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Custom Bibliography Style

1 Dec 2014

Write your custom latex bibliography style in 5 minutes

You’re ready to submit your paper, but there’s one last thing your supervisor/publisher/teacher requests you, only a slight modification to the bibliography style:

Why don’t you put the date in bold, and semicolon between author names?

Latex distributions come with plenty of styles available, and some of them come directly from journal publishers. Sometimes those are not enough and you have to resort to make a custom style. Altought the process is not as straighforward as I expected it to be (as often happens with LaTeX), it is definitely simple.

When you include a bibliography with bibtex, you tipically have a structure like this:

And the project would contain a file named list.bib that contains the bibliography in bibtex style. Bibliography styles are defined by files with extension bst (in the previous example I used the style plain.bst located in).

Creating a custom bst file

Open a terminal and type:

This program will ask you questions and build a custom bibliography style. It’s a lot of questions, if you’re unsure just press enter and he will select a default value. At the end it will ask you if you want to proceed to compile your bst file.

Installing your bst file

To apply your new style (let’s assume you assigned the filename mystyle.bst), issue the following commands to install the style file locally:

Finally, apply the bibliography style in the main.tex file.

Submit, grab a cup of coffee, and relax.


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22. How can you define custom bibliography cite and listing styles?


Use the natbib package by Patrick W. Daly.

This is definitely a package so complex and large that it needs to be studied before you attempt to configure it (although it has out-of-the-box defaults that may work for you).

If you want to use its capabilities to the fullest, you will need to use the tools supplied with this package to actually generate a custom bibliography style, and then use that style in your document via the \bibliographystyle{} command.

Example usage

In the preamble:

\usepackage[square,authoryear,sort&compress]{natbib} %% Custom bibliography style defined using the Makebst utility %% that comes with the natbib package. \bibliographystyle{bib/bibleo}

Result, before

Citing reference in the text:

Listing references in the bibliography:

Result, after

Citing reference in the text:

Listing references in the bibliography:

Leo Breebaart (
Last updated: 27 June 2016