Simply put I want to know what steps I need to take to start biber with biblatex. I haven't been able to find any proper tutorials or guides showing how you go about using it instead of BibTeX.

  • What is biber's syntax?
  • How do you compile?
  • Etc.

Are there any tutorials or guides available?


3 Answers 3


Here is a MWE (not really minimum, but showing some options) that should get you started. Other possible values for the biblatex options are described in the biblatex documentation.





%% ##############################
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet~\citep{kastenholz}.
    At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum~\citet{sigfridsson}.

To compile you should now call pdflatex, biber, pdflatex.
biber operates on the .bcf file, so either use biber %.bcf or (even better) just biber %, where % stands for the basename of your main .tex file.

biblatex-examples.bib is a file that comes with your TeX distribution, you can find it at TEXMF/bibtex/bib/biblatex.biblatex-examples.bibor online. It can be used for testing. Use a different filename for your own .bib file.

The natbib=true option allows you to use citep and citet style citations in you text. This is mainly for compatibility with old code. For new code, use \textcite{} and \parencite{} instead. biblatex knows some more cite commands like \autocite{} or \footcite{}. These are described in the biblatex documentation.

  • @matth: Could you please tell me why your MWE doesn't work for me? github.com/MartinThoma/LaTeX-examples/tree/master/documents/… - I compile it with the Makefile Commented May 12, 2013 at 15:30
  • @moose See my updated answer, if that doesn't help, ask again.
    – matth
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 11:25
  • @matth: I am using texlive 2016 and TexShop 3.77 with OS X 10.12.4 Compiling the example code above with pdf latex I get the following error: (/usr/local/texlive/2016/texmf-dist/tex/latex/biblatex/blx-dm.def ! Undefined control sequence. <argument> ...blx@datamodel@fields}{date}}\StrCut {date}{date}\blx@datetype ... l.585 urldate}
    – Heinz M.
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 22:38
  • @HeinzM. Sorry, I do not know what that message means. Try cleaning the project, delete the .aux and .bbl files, try updating all your Tex Live packages and compile agian. Did you search the internet already? Maybe submit a bug report!?
    – matth
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 8:16
  • @NicHartley It does print a bibliography on my computer, and seems to work well for many others. Do you get any error messages? Did you follow all steps?
    – matth
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 19:33

run texdoc biber from the command line and you'll get the documentation. However, using biber as a replacement for bibtex you have to define the backend with


and then change your bibtex run into a biber one, that is all.

However, with the latest biblatex package (TeXLive 2016) the backend=biber setting is the default, you have only to specify bibtex or bibtex8 if you want to use one of the old programs. And, of course, you have to change the program name in your editor. For example: in TeXstudio it is Options->Configure->Build->Standard Bibprogram->biber.

  • So you continue using the same syntax as bibtex uses?
    – benregn
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 13:30
  • @benreqn. Could you specify which syntax you mean? In the LaTeX document, things stay the same apart from the biblatex changes. In the .bib file, things stay the same although one or two fields are renamed.
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 13:42
  • in general yes. There is only a need for parameters if your document is of another encoding as the bib data file is.
    – user2478
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 13:42
  • 1
    @benregn It took me a while to figure this out but when Herbert said to "change your bibtex run into a biber one", you may need to change the default script that your program is running. The biber manual gives an example for EMacs and TeXWorks but in TeXShop you go to the engine tab and change the bibtex engine to biber. Also, I had to use bibfile.bib (instead of just bibfile) for it to find my library. Hope this helps someone...
    – Dominik
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 2:40
  • 1
    I think it is still good style to have backend=biber even though Biber is now the standard backend if only to avoid the warning No "backend" specified, using Biber backend. It also makes things more explicit for people reading the code.
    – moewe
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 7:51

I took the biblatex.pdf and read my way through and it is well organized!

You must set a customer-defined command (analog to how I had to set makeglossaries.exe) but with biber(.sh/.exe), which should be installed in your LaTeX manager.

I had to add this to the custom commands so biber is found properly.

"path/to/biber(.sh/.exe)" %

Especially interesting is

1.5 Prerequisites

  • tells you what packages you need and in which order to load the dependencies
  • apparently depending on the biblatex version you might need another biber version

3.1 Package Options

  • what settings can I apply

3.14.1 Overview

  • step-by-step example with code snippet how to use biber

See @matth's post for example syntax In the end you build

  • (I recommend to clean aux files when running stuff like that)
  • pdflatex %
  • biber %
  • pdflatex %
  • Virtually everyone has Biber and Biblatex installed if they have TeX installed. If you don't have them, but you have TeX installed, you should install Biblatex and Biber using your TeX distribution's tools if you installed it directly (e.g. downloaded TeX Live or MikTeX) or your OS distro's package manager (if that's how you installed TeX). If you don't have TeX installed, you should install a TeX distribution since Biblatex and Biber are useless without it. You should download a Biber executable directly only for testing purposes - not production. PS Not everyone uses Windows.
    – cfr
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 4:02
  • I did overlook that biber is installed by default indeed. For the other points - I did understand the question in the way that the person would like to know how to proceed and at least I had some trouble with perl and the default settings for makeglossaries and all. Once a LaTeX editor works like a charm it is easy, but sometimes the getting there is the hard part. Well not everyone uses Linux, not everyone uses a LaTex editor...
    – spaceKelan
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 10:31

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