Difference Bieber Bibtex Bibliography

When it comes to bibliography management packages, there are three main options in LaTeX: bibtex, natbib and biblatex. Biblatex is a modern program to process bibliography information, provides an easier and more flexible interface and a better language localization that the other two options. This article explains how to use biblatex to manage and format the bibliography in a LaTeX document.


A minimal working example of the biblatex package is shown below:

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}\usepackage[english]{babel}   \usepackage{biblatex}\addbibresource{sample.bib}   \begin{document} Let's cite! The Einstein's journal paper \cite{einstein} and the Dirac's book \cite{dirac} are physics related items.   \printbibliography   \end{document}

There are four bibliography-related commands in this example:

Imports the package biblatex.
Imports the bibtex data file sample.bib, this file is the one that includes information about each referenced book, article, etc. See the bibliography file section for more information.
This command inserts a reference within the document, [1] in this case, that corresponds to an element in the bibliography, "einstein" is a keyword corresponding to an entry in sample.bib.
Prints the list of cited references, the default title is "References" for the article document class and "Bibliography" for books and reports.

ShareLaTeX provides several templates with pre-defined styles to manage bibliography. See this link

  Open an example of the biblatex package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Basic usage

Several parameters can be passed to the package importing statement, let's see

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}\usepackage[english]{babel}   \usepackage{comment}   \usepackage[ backend=biber, style=alphabetic, sorting=ynt ]{biblatex}\addbibresource{sample.bib}   \title{Bibliography management: \texttt{biblatex} package}\author{Share\LaTeX}\date{}   \begin{document}   \maketitle   Using \texttt{biblatex} you can display bibliography divided into sections, depending of citation type. Let's cite! The Einstein's journal paper \cite{einstein} and the Dirac's book \cite{dirac} are physics related items. Next, \textit{The \LaTeX\ Companion} book \cite{latexcompanion}, the Donald Knuth's website \cite{knuthwebsite}, \textit{The Comprehensive Tex Archive Network} (CTAN) \cite{ctan} are \LaTeX\ related items; but the others Donald Knuth's items \cite{knuth-fa,knuth-acp} are dedicated to programming.   \medskip   \printbibliography

Some extra options, inside brackets and comma-separated, are added when importing biblatex:

Sets the backend to sort the bibliography, is the default one and recommended since it provides full localization for several commands and the styles for biber are easier to modify because they use standard LaTeX macros. The other supported backend is , which is a more traditional program; if set as backend will only used to sort the bibliography, so no bibtex styles can be used here.
Defines the bibliography style and the citation style, in this case . Depending on the style more citation commands might be available. See bibliography styles and citation styles for more information.
Determines the criteria to sort the bibliographic sources. In this case they are sorted by year, name and title. See the reference guide for a list of sorting options.

The rest of the commands were already explained at the introduction.

  Open an example of the biblatex package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]The bibliography file

The bibliography files must have the standard bibtex syntax

This file contains records in a special format, for instance, the first bibliographic reference is defined by:

This is the first line of a record entry, tells BibTeX that the information stored here is about an article. The information about this entry is enclosed within braces. Besides the entry types shown in the example (, , and ) there are a lot more, see the reference guide.
The label is assigned to this entry, is an identifier that can be used to refer this article within the document.
This is the first field in the bibliography entry, indicates that the author of this article is Albert Einstein. Several comma-separated fields can be added using the same syntax , for instance: title, pages, year, URL, etc. See the reference guide for a list of possible fields.

The information in this file can later be printed and referenced within a LaTeX document, as shown in the previous sections, with the command . Not all the information in the .bib file will be displayed, it depends on the bibliography style set in the document.

  Open an example of the biblatex package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Customizing the bibliography

Biblatex allows high customization of the bibliography section with little effort. It was mentioned that several citation styles and bibliography styles are available, and you can also create new ones. Another customization option is to change the default title of the bibliography section.

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}\usepackage[english]{babel}   \usepackage{comment}   \usepackage[ backend=biber, style=alphabetic, sorting=ynt ]{biblatex}\addbibresource{sample.bib}   \title{Bibliography management: \texttt{biblatex} package}\author{Share\LaTeX}\date{}   \begin{document}   \maketitle   Using \texttt{biblatex} you can display bibliography divided into sections, depending of citation type. Let's cite! The Einstein's journal paper \cite{einstein} and the Dirac's book \cite{dirac} are physics related items. Next, \textit{The \LaTeX\ Companion} book \cite{latexcompanion}, the Donald Knuth's website \cite{knuthwebsite}, \textit{The Comprehensive Tex Archive Network} (CTAN) \cite{ctan} are \LaTeX\ related items; but the others Donald Knuth's items \cite{knuth-fa,knuth-acp} are dedicated to programming.   \medskip   \printbibliography[title={Whole bibliography}]

The additional parameter passed inside brackets to the command is the one that changes the title.

The bibliography can also be subdivided into sections based on different filters, for instance: print only references from the same author, the same journal or similar title. Below an example.

\printbibliography[type=article,title={Articles only}]\printbibliography[type=book,title={Books only}]   \printbibliography[keyword={physics},title={Physics-related only}]\printbibliography[keyword={latex},title={\LaTeX-related only}]

Here, the bibliography is divided in 4 sections. The syntax of the commands used here is explained below:

Only prints entries whose type is "article", and sets the title "Articles only" for this section. The same syntax works for any other entry type.
Filters bibliography entries that include the word "physics" in any of the fields. Sets the title "Physics-related only" for said section.

  Open an example of the biblatex package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Adding the bibliography in the table of contents

For the bibliography the be printed in the table of contents an extra option must be passed to

\printbibliography[ heading=bibintoc, title={Whole bibliography} ]   \printbibliography[heading=subbibintoc,type=article,title={Articles only}]

A section and a subsection are added to the table of contents:

  • In the first case, adding adds the title to the table of contents as an unnumbered chapter if possible or as an unnumbered section otherwise.
  • The second case is that adds the title as a second level entry in the table of contents, in this example as a subsection nested in "Whole bibliography".

  Open an example of the biblatex package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Reference guide

Supported entry types

article book mvbook
inbook bookinbook suppbook
booklet collection mvcollection
incollection suppcollection manual
misc online patent
periodical suppperiodical proceedings
mvproceedings inproceedings reference
mvreference inreference report
set thesis unpublished
custom conference electronic
masterthesis phdthesis techreport

Supported entry fields (The printed information depends on the bibliography style)

abstract afterword annotation annotator
author authortype bookauthor bookpagination
booksubtitle booktitle chapter commentator
date doi edition editor
editortype eid entrysubtype eprint
eprinttype eprintclass eventdate eventtitle
file foreword holder howpublished
indextitle institution introduction isan
isbn ismn isrn issue
issuesubtitle issuetitle iswc journalsubtitle
journaltitle label language library
location mainsubtitle maintitle month
note number organization origdate
origlanguage origlocation origpublisher origtitle
pages pagetotal pagination part
publisher pubstate reprinttitle series
shortauthor shortedition shorthand shorthandintro
shortjournal shortseries shorttitle subtitle
title translator type url
venue version volume year

Bibliography sorting options

option description
sort by name, title, year
sort by name, year, title
sort by name, year, volume, title
sort by alphabetic label, name, year, title
sort by alphabetic label, name, year, volume, title
sort by year (descending), name, title
entries are processed in citation order

[edit]Further reading

For more information see

@article{einstein, author = "Albert Einstein", title = "{Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter K{\"o}rper}. ({German}) [{On} the electrodynamics of moving bodies]", journal = "Annalen der Physik", volume = "322", number = "10", pages = "891--921", year = "1905", DOI = "http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/andp.19053221004", keywords = "physics" }   @book{dirac, title={The Principles of Quantum Mechanics}, author={Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac}, isbn={9780198520115}, series={International series of monographs on physics}, year={1981}, publisher={Clarendon Press}, keywords = {physics} }   @online{knuthwebsite, author = "Donald Knuth", title = "Knuth: Computers and Typesetting", url = "http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~uno/abcde.html", keywords = "latex,knuth" }   @inbook{knuth-fa, author = "Donald E. Knuth", title = "Fundamental Algorithms", publisher = "Addison-Wesley", year = "1973", chapter = "1.2", keywords = "knuth,programming" } ...

(The following is an expansion of the biblatex tag entry, which I helped to write).

Some terminology

It's first off important to realize that the term BibTeX is often used to refer to various distinct things, and this can lead to some confusion. For example we typically tell new users to "use bibtex for your bibliography" which usually just means don't do it by hand, but instead store your references in a file and use some automatic method of formatting citations and bibliography. Additionally, we also talk about a "bibtex file" (i.e. a file). Both of these uses are in reality quite vague, and part of the reason for this question is to distinguish among them more carefully.

So in this question we will use the following terms:

  • and are external programs that process bibliography information and act (roughly) as the interface between your file and your LaTeX document.

  • and are LaTeX packages that format citations and bibliographies; works only with , while (at the moment) works with both and .)

For those users who already use , and are contemplating a switch, the following question will also be useful: What to do to switch to biblatex?.


The package has been around for quite a long time, and although still maintained, it is fair to say that it isn't being further developed. It is still widely used, and very reliable.


  • It has a wide range of already developed files which conform to many journals and publishers in the sciences.
  • The author of the package has written a package called , which provides a utility called . This utility is menu-driven and allows you to interactively generate custom bibliography style files. Bibliography style files generated with are very stable and (unsurprisingly, given the authorship) work very well with 's citation commands.
  • The resulting bibliography code can be pasted directly into a document (often required for journal submissions). See Biblatex: submitting to a journal.


  • Because it depends on , its interface requires files, which use a postfix language that is difficult to program in for most people. This means that making even minor modifications to an existing style to meet particular formatting requirements can be quite difficult.
  • It is designed especially for Author-Year and (to a lesser extent) numeric citation styles that are common in the natural and social sciences. It is not able to do traditional humanities style citation styles such as Author/Title or footnote style citations and bibliographies (including various sorts of ibid tracking).
  • Multiple bibliographies in a single document or categorized bibliographies require extra packages.
  • By depending on as a backend, it inherits all of its disadvantages (see below).

You might want to use if:

  • there is a file already created for the specific journal you submitting a paper to;
  • a journal accepts submissions and requires or expects . Such journal may not accept for the bibliography.


The package is being actively developed in conjunction with the backend.


Humanities style citations

  • is almost required if you need any of the following:

    • humanities style citations (author-title type schemes; citations using ibid etc.)
    • a much wider array of BibTeX database fields (again, especially suited for the humanities).
    • Unicode encoded files (usable with the replacement for ).
    • fine control over your own bibliography styles using regular methods.

Author-year and numeric citations

  • provides the same functionality as for author-year and numeric citations common in the natural and social sciences. It can therefore be used as a replacement for .

General considerations

  • All formatting of citations and bibliography entries is done using regular LaTeX macros. As a consequence, regular LaTeX users are able to make modifications to existing styles quite easily. also has built in hooks for most kinds of modifications.

  • Even though can use as a backend, it does no formatting with files, but only uses for sorting.

  • Multiple bibliographies and categorized bibliographies are supported directly.

Available biblatex styles

In addition to the standard styles that are documented in the manual, CTAN currently lists the following extra style packages for :

Many new journal styles are being created for . Given the flexibility of adapting styles, in many cases it may be quite easy to modify an existing style to accommodate a particular journal's style.


  • Journals and publishers may not accept documents that use if they have a house style with its own compatible file.
  • It is not trivial to include the bibliographies created by into a document (as many publishers require.) See Biblatex: submitting to a journal.

bibtex vs. biber

Many of the disadvantages of are a consequence of its reliance on for formatting. This is the main (huge) distinction between the and , as the latter, even when it uses as the backend, doesn't use it for formatting, only for sorting. However, is also designed to use , a new backend that adds further functionality to .



  • very stable and widely used


  • very hard to modify bibliography styles without learning a different language (if using ; not an issue if using )
  • very poor cross-language support and non-European script support. Non-ASCII characters are best avoided. See How to write "√§" and other umlauts and accented letters in bibliography for guidance on how to write characters with accents and diacritics.



  • able to deal with many more entry and field types in the file.
  • able to deal with UTF-8 encoded files.
  • better sorting control.


  • Only works with , not with .

Differences between files

As noted at the beginning of this answer, we tend to use the term file to refer to the file itself, which leads to the assumption that tools that manipulate files are only available to users and not users. This is simply not the case: tools designed for manipulating files such as reference managers and various file generation/manipulation tools can be used.

It is the case, however, that as you transition to using all the features of / you may find certain differences in the files become more relevant.

A separate question Compatibility of bibtex and biblatex bibliography files? explores some of the differences between traditional files and files that have been adapted for use with and .

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