I am trying to use biblatex, biblatex-apa, and biber in my document, but I think the dreaded biblatex update from last year or so is tripping me up.

My case is most like this one, but I cannot use the suggested answer to change my backend to bibtex, as biblatex-apa requires biber be the backend. However, when I do change the backend to bibtex and don't use the APA style, it compiles without error, though not in the format necessary for the journal.

Ideally I'd like help making these programs, biber, biblatex-apa, and biblatex play nice with my XeLaTeX (2016), but I guess if there's a comparable way of getting APA-like or similar enough formatting while using backend=bibtex, that would be okay too.

Thank you!

Sample document text:

\usepackage[style=apa, backend=biber]{biblatex}

The code generated when compiled is like so:

This is XeTeX, Version 3.14159265-2.6-0.99996 (TeX Live 2016) (preloaded format=xelatex)
 restricted \write18 enabled.
entering extended mode
LaTeX2e <2016/03/31> patch level 3
Babel <3.9r> and hyphenation patterns for 3 language(s) loaded.
Document Class: article 2014/09/29 v1.4h Standard LaTeX document class
*** Reloading Xunicode for encoding 'EU1' ***
) (/usr/share/texmf-dist/tex/xelatex/xecjk/xunicode-extra.def)
! Illegal parameter number in definition of \blx@defformat@d.
<to be read again> 
l.368 ...{\usebibmacro{name:apa:last-first}{#1}{#3
! Illegal parameter number in definition of \blx@defformat@d.
<to be read again> 
l.368 ...ebibmacro{name:apa:last-first}{#1}{#3}{#4
! Illegal parameter number in definition of \blx@defformat@d.
<to be read again> 
l.368 ...macro{name:apa:last-first}{#1}{#3}{#4}{#5

It carries on like that for many more lines until it decides to start tackling the document, which compiles without more problems, but with a wacky bibliography.

Also, when I run biber, I get lots of warnings but no errors, and there is not a compatibility issue, as my biblatex is 3.4r-1, and my biber is 2.5, which are compatible according to the compatibility matrix in the PDF documentation.

I hope this is enough information to get some help!

  • Welcome to TeX.SX! Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 5:04
  • 1
    If you add \listfiles to your preamble, the .log will definitely list what version of each package you are using. I have no issues with your file (though you should use the biblatex-examples.bib to generalize your MWE), but I have biblatex 3.7, biblatex-apa 7.4, and biber 2.7....
    – jon
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 5:12
  • Hi @jon. Sorry I didn't use biblatex-examples. Anyway if those three versions work for you, then I might just have to fight gentoo linux, which desperately wants to manage TeX packages on its own, hence the earlier versions, and get teh ones you say. Would be nice to know for sure if there is something that makes the versions in my example completely obsolete and un-fixable, or if i (or anyone in a similar situation) simply must update to your versions.
    – the_kraken
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 5:58
  • You don't give your biblatex-apa version, but this is with almost absolute certainty a mismatch between your biblatex/Biber version and your biblatex-apa version. Since you are using gentoo linux and probably their repository TeX live there is not much you can do. I'd prefer to use vanilla TeX live where you are in charge of packages via tlmgr.
    – moewe
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 10:51
  • @moewe thank you for the response. I am growing increasingly convinced that it is a gentoo-specific issue for having such an outdated biblatex-apa, but I just don't know for sure until I figure out how to get around gentoo's ridiculously slow texlive support on portage. Indeed the biblatex-apa version is stuck at 6.6 on gentoo and those stubborn folks are so adamant on their portage repository that they insist that if it's not there, it simply shouldn't be yet, and you should figure something else out i will try to install biblatex-apa in a more recent version and see if that fixes things
    – the_kraken
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 10:55

1 Answer 1


The problem is due to a version mismatch.

You are running biblatex 3.4 and Biber 2.5. But only biblatex-apa 6.6. The correct biblatex-apa version for your biblatex would be 6.9.

On a non-repository system of TeX live (see e.g. How to install “vanilla” TeXLive on Debian or Ubuntu?) you could simply use tlmgr to update all packages involved to the correct CTAN versions. The CTAN versions (almost) always match, currently we have biblatex 3.7, Biber 2.7 and biblatex-apa 7.4.

Since you are stuck with your non-updatable TeX distribution, you will have to install the correct version of biblatex-apa manually. Get it from https://github.com/plk/biblatex-apa/releases/tag/v6.9 and follow the instructions (Method 3: 'Install manually') from How do I install an individual package on a Linux system?.

  • @the_kraken Let me know if it worked for you.
    – moewe
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 11:16
  • just a quick update: biblatex-apa v. 6.6 gets me more errors. it turns out I can get access to biblatex 3.7 and biblatex-apa 7.4 on gentoo, it's just that biblatex 3.7 is "unstable" and biblatex-apa 7.4 is in a different package, not the actual one called biblatex-apa! i can probably install biber 2.7 as a binary as well, which is what I guess most gentoo folks do. will report back after i try things with those versions.
    – the_kraken
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 9:44
  • the current versions of the three packages: biblatex (3.7), biblatex-apa (7.4), and biber (2.7) play nice together and everything is working now. hopefully others find this useful if they have same dumb problem I did. the moral is to be careful of the versions of everything that you have!
    – the_kraken
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 10:02
  • 2
    for gentoo users: biblatex 3.7 must be selected in your /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords file (both are currently in the "testing" phase. biblatex-apa 7.4 can be gotten in the texlive-bibtexextra package. biber really should be gotten in binary form and manually installed herehttps://sourceforge.net/projects/biblatex-biber/files/biblatex-biber/
    – the_kraken
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 10:08
  • @the_kraken Good to know. Can you get the newest Biber from 'testing' as well? If not that is a serious flaw, and the developers should think about that. Testing should contain all the newest packages and binaries for TeX, not just some. Normally manual installation of biblatex and Biber is strongly discouraged. Manually installing smaller packages like biblatex-apa is not great, but it is certainly safer than big packages like biblatex that could potentially come with lots of dependencies.
    – moewe
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 11:34

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