Does Jabref work for my usercase?

Hi there,

i used jabref the last time more than 10 years ago - since then i used zotero. But - it lacks some bigger functionality i would like to use.

So my questions are:
As i am working for a (very) small company we are currently storing our files in a folder structure with sub-, subsub- etc folders on a nas (qnap) which we can access via vpn. I like to “mimic” that folder structure in the literature manager and have attached files automatically sorted into the folder i want when added in the literature manager. Zotero does somewhat allow that - but it is not possible to use the literature manager with more then one user this way. Jabref has connected usage as feature. Is the case i describe possible?
Secont a question would be if attachment can be automatically moved if the entry is moved inside the literature manager to another folder.
And lastly it would be great is this somehow is accessible for multiple users. For Zotero the usual answer is: accessing a sqlite with more than one user will most likely destroy it - on the other hand zoteros group function doesn’t really include files/attachments on e.g. a nas.

Another (smaller) question after that would be if there is a tutorial about how to best get all zotero data into jabref. This i couldn’t figure out so far.

It sounds like JabRef should be able to handle your use case:

  1. You can define the desired folder structure and file names using a quite powerful framework. In this way, you can automatically sort the entries into different folders, e.g. by year, author or some user-specified keyword or group. If the data in the entry changes, you can rename/move the associated files upon a press of a button but not (yet) completely automatically.
  2. JabRef does not sync files on its own, but is compatible with whatever file sync technology you use (e.g. Onedrive, ownCloud, …). As such, you are in full control of your data and can rely on advanced conflict handling in case more then user change the files.
  3. There are different options to use JabRef in a shared environment. The simplest but also most limited approach is to sync the library file (which in the end is plain text) using Dropbox and the like. This may work quite well for a small number of co-workers. Git or other versioning systems provide a better conflict handling but also require more technical knowledge from the users. Finally, you can set-up to automatically sync against a “real” database like sql. Personally, I’ve no experience with this but I cannot remember that we got issue reports like “JabRef eat all my changes”, so I guess it works pretty well.
  4. Finally, as it sounds like your are considering to use JabRef in a business environment, please understand that we do not provide paid support or guarantees concerning data safety etc. All developers are working on JabRef in their freetime and thus response times to bug reports and questions may vary. Just to make this clear; I don’t want to discourage you and think JabRef may work very well in a business context too.

A short comment to multiple users. We are using in our research group a major bibtex file together with JabRef. In principle this works fine, we do not have problems with loosing data, but we had problems with defect bibtex file in case of different JabRef-versions and different settings on different computers. A major issue has been different encoding-settings (UTF8 or ANSI). This destroys especially the letters ä, ü, ö and ß in German language. Another topic was the grouping-feature. The comments in bibtex file (@comment{jabref-meta: grouping… have been lost several times. Since we take care to have the same version installed, we did not encounter further problems.
But I maintain always a single svn-repository, uploading changes in fixed periods, just for the case of problems and to check for changes to the library.

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thanks for you answers. I am currently giving jabref a try (“normal” ubuntu version and also the 5 beta).
I did not yet figure out all - but with some more time spent on it i think i will get there.

btw. as i found “only” the old 2.4 manual: as there seem to be some changes since then - is there some sort of quick tutorial or short manual for the basic usage and functions? If not I could maybe write my experience down with the 5 beta as i go along trying it out.

We have but a “quick start” tutorial giving a broad overview is indeed missing. It would be wonderful if could start working on it (

Feel free to ask further questions here in the forum.

i started using jabref about a month ago for a new project - and will move my old library from zotero ones i got to know it better.

I currently try to define the folder structure - but the link tobias sent is no longer valid. I couldnt find it myself - can anyone give me a hint what is meant?

Also - Short followup: Tobias mentions sync technologies. a nas (qnap) using samba, ftp or similar does also work?

Tobias is refering to the cite key patterns you can use:

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