how do I create a .bib file? I am trying to create a master bib file on texshop. When I save the file, it saves as a .tex, not .bib (even when I try to correct it manually).

thanks in advance


Although it's possible to manage .bib files manually with a regular text editor (and TeXShop can do this too), most users prefer to use a dedicated bibliography manager.

For the Mac, there is the wonderful BibDesk, which you will find in the TeX folder installed with MacTeX. TeXShop has builtin integration with BibDesk. If your .bib file is open in BibDesk, and you've allowed BibDesk completions in the TeXShop preferences, you can enter in your source \cite{foo and then hit F5 and a list of all citation keys beginning with "foo" will appear as a drop down list next to the cursor. You then choose the right one and it gets inserted into your source.

It is possible to edit a .bib file manually with TeXShop. When you save any file in TeXShop there is a dropdown menu in the save dialogue box called File Format that allows you to choose the correct file extension for the file (see image below) Choose .bib from that menu to save a manually created .bib file.

file format

  • I'm getting a [?] where my citation should be. Do you have any idea why this might be happening? I am using BibDesk, I am using the correct cite key, and this is my current (basic) script: \documentclass{article} \begin{document} Cite here ~\cite{GruberKoszegi01} \bibliographystyle{plain} \bibliography{MasterBib} \end{document} – Econometrics33 Mar 6 '15 at 19:05
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    @SextonEconomics See Question mark instead of citation number – Alan Munn Mar 6 '15 at 19:43

I use JabRef, which is also free software. It lists the references, and can orderer it in several ways (by author, year, key, etc.) and allows us to edit in pre-formated tables or directly in text.

(I'm not sure if it is appropriate to write an answer 4 after the last post, but since I saw a question today on the same subject, I thought that it might be useful for other users. I search in here and I was unable to find information if it is appropriate or not to suggest software (I assume it is based on the answers here) and I saw some posts regarding JabRef.)


If you use TeXShop, that means you are on mac. Use Bibdesk, to manage bibtex file. Bibdesk is installed with MacTeX. http://bibdesk.sourceforge.net/

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    Could you perhaps a little your answer? You could add a little description, a link,... – Gonzalo Medina Mar 6 '15 at 18:15

If you want to start everything from scratch, you can check online for figuring out the format for each type of references. In general, I would say that the bibtex is just a formatted text file. You can use any text editor to create one.

If you just want to cite a paper and create a bibtex for it, I would suggest you to either use Google scholar or check the publisher website. Usually, they provide the bibtex for a specific paper.


If you are going to cite several articles I would recommend zotero.org or mendeley.com, which allow to:

  • automatically load articles information using the digital object identifier (DOI).
  • automatically generate the .bib files organized from folders/tags.
  • Note that for more specialised entries Mendeley's .bib export function is abysmal and there are little to no configuration options. (I have never used Mendeley productively, but I have played around with it a bit to answer questions on this site, though.) Zotero is better in that regard especially with Better BibTeX. (Plus Zotero is open source and has a good support forum and responsive developers.) – moewe Jul 15 '19 at 5:35

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