Referencing Systems in LibreOffice

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The LibreOffice inbuilt bibliographic referencing system has a database that is contained within the document file and there is an option for an external database using LibreOffice base. There is a field "Identifier" in the database. This would be the short title for parenthetical (Harvard) referencing, e.g. Heron, J. (2001). This can be inserted in the text of the document using Insert ▸ Indexes and Tables ▸ Bibliography Entry and selecting the item from the dropdown table of Identifiers, referred to in the dialogue as "Short name" or as number. Once an item is referred to it will appear in the bibliography table.

Documentation on the LibreOffice bibliographic features: Writer Guide chapter 12.

Tips for the LibreOffice bibliographic features

  • The field sizes in the default database may be too small. These sizes can be edited in the external database using LibreOffice base.
  • Entries in the external database can be made by opening the database using LibreOffice base and making the entries in the bibliography table. This may be found to be easier than using the inbuilt Tools ▸ bibliography database.
  • Changes in the external database are not automatically reflected in the internal database, see tdf#53165. To update the internal database it is necessary to delete in the text the reference(s) to an item that has been changed and then reinsert them.
  • There are data referred to as "Type" that are contained in the document file. In the bibliography index/table it is necessary to have a “Type” allocated to each entry in order that the correct format can be applied for the entry in the bibliography. For example a book entry would have different items in it from a Book excerpt or a Journal entry. This is not connected to the “Type” field in the bibliography database. (tdf#61426)
To enter a Type go to a reference to the item in the document text, right click on it, click on Bibliography Entry, an Edit Bibliography Entry dialogue comes up, click on Edit and a Define Bibliography Entry dialogue come up in which the Type can be selected from a drop down list. Click OK and click modify. If you have changed anything it asks if you want to alter the existing record.
  • The tab stop settings for a paragraph style in the bibliography index/table has no effect. The tab stop settings are set by selecting the tab in the Insert Index/Table dialogue (right click on the bibliography index/table, Edit Index/Table > Entries click on the Type and click on the T in the Structure line or enter a tab where it is wanted).

Discussion: Referencing Systems in Libreoffice (LO): (Status) = New Draft

Bibliographic and referencing extensions for LibreOffice

  • Zotero is an open source reference manager and bibliographic software. Zotero has an excellent plugin for LibreOffice Writer. Zotero is cross-platform, Windows, Linux, macOS. Zotero is commonly used in many fields of academia.
  • JabRef is an open source bibliographic software. It integrates with LibreOffice. JabRef is cross-platform, Windows, Linux, macOS.
  • Bibus is an open source bibliographic software. Integration with LibreOffice via pipes. Bibus is cross-platform, Windows, Linux, macOS. (need 2.x of Python. LibreOffice 4.x use Python 3.3 and Bibus can't work. May be Bibus update to Python 3.3)
  • DocEar is an open source bibliographic and idea manager. A LibreOffice extension is in development.
  • Mendeley, proprietary Reference Manager and PDF Organiser with LibreOffice plugin.
  • Endnote proprietary referencing system from Elsevier/Thomson Reuters with LibreOffice integration.
  • Citavi proprietary referencing software with LibreOffice integration.
  • Bibliografix proprietary referencing software with LibreOffice integration.

Future Proposal

  1. The default bibliographic referencing system (and database) is complex and difficult to use by default. I found it time consuming to insert citations and a bibliography. It was a slow and difficult process that took a long time to use. There is no real possibility to export or import entries or bibliograpies. The support of citation styles is very limited.
  2. Documentation about the bibliographic referencing system in LO is limited but there is a section on bibliographic features in the Writer handbook.
  3. Alternative third-party open source extensions provide excellent bibliographic features.
  4. LibreOffice's integrated features need improvements to compete with referencing systems.