I would like to submit a paper to an Elsevier journal, which uses elsarticle document class. elsarticle loads natbib but I've been using biblatex instead of BibTeX throughout most of my files (I have a common .bib file for all my publications which is biblatex compatible right now). The problem is that I have many authors with special characters (like ø, å, ü etc) and BibTeX was giving errors when compiling because of the encoding - this was the reason why I switched to biblatex in the first place.

Is there a quick way to make my .bib file compatible with BibTeX without manually substituting those special characters with their TeX versions?

Or will Elsevier become biblatex compatible soon?

  • 1
    Do you know the website thecostofknowledge.com ? Besides, after acceptance your tex file is going to be retypeset by the copy editor using their own internal style. So you don't need to be 100% accurate about the style file and other stuff. There is no need because it's there for your own convenience.
    – percusse
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 15:54
  • Ok. So I could edit elsarticle.cls myself and make it biblatex compatible?
    – remus
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 15:57
  • 3
    As you wish but they will ask for a proper .bib file with \"{u} and whatnot afterwards if the entries are not displayed properly. And yes, they do that. They do other terrible things to your images etc. so you are bound to their archaic workflow not the other way around.
    – percusse
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 15:59
  • @percusse and Remus, this might be of help: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/109069/… Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 16:06
  • 3
    biber has an option like --output_safechars, which will encode UTF-8 characters into LaTeX-style macros, thus providing you with an ASCII .bbl file. But that is not the same as using BibTeX, which is what I suspect the journal wants/requires. However, I think I vaguely remember some question on this site about getting from .bbl to .bib --- but I could be wrong!
    – jon
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 16:52

3 Answers 3


biber will do such a conversion of the text encoding for you in tool mode via

biber --tool --output_encoding=ascii --output_safechars file.bib

If file.bib is

  author =   {Beauville, A.},
  title =    {Variétés Kähleriennes dont la première classe de
                  Chern est nulle},
  journal =  {J.~Differential Geom.},
  year =     1983,
  volume =   18,
  pages =    {755--782},

then the converted file looks like

  author = {Beauville, A.},
  title = {Vari\'{e}t\'{e}s K\"{a}hleriennes dont la premi\`{e}re classe de Chern est nulle},
  journal = {J.~Differential Geom.},
  year = {1983},
  volume = {18},
  pages = {755--782},
  • One thing to note - if the input encoding is not ascii (default is utf8) and the output encoding is ascii, safechars is automatically set.
    – PLK
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 14:00
  • In French adjectives are written in lower case, even if they derive from proper names. Please write: "Variétés kähleriennes" and not "Variétés Kähleriennes" which is the English style. Ans also I would suggest your protect the first letter of Chern by writing {C}hern so that in some other context your reference is still correctly typeset.
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 18:22
  • @yannis The capitalisation is that given in the journal - even in English authors can't agree whether such words should be capitalised or not. For biblatex use I don't want to write {C}hern because of kerning issues. When converting to bibtex I currently check these cases by hand. Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 6:45
  • @Swann I know that in English capitalization depends on the journal. But in French it is governed by standard rules, as given in the "Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie nationale" or other similar compendia. Therefore the flexibility which is inherent to bibtex should be deactivated when the reference is in French and many authors do that by enclosing the whole title in double braces. As for {C}hern, I understand the kerning issue (although in cmr10 there is no kern between C and h) but it is more important to retain the capital under all circumstances, don't you think?
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 7:55
  • This answer does not work for me with biber version 2.5, since I was not able to disable field names mapping. In other words I get journaltitle instead of journal in the converted file.
    – Stefano M
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 9:19

One can convert a .bib file that contains special characters (e.g. umlauts) to a .bib file with safe chars (i.e. TeX equivalents for those special characters) using bibutils:

bib2xml -i unicode mydb.bib | xml2bib > mydb_bibtex.bib

mydb_bibtex.bib will not throw any encoding errors when compiled with bibtex.


From my recent success of a journal submission to Elsevier, I feel it's easier if you put everything (except the figures) into one single tex file and upload as "manuscript".

To integrate the bibliography into .tex file is actually easy, you just compile your original .tex with the .bib file as you normally do. You will find a .bbl file is generated (along with other compiled files, .pdf, .aux, .log, etc.). Then you comment out the \bibliography{...} line in your .tex file and copy all the contents in the .bbl file right after the line.

  • 1
    You could just upload the .bbl file and leave the .tex file intact. It worked for me.
    – remus
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 11:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .