I am developing a latex documentclass and am having a rather strange problem with biblatex and the biber backend. As described here, when I run pdflatex and then biber on this minimal.tex file:


with this minimal.bib

  author = {Foo, Bar},
  journal = {Journal},
  year = {2010},
  title = {Title},
  doi = {doi},

Biber produces the following error (logged to minimal.blg):

[0] Config.pm:354> INFO - This is Biber 2.6
[0] Config.pm:357> INFO - Logfile is 'minimal.blg'
[33] biber:302> INFO - === Tue Dec 13, 2016, 16:21:37
[46] Utils.pm:180> ERROR - minimal.bcf is malformed, last biblatex run probably failed. Deleted minimal.bbl
[46] Biber.pm:114> INFO - ERRORS: 1

Indeed, inspecting minimal.bcf reveals that biblatex did not close the <bcf:section> tag in minimal.bcf and did not include a <bcf:sortlist>. The file ends with

  <bcf:section number="0">
    <bcf:citekey order="1">Foo2035</bcf:citekey>

Simply adding the lines


and then running biber again makes the error go away and a subsequent pdflatex run produces the expected output.

Replacing quantumarticle with the standard article class, on which my class is based, resolves the problem.

Of course I do not expect you to go through my whole documentclass to find the mistake, but I don't even know where to start looking for the problem.

What could possibly make biblatex write an incomplete .bcf file without throwing any error?

  • 2
    The ltxgrid package seems to be part of the problem. – Ulrike Fischer Dec 13 '16 at 16:14
  • I know you say 'I do not expect you to go through my whole documentclass', but that the only obvious way to find the issue: bisection led me (and @UlrikeFischer) to ltxgrid ... – Joseph Wright Dec 13 '16 at 16:25
  • Is there a systematic automatizable way of doing bisection? I can hardly believe that you found the source of this error by commenting out different parts of the cls file and compiling? I though that by doing this one would break so many other things that it would be a hopeless endeavor. – cgogolin Dec 13 '16 at 16:41
  • @cgogolin Used \endinput but the idea is the same: avoid anything where the lines obviously go together, target in the first instance package loading, etc. – Joseph Wright Dec 13 '16 at 17:33

The issue is ltxgrid, or rather the ltxutil package it loads: you can see this with


where the order of packages is important.

Tracing carefully, you find that ltxutil (which doesn't like being loaded without ltxgrid) does


i.e. an arbitrary redefinition of the macro. If you revert this


the issue goes away (you then get some odd lines in the terminal).

The problem is that both etoolbox and ltxutil are trying to set up various hooks. With etoolbox, code is added by patching with a fallback if it fails, so there is no error if etoolbox is loaded first. On the other hand, as ltxutil simply zaps \enddocument, anything installed by etoolbox is lost.

All of this bites biblatex as it puts material into hooks provided by etoolbox, so when the hook insertion is lost the material is effectively too.

You can get back the writing from biblatex by adding


(which is what etoolbox does in the first place) after loading ltxgrid: this re-introduces the hook used by biblatex. You will find some odd lines in your terminal output, related to the fact that the normal mechanisms for writing lot, lof, etc. have been altered by ltxgrid. (It's all about altering how things go onto the main vertical list, so that's not surprising: see xgalley for the team approach in this area, which is much more non-compatible with any code that doesn't know about it!)

  • 1
    I will see what can be done from the etoolbox end about this: tricky as it's only going to show up if ltxutil is loaded after etoolbox. – Joseph Wright Dec 13 '16 at 16:24
  • WOW! I read your answer in utter amazement. Many, many thanks! – cgogolin Dec 13 '16 at 16:38
  • @JosephWright Where to add this snippet? At the top of the preamble? – SACHIN GARG Feb 15 '17 at 4:55
  • Also, this does not seem to be just a problem with ltxgrid/ltxutil - I am not loading that package and still getting the error. Although it has started happening just a few days ago. Trying to identify the changes to my system that could have impacted this. – SACHIN GARG Feb 15 '17 at 5:29
  • @SACHINGARG The same issue could arise from a different package but without an example its hard to say. Please post a separate question linking to this one. – Joseph Wright Feb 15 '17 at 7:24

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