What is LaTeX?
LaTeX is a typesetting program that takes a plain text file with various commands in it and converts it to a formatted document based on the commands that it has been given. The source file for the document has a file extension of .tex. It is widely used at MIT for theses and other technical papers due to its prowess with mathematical and foreign characters. For more information on LaTeX, see LaTeX on Athena Basics, provided by the Athena On-Line Help system.
What is BibTeX?
BibTeX is a bibliographic tool that is used with LaTeX to help organize the user's references and create a bibliography. A BibTeX user creates a bibliography file that is separate from the LaTeX source file, wth a file extension of .bib. Each reference in the bibliography file is formatted with a certain structure and is given a "key" by which the author can refer to in the source .tex file. For more information on BibTeX, see see MIT IS&T's page: How do I Create Bibliographies in LaTeX.
Overleaf at MIT
If you're new to LaTeX/BibTeX, consider using Overleaf, an online LaTeX and Rich Text collaborative writing and publishing tool. It includes built-in features to link your Zotero or Mendeley library to your LaTeX document. MIT Libraries provides Overleaf Pro+ accounts for all MIT faculty, students and staff. Learn more on how to get started.
You can incorporate citation management tools, such as Zotero, Mendeley and JabRef, into your LaTeX/BibTeX workflow to make it easier to manage and build your bibliographies.
We've created a few quick start guides to set up exports, auto-sync'ing, etc. of your BibTeX files with these tools:
More details on working with specific citation management tools and BibTeX are provided below.
Export from Zotero to BibTeX:
Auto-syncing from Zotero to BibTeX:
Auto-updating your .bib file when you make changes or additions to your Zotero Library is not available directly in Zotero. You can, however, install and enable a Zotero extension, Better BibTeX, to grant you these features.
You can adjust or remove a .bib autosync of Zotero records at any time by going to your Zotero preferences and clicking on the Better BibTeX tab, followed by the Automatic Export tab.
For more detailed instructions on setting up your Zotero export, see the Zotero and BibTeX Quick Guide.
Export to BibTeX:
Auto-syncing from Mendeley to BibTeX:
Mendeley built-in auto sync capabilities that update your BibTeX file when changes have been made to your Mendeley library. That said, it can only auto sync your entire library (not a selected subset of references).
For more detailed instructions on setting up your Mendeley export, see the Mendeley and BibTeX Quick Guide.
If you primarily create documents in LaTeX (versus a word processing software like Microsoft Word) you may want to consider using JabRef as your primary citation management software.
JabRef is a reference manager that acts as an interface to the BibTeX style used by the LaTeX typesetting system. JabRef is open source and is freely downloadable. The graphical interface allows the user to easily import, edit, search, and group citations in the BibTeX format. It also offers automatic citation key generation. JabRef does not offer any citation styles of its own; instead the citation is generated from the BibTeX file by LaTeX. Specifications for each style are given by the chosen style file.
JabRef can be used on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
For more detailed instructions on setting up JabRef as your LaTeX citation management software, see our JabRef and BibTeX Quick Guide.
Export to BibTex:
Note: Auto syncing is not available with EndNote.
Cite references in your document: