The search bar is located between the icon bar and the database tabs.

Screenshot of the search bar

To make the cursor jump to the search field, you can:

  • click in the search field.
  • select the menu Search -> Search.
  • press Ctrl + F.

Additionally, Ctrl + Shift + F also activates the global search setting.

Searching includes two modes (normal and advanced), along with several settings.

Search settings

At the right of the search text field, several buttons allow for selecting some settings:

  • New window
    • When pressed, the results are displayed in a dedicated window.
  • Global search
    • activated:
      • the search query will be taken over when switching tabs
      • the external search result window will show matches in all databases
    • deactivated:
      • each tab will remember its search query
      • the external search result window will only show matches in the current database
  • Regular expressions
  • Case sensitivity
    • Whether or not the search query is case sensitive.
  • Display setting
    • Filter - Displays only entries which match the search query, non-matches are hidden
    • Float - Matching entries are moved to the top, entries which do not match the search query are grayed-out

Search modes

There are two search modes in JabRef.

In a normal search, the program searches your database for all occurrences of the words in your search string, once you entered it. Only entries containing all words will be considered matches. To search for sequences of words, enclose the sequences in double quotes. For instance, the query progress “marine aquaculture” will match entries containing both the word “progress” and the phrase “marine aquaculture”. All entries that don’t match are hidden, leaving for display the matching entries only (filter mode), or are grayed-out (float mode). To stop displaying the search results, just clear the search field again, press Esc or click on the “Clear” (X) button.


In order to search specific fields only and/or include logical operators in the search expression, a special syntax is available in which these can be specified. E.g. to search for entries whose an author contains miller, enter:

author = miller

Both the field specification and the search term support regular expressions. If the search term contains spaces, enclose it in quotes. Do not use spaces in the field specification! E.g. to search for entries about image processing, type:

title|keywords = "image processing"

You can use and, or, not, and parentheses as intuitively expected:

(author = miller or title|keywords = "image processing") and not author = brown

The = sign is actually a shorthand for contains. Searching for an exact match is possible using matches or ==. Using != tests if the search term is not contained in the field (equivalent to not ... contains ...). The selection of field types to search (required, optional, all) is always overruled by the field specification in the search expression. If a field is not given, all fields are searched. For example, video and year == 1932 will search for entries with any field containing video and the field year being exactly 1932.

Pseudo fields

JabRef defines the following pseudo fields:

Pseudo field Purpose Example
anyfield Search in any field anyfield contains fruit: search for entries having one of its fields containing the word fruit. This is identical to just writing apple. It may be more useful as anyfield matches apple, where one field must be exactly apple for a match.
anykeyword Search among the keywords anykeyword matches apple: search for entries which has the word apple among its keywords. However, as this also matches pineapple, it may be more useful in searches of the type anykeyword matches apple, which will not match apples or pineapple
bibtexkey Search for citation keys bibtexkey == miller2005: search for an entry whose BibTeX key is miller2005
entrytype Search for entries of a certain type entrytype = thesis: search entries whose type (as displayed in the entrytype column) contains the word thesis (which would be phdthesis and mastersthesis)

Regular expressions


Regular expressions (regex for short) define a language for specifying the text to be matched, for example when searching. JabRef uses regular expressions as defined in Java. For extensive information, please, look at the documentation and at the tutorial.

Regular expressions and casing

By default, regular expressions do not account for upper/lower casing. Hence, while the examples below are all in lower case, they match also upper- and mixed case strings.

If casing is important to your search, activate the case-sensitive button.

Searching for entries with an empty or missing field
  • . means any character
  • + means one or more times

author != .+

Searching for a given word
  • \b means word boundary
  • \B means not a word boundary

keywords = \buv\b matches uv but not lluvia (it does match uv-b however)

author = \bblack\b matches black but neither blackwell nor blacker

author == black does not match john black, but author = \bblack\b does.

author = \bblack\B matches blackwell and blacker, but not black.

Searching with optional spelling
  • ? means none or one copy of the preceeding character.
  • {n,m} means at least n, but not more than m copies of the preceding character.
  • [ ] defines a character class

title =neighbou?r matches neighbour and neighbor, and also neighbours and neighbors, and neighbouring and neighboring, etc.

title = neighbou?rs?\b matches neighbour and neighbor, and also neighbours and neighbors, but neither neighbouring nor neighboring.

author = s[aá]nchez matches sanchez and sánchez.

abstract = model{1,2}ing matches modeling and modelling.

abstract = modell?ing also matches modeling and modelling.

Searching for strings with a special character (()[]{}\^-=$!|?*+.)

If a special character (i.e. ( ) [ ] { } \ ^ - = $ ! | ? * + . ) is included in your search string, it has to be escaped with a backslash, such as \} for }.

It means that to search for a string including a backslash, two consecutive backslaskes (\\) have to be used: abstract = xori{\\c{c}}o matches xoriço.

Searching for strings with double quotation marks (")

The character " has a special meaning: it is used to group words into phrases for exact matches. So, if you search for a string that includes a double quotation, the double quotation character has to be replaced with the hexadecimal character 22 in ASCII table \x22.

Hence, to search for {"o}quist as an author, you must input author = \{\\\x22o\}quist, with regular expressions enabled (Note: the {, * and the *} are escaped with a backslash; see above).

Indeed, \" does not work as an escape for ". Hence, neither author = {\"o}quist with regular expression disabled, nor author = \{\\\"O\}quist with regular expression enabled, will find anything even if the name {"o}quist exists in the database.