I am writing a small thing in which I am required to use manually formatted \bibitem entries rather than a BibTeX file. This takes a lot of time, and I probably get some of the formatting wrong. Is there a way of producing such entries automatically, for example from MathSciNet or from the BibTeX items created by MathSciNet? For arXiv preprints, there is a great tool from the Courant Research Centre (here) which can produce BibTeX as well as bibitem entries, and there should be something similar for MathSciNet.

  • $\begingroup$ How a "small thing" can "take a lot of time"? Is it big small? Doing things manually is keeping them under your own control (as well as giving them your "heart"). $\endgroup$ – Wadim Zudilin Jun 16 '10 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ Is there no bibliography style which matches or at least resembles closely the desired format for the bibitems? If there were, you could get the data in bibtex format, compile it as you would normally and then, if necessary, tweak by hand the resulting .bbl file. $\endgroup$ – José Figueroa-O'Farrill Jun 16 '10 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ To add to Jose's comment, rather than citing every item in your tex file, you can use something like listbib mirror.ox.ac.uk/sites/ctan.org/macros/latex/contrib/listbib to make listing of the entire bibtex database. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jun 16 '10 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ If what you need is a self-contained file (for archiving or email purposes), then you might like to use the amsrefs package. Math Sci-Net will output in this format, so there's little fuss. $\endgroup$ – Kevin O'Bryant Jun 17 '10 at 5:40

Hi Andreas. When you run BibTeX on a .bib file then it produces a .bbl file which more-or-less contains your bibliography in \bibitem format. So I recommend exporting everything BibTex style from MathSciNet, creating a .bib file, running BibTeX, and then making any remaining changes to the resulting .bbl file (which you can then just copy and paste into your .tex file).

I suppose some people even know how to write BibTeX style files, so that the resulting .bbl file contains exactly the formatting you want.

Despite my advice, when I need \bibitem bibliographies, I usually just copy citations from the MathSciNet clipboard (in Ascii format) and manually insert the additional formatting. I'm not sure if this is more, or less, lazy than the .bbl business...

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    $\begingroup$ You don't run bibtex on a .bib file, you run it on the .aux generated by latex. Bibtex then searches out the .bib file as specified in your tex source and produces a .bbl file that only contains the items cited in your .tex file. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jun 16 '10 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, yes, you are right. If I had ever needed to turn the whole .bib file into a .bbl I wouldn't have known what to do (apart from writing a document full of \nocite{this} and \nocite{that}) - your suggested package listbib fixes that! $\endgroup$ – Matthew Morrow Jun 16 '10 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Matthew, the bbl file was very useful. Thanks a lot, and hope all is well with you. (and thanks to Willie as well!) $\endgroup$ – Andreas Holmstrom Jun 16 '10 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ To convert a whole .bib file to a .bbl then simply say \nocite{*}. I used something like this to create a PDF of all the articles I'd saved into my standard BibTeX file (now I use a more sophisticated database system). $\endgroup$ – Loop Space Jun 17 '10 at 6:57

You have several choices:

  • Let BibTex do the formatting (as already described by Jose and Matthew).
  • Roll your own filter using something like Perl's Text::BibTeX class.
  • Count on MathSciNet's rather standardized BibTex entries and just roll a quick and dirty awk/sed script to extract the info.
  • ...

I would just go with the first. (I am assuming you don't use any bibliography management software like Zotero or JabRef; most often they have output filters for precisely this kind of stuff.) If you are good with programming, the second can be a handy tool to write and have around. The third is for if you are in a hurry and are at a computer where no TeX distribution is installed.


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