I'm writing a piece whose bibliography with some technical reports, presentation, manuals, and just websites. In the .bib file, I need to decide whether to use 'howpublished' fields, or 'url' fields for the addresses of where these are at

When should I use which of them?

Note: I currently use the abbrv bibliography style, but I'd like a more general answer .

  • Any sensible answers to your questions will depend importantly on the bibliography style you use. Have you settled on that? If so, which one? – Mico Jun 23 '14 at 17:23
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    howpublished={Web page},url={http://some.so.me/xyz} – egreg Jun 23 '14 at 18:12
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    @egreg - Your comment may be useful if the OP uses a bibliography style that actually knows what to do with fields such as howpublished (in the "standard" bibliography styles, such as plain, unsrt, and alpha, this field is ignored for all entry types except @misc...) and url (will be disregarded by all "standard" bibliography styles). Unless the OP volunteers some information about the bibliography style (or styles) he/she uses and whether he/she loads packages such as url and/or hyperref, it's going to be difficult to provide useful answers. – Mico Jun 23 '14 at 19:31

First of all I recommend you to use biblatex since it is very adaptable and processes information greatly!

In the biblatex manual, they are defined as follows:

howpublished: A publication notice for unusual publications which do not fit into any of the common categories

url: The URL of an online publication.

Thus, I recommend you in general to use the "url" field if you want to add a url to a reference. "Howpublished" would be "internet" or "online" in that case, but negligible, stating the URL shows already that you refer to an online source.

But it also depends on your bibliography style.

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    Assuming the OP is using BibTeX, using a field of type howpublished is useful only if the entry type is @misc; it will be ignored for all other entry types. Using fields of type url is only useful if a "newer" bibliography style (i.e., not plain, unsrt, abbrv, of alpha) is in use. – Mico Jun 23 '14 at 22:32

Assuming you're using one of the "standard" bibliography styles -- e.g., plain, unsrt, abbrv, alpha, or a style that's derived from one of these styles -- you shouldn't be using the url field at all: the style in use doesn't recognize url as a valid field type and thus won't do anything with its contents. If you do want to use the url field, be sure to use one of many newer style files, such as those provided by the natbib and apa packages.

Still assuming you're using one of BibTeX's "standard" styles mentioned above, do note that the field howpublished is only acted on if the entry type is @misc; nothing happens with this field if the entry is of type @techreport, @unpublished, @article, etc. If you're using one of the latter entry types, you should use the note field to store the URL-related information.

I strongly recommend you use a newer style file that does know what to do with fields of type url. You can then use the note field for supplementary information, such as when a given website was last accessed.

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