I want to use a .bib file in a conference .tex file where they precise that we should use a bibliography generated by BibTeX as a .bbl file:

% argument is your BibTeX string definitions and bibliography    

When I use directly:

\bibliography{refs} %refs is my refs.bib

I get an error.

Must I convert the .bib to a .bbl? If yes, how?


4 Answers 4


It's actually pretty easy. I'm sure you will enjoy using BibTeX for the rest of your life!

Here explains exactly how you do it: http://www.bibtex.org/Using/

Nevertheless, you can also use the program 'pdflatex' in your LaTeX code, and that's enough!

Editing: you don't actually have to read anything from the generated .bbl file. You only deal with .bib

  • yes, i can deal with it directly wihtout any conversion. Than
    – Anass
    Feb 10, 2016 at 8:31

The .bib file format is used to describe bibliographical references. When used together with LaTeX and BibTeX, it generates a file with the .bbl extension, which is really just a tex file with a different extension containing your references formatted according to the bibliography style chosen in your .tex file through the \bibligraphystyle{} command. LaTeX then automatically inserts the contents of the bbl file in the exact place you call the \bibliography{} command in your document.

Usually, when working with TeX documents, journal and conference editors don't want to go to the trouble of using BibTeX to compile your paper; they prefer to defer the responsibility of sending the bibliography correctly formatted to the paper author (you). So, they tell you to manually do what pdflatex and bibtex automate for you: to get the contents of the bbl file and put them where you would call the \bibliography{} command. This way, you only have to send them a single tex file, instead of the tex file along with the bib file.

  • Thank you very much. So, content of .bbl files is for marking up the references (in .bib file) while the file .bib contains just the references?
    – Avv
    Jan 26 at 14:58

In texShop, you run Latex (Shift + Cmd + L), then Bibtex (Cmd + Shift + B), and then latex twice (Shift + Cmd + L), and you should be good to go with a bbl file and updated citations.

I'm sure the keyboard shortcuts vary between editors, but the process is roughly the same.


In TexStudio you can run Bibliography by F8. Just go to Tools -> Bibliography.

  • 3
    I know that this is related to the .bib and .bbl files, but this would be a much better answer if you explained how they relate.
    – Teepeemm
    Oct 25, 2022 at 16:50

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