I use TeXLive 2012 under Ubuntu 12.10. I would like to upgrade biblatex to the latest version (2.3). I tried the following:

  1. download and unpack .tar.gz from https://github.com/plk/biblatex/downloads
  2. put content in local TeX tree /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local:
    • put ./tex/latex/biblatex in /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local/tex/latex
    • put ./bibtex in /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local (replace the existing "bibtex" there)
  3. mktexlsr (i.e., texhash)

When compiling documents, I suddenly obtain:

/usr/local/texlive/2012/../texmf-local/tex/latex/biblatex/biblatex.sty:87: Miss
ing number, treated as zero.
<to be read again> 


I checked back with the README and I have all other required (and strongly recommended packages). How is upgrading of biblatex done properly?

  • i'm using ubuntu 12.04 (our linux manager prefers lts...), and i have a biblatex bundle available to add on to the system’s tex live. does 12.10 not have that? Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 11:33
  • I also had biblatex installed, but I want to upgrade (partly due to the answer here tex.stackexchange.com/questions/84557/…) Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 11:38
  • 2
    @MariusHofert Follow the readme instructions. Files at github are under development and require a build script to install. 2.3 is available from CTAN. A development version of 2.4 can be downloaded from SF.
    – Audrey
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 14:18
  • 1
    Shouldn't just updating texlive as described at tex.stackexchange.com/a/55459/9075 help?
    – koppor
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 10:35
  • Installing biblatex/Biber manually should really be last resort and can lead to version incompatibilities if not properly done and taken care of afterwards. If possible update biblatex and Biber via your TeX distribution (tlmgr or 'MikTeX Update'). Only if you are stuck with a Linux repository TeX live should you actually consider updating manually. (Though vanilla TeX live would also be an option then.)
    – moewe
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 7:14

3 Answers 3

  1. From SourceForge download biber v.1.4 (http://sourceforge.net/projects/biblatex-biber/)
  2. From SourceForge download biblatex v.2.4. (http://sourceforge.net/projects/biblatex/)
  3. Create two temp dirs: mkdir tempbb && mkdir tempbl
  4. Uncompress biber-linux_x86_32.tar.gz to the temp directory: tar -zxvf biber-linux_x86_32.tar.gz -C tempbb/
  5. Uncompress biblatex-2.4.tds.tgz to the temp directory: tar -zxvf biblatex-2.4.tds.tgz -C tempbl/
  6. Move the contents of the files in the tempbl temp directory to /usr/local/texlive/2012/texmf-dist/ thus: sudo rsync -azvv tempbl/ /usr/local/texlive/2012/texmf-dist/
  7. Move the biber bin from your temp directory to /usr/local/texlive/2012/texmf-dist/ thus: sudo rsync -azvv tempbl/ /usr/local/texlive/2012/bin/i386-linux/
  8. Run mktexlsr
  9. Test that everything is working fine.
  • For what it's worth, my install paths were: /usr/local/bin/ for biber and /usr/share/texmf/ for biblatex. Otherwise worked nicely, thanks NVaughan. Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 15:49

This is just a modification of NVaughan's answer;

sudo apt-get install texlive-full
sudo apt-get remove biber
sudo apt-get remove biblatex
mkdir tempbiber
mkdir tempbiblatex
tar -zxvf biber-linux_x86_64.tar.gz -C tempbiber/
tar -zxvf biblatex-2.8a.tds.tgz -C tempbiblatex/
sudo rsync -azvv tempbiber/ /usr/bin/
#sudo rsync -azvv tempbiblatex/ /usr/share/texlive/texmf-dist/
sudo rsync -azvv tempbiblatex/ /usr/local/share/texmf/

To compile a document using biber;

pdflatex texDocumentName
biber texDocumentName
pdflatex texDocumentName
  • 2
    Hi richardbrucebaxter: I saw your edit on tex.stackexchange.com/q/146373/13304 . Actually, IMHO, that question has been closed correctly: it is always recommended to have the latest versions of the packages. Developers put lot of effort in this work and lot of solutions proposed here need latest package version. With respect to Ubuntu systems, it is well known that texlive from .deb repositories is not up to date. For that reason, the best remedy is to follow How to install “vanilla” TeXLive on Debian or Ubuntu?. It really solves problems! Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 6:54
  • I did notice the vanilla installation suggestion - it seems overly complicated when the only problem is the biblatex/biber package in this case. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 5:45
  • Not at all: with vanilla TeXLive you have the "complete" and up to date distribution. Moreover, you also get the manager app to trigger manual updates. Otherwise you have to download and do manual installation every time an update is released. Not mention the dependencies: try to install a recent package that makes use of LaTeX3 when you don't have the related packages updated. You might spend one day to install by hand. These are real problems: my office mate was reclutant to install vanilla texlive. A couple of weeks ago he had a serious problem and decided to install it: everything solved. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 5:59
  • Thanks for the suggestion Claudio, and for helping to maintain the product. Commented May 12, 2014 at 5:35
  • 1
    Downvoted, because the author makes the terrible suggestion to manually copy fieles to /usr/share, which is really bad practice. This should not be done under any circumstances, as this might mess up your systems' package management. The correct place to make new files available systemwide is /usr/local/share, or, in this case, wherever $TEXMFLOCAL points (that should be /usr/local/share/texmf).
    – mSSM
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 16:05

Since this question seems to be kind of popular, let me add another answer.

In general you should not update biblatex or Biber manually. Use your TeX distribution (MikTeX and its Console or TeX live and its tlmgr: How do I update my TeX distribution?) to install and update packages.

The problem with manual updates is not only that the versions of biblatex and Biber need to match exactly, but also that biblatex has (admittedly milder) dependencies on other packages as well (which in turn may have dependencies themselves). So you can never be sure that you only need to update biblatex and Biber, you may as well have to update etoolbox, babel, xstring and a few other packages. Vice versa packages that depend on biblatex may also have to be updated. This can mean that you need to update many more packages than just biblatex and Biber.

If you let your TeX distribution sort that out for you, your chances of getting package versions that actually work together are much higher.

If your TeX distribution does not offer updates any more (vanilla TeX live is frozen each year, see Why does TeX Live "require" yearly updates? and the TeX live that ships in the repositories of many Linux distributions is frozen and often already a few months behind at release), you should think about updating your TeX distribution as a whole. If you want to get the newest updates on Linux machines with TeX live in the software repositories you may need to install "vanilla" TeX live: How to install "vanilla" TeXLive on Debian or Ubuntu?. The advantage of upgrading to a new TeX live is that old installations can usually coexist with the new one, so you have a back-up system should something be wrong.

So to reiterate: Do not update biblatex or Biber manually.

In case you absolutely must update the two packages manually, prepare to have to update many other packages as well. Usually you should get meaningful errors or warnings that can give you hints about which packages need updating, but you can never be sure (some lower level etoolbox changes for example can yield cryptic error messages that don't really point at etoolbox, e.g. biblatex broken overnight).

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