I have a large bibliography with linked pdfs on my mac which I manage with BibDesk. It is on Google Drive and I want to open it in JabRef on my linux laptop. Will either of these managers affect fields that are specific to the other? e.g. might JabRef cause me to lose the pdf links that BibDesk uses?

Perhaps I should (git) version the whole directory...

  • And why not to make them have a separate bibliography files? Like bibdesk.bib and jabref.bib? You can easily include both and have no worries.
    – m0nhawk
    Nov 6, 2014 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


I strongly recommend keeping your .bib file in a version control system, regardless. However, BibDesk will not automatically add/remove fields, unless you tell it to. As far as I can recall, the only fields it might modify are the file links, which have a Bdsk- prefix. BibDesk's file links are pretty robust, and they're also private to BibDesk; as far as I know, JabRef and other reference managers don't even attempt to read them, so they should just pass through.

  • 1
    BibDesk did seem to do quite a lot of rearranging of .bib files when I tried it. That's why I didn't use it. But (a) JabRef may not care, and (b) that was years ago.
    – cfr
    Jan 6, 2015 at 2:05
  • @cfr BibDesk will reorder fields in each reference to be alphabetical, so you might see a large diff the first time you save. We specifically preserve the order of references for compatibility with version control systems, though, so subsequent diffs are small. As I said, BibDesk doesn't add or remove data by itself, so shouldn't affect any JabRef-specific data. Jan 6, 2015 at 2:16
  • Good to hear that it sounds as if it has improved!
    – cfr
    Jan 6, 2015 at 2:57

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