I want to update my paper to arXiv, which includes a separate bibliography. Unfortunately, my local biblatex version is newer than the one used by arXiv. As a result, arXiv does not accept my .bbl file, and it does not accept the original .bib, either (that it never did).

Is there any easy way to generate (or convert?) .bbl in the older version, or do I have to downgrade to update my paper?

EDIT: It seems that there is still some interest in this question. In this thread, there is an alternative solution to the arXiv bibliography problem.

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    I didn't know that arXiv even accepts biblatex-generated bibliographies. When did arXiv make this change?
    – Mico
    Mar 1, 2018 at 14:24
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    You can get older biblatex and biber versions from sourceforge sourceforge.net/projects/biblatex and sourceforge.net/projects/biblatex-biber. It is not very difficult to use them with one document as long as you don't use features that doesn't work with the older version. Mar 1, 2018 at 14:34
  • @mico: why shouldn't it work if the texsystem has biblatex? Mar 1, 2018 at 14:35
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    @UlrikeFischer - I just came across this answer by moewe to the query Which biblatex/biber version produces BBL format 2.8. (In short, I had indeed completely missed the fact that arxiv has started accepting biblatex-generted bbl files.) moewe wrote that "the newest combination that works with .bbl 2.8 is biblatex 3.7/Biber 2.7." (The current versions of biblatex and biber produce 2.9 versions of bbl -- too modern for arXiv...)
    – Mico
    Mar 1, 2018 at 15:04
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    Even if they started biber you could run into problems if you have different biblatex versions. Or if you used some other shiny new package and arXiv hasn't it yet. Mar 1, 2018 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


At present, arXiv compiles with a more-or-less off the shelf version of texlive 2016. As such, only that version of biber/biblatex will work in our automated environment. The standard reply applies here as well: rather than try to downgrade your binaries/bbl file into an acceptable version: you should instead regenerate it in a portable bibliographic format that isn't tied to a specific application's version.

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    I don't really understand what you mean. My impression is that such a portable bibliographic format is .bib, which arXiv does not accept. There seems to be no alternative to .bbl. Or is there?
    – tomasz
    Jun 19, 2018 at 15:46
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    while .bib is a "portable" format, arXiv doesn't accept .bib files as they may be excessively large and arXiv does not run bibtex against them as part of the AutoTeX processing as per this arXiv help page: arxiv.org/help/submit_tex#bibtex As such, just the .bbl which would contain the compiled output of the bibtex processing against the bib file. Biblatex processing, however, is different and is tied to a specific version of biblatex which may be less portable than the .bbl file you'd get from other citation management tools.
    – Jake
    Jun 20, 2018 at 16:36
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    The arxiv should accept and process .bib files as the truly portable solution, rather than insist that people recreate their documents with portable but inferior output. If .bib file size was an issue, then simply impose a file-size cap---this is far easier for authors to handle than re-installing package versions or file processing outside of the standard tex installations such as miktex.
    – JDH
    Jul 10, 2018 at 13:19
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    Actually, I would think that the arxiv should want to collect .bib files, even when they are large. Just imagine what kind of resource that would be, to have all that meta-data collected for thousands of articles over many years. One can imagine that people would write utilities to extract and combine the data---we'd all have amazing bibtex entries, full of links and further information.
    – JDH
    Jul 11, 2018 at 11:51
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    I strongly feel like this is a "Why don't they eat cake instead?"-style answer. It doesn't answer the question but lectures about what one should do without providing any hint, how to do it.
    – Eike
    Aug 4, 2020 at 13:14

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