I am using JabRef to handle my bibliography and the natbib package in LyX for citations. The questions is: if I decide to change the bibtex keys of my references in the .bib file, how can I tell LyX to update them and stop showing question marks?

Thanks for helping me with that

2 Answers 2


Bad news: The concordance between the key in the cite and the database is only your responsibility.

You change Foo2015 by Bah2015 in the bib file with JabRef. Then LyX look in that database for Foo2015 to write \cite{Foo2015} (or so) but there not any Foo2015 in the database, resulting in the[?]... but what else could LyX have done? How to know if Foo2015 is should be now "Bah2015 or "WhateverELse2024" with changed or unchanged reference fields?

If you sange some field of Foo2015 (for example the year={2015} to year={2014}), the cite and reference will be updated without problems. What said to LyX that "Foo (2015)" is now "Foo (2014)" is the unchanged key Foo2015

But if you change that key to Foo2014, LyX will lost that reference, irrespectively that you change the field year or not.

What you pretend could have some sense if LyX and JabRef were two parts of the same program, but that is not the case. Lyx is only a editor de documentos. And JabRef only a BibTeX database editor. The glue between is the user.


If the citation keys you decide to change are not a lot, you can open the yourfile.lyx file in a plain text editor (for example, use "VS code"), and search&replacement the citation keys.

Note that, to open the file in a plain text editor, the .lyx file should not be saved in the compressed form. (Check it at the Document Menu of LyX: Document->Compressed)

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