New in version 2.0.0.

To configure the extension, in your file, set bibtex_bibfiles to your list of bib files. For instance, a minimal configuration may look as follows:

extensions = ['sphinxcontrib.bibtex']
bibtex_bibfiles = ['refs.bib']

In bib files, LaTeX control characters are automatically converted to unicode characters (for instance, to convert \'e into é). Be sure to write \% when you intend to format a percent sign.

You can change the bibliography style, using the bibtex_default_style variable in your If none is specified, the alpha style is used. Other supported styles are plain, unsrt, and unsrtalpha. You can also create your own style (see Custom Formatting, Sorting, and Labelling). For example:

bibtex_default_style = 'unsrt'

You can set the encoding of the bibliography files, using the bibtex_encoding variable in your If no encoding is specified, utf-8-sig is assumed. For example:

bibtex_encoding = 'latin'

Running Sphinx

New in version 2.0.0.

It is good to be aware that the extension stores all citation information in a bibtex.json file in the source folder. If it does not exist, the file will be created on your first sphinx build, and you will have to rerun the build to make use of it. The file is automatically kept up to date, with a warning whenever you need to rerun the build (i.e. whenever your citations change). The file can be stored in version control if you do not want your users to have to run sphinx twice when they clone your project, or when you need your documentation to be built on an external service which only runs sphinx once.

Roles and Directives


Create a citation to a bibliographic entry. For example:

See :cite:`1987:nelson` for an introduction to non-standard analysis.

which would be equivalent to the following LaTeX code:

See \cite{1987:nelson} for an introduction to non-standard analysis.

Multiple comma-separated keys can be specified at once:

See :cite:`1987:nelson,2001:schechter`.
.. bibliography::

Create bibliography for all cited references. Citations in sphinx are resolved globally across all documents. Typically, you have a single bibliography directive across your entire project which collects all citations.

The all flag forces all references to be included (equivalent to \nocite{*} in LaTeX). The notcited flag causes all references that were not cited to be included. The cited flag is recognized as well but is entirely optional. For example:

.. bibliography::

which would be roughly equivalent to the following LaTeX code:

  \newblock {\em Radically Elementary Probability Theory}.
  \newblock Princeton University Press, 1987.

You can also override the default bibliography style:

.. bibliography::
   :style: unsrt


Sphinx will attempt to resolve references to the bibliography across all documents, so you must take care that no citation key is included more than once.


New in version 2.0.0.

Create a footnote reference to a bibliographic entry. For example:

See :footcite:`1987:nelson` for an introduction to non-standard analysis.

which would be equivalent to the following LaTeX code:

See \footcite{1987:nelson} for an introduction to non-standard analysis.

As with cite, multiple comma-separated keys can be specified at once:

See :footcite:`1987:nelson,2001:schechter`.
.. footbibliography::

New in version 2.0.0.

Create footnotes at this location for all references that are cited in the current document up to this point. Typically, you have a single footbibliography directive at the bottom of each document that has footcite citations.

If specified multiple times in the same document, footnotes are only created for references that do not yet have a footnote earlier in the document.

Advanced Features

Splitting Bibliographies Per Bib File

New in version 2.0.0.

If want multiple bibliographies each of which only contains references from specific bib files, you can specify the relevant bib files as an optional argument to the directive.

The next example shows how to split your citations between articles and books, assuming your articles are in articles.bib and your books are in books1.bib and books2.bib.

.. rubric:: Articles

.. bibliography:: articles.bib

.. rubric:: Books

.. bibliography:: books1.bib books2.bib

The bib files must be specified as a path that is relative to the containing document.

Bullet Lists and Enumerated Lists

New in version 0.2.4.

You can change the type of list used for rendering the bibliography. By default, a paragraph of standard citations is generated. However, instead, you can also generate a bullet list, or an enumerated list.

.. bibliography::
   :list: bullet

.. bibliography::
   :list: enumerated

Note that citations to these types of bibliography lists will not be resolved.

For enumerated lists, you can also specify the type (default is arabic), and the start of the sequence (default is 1).

.. bibliography::
   :list: enumerated
   :enumtype: upperroman
   :start: 3

The enumtype can be any of arabic (1, 2, 3, …), loweralpha (a, b, c, …), upperalpha (A, B, C, …), lowerroman (i, ii, iii, …), or upperroman (I, II, III, …).

The start can be any positive integer (1, 2, 3, …) or continue if you wish the enumeration to continue from the last bibliography directive. This is helpful if you split up your bibliography but still want to enumerate the entries continuously.

Label Prefixing

New in version 0.2.5.

If you have multiple bibliographies, and experience duplicate labels, use the labelprefix option.

.. rubric:: References

.. bibliography::
   :labelprefix: A

.. rubric:: Further reading

.. bibliography::
   :labelprefix: B

Key Prefixing

New in version 0.3.3.

If you have multiple bibliographies, and you would like entries to be repeated in different documents, then use the keyprefix option.

For example, suppose you have two documents, and you would like to cite boole1854 in both of these doucments, with the bibliography entries showing in both of the documents. In one document you could have:

See :cite:`a-boole1854`

.. bibliography::
   :labelprefix: A
   :keyprefix: a-

whilst in the other document you could have:

See :cite:`b-boole1854`

.. bibliography::
   :labelprefix: B
   :keyprefix: b-

The bibliographies will then both generate an entry for boole1854, with links and backlinks as expected.


New in version 0.2.7.

Whilst the cited, all, and notcited options will cover many use cases, sometimes more advanced selection of bibliographic entries is desired. For this purpose, you can use the filter option:

.. bibliography::
   :list: bullet
   :filter: author % "Einstein"

The string specified in the filter option must be a valid Python expression.


The expression is parsed using ast.parse() and then evaluated using an ast.NodeVisitor, so it should be reasonably safe against malicious code.

The filter expression supports:

  • The boolean operators and, or.

  • The unary operator not.

  • The comparison operators ==, <=, <, >=, and >.

  • Regular expression matching using the % operator, where the left hand side is the string to be matched, and the right hand side is the regular expression. Matching is case insensitive. For example:

    .. bibliography::
       :list: bullet
       :filter: title % "relativity"

    would include all entries that have the word “relativity” in the title.


    The implementation uses

  • Single and double quoted strings, such as 'hello' or "world".

  • Set literals, such has {"hello", "world"}, as well as the set operators &, |, in, and not in.

    New in version 0.3.0.

  • Various identifiers, such as:

    • type is the entry type, as a lower case string (i.e. "inproceedings").

    • key is the entry key, as a lower case string (this is because keys are considered case insensitive).

    • cited evaluates to True if the entry was cited in the document, and to False otherwise.

    • docname evaluates to the name of the current document.

      New in version 0.3.0.

    • docnames evaluates to a set of names from which the entry is cited.

      New in version 0.3.0.

    • True and False.

    • author is the entry string of authors in standard format (last, first), separated by “and”.

    • editor is similar to author but for editors.

    • Any other (lower case) identifier evaluates to a string containing the value of the correspondingly named field, such as title, publisher, year, and so on. If the item is missing in the entry then it evaluates to the empty string. Here is an example of how one would typically write an expression to filter on an optional field:

      .. bibliography::
         :list: bullet
         :filter: cited and year and (year <= "2003")

      which would include all cited entries that have a year that is less or equal than 2003; any entries that do not specify a year would be omitted.

Local Bibliographies

The easiest way to have a local bibliography per document is to use footcite along with footbibliography.

If you prefer to have regular citations instead of footnotes, both the keyprefix and filter options can be used to achieve local bibliographies with cite and bibliography.

The filter system for local bibliographies can only be used if no citation key is used in more than one document. This is not always satisfied. If you need to cite the same reference in multiple documents with references to multiple local bibliographies, use the keyprefix system; see Key Prefixing.

To create a bibliography that includes only citations that were cited in the current document, use the following filter:

.. bibliography::
   :filter: docname in docnames

More generally, you can create bibliographies for citations that were cited from specific documents only:

.. bibliography::
   :filter: {"doc1", "doc2"} & docnames

This bibliography will include all citations that were cited from doc1.rst or doc2.rst. Another hypothetical example:

.. bibliography::
   :filter: cited and ({"doc1", "doc2"} >= docnames)

This bibliography will include all citations that were cited in doc1.rst or doc2.rst, but nowhere else.

Custom Formatting, Sorting, and Labelling

pybtex provides a very powerful way to create and register new styles, using setuptools entry points, as documented here:

Simply add the following code to your

from import Style as UnsrtStyle
from import toplevel # ... and anything else needed
from pybtex.plugin import register_plugin

class MyStyle(UnsrtStyle):

    def format_XXX(self, e):
        template = toplevel [
            # etc.
        return template.format_data(e)

register_plugin('', 'mystyle', MyStyle)

Now mystyle will be available to you as a formatting style:

bibtex_default_style = 'mystyle'

An minimal example is available here:

The formatting code uses a very intuitive template engine. The source code for unsrt provides many great examples:

The above example only demonstrates a custom formatting style plugin. It is also possible to register custom author/editor naming plugins (using the group) labelling plugins (using the group), and sorting plugins (using the group). A few minimal examples demonstrating how to create a custom label styles are available here:

Custom Bibliography Header

By default, the bibliography and footbibliography directives simply insert a paragraph. The bibtex_bibliography_header and bibtex_footbibliography_header configuration variables can be set to add a header to this. For example, in your you could have:

bibtex_bibliography_header = ".. rubric:: References"
bibtex_footbibliography_header = bibtex_bibliography_header

will ensure that every bibliography will have a rubric.

Known Issues and Workarounds

Encoding: Percent Signs

Be sure to write \% for percent signs at all times (unless your file contains a genuine comment), otherwise the parser will ignore the remainder of the line.

Duplicate Labels When Using :style: plain

With :style: plain, labels are numerical, restarting at [1] for each bibliography directive. Consequently, when inserting multiple bibliography directives with :style: plain, you are bound to get duplicate labels for entries. There are a few ways to work around this problem:

  • Use a single bibliography directive for all your references.

  • Use the labelprefix option, as documented above.

  • Use a style that has non-numerical labelling, such as :style: alpha.

LaTeX Backend Fails with Citations In Figure Captions

Sphinx generates \phantomsection commands for references, however LaTeX does not support these in figure captions. You can work around this problem by adding the following code to your

latex_elements = {
 'preamble': r'''
     % make phantomsection empty inside figures

Mismatch Between Output of HTML and LaTeX Backends

Sphinx’s LaTeX writer currently collects all citations together, and puts them on a separate page, with a separate title, whereas the html writer puts citations at the location where they are defined. This issue will occur also if you use regular citations in Sphinx: it has nothing to do with sphinxcontrib-bibtex per se.

To get a closer match between the two outputs, you can tell Sphinx to generate a rubric title only for html:

.. only:: html

   .. rubric:: References

.. bibliography::

This code could be placed in a references.rst file that you include at the end of your toctree.

Alternatively, to remove the bibliography section title from the LaTeX output, you can add the following to your LaTeX preamble: