Is it possible to control how BibTeX reads the aux file?

As far as I know, BibTeX reads the citation keys used in a document via the \citation commands in the aux file(s). I want BibTeX to extract from the aux file other information that can be used by the bst file. The aim is to customize each instance of \cite, so that how an item appears in the bibliography not only depends on what the citation key is, but can also depend on how it was \cited in the document. There may be other (dirtier?) ways to achieve this aim, but (for me) it is interesting to know whether this particular way is possible.

  • BibTeX only reads \citation, \bibstyle, \bibdata and \@input commands.
    – egreg
    Mar 22, 2014 at 21:03
  • Could you please provide a Minimal Working Example and some indication of what you are trying to do? Right now I'm finding it pretty difficult to understand the point of this. Of course, how entries appear in the bibliography depends on more than the citation key since the layout also depends on the selected bibliography style. I can't think why you would want a bibliography with inconsistent formatting which seems to be what you are trying to do.
    – cfr
    Mar 22, 2014 at 22:30
  • @egreg: Are you implying that this behaviour of BibTeX cannot be changed? Where can I read more about this? Mar 23, 2014 at 12:18
  • @LawrenceWong I think there's not much to do about that.
    – egreg
    Mar 23, 2014 at 13:08
  • Thanks. @cfr: I don't want to post my actual problem here yet, because I want to try my hands on it for a little longer. I agree with you that the question is not well-motivated as it stands, but I hope it is clear enough. I'd be happy to supply any clarifications about the question if requested. Mar 23, 2014 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


The features of bibtex that you mention are not under the control of any user documented language (neither TeX nor the bibtex style language used in bst files) Of course bibtex itself is, like TeX, open source, eg you can browse around from here:


so in principle you can make a fork of bibtex do anything you want, but then of course it isn't strictly bibtex anymore.

  • +1, needed to add, one can switch to biblatex, which should offer many more ways how to customize the output.
    – yo'
    Apr 3, 2014 at 10:45

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