin/JabRef

    • or /lib/runtime/bin/JabRef.

  • for Mac, this is the file

Be sure to activate "Load and Save preferences from/to jabref.xml on start-up (memory stick mode)" in Options → Preferences → General. Also, if the Linux version of JabRef portable is put into a folder named bin, it will not start. Other names are fine, like apps.

Development version

If you want to take advantage of the latest features, you can use pre-built binaries crafted from the latest development branch. To use the prebuilt binaries, visit and download the packaged binaries (e.g., dmg files for MacOS and exe files for Windows), run them and follow the instructions.

If you want to try the development version in parallel with the stable version, we recommend to download the portable version (e.g., JabRef-X.Y.portable_macos.tar.gz, or JabRef-X.Y.portable_linux.tar.gz) from to ensure that both versions do not conflict.


Issues with high resolution displays

You have to change the "compatibility settings" for JabRef to "Disable scaling for high DPI settings". Further information is available at

Further reading: and

Warning about preferences

In case you get the following error message

WARNING: Could not open/create prefs root node Software\JavaSoft\Prefs at root 0x80000002. Windows RegCreateKeyEx(...) returned error code 5.

start regedit and create the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\JavaSoft\Prefs. [source]

How can I start or focus JabRef with hotkey ⊞+J (Win+J)?

Use AutoHotkey and JabRef.ahk provided at koppor's autohotkey scripts.

Building From Source

This method is mainly for package maintainers and users who would like to build the latest snapshots of JabRef directly from the source. If you want to setup JabRef for development, follow the instructions for setting up a workspace.

To build JabRef from source, you first need to have a working Java Development Kit (see above link for details) and Git installed on your system. After installing the two requirements, you open a terminal window (i.e., a command prompt) and type the following:

git clone --recurse-submodules --depth=10
cd jabref
./gradlew assemble
./gradlew jlink

In a nutshell, you clone the latest snapshot of JabRef into jabref directory, change directory to jabref, initialize and update all the submodules (dependencies) of JabRef, assemble them to be built via JDK and finally build and link them together.

The output should be the build/image subdirectory that contains the JabRef binary with all of its Java dependencies. To start JabRef, you need to run bin/JabRef (in Linux and MacOS) or bin/JabRef.bat (in Windows) under build/image subdirectory.

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