Can I have custom citation labels while using biblatex?


In mathematics it is not uncommon to use custom labels for referring to other books/articles. E.g., "... see [Hart, p196]." when referring to some page in Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry.

This way of referencing in the end usually becomes a convenient mix of the 'author', 'authortitle' and 'title' citation styles. There is not really a way to predict how something is referred to. For example, the Stacks project is might be referred to as [Stacks], and Grothendiecks EGA as [EGA]. On the other hand, books with multiple authors might be labeled using the first letters of their family names (as in [KM] for Katz-Mazur).

As far as I know, having these custom labels is only possible when setting the bibliography by hand. I have not seen a way how to do this with BibTex or any of its derivatives.


I really like biblatex since it enables me to tweak lots of things concerning citation styles. I know that there is the possibility to use some custom fields in the .bib file.

It probably is possible to use one of these custom fields to define the custom citation label of the entry. Furthermore, in the biblatex stylesheets this custom field should be employed for the in-text citations as well as for the entry in the bibliography.

This leads to the following questions

  • Does anyone know of a citation style that does this?
  • Is this easy to accomplish?
  • Can anyone provide me with some code for a setup? I don't really know how to do this myself (I've only done some small tweaking of biblatex styles before).

1 Answer 1


Just use the shorthand field in your bib file. This field overrides the citation label in all standard biblatex styles. When data forming the citation label are missing you can use the fallback label field. Here's a sample document using the biblatex-examples.bib file from the documentation.



One of the entries by \citeauthor{kant:ku}  uses the shorthand ``KU'' \autocite{kant:ku,cms}.
The entry for \citetitle{cms} uses the label ``CMS''  \autocite{cms,kant:ku}.

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Here is an excerpt from the same document in the authoryear style.

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  • 1
    Great, that is exactly what I was looking for! Somehow I must have missed this in the manual. Or rather, I did not understand what was meant with this option. Thanks again!
    – jmc
    Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 16:51
  • 2
    No problem. Initially I learned more by looking at the examples. These can be found in the same folder as the manual. They're all based on the bib file I mentioned.
    – Audrey
    Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 17:28

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