Quick question, hopefully with a quick answer. I'm writing a paper where I'm limited by length (2 pages) and I need references, but it doesn't have to look nice. I'd like LaTeX to compress my bibliography to fit on as few lines as possible.

I have this (except, you know, longer and actual books and articles):

[1] Book 1
[2] Article 1
[3] Book 2
[4] Book 3
[5] Article 2

and I want this:

[1] Book 1 [2] Article 1 [3] Book 2 [4] Book 3 [5] Article 2

Edit: I'm not using any special bibliography packages and my document class is article.

Edit 2: Here's my bbl file:


\newblock Swarm {AI}: {A} {G}eneral-{P}urpose {S}warm {I}ntelligence

Y.~Shoham and K.~Leyton-Brown.
\newblock {\em Multiagent Systems: Algorithmic, Game-Theoretic, and Logical
\newblock Cambridge University Press, 2008.

\newblock {\em An Introduction to MultiAgent Systems}.
\newblock John Wiley \& Sons Ltd, 2002.

  • 1
    I removed the {bibtex} tag because the question is not specifically about BibTeX, but about modifying the thebibliography environment.
    – lockstep
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 16:44

2 Answers 2


Since you did not say which document class or bibliography packages you're using I will give you a general answer.

A bibliography like this uses a numbered list. The paralist package provides such in-paragraph lists: you could use the inparaenum environment of paralist to get numbered items within a paragraph without linebreaks.

For instance, with article these two redefinitons would achieve it:


The bibliography would then look like:

alt text

Further features of paralist may be used for customization.

Edit: here's a minimal example showing it with your example bbl file. Note, I additionally disabled \par temporarily, because the bbl file contains empty lines.



alt text

  • 3
    Furthermore, it's straightfoward to convert the .bbl file output by Bibtex to such a list: just change the begin/end tags to the approproate environment. Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 12:53
  • @Stefan Thanks for your help! I tried doing what you said and bibtex refused to compile. You used a lot of new commands that I've never seen before so I had a hard time figuring out the errors.
    – JohnS
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 18:04
  • @Charles I tried this and it worked. It took a little more effort than just changing the begin/end tags, but it was close enough for my work in this case. Thanks.
    – JohnS
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 18:05
  • 2
    @JohnS: it can be modified to work with BibTeX. For example, if you post your .bbl file I could adjust the redefinitions. Instead of editing the .bbl after each BibTeX run LaTeX could to that adjustment for you.
    – Stefan Kottwitz
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 18:21
  • @Stefan Added to the question.
    – JohnS
    Commented Nov 19, 2010 at 3:43

The original poster didn't use "special bibliography packages", but for the sake of completeness here's a solution using biblatex. (Note that the redefinition of \defbibenvironment is intended for numeric bibliography styles. For alphabetic styles see the original definition in alphabetic.bbx and change it correspondingly; for styles without a label replace the third argument of \defbibenvironment in my code example with \addspace.)





  author = {Author, A.},
  year = {2001},
  title = {Alpha},

  author = {Buthor, B.},
  year = {2002},
  title = {Bravo},

  author = {Cuthor, C.},
  year = {2003},
  title = {Charlie},






(The filecontents environment is only used to include some external files directly into the example, so that it compiles. It is not necessary for the solution.)

EDIT: Since line breaks after labels should be discouraged, I replaced the second \addspace with \addhighpenspace.

  • To further compactify your bibliography, add \small to the first empty pair of braces in the \defbibenvironment. Or if you're feeling really pushed for space \scriptsize
    – Seamus
    Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 21:09
  • @Seamus: Why not simply use \bibfont?
    – lockstep
    Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 21:12
  • I don't know about bibfont. I'm just poking around biblatex innnards...
    – Seamus
    Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 21:14
  • Oh yeah. \renewcommand\bibfont{\scriptsize} is much easier...
    – Seamus
    Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 21:16
  • Thanks! Especially for adding the line about styles without a label, which makes the answer truly general. I had an older redefinition that no longer works with recent biblatex and this solves the problem for me.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 16:32

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