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Can one “manually override” Bibtex's choice of citation keys by adding a field to the entry?

I am using BiBTeX and would like to achieve the following: I am usually using a derivative of the alpha style, but for some entries I would like to define my own (preferred key). For example, I would like to reference EGAI as [EGAI] rather than [Gro60]. (If you don't know what EGA is, does not matter. The point is, that it is a book universally known in algebraic geometry as "EGA"). I tried various tricks such as defining the entry "key" without success. Perhaps complicating the question the fact that I would like to keep the rest of the keys as in alpha. An alternative solution I am willing to consider is a style where the original biblio entry would have to define the key to be used for everything, although this would be a last resort. Thanks for any help!

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marked as duplicate by Joseph Wright Oct 21 '11 at 5:46

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

I guess it would help if you add a minimal working example (MWE). Furthermore you may like to take a look at biblatex it’s a very powerful bibliography package. – Tobi Oct 15 '11 at 23:31
Is tex.stackexchange.com/questions/102/… related? – Joseph Wright Oct 16 '11 at 10:39
@JosephWright: You are right. I did a search before posting the question, but did not find that post. Interestingly the suggestions are different. – Sándor Kovács Oct 20 '11 at 23:17

The shorthand key in biblatex works here, at least with the bibtex or bibtex8 backends. Haven't tried the natbib option linked above, and there's a very similar question at this link with a more complex answer that works with biber. MWE:

enter image description here


 crossref = {Gro60}
 title = {\'El\'ements de g\'eom\'etrie alg\'ebrique},
 author = {Alexander Grothendieck},
 year = 1960,
 shorthand = {EGAI}
 title = {Calculus},
 author = {James Stewart},
 year = 1999,
 edition = 4th,


Most papers wouldn't cite both \cite{EGAI} and \cite{Ste99} in one sentence.
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When I compile your example with biber instead of bibtex, it displays Gro60, not EGAI. – lockstep Oct 16 '11 at 19:35
Odd. Looking for a solution; never used biblatex before now. – Mike Renfro Oct 16 '11 at 19:39
@MikeRenfro Under biber the shorthand field isn't inherited from a cross-referenced entry, though it is possible to set that up. I'm not sure crossref is necessary here. The shorthand field overrides the default label. The OP referred to "keys", but I'm guessing he just meant the alphabetic label. – Audrey Oct 17 '11 at 15:09
Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately I don't have enough reputation to vote up your answer.... – Sándor Kovács Oct 20 '11 at 23:12
@Audrey: Yes, I meant the label. Thanks. – Sándor Kovács Oct 20 '11 at 23:51

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