# Difference between a .bib and .bbl file for Latex

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:

``````\bibliographystyle{IEEEtran}
% argument is your BibTeX string definitions and bibliography
%database(s)
\bibliography{IEEEabrv,../bib/paper}
``````

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?

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.

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.