Bibdesk Texshop Bibliography Creator

Bibliography in LaTeX with Bibtex/Biblatex

Learn how to create a bibliography with Bibtex and Biblatex in a few simple steps. Create references / citations and autogenerate footnotes.


[View example on Overleaf]

  1. Creating a .bib file
  2. Using BibTeX
  3. Autogenerate footnotes with BibLaTeX
  4. BibTeX Format
  5. BibTeX Styles

We have looked at many features of LaTeX so far and learned that many things are automated by LaTeX. There are functions to add a table of contents, lists of tables and figures and also several packages that allow us to generate a bibliography. I will describe how to use bibtex and biblatex (both external programs) to create the bibliography. At first we have to create a .bib file, which contains our bibliographic information.

Creating a .bib file

A .bib file will contain the bibliographic information of our document. I will only give a simple example, since there are many tools to generate the entries automatically. I will not explain the structure of the file itself at this point, since i suggest using a bibtex generator (choose one from google). Our example will contain a single book and look like this:

@BOOK{DUMMY:1, AUTHOR="John Doe", TITLE="The Book without Title", PUBLISHER="Dummy Publisher", YEAR="2100", }

If you don't want to use a BibTeX generator or a reference management tool like Citavi (which generates BibTeX files automatically for you), you can find more examples of BibTeX formats here.

Using BibTeX

After creating the bibtex file, we have to tell LaTeX where to find our bibliographic database. For BibTeX this is not much different from printing the table of contents. We just need the commands \bibliography which tells LaTeX the location of our .bib file and \bibliographystyle which selects one of various bibliographic styles.

\documentclass{article} \begin{document} Random citation \cite{DUMMY:1} embeddeed in text. \newpage \bibliography{lesson7a1} \bibliographystyle{ieeetr} \end{document}

By using this code, we will obtain something like this:

I named my .bib file lesson7a1.bib, note that I did not enter the .bib extension. For the style, I've choosen the ieeetr style, which is very common for my subject, but there are many more styles available. Which will change the way our references look like. The ieeetr style will mark citations with successive numbers such as [1] in this example. If I choose the style to apalike instead, i will get the following result:

Most editors will let you select, to run bibtex automatically on compilation. In TeXworks (MiKTeX) for example, this should be selected by default.

If you use a different editor, it can be necessary to execute the bibtex command manually. In a command prompt/shell simply run:

pdflatex lesson7a1.tex bibtex lesson7a1 pdflatex lesson7a1.tex pdflatex lesson7a1.tex

It is necessary to execute the pdflatex command, before the bibtex command, to tell bibtex what literature we cited in our paper. Afterwards the .bib file will be translated into the proper output for out references section. The next two steps merge the reference section with our LaTeX document and then assign successive numbers in the last step.

Autogenerate footnotes in $\LaTeX$ using BibLaTeX

The abilities of BibTeX are limited to basic styles as depicted in the examples shown above. Sometimes it is necessary to cite all literature in footnotes and maintaining all of them by hand can be a frustrating task. At this point BibLaTeX kicks in and does the work for us. The syntax varies a bit from the first document. We now have to include the biblatex package and use the \autocite and \printbibliography command. It is crucial to move the \bibliography{lesson7a1} statement to the preamble of our document:

\documentclass{article} \usepackage[backend=bibtex,style=verbose-trad2]{biblatex} \bibliography{lesson7a1} \begin{document} Random citation \autocite[1]{DUMMY:1} embeddeed in text. \newpage \printbibliography \end{document}

The \autocite command generates the footnotes and we can enter a page number in the brackets \autocite[1]{DUMMY:1} will generate a footnote like this:

For BibLaTeX we have to choose the citation style on package inclusion with:


The backend=bibtex part makes sure to use BibTeX instead of Biber as our backend, since Biber fails to work in some editors like TeXworks. It took me a while to figure out how to generate footnotes automatically, because the sources I found on the internet, didn't mention this at all.

BibTeX Formats

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of BibTeX formats, but rather give you an idea of how to cite various sources properly. If you're interested in an extensive overview of all BibTeX formats, I suggest you to check out the resources on Wikibooks.


@ARTICLE{ARTICLE:1, AUTHOR="John Doe", TITLE="Title", JOURNAL="Journal", YEAR="2017", }


@BOOK{BOOK:1, AUTHOR="John Doe", TITLE="The Book without Title", PUBLISHER="Dummy Publisher", YEAR="2100", }

Inbook (specific pages)

@INBOOK{BOOK:2, AUTHOR="John Doe", TITLE="The Book without Title", PUBLISHER="Dummy Publisher", YEAR="2100", PAGES="100-200", }


@MISC{WEBSITE:1, HOWPUBLISHED = "\url{}", AUTHOR = "Intel", TITLE = "Example Website", MONTH = "Dec", YEAR = "1988", NOTE = "Accessed on 2012-11-11" }

This is a list of the formats that I have most commonly used. If you think some important format is missing here, please let me know.

BibTeX Styles

Here's a quick overview of some popular styles to use with BibTeX.






I'm trying to keep this list updated with other commonly used styles. If you're missing something here, please let me know.


  • Generate a bibliography with BibTeX and BibLaTeX
  • First define a .bib file using: \bibliography{BIB_FILE_NAME} (do not add .bib)
  • For BibTeX put the \bibliography statement in your document, for BibLaTeX in the preamble
  • BibTeX uses the \bibliographystyle command to set the citation style
  • BibLaTeX chooses the style as an option like: \usepackage[backend=bibtex, style=verbose-trad2]{biblatex}
  • BibTeX uses the \cite command, while BibLaTeX uses the \autocite command
  • The \autocite command takes the page number as an option: \autocite[NUM]{}

Next Lesson: Lesson 8

I wrote my last book (my only book, that is) using LaTeX. I had a large bibliography with close to 400 entries. I stored all of the bibliographic items in a BibTeX file (a text file ending in .bib). Each item looks something like this:

The beautiful thing about BibTeX is that after you cite works in your LaTeX document (for example ), the references are automatically generated in whichever bibliographic style you specify (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).

However, as you can see above, it is a pain to enter the bibliographic information by hand—the syntax is rather cumbersome. Fortunately there are a number of places on the web to get pre-formated BibTeX entries. You can pull them up in your browser, then copy-and-paste them in to your .bib file. Here are a few useful sites for mathematicians (I learned about a few of these from this MathOverflow conversation).

  • MathSciNet (subscription required)—this is the web front-end for the extensive Mathematical Reviews database. It currently has over 2 million items. It gives bibliographic information, reviews, and more.
  • MR Lookup—this is the free version of MathSciNet. It gives bibliographic information only.
  • Zentralblatt Math database (subscription required)—similar to MathSciNet, it has over 3 million items.
  • OttoBib—search for books by ISBN
  • Lead2Amazon—searches six different Amazon sites
  • Google Scholar—this is a well-known scholarly search site run by Google. If you click the “Scholar preferences” link you’ll see that under Bibliography Manager, one of the options is to “Show links to import citations into: BibTeX.” Now each Google Scholar search result will have a link to the BibTeX entry (see below).

Mac-only goodness: BibDesk + TexShop

I could create the .bib files using a text editor, but instead I use the great, free, Mac-only program BibDesk (see screenshot below).

I was a huge fan of BibDesk while writing my book, but it turns out I was using only a small fraction of its capabilities. I used it to create, edit, and organize bibliographic entries. It has a simple interface that allows you to enter bibliographic information into the fields provided. The file it creates is a .bib file, not a BibDesk file, so there is no need to export the information for use in LaTeX.

Even though I spent many, many hours using BibDesk, I never explored its other features (and now I’m kicking my self). I want to share a few of them with you now.

Importing BibTeX entries. Above I gave several locations on the web to go to find BibTeX entries for mathematical works. I’ve known for a while if I highlighted a BibTeX entry, then dragged-and-dropped the text onto the BibDesk program that it would create a new entry with the fields filled in. I thought that was cool. That was nothing. Recently I discovered that you can use BibDesk like a mini web browser and import bibliographic entries with one click.

On the side-bar click External>Web. The screen splits vertically into thirds. You get a little browser in the top third with links to MathSciNet, Zentralblatt Math, the arXiv, etc. You can also type in addresses (such as the ones I gave above) or create bookmarks. When you perform a search using one of these websites BibDesk uses the middle screen to list all of the bibliographic items it finds. (The bottom third is used to preview the contents.) Each entry has an “import” button next to it. When you find the item you want, click the button and you’re done (see below).

I also like that when you import an entry from MathSciNet it saves a direct link back to the page that contains the review.

(I see that you can also search databases, like the Library of Congress—these databases are found in the Search menu.)

Paper archive. If you have an electronic copy of an article (a pdf for instance), you can drag-and-drop it onto the BibTeX entry for the article. Then BibDesk will place the article into a dedicated folder of your choosing (and a subfolder named for the first author). Then you can access your articles straight from BibDesk. Not only that, you can use BibDesk’s search feature to search inside the articles!

I’ve written before about my love for DropBox. I have it set up so that my bibliographic files are in sync and so are my pdfs. Since the folder structures are the same, I can access all my articles through BibDesk on any of my computers.

TexShop integration. I’m also a die-hard TexShop user. This front-end for LaTeX is another free and elegant Mac-only program (which I may write about in another blog post). It integrates with BibDesk beautifully. If you type the beginning of a citation in TexShop, like , and then press F5 it will pull up a contextual menu listing all of the entries from your bibliography that could match that fragment. With a couple keystrokes you’re done.


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