In §3.11.8 ("External Abstracts and Annotations") of the biblatex documentation, it says that it is possible to put abstracts in external .tex files rather than storing them in the .bib file directly.

To do this, it says you must name the .tex file bibabstract-citekey.tex, where "citekey" is the citekey for the associated entry in the .bib file.

The documentation does not say anything about where these external abstract files should be stored. I assumed it would be possible to keep them in a local texmf tree, but that seems to not be the case.

I've only been able to get the abstract to print when the bibabstract-citekey.tex is in the same folder as the main .tex file.

Am I doing something wrong, or is this the intended behavior?

Here's a three-part MWE:


% arara: pdflatex
% arara: biber
% arara: pdflatex

    style=reading, % a style that prints abstracts
    loadfiles=true % must be set to true for external abstract files







  author                      = {Chomsky, Noam},
  doi                         = {10.1016/j.lingua.2012.12.003},
  langid                      = {american},
  pages                       = {33--49},
  title                       = {Problems of Projection},
  issn                        = {0024-3841},
  journaltitle                = {Lingua},
  date                        = {2013-06},
  editor                      = {Rizzi, Luigi},
  issuetitle                  = {Syntax and Cognition},
  issuesubtitle               = {Core Ideas and Results in Syntax},
  number                      = {1},
  volume                      = {130}


With the crystallization of the ``generative enterprise'' half a century ago, two concepts became salient: the initial state and final states of the language faculty, respectively, UG (the genetic component) and I-languages. Since then inquiry has gained far greater scope and depth. It has also led to sharpening of fundamental principles of language. At first, descriptive adequacy appeared to require rich and complex assumptions about UG. A primary goal has always been to overcome this deficiency. Core properties of concern have included compositionality, order, projection (labeling), and displacement. Early work assigned the first three to phrase structure rules and the last to the transformational component. Simplification of computational procedures suggests that compositionality and displacement (along with the ``copy theory'') fall together while order may be a reflex of sensorimotor externalization, conclusions that have far-reaching consequences. As for labeling, minimal computation restricts options to the few that have considerable empirical support.

I'm only able to get the abstract to print when bibabstract-chomsky2013.tex is saved in the same directory as main.tex. It does not print when bibastract-chomsky2013.tex is saved in a local texmf tree (in my case, ~/Library/texmf/bibtex/bib/).

  • So I figured out the answer about halfway through writing this question: it seems biblatex will find the external file so long as it is somewhere below <texmf>/tex. Presumably, the best practice would be to create a dedicated folder such as <texmf>/tex/latex/biblatex/abstracts/. I'll wait to answer my own question in case anyone else has a better suggestion. I figured the question is still worth asking, since this isn't mentioned in the documentation (might be worth updating the documentation).
    – Adam Liter
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:13
  • Just for clarity: have you changed your TEXMFHOME? I would've thought you'd have something like ~/Library/texmf/{bibtex,tex,doc,...} as the "texmf home".
    – jon
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:21
  • @jon No, that's what I have as TEXMFHOME. You can put biblatex-example.bib and bibabstract-chomsky2013.bib inside <texmf>/bibtex/bib/ and it will print everything but the abstract. It seems that external abstract files must go somewhere below <texmf>/tex/. It'd be nice if this were documented, since the intuitive place to put the external files (at least in my mind) doesn't work. :p
    – Adam Liter
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:24
  • Intuition is a tricky thing. These are .tex files and so need to be within the tex hierarchy not the bibtex hierarchy, even though they are associated with bib files... :)
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:30
  • @AlanMunn Indeed ... :) Alright, well, I guess I'll go ahead and answer this. @anyone: feel free to comment on or edit my answer if you think there's a better practice.
    – Adam Liter
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


Since these are .tex files, biblatex will find the external abstract file so long as it is somewhere in <texmf>/tex/ (not <texmf>/bibtex/). Moreover, since these files are meant for use by biblatex, it would presumably make the most sense to put them in <texmf>/tex/latex/biblatex/.

And, for the sake of organization, you might as well create a dedicated folder for all external abstracts, such as <texmf>/tex/latex/biblatex/abstracts/.

So, if you put bibabstract-chomsky2013.tex inside <texmf>/tex/latex/biblatex/abstracts/, then biblatex will find and print the abstract correctly.

<texmf> is shorthand for a local texmf tree. How you set this up depends on your TeX distribution (TeX Live/MacTeX or MiKTeX). If you do not know how to set up a local texmf tree but would like to set one up, see Where do I place my own .sty or .cls files, to make them available to all my .tex files?

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