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biblio.el: An extensible Emacs package for browsing and fetching references

GPL 3 MELPA Build Status Coverage Status

biblio.el makes it easy to browse and gather bibliographic references and publications from various sources, by keywords or by DOI. References are automatically fetched from well-curated sources, and formatted as BibTeX.


Supported sources:

  • CrossRef, an exhaustive academic search engine
  • arXiv, an archive of pre-prints in various scientific fields
  • DBLP, a database of Computer Science publications
  • HAL, a French repository of Open Access publications
  • IEEE Xplore, a database of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering materials
  •, a DOI resolver (to retrieve BibTeX records from DOIs)
  • CrossCite, an alternative DOI resolver and BibTeX formatting service
  • Dissemin, a database tracking the open access status of scholarly articles


Quick start: M-x biblio-lookup. Each source can also be accessed independently:

  • M-x crossref-lookup to query CrossRef
  • M-x arxiv-lookup to query arXiv
  • M-x dblp-lookup to query DBLP
  • M-x hal-lookup to query HAL
  • M-x ieee-lookup to query IEEE Xplore
  • M-x doi-insert to insert a BibTeX record by DOI
  • M-x dissemin-lookup to show information about the open access status of a particular DOI

These commands work together: for example, crossref-lookup displays a list of results in biblio-selection-mode. In that mode, use:

  • RET to visit the corresponding web page
  • c or M-w to copy the BibTeX record of the current entry
  • i or C-y to insert the BibTeX record of the current entry
  • x to run an extended action, such as fetching a Dissemin record

C and I do the same as c and i, but additionally close the search window.


  • To insert a clean BibTeX entry for this paper in the current buffer, use

      M-x crossref-lookup RET fiat deductive delaware RET i

    (the last i inserts the BibTeX record of the currently selected entry in your buffer).

  • To find publications by computer scientist Leslie Lamport, use M-x dblp-lookup RET author:Lamport RET (see more info about DBLP's syntax at

  • To check whether an article is freely available online, use x in the list of results. For example M-x crossref-lookup RET emacs stallman RET followed by x Dissemin RET will help you find open access copies of Stallman's paper on EMACS (spoiler: it's here).


Add MELPA to your package sources, then use M-x package-install RET biblio RET. To get better response times from CrossRef, you may consider customizing biblio-crossref-user-email-address.

Extending biblio.el

Adding new backends

The extensibility mechanism is inspired by the one of company-mode. See the docstring of biblio-backends. Here is the definition of biblio-dblp-backend, for example:

(defun biblio-dblp-backend (command &optional arg &rest more)
  "A DBLP backend for biblio.el.
COMMAND, ARG, MORE: See `biblio-backends'."
  (pcase command
    (`name "DBLP")
    (`prompt "DBLP query: ")
    (`url (biblio-dblp--url arg))
    (`parse-buffer (biblio-dblp--parse-search-results))
    (`forward-bibtex (biblio-dblp--forward-bibtex arg (car more)))
    (`register (add-to-list 'biblio-backends #'biblio-dblp-backend))))

(add-hook 'biblio-init-hook #'biblio-dblp-backend)

Note how the autoload registers the backend without loading the entire file. When biblio-lookup is called by the user, it will run all functions in biblio-init-hook with 'register as their first argument, and the dblp backend will be added to the list of backends add that point.

Adding new actions

The selection mode menu has an extended action key, x. The only extension at the moment is Dissemin. Extensions are conses (label . function) added to biblio-selection-mode-actions-alist; function is called with the metadata of the current entry when the user selects label (a string) from the list of extensions after pressing x. For example:

(add-to-list 'biblio-selection-mode-actions-alist
             '("Dissemin (find open access copies of this article)" .

Alternatively, end-users can add new actions directly to the selection menu by adding custom bindings to the biblio-selection-mode-map keymap. For example, the following snippet defines a custom action that appends a bibtex entry for the current selection to the end of the file defined by my/reference-bibfile:

(defun my/biblio--selection-insert-at-end-of-bibfile-callback (bibtex entry)
  "Add BIBTEX (from ENTRY) to end of a user-specified bibtex file."
  (with-current-buffer (find-file-noselect my/reference-bibfile)
    (goto-char (point-max))
    (insert bibtex))
  (message "Inserted bibtex entry for %S."
	   (biblio--prepare-title (biblio-alist-get 'title entry))))

(defun ans/biblio-selection-insert-end-of-bibfile ()
  "Insert BibTeX of current entry at the end of user-specified bibtex file."
  (biblio--selection-forward-bibtex #'my/biblio--selection-insert-at-end-of-bibfile-callback))

Adding custom BibTeX filters

By default biblio.el performs only minor cleanups on the BibTeX entries that it downloads from the web. To customize the clean-up phase, add functions to biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function (each such function should take one argument, autokey, indicated whether to generate a new BibTeX key; see biblio-format-bibtex).

For example:

;; Disable cleanups entirely

(setq biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function #'ignore)
;; Replace @data with @misc before further processing

(defun ~biblio-data-to-misc (_autokey)
    (when (search-forward "@data{" nil t)
      (replace-match "@misc{"))))))

 :before biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function
;; Add custom field ‘creationdate’ recording the date when the item was added.

(defun ~biblio-record-creation-date (_autokey)
    (bibtex-make-field "creationdate" t t)
    (insert (format-time-string "%Y-%m-%d"))))

 :before biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function
;; Delete ‘publisher’ field

(defun ~biblio-delete-publisher-field (_autokey)
    (when-let (bounds (bibtex-search-forward-field "publisher" t))
      (delete-region (bibtex-start-of-field bounds)
                     (bibtex-end-of-field bounds)))))

 :before biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function
;; Prevent ‘bibtex-mode’ from inserting tabs

(defun ~biblio-with-spaces-not-tabs (oldfun &rest args)
  (let ((indent-tabs-mode nil))
    (when oldfun
      (apply oldfun args))))

 :around biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function
;; Reverse numbers in ‘pages’ range

(defun ~biblio-reverse-page-numbers (_autokey)
    (when-let (bounds (bibtex-search-forward-field "pages" t))
      (goto-char (bibtex-start-of-text-in-field bounds))
      (when (re-search-forward "\\([0-9]+\\)\\([-–]+\\)\\([0-9]+\\)"
                               (bibtex-end-of-text-in-field bounds) t)
        (replace-match "\\3\\2\\1" t nil)))))

 :before biblio-cleanup-bibtex-function


Browse and import bibliographic references from CrossRef, DBLP, HAL, arXiv, Dissemin, and from Emacs







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