Blog Post

Bibliography Help

What do you use when you create a “Works Cited” or “Bibliography” page when writing? Is there any one application that totally rocks for this feat? It would be great to find one that polls a database upon an author name, or a book title, and then automagically fills in the rest of the bib. If you have some goodies, let me know. Thanks!

EDIT: I gave noodlebib a shot tonight, which is an online app through the university that is decent. I would rather have something local though.

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  • BibTeX is the absolute final word for this. You are writing this LaTeX, right? =)

    See here:

    John Quigley

  • Come on John 🙂 You know I use LaTeX, I want a lazy way of doing this!

  • Daniel

    I can’t get over the genius that is zotero .

    It’s a firefox extension that automagically fills in bibliographies when viewing either a library database page on the book, or the source material (newspaper articles, etc), or the entry from a journal database, then nicely formats it. It also has an OOo plugin (and word plugin if that’s your bag). Cross platform, anything that supports firefox.

  • I use Referencer and am happy with it. It ‘manages’ bibtex files in the sense it keeps a bib file in sync with a database of papers you have read.

    Support metadata lookup based on DOI and bibtex import also

  • Guy

    I use JabRef heavily. A Java based tool, that is nicely updateably using Java Web Start, and it does all kinds of nifty things around organising and retrieving your BibTeX references.

  • Alex


    for me my choice is Bibus.

    It insert references in Microsoft Word and in OpenOffice (good if you use linux at home and windows at work), because you can carry your database with you.

    It can export as Bibtex and it can search PubMed so then its only drag and drop for your database.

  • Fredo

    Referencer is really nice, though it’s somewhat limited to managing articles in PDF format (where it absolutely has it’s strengths).

    For ordinary BibTeX work, I currently prefer Pybliographer. It’s not that sophisticated (no tagging or so), but it absolutely does it’s job.

  • KBibTex, if you’re on KDE. I’d link to the Debaday page on it, but it seems we haven’t published that one yet 😉

  • Personally, I use (like but for bibtex and urls) to organize my bibliography. They also hacked jabref to support local synchronization. Furthermore, you can upload your jabref exporter to bibsonomy and have your publications custom layouted.



  • Misha Koshelev

    I have to second Bibus. It is the closest that Linux comes to EndNote and is compatible with most of the online journal citations you can download from these journals. Too bad the format is not compatible with EndNote so I can’t really share the files it creates (I mean the actual format of the citations, e.g., in OpenOffice if you save to MS Word .doc format) as far as the references with my boss/PI for editing.

  • Wow, I woke up to some goodness! You all rock. I will check out each and every option you all have listed. I very much appreciate your responses, thanks!

  • Openoffice provides a fairly nifty built-in bibliography tool.

    For the love of all that is clean and pure: let *TeX die. It’s an awful holdover language that should be forgotten. Let it go. Or come up with a typesetting language that doesn’t suck.

  • Yacin

    You’d rather subject yourself to over LaTeX? Do you drink paint thinner?

  • Bruce D’Arcus

    Sort of depends on your needs. But I (the co-project lead for the OOo bibliographic project) use and recommend Zotero.

  • Yacin, didn’t you and I share a glass of paint thinner this year?

  • jml

    EndNote is craptastic and there is nothing open source as good. Zotero comes the closest, but its integration into word processing software and the tracking it does within documents is nothing close to what Endnote can do.

    Don’t get me wrong: I hate endnote with a passion. But I use qemu and winXP because I simply can’t do my work without it. I couldn’t have finished my MA thesis without it, and I could not hope to finish graduate school without it. Endnote is THAT important, and the fact that there is no effective open source substitute is a real shame.

    I’m writing this because I’ve been desperately hoping to inspire someone to either expand the exisiting utilities or develop new ones so that the open source world can have an app that competes with EndNote. EVERYONE hates EndNote and their yearly paid upgrade process, and a free alternative would take off.

    But take note: while the BibTeX-based solutions may work for science publications, they have serious and possibly unfixable limitations that make them impossilble for those of us in the humanities to use. I spent a week fighting with BibTeX before I concluded that it just sucks for what I need to do.

    So someone PLEASE write a good, flexible, free alternative to EndNote. Save us, please.

  • Alex

    Although above i defended Bibus,

    i must say that it most be encouraged because several things miss.

    That said i must say that I wrote my Master’s thesis in OpenOffice with the bibliography done using Bibus. I wrote my fnal graduate work in latex using Bibtex.

    Yeah, I went from Latex to OpenOffice, and mostly because bibliography in Bibtex can be a pain, with lots to learn – and face it, not everyone is computer literate and has free time to learn like that. With Bibus i installed it set the integration with OpenOffice and choose what style of bibliography I wanted. Then, when i reach a point in my work in openoffice i change my window to bibus, select the reference and select insert, he can take care of everything else.
    I know it can be intimidating and sometimes go a bit weird but i tried several alternatives and liked it.

    Note: I cheated a bit because I use ISI Web of Science and i select my articles and put them in my EndNoteWeb, and the I export them simply to Bibus – PubMed doesn’t have that many references that i need.

  • hi, you might be interested in checking out BibMe. It aims to make the process of building a bibliography as quick and simple as possible.

    — one of the BibMe developers

  • Jay

    jml: BibTex can be a pain, but there are a number of BibTex-based solutions that will do what you need. Biblatex, in particular, is fantastic. It also depends quite a bit on what you mean by “the humanities.” Straight BibTex can’t handle MLA very well, but it does Chicago and APA just fine out of the box.

    That’s formatting, though. a reference manager is a different story. I love BibDesk on the Mac. On linux, KBibTex or Bibus is probably where it’s at.

  • George


    When I compile my lyx document half of my references disappear. It only prints the first page of references. What is going on? Please can someone help?



  • Sandra Yates

    I have used Zotero and Endnote before but have not be totally satisfied.

    You could try WizFolio Web 2.0. It’s been really cool for me.

    For filling bibs, it gives you three ways:
    1) capturing directly from webpages (zotero has this too)

    2) fill in only part of the title and author name and retrieve matching search results. in other words, rather that type all the bib in, u just need to type in a little info to retrieve a match.

    3) importing whatever you’ve copied on to your clipboard <– this is what i like best, because I just need to copy references from PDF and it’ll automatically be added.

    and yes, it also has a cite-as-you-write function that works with Word 2003 and 2007. When I insert citations into Word, my Bibliography is automatically generated!

    Last, WizFolio is web-based. What I do now is upload my PDFs to my online account. it makes it really convenient to read these articles from home or school. No sweat!

  • Definitely WizFolio for me. It’s a web-based application and it even provides support for patents and videos.

    And you don;t have to do manual entry too, just throw in the author last name and part of the title and it would grab the rest of the info for you.

    It also locates PDFs of your collected stuff. Very cool

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