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I have bib files with a mixture of full first names and first initials only (and the same for middle names). I have to submit a paper in elsarticle now and would like to make this consistently first initial only. I have seen solutions that require you to edit the style file (see e.g. http://jonmccune.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/first-initials-only-in-bibtex/) and in biblatex you just set firstinits=true it seems. My problems are twofold. I don't think I am allowed to edit the elsarticle style file for submission and it seems biblatex and elsarticle are incompatible. If I try to use biblatex I get

! LaTeX Error: Command \bibhang already defined.
           Or name \end... illegal, see p.192 of the manual.

\documentclass{elsarticle}
\usepackage{biblatex}
\begin{document}

\section{}
\printbibliography

\end{document}

Is it possible either to use biblatex in a way which keeps the elsarticle styling unchanged or to use bibtex and get first initials only without editing the style file?

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If you're using elsarticle for submission, it is not a good idea to use biblatex, since elsarticle requires natbib, and your publisher will not appreciate the change. (Comment mainly added for others who might see the question.) –  Alan Munn Dec 21 '11 at 18:42
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See the answer and 'health warning' to tex.stackexchange.com/questions/37076/… –  Joseph Wright Dec 21 '11 at 19:01
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1 Answer

It turns out that using \bibliographystyle{elsarticle-harv} for example, you get first initials only as required.

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