What Is a BibTeX File?

How to Open, Edit, and Convert BIB and BIBTEX Files

BIB Files
BIB Files.

A file with the BIB file extension is a BibTeX Bibliographical Database file. It's a specially formatted text file that lists references pertaining to a particular source of information. They're normally seen only with the .BIB file extension but they might instead use .BIBTEX.

BibTeX files might hold references for things like research papers, articles, books, etc. Included within the file is often an author name, title, page number count, notes, and other related content.

BibTeX files are often used with LaTeX, and might therefore be seen with files of that type, like TEX and LTX files.

How to Open BIB Files

BIB files can be opened with JabRef, MiKTeX, TeXnicCenter, and Citavi.

Though the formatting won't be as structured and easy to read as with one of the above programs, and adding new entries not as fluid, BibTeX files can be viewed in any text editor too, like Notepad++ or the Notepad program in Windows.

Bibtex4Word might be what you're looking for if you need to use a BIB file in Microsoft Word. However, see another method below that involves converting the BIB file to an acceptable Word file format and importing it into Word as a citation file.

Tip: If you find that an application on your PC does try to open the BIB or BIBTEX file but it's the wrong application, or if you would rather have another installed program open the file, see our How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension guide for making that change in Windows.

How to Convert a BIB File

Bib2x is able to convert BIB files to formats like XML, RTF, and XHTML, on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Another option, though only for Mac, is BibDesk, which can convert BIB files to PDF and RIS.

Another way to convert BIB to RIS for use with EndNote, is with bibutils.

See this tutorial for more information.

However, if you're already using the programs mentioned above, like JabRef for example, you can export the BIB file to TXT, HTML, XML, RTF, RDF, CSV, SXC, SQL, and other formats, using the File > Export menu.

Tip: If you save your BIB file to the "MS Office 2007" XML file format with JabRef, you can import it directly in Microsoft Word through Word's Manage Sources button in the Citations & Bibliography section of the References tab.

The Notepad++ program mentioned above can save a BIB file as a TEX file.

Built for Google Scholar citations, this online converter can convert BibTeX to APA.

Cite This For Me is an online website that lets you create citations for a bibliography. It can also be used to export your citations to the BIB format.

How BIB Files Are Structured

Following is the correct syntax for the BibTeX file format:

@entry type{citation key,
AUTHOR = "Author name",
TITLE = "Title of book",
PUBLISHER = {Name of publisher},
ADDRESS = {Location published}
}

In the "entry type" area is where the source type is to be entered. The following are supported: article, book, booklet, conference, inbook, incollection, inproceedings, manual, masterthesis, misc, phdthesis, proceedings, techreport, and unpublished.

Within the entry are fields that describe the citation, such as number, chapter, edition, editor, address, author, key, month, year, volume, organization, and others.

This is what it looks like to have multiple citations within one BIB file:

@misc{lifewire_2008,
url={https://www.lifewire.com/bibtex-file-2619874},
journal={Lifewire},
year={2008}
},

@book{brady_2016,
place={[Place of publication not identified]},
title={Emotional insight},
publisher={Oxford Univ Press},
author={Brady, Michael S},
year={2016}
},

@article{turnbull_dombrow_sirmans_2006,
title={Big House, Little House: Relative Size and Value},
volume={34},
DOI={10.1111/j.1540-6229.2006.00173.x},
number={3},
journal={Real Estate Economics},
author={Turnbull, Geoffrey K. and Dombrow, Jonathan and Sirmans, C.F.},
year={2006},
pages={439-456}
}

Still Can't Open Your File?

If you can't get the programs from above to open your file, you might check the file's extension to make sure it reads .BIB or .BIBTEX. If the file extension is anything else, chances are you can not use the programs on this page to open the file.

It might be easy to confuse either file extension with one of another file format. For example, although BIB looks an awful lot like BIN, the two are not related even in the slightest, and therefore can not open with the same software programs.

The same is true for BIK, BIG, BIP, and BIF files. The idea is to make sure that the file extension truly says that it's a BibTeX file, otherwise you need to research the actual file extension your file has, in order to know how to open or convert the file.