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Understanding the basics

We welcome contributions to JabRef and encourage to create a fork, clone, create a new branch (such as fix-for-issue-121), work on the new branch — not master, and create a pull request. Be sure to create a separate branch for each improvement you implement. Take a look at GitHub's excellent overview on the GitHub flow and their pull request help documentation for a detailed explanation and the explanation of Feature Branch Workflow for the idea behind this kind of development.

We also have code howtos and guidelines for setting up a local workspace.

In case you have any question, do not hesitate to write one of our JabRef developers an email. We should also be online at gitter.

Formal requirements for a pull request

The main goal of the formal requirements is to provide credit to you and to be able to understand the patch.

Add your change to

You should edit the located in the root directory of the JabRef source. Add a line with your changes in the appropriate section.

If you did internal refactorings or improvements not visible to the user (e.g., UI, .bib file), then you don't need to put an entry there.

Key format

Example: <kbd>Ctrl</kbd> + <kbd>Enter</kbd>

In case you add keys to the changelog, please follow these rules:

  • <kbd> tag for each key
  • First letter of key capitalized
  • Combined keys separated by +
  • Spaces before and after separator +

Author credits

You will be given credit in the AUTHORS file in the root of the repository and the 'About' pages inside the main application. We will periodically update the contributors list inside AUTHORS. This is done by an automatic shell script scripts/

If you want to add yourself directly with your pull request please run this script. Please make sure there are no duplicates or alternate spellings of your name listed. If you need to merge different Git usernames or email addresses you can do so by editing .mailmap. More information on this can be found via man git-shortlog.

Please, do not add yourself at JavaDoc's @authors. The contribution information is tracked via the version control system.

Your contribution is considered being made under MIT license.

Write a good commit message

See good commit message or commit guidelines section of Pro Git. The first line of your commit message is automatically taken as title for the pull-request. All other lines make up the body of the pull request. Add the words fixes #xxx to your PR to auto-close the corresponding issue.

Test your code

We know that writing test cases causes a lot of time. Nevertheless, we rely on our test cases to ensure that a bug fix or a feature implementation doesn't break anything. In case you do not have time to add a test case, we nevertheless ask you to run gradlew check to ensure that your change doesn't break anything else.

When adding a library

Please try to use a version available at jCenter and add it to build.gradle. In any case, describe the library at external-libraries.txt. We need that information for our package maintainers (e.g., those of the debian package). Also add a txt file stating the license in libraries/. It is used at gradlew processResources to generate the About.html files. You can see the result in build\resources\main\help\en\About.html or when clicking Help -> About.

When making an architectural decision

In case you add a library or do major code rewrites, we ask you to document your decision. Recommended reading:

We simply ask to create a new markdown file in docs/adr following the template presented at

In case you want to directly add a comment to a class, simply use following template (based on sustainable architectural decisions):

In the context of <use case/user story u>,
facing <concern c>
we decided for <option o>
and neglected <other options>,
to achieve <system qualities/desired consequences>,
accepting <downside / undesired consequences>,
because <additional rationale>.

When adding a new Localization.lang entry

Add new Localization.lang("KEY") to Java file. Tests fail. In the test output a snippet is generated which must be added to the English translation file.


Opens\ JabRef's\ Twitter\ page=Opens JabRef's Twitter page
Expected :[]
Actual   :[Opens\ JabRef's\ Twitter\ page (src\main\java\org\jabref\gui\ LANG)]

Add snippet to English translation file located at src/main/resources/l10n/ Crowdin will automatically pick up the new string and add it to the other translations.

You can also directly run the specific test in your IDE. The test "LocalizationConsistencyTest" is placed under src/test/java/net.sf.jabref.logic.l10n/ Find more information in the JabRef Wiki.

Create a pull request

Create a pull request on GitHub. For text inspirations, consider How to write the perfect pull request.

You can add the prefix [WIP] to indicate that the pull request is not yet complete, but you want to discuss something or inform about the current state of affairs.