I created a custom .bst file to manage my bibliography style using natbib and I can't find where and how to format the horizontal space between the labels and the bibliography entries. In particular, I would need a tab distance instead of a simple space. Any ideas on how to achieve that?

  • Did you employ the makebst utility of the custom-bib package to create the custom bst file? I get the impression from your write-up that the bibliography style is set to create numeric-style citation call-outs. Is this impression correct? – Mico May 11 at 17:33
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    there is no "tab distance" in TeX: tab characters are treated the same as a space character in almost all contexts. Your question would be clearer if you showed an example. Most bibliographies are set as a list and so the spacing details can be changed just by changing the list typesetting parameters from within latex, and not needing a change to the bst file. – David Carlisle May 11 at 20:09
  • @Mico: yes, I used the makebstutility, and yes, the labels are numeric. However, as is suggested in @Boris answer and @DavidCarlisle comment, it seems that's not something one determines in the .bst – Sofia May 12 at 16:17
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    @Sofia - Indeed, for most bst files -- including those that are created with the help of the makebst utility -- the distance between the numeric labels and the start of the formatted content of a bibliographic entry is governed by a LaTeX parameter (\labelsep, to be precise) that is usually not set by the bst file. However, it is entirely conceivable that sombody creates an unusual bst file which, in fact, sets the value of \labelsep directly. That's why I asked if you had used the makebst utility. – Mico May 12 at 17:06
  • Thank you for your comments, @Mico. Since I've just started learning about custom bib styles, I found interesting to know that I could do it in the .bst file, even if there's an easier way directly in the .tex file. – Sofia May 12 at 22:35

The distance between the bibliography label and the item is set in the LaTeX code rather than bst code. This is the parameter \labelsep.

Just put before \bibliography the command

\setlength{\labelsep}{5em} %Change 5 em to taste

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