JabRef 4.0 is on the way – Beta version release 🐥

In the last months, we worked hard, with the help of students of the University of Stuttgart, on a technological improvement of JabRef. The aim is to replace the outdated user interface technology Swing step-by-step with the newer technology JavaFX. Due to the complexity of the user interface a “big bang” approach was not feasible. The main table showing all entries is still completely written in Swing. However, various dialogs already have been modified:

  • Redesigned group panel, about dialog, key bindings dialog, and journal abbreviations dialog.
  • New error console.
  • All file dialogs now use the native file selector of the OS.
  • We introduced a PDF document viewer (accessible using: View -> Show Document viewer)

We think that now it is time to release a beta version to check whether there are still any major problems.

Apart from the Java FX related changes we introduced a lot of other new features and fixed various bugs:

New features

  • JabRef has a new logo! The logo was designed by “AikTheOne” - who was the winner of a design contest at
  • You can view attached PDF files using an internal document viewer (accessible using: View -> Show Document viewer)
  • There are new tabs in the entry editor with new functionalities:
    • File annotations: If you have attached a PDF file to an entry, annotations in the document are shown (hightlights, comments, etc.)
    • Related articles: In cooperation with the paper recommender system Mr.DLib we show (potentially) related articles (Note: upon accessing this tab the title of the currently selected entry will be submitted to the Mr.DLib service)
    • MathSciNet: The MathSciNet review website is shown if the MRNumber field is present
  • The UI can be better customized: It is now possible to change the size of the texts and icons. Moreover also the color of the icon set can be changed.
  • New/fixed web fetchers: CrossRef, MathSciNet, ArXiV

Bug fixes

  • In some occassions fetching from external sources introduces duplicate key - this has been fixed.
  • Various reported problems with the Latex-To-unicode conversion have been fixed by integrating an external library that supports far more special characters
  • Several import/export issues for the MS-Office and RIS format
  • Newly created libraries no longer have the executable bit set under POSIX/Linux systems. The file permissions are now set to 664 (-rw-rw-r--).
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice connection problems and tag handling are fixed

An overview of all new features and fixes can be found as usual in the Changelog at GitHub.

Important notes - read before installing

This release is officially declared as a beta-version by us. There still might be some problems in the usage of JabRef 4.0-beta. Moreover, the group storage format has been changed, which means that after opening (and saving) a *.bib library created with an older version of JabRef the format will be changed to the new one. That especially means that the groups will be no longer readable in older JabRef version.

Thus, we highly recommend to back up your libraries before using the beta version of JabRef!

Another aspect that is new in the 4.0 version: We kindly ask you to allow us collecting some data on your usage of JabRef. Currently, we do not really have empirical insight which features really used by our users. Which (in our opinion) cool features are mostly unknown? What aspects we think are not so important are heavily used in practice? We do not have unlimited resources and we want to focus on aspects that are really relevant for you - our users. Therefore, we will be collecting the data which feature you are actually using in JabRef - but only if you agree. We will not collect any personal data, nor any details of your bibliographic data.

You’ll be asked if you want to share anonymous usage statistics of the features you use shortly after the first startup of JabRef 4.0-beta.

Installation notes

We recommend the usage of the Oracle Java Runtime/Development Environment. The JavaFX technology is part of the Oracle Java Runtimes since the versions 1.8.0_60.

However, in case you are using the open source variant OpenJDK, JavaFX has to be installed by a seperate package OpenFX.

More information is available on our installation help page.

You can get the 4.0.0-beta version as usual at Fosshub - or at the release section at GitHub.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.