JabRef’s main window

Most menu actions referred in the following have keyboard shortcuts, and many are available from the toolbar. The keyboard shortcuts are found in the pull-down menus.


This is the main window from where you work with your databases. Below the menubar and the toolbar is a tabbed pane containing a panel for each of your currently open databases. When you select one of these panels, a table appears, listing all the database’s entries, as well as a configurable selection of their fields.

  • You decide which fields are shown in the table by checking the fields you want to see in the Preferences dialog.
  • Double-click a line of the table to edit the entry content. You can navigate the table with the arrow keys.
  • The table is sorted according to a set of fields of your choosing. The default sort order can be set up in Preferences → Entry table, but to more quickly change the order, click the header of a column to set it as the primary sort criterion, or reverse the sorting if it is already set. Another click will deselect the column as sorting criterion. Hold down Ctrl and click a column to add, reverse or remove it as a sub-criterion after the primary column. You can add an arbitrary number of sub-criteria, but only three levels will be stored for the next time you start JabRef.
  • Adjust the width of each column by dragging the borders between their headers.
  • Color codes can be toggled in the Preferences dialog (select Appearance and activate option “Color codes for optional and required fields). They help you visualize the completeness of your database by coloring cells as follows:
    • A red cell in the leftmost column denotes an incomplete entry.
    • A yellow cell in the leftmost column denotes an entry that doesn’t define all required fields by itself, but that contains a cross-reference.
    • A blue cell denotes a required field.
    • A green cell denotes an optional field.
    • An uncolored cell denotes a field which is not used by the BibTeX program for this type of entry. The field can still be edited in JabRef.

Adding a new entry

There are several ways to add a new entry. The New entry menu action shows a dialog where you can choose the type of the entry from a list. To bypass this dialog, there are also separate menu actions for each entry type, and keyboard shortcuts for the most common types.

When a new entry is added, by default an entry editor for the entry will be opened. This behaviour can be toggled in the Preferences dialog.

Note: We strongly recommend learning the shortcuts for the entry types you use most often, e.g. Ctrl + Shift + A for adding an article entry.

Adding a new entry using an id

In the dialog, you can also create an entry based on Id. See http://help.jabref.org/en/#using-publication-identifiers for an overview on all available fetchers. For instance, when having an ISBN number, you can select “ISBN” or “DOI” as Id type and then fetch it. See ISBNtoBibTeX and DOItoBibTeX for details.

Adding a new entry using the reference text

Use the BibTeX → New entry from plain text… (Ctrl+Shift+N). For more information see New entry from plain text.

Editing an entry

To open an entry editor for an existing entry, simply double-click anywhere on the appropriate line will open the entry editor (or select the entry and press Enter).

Referencing a BibTeX string in a field

In JabRef you write the contents of all fields the same way as you would in a text editor, with one exception: to reference a string, enclose the name of the string in a set of # characters, e.g.:   ’#jan# 1997’, which will be interpreted as the string named ‘jan’ followed by ‘ 1997’.

See also: string editor.