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BibTeX at a Glance

BibTeX is a freely available citation management tool

BibTeX  is a text based file format used to describe and process lists of references, mostly for LaTeX documents.   A formatted BibTeX file can be converted to a bibliography of any format, using a third-party converter of some kind.

BibTeX allows you to store references in an external, flat-file database which can be linked to any LaTeX document.  References in the database can then be cited in the document

Who can use it: Anyone.

Best suited for: Formatting bibliographies in technical documents, including complex mathematical formulas. 

Word processor compatibility: BibTeX is usually used together with the LaTeX. However, it is now possible to include BibTeX-bibliographies in Word documents using third party tools such as BibShare.

Collaboration: BibTeX does not offer collaborative functionality.

Support and training: There are websites for both BibTeX and LaTeX, as well as user groups and FAQ pages. There is also a very clear and concise wikibook on LaTeX which puts BibTeX into context and provides links to editing tools and additional documentation.There is also a QUT self subscription  User email list.

Learning curve: BibTeX uses a style language mark-up references in BibTeX format, although some other programmes such as Endnote can export references in BibTeX format. Google Scholar can provide references formatted in BibTeX, as can some databases. The array of information publically available on the Internet is confusing, and to grasp BibTeX might require some understanding LaTeX and TeX as well.

Further information: 

In Summary



  • Conversion tools enable Endnote compatibility with BibTeX.
  • Suitable for complex mathematical formulas, chemistry, engineering, multilingual typesetting, artwork, diagrams etc.
  • Independent of a user interface.
  • QUT ePrints can import BibTeX files.
  • BibTeX can be used with Word, through the tool Bibtex4Word (Windows only)


  • Very difficult to get to grips with for users outside of the Science, Maths and Computing disciplines.
  • Documentation is confusing and user support is limited to FAQs and membership of User Groups of the parent tools such as TeX and LaTeX.
  • Creating a new bibliography style entails programming in the .bst language.
  • The original BibTeX users were from the technical world of mathematics and computer science. BibTeX does not handle humanties styles, such as author date, well.