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I use BibLaTeX together with Biber and the standard alphabetic style.

If a bibliography entry contains more than a specific number of authors (default = 3), BibLaTeX only prints the first author followed by "et al.". This affects the bibliography itself but also certain citation commands like \textcite, \citeauthors, etc. Normally, BibLaTex sorts the list of authors alphabetically.

Is there a way to denote a "special" author (i.e. like the primary author of a work) on a per entry level which should be used together with "et al." instead of the alphabetically first one?

However, if the complete list of authors is printed, then the alphabetical order should be preserved.

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biblatex does not sort name lists. In some disciplines it is common to list authors alphabetically, but this is not always the case and biblatex never meddles with the order given in the .bib file.

You can't easily tell biblatex who is the main author in a way that would make biblatex use the main author as the first author, but you can sort of trick your way to the result with the shortauthor field.

\documentclass[british]{article}
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\usepackage{babel}
\usepackage{csquotes}

\usepackage[style=alphabetic, backend=biber, maxbibnames=999]{biblatex}


\usepackage{filecontents}
\begin{filecontents}{\jobname.bib}
@article{herrmann,
  author       = {Herrmann, Wolfgang A. and Öfele, Karl and Schneider,
                  Sabine K.  and Herdtweck, Eberhardt and Hoffmann, Stephan D.},
  shortauthor  = {Schneider, Sabine K. and others},
  title        = {A carbocyclic carbene as an efficient catalyst ligand for {C--C}
                  coupling reactions},
  journaltitle = {Angew.~Chem. Int.~Ed.},
  date         = 2006,
  volume       = 45,
  number       = 23,
  pages        = {3859-3862},
}
\end{filecontents}

\addbibresource{\jobname.bib}


\begin{document}
\cite{herrmann}

\textcite{herrmann}

\citeauthor{herrmann}

\printbibliography
\end{document}

Schneider et al. [Sch+06]

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