When reading papers, I very strongly prefer it if bibliography labels convey some information about the paper instead of being just a number. If I'm already somewhat familar with the literature and see the entry [JS99], I have a good shot of guessing that the authour is referring to the paper of Jones and Smith from 1999; if it's [15] instead I can guess that the surname of the first author probably doesn't start with A or Z, but that's about it. I try to, accordingly, use meaningful labels in my papers, and hence I tend to use \bibliographystyle{alpha}. However, it has two problems which often get me in hot water.

  1. The first names are not abbreviated (which is not a problem in and of itself but when I import references from e.g. MathSciNet they sometimes contain full names and sometimes just the initials).

  2. The bibliography entries are sorted by label rather than by author, as explained here. Personally, I feel like the difference is rather minor, but apparently many people care about ordering and many believe that the correct way to order is lexicographically by the author.

Hence, I ideally I would like a style just like alpha but sorting entries according to the surname of the first author and abbreviating first names. I currently use BibTeX but not BibLaTeX.

  • 2
    Just a comment on sorting. It is quite sensible that alphabetic styles should be sorted by the labels, after all that's what the reader has when they go to search for the entry in the bibliography. You may prefer something else, it's fine. But I don't think this should be conveyed as "sorting entries properly" or "proper ordering". They most definitely are sorted properly. You just want something else.
    – gusbrs
    Nov 19, 2018 at 23:07
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    On your first requirement, you could look at linuxtoosx.blogspot.com/2010/09/… or at Debibify to check available styles per specification.
    – gusbrs
    Nov 19, 2018 at 23:23
  • @gusbrs - Of course you are correct. What I meant to say is that some people take issue with the current sorting and I'm looking for a way to placate them (which is important for me in the case when these people are, say, referees for my paper). Personally, I think finding the relevant item in the reference list is almost never a problem in practice and that all reasonable orders are equally valid Nov 20, 2018 at 15:53
  • @gusbrs - Many thanks for the links, helps a lot! :D Nov 20, 2018 at 15:57
  • 1
    Mm, no rescue thus far. Would you, by any chance, be also interested in a biblatex solution? (Unfortunately, I cannot help with bibtex here).
    – gusbrs
    Nov 21, 2018 at 9:31


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