I like the idea of Biblatex but I wonder if I can use it in my work for publication. On my latest look at the problem I found

Is biblatex compatible with RevTeX?

An answer to it from 2011 says biblatex is incompatible with natbib and the biblatex' natbib option only provides aliases for natbib's citation commands.

I suspect all this is still true since just last month a package came out providing a fix for this problem in some cases (it works for the guidelines of the AIP and APS).

So, is it still true? Is biblatex still incompatible with natbib?

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    Yes. And this will never change. There is absolutly no reason why you would want to use natbib along with biblatex. Sep 23, 2016 at 12:48
  • @UlrikeFischer I do not understand. Why did someone create the fix provided by biblatex-phys if there is no problem? Sep 23, 2016 at 12:56
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    @ColinMcLarty 'Someone' here is me! The idea was that people need bibliography style files for a lot more than journal submission (in my area, most journals expect Word not LaTeX anyway). In particular, for theses, reports, grant proposals, etc. it's common to 'follow' a journal style. That was the reason for writing the biblatex-phys bundle. (If it was only about journal submission, most of the work on BibTeX beyond cite and natbib would be redundant.)
    – Joseph Wright
    Sep 23, 2016 at 13:08
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    @ColinMcLarty Check with the editorial office: depending on their workflow at the 'back end', it may not be important how you set up your sources. (If they work from the PDFs all will be fine: if they process the .tex it's different.)
    – Joseph Wright
    Sep 23, 2016 at 13:37
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    To sum it up: biblatex completely substitutes natbib and the question should be: Is RevTeX still using natbib instead of the better biblatex?
    – Johannes_B
    Sep 23, 2016 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


The biblatex approach to bibliographies is very different from that used by 'traditional' BibTeX, which includes natbib. The way that a traditional style works is that BibTeX-the-program reads the .aux file (for citations), .bib file (for data) and .bst file (for style), and write a .bbl file containing the formatted output. The latter is then typeset directly in LaTeX (i.e. \bibliography is a special form of \input). When using biblatex, in contrast, citation data (from the .aux or .bcf) is used along with the .bib file to give a database-like .bbl file. The latter is used by biblatex to do formatting at the LaTeX end (i.e. in LaTeX macros). In this cases, formatting is driven by a .bbx file, which tells LaTeX (not BibTeX) how to do the style. The two approaches are thus fundamentally different.

It is possible to write a .bbx file which does the same as any given .bst. Thus as well as the standard biblatex styles, there are styles available which match the BibTeX 'traditional' set. There are also implementations for some journal styles. Included in those is biblatex-phys, which implements the AIP and APS styles. As those can never be used with natbib, and thus not with REVTeX, they are not official and cannot be used to substitute in journal submission. (See Is biblatex compatible with RevTeX?.) (Note that one can 'unload' natbib as discussed in Is it possible to load biblatex with a class that has already loaded natbib?, but this would be a bad idea in any official submission.)

  • That is helpful showing how Biblatex achieves things natbib cannot. But wouldn't it be possible to add a component to Biblatex so that after your writing is done the citation data and the .bib file and the resulting .bbl file could work with LaTeX and a .bbx file to produce a new file that would not be database like but could again make \bibliography a special form of \input? Publishers would be able to use that, and those of us who have to write for publication could start using the advantages of Biblatex. Sep 25, 2016 at 1:11
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    @ColinMcLarty I plan to address that in your other question: I didn't have a chance yesterday but will today.
    – Joseph Wright
    Sep 25, 2016 at 7:14

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