Tweaking JabRef in Ubuntu

A couple of months ago I switched from using Mendeley to JabRef. JabRef is a lot less pretty and lacks a lot of the features of Mendeley, but it a much more solid piece of software. I particularly love that it works with a native bibtex file as a backend, so I can keep my bib file under version control, check it out as a git-remote/svn:external in my latex projects, and have a use the same cite keys in all my documents.

There were a couple of annoyances that I had with JabRef that I managed to work around so I figured I would document them here.

Look and Feel

The “native” java look and feel has all the aesthetic bells and whistles of a 90s era unix desktop, and drives me nuts. Luckily, jabref allows you to specify the look and feel class in it’s advanced preferences. Got to options->preferences->advanced and check “Use other look and feel”. I use the Gnome desktop so I set this to and now Jabref looks like it belongs.

JabRef with GTK look and feel

JabRef with GTK look and feel

Tiny Treeview for Groups

I like to organize my references (rather than simply search for them) to help me find multiple references for a similar topic. JabRef, however, limits you to only 10 or so rows in the treeview for groups. I found this to be rather frustrating. Unfortunately, you can’t change the number of rows dynamically (by clicking and dragging) but there is an undocumented preference entry which sets the number of visible rows. Start by going to options->preferences and the clicking “export preferences” to export a preference file for JabRef with all your current preferences. Save it as a .xml file. Now open that with your favorite text editor and add the following entry within
<node name="jabref"><map></map></node>

<entry key="groupsVisibleRows" value="30"/>

Feel free to change “30” to whatever you like. Now the groups treeview will be a bit larger and more useful. Also, take a look at all the other preferences which you didn’t know jabref had and feel free to play around with them to tune your jabref experience.

  1. #1 by ben on March 26, 2013 - 4:02 am

    Look and feel still confuses me. Where can I get (download?) new look and feels? Where do I put them in my filesystem?

    I use the GTK Look and feel now, but for some reason all the labels in the programme’s windows looks too large, and boldface. Here’s a sample: Any idea how to fix it?


    • #2 by cheshirekow on March 26, 2013 - 3:55 pm

      That’s a good question, I’ve only ever played around with “native” look and feel (i.e. windows in windows, quartz in mac, and gtk in ubuntu). I’m not sure where you can download them, but once they’re downloaded you probably just need to put them in your class path. In ubuntu I suspect you can install them system wide by putting them in /usr/share/java would be a good guess.

      Thats a very weird font issue. Perhaps it has to do with the implemenation of java that you’re using. Have you tried the latest from oracle or updating open-jdk?

      If you need some help installing oracle’s java using Ubuntu’s alternatives system you can try these instructions:

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