Jabref-4.1 is still not as stable as Jabref-3.8 was. Jabref stores some metadata such as groups in comments of the Bibtex database.

Jabref-4.x changed the file format unfortunately. I am not sure, if it was just the format how groups are saved.

How to convert a .bib database on a Linux system from the Jabref-4.x format back to the old format used in the final version 3.8.2?

Is there any feature which will get lost, because it was not known in the old file format?

Update: Thank you for the helpful comments so far. I upvoted several already. I will review now within the next days, perhaps my question is invalid or needs improvement.

  • 1
    @Mico I have found many similar Jabref questions and even a jabref tag. I think it fits here better than in Unix&Linux.sx. But I will ask now in the tex.sx chat Jan 9, 2018 at 1:45
  • 3
    @Mico I think this is on topic.
    – Alan Munn
    Jan 9, 2018 at 2:14
  • 2
    @AlanMunn - Thanks. I've deleted my earlier comment.
    – Mico
    Jan 9, 2018 at 2:18
  • 2
    Please outline which issues you encounter when opening the 4.2 bib file with 3.8.2. The new groups format was introduced in JabRef 3.4 (see github.com/JabRef/jabref/blob/v3.8.2/…), so there should not be any issues when working with 3.8.2.
    – koppor
    Jan 9, 2018 at 9:20
  • Please join us for JabRef improvment at the JabCon in Dresden. 😇
    – koppor
    Jan 9, 2018 at 9:23

2 Answers 2


My bib file in v3.8.2 is just slightly different from that in v4.1. The only difference is in @Comment{jabref-meta

To downgrade the bib file into the format compatible with v3.8.2, only 3 replacements need to be done. They are:

  1. grouping -> groupstree
  2. StaticGroup -> ExplicitGroup
  3. remove all occurrences of \;1\;\;\;

FYI, in my v3.8.2 bib file, the group information is associated with entries---the groups field of an entry records the associated group(s) (separated by comma). The group comment just stores the hierarchical structure.


  author     = {L'Ecuyer, Pierre and Simard, Richard},
  title      = {TestU01: A C Library for Empirical Testing of Random Number Generators},
  journal    = {ACM Trans. Math. Softw.},
  year       = {2007},
  volume     = {33},
  number     = {4},
  pages      = {22:1--22:40},
  month      = aug,
  doi        = {10.1145/1268776.1268777},
  groups     = {PRNG},
  numpages   = {40},
  publisher  = {ACM},

Thanks to @Eli4ph for the correct answer. Here is a short bash script for the conversion, if you have the same problem. Please do not forget to upvote Eli4ph's answer.

sed -i 's/grouping/groupstree/g' $1
sed -i 's/StaticGroup/ExplicitGroup/g' $1
sed -i 's|\\;1\\;\\;\\;||g' $1

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