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I have a .bib file which is a mix (due to historical reason) of several styles of brevity (I am sure I am not the first to have this problem). One thing which I find quite annoying is that some entries have just the first letter of the first name and others have full first name.

Is there a way to shorten the first name, through the .tex bib command, so that the lowest common denominator is chosen among all these entries (i.e. always first letter of first name)?

I do wish there was a way to actually expand the first names appropriately, but that is of course somewhat of a SciFi...

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If you are using biblatex, you just need to add the option firstinits=true. – Corentin Jan 10 '13 at 0:15
@Corentin, I'd rather not use biblatex, if possible. – kloop Jan 10 '13 at 0:26
This is achieved using format.names$ in the .bst file. However, you can't scan through and then decide whether to abbreviate: you have to decide that as part of creating the .bst file. Could you tell us which one you use so we can suggest an edit. – Joseph Wright Jan 10 '13 at 7:03

The treatment of names is governed by your bibliography style. Some styles will automatically abbreviate all first names. Or modify the style you're using as described here.

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As explained in the link @Tyler gave you, some styles abbreviate first names automatically by using f.~ instead of ff in format.names$. So if your still free to chose your bibliography style, you can either chose one here, or check which of the style files use the aforementioned format. This script

styles=`find /usr/share/texmf -name "*.bst" -exec grep -H "f\.~" {} \; |cut -d: -f1| uniq`
for f in $styles; do
   echo `basename $f .bst`

gave me this list: osajnl sweabbrv pccp revcompchem elsart-num-names elsart-num-sort elsart-num active2006 mslapa ltugbib apacitex apacite spiebib abbrvurl IEEEtranSN IEEEtranSA IEEEtranS IEEEtran IEEEtranN phaip chicago phapalik phpf phjcp newapa humannat phnflet phreport phnf is-abbrv phrmp phiaea phcpc phppcf jas99 econometrica chicagoa law smfplain smfalpha gatech-thesis agsm kluwer siam-letters abbrv-letters aiaa acmtrans plabbrv savetrees aunsnot aabbrv anotit dk-abbrv ier econometrica-fr ajae ecta econometrica xagsm texsis ieeetr abbrv acm siam angew-mc angew rsc-mc rsc abbrvnat gerapali gerabbrv agufull agu

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