OOo Off-the-Wall: Back to School with Bibliographies

Setting up a bibliography is hard enough, but misleading OOo examples don't help the process. Learn how to do it the right way.
Understanding Text Citations

Twenty years ago, when the Chicago style dominated, most text citations were in the form of footnotes or endnotes. More recently, footnotes and endnotes have tended to be reserved for asides or for additions to the original text. In recent years, only the Chicago style continues to use footnotes or endnotes for citations in the text.

Increasingly, all three styles tend to use parenthetical or in-line citations within the text. Parenthetical citation gives information in brackets, while in-line citations give the information as part of the sentence structure. Both give just enough information that readers can locate full information in the bibliography about the source being mentioned. Furthermore, they give the information with minimal disruption to the text, and they can be skipped easily if a reader is not interested in them. At times, an even more informal style is used, in which numbers refer to the order in which items appear in the bibliography.

The following table gives the more common formats for text citations in each style. The information given in each format shows what is important to the users of each style. For example, dealing in literature, users of the MLA style want exact page references. By contrast, in APA style, the timeliness of the information is an important factor in judging it, so the year is more important.

Citation StyleCommon Formats
InformalNumbers refer to the order or entries in the bibliography.
Chicago(Author, Year, Page)
 In a footnote or endnote, using the same structure as in the bibliography, except that the writer's name is given first name first.
MLA(Page Number)
 (Author, Page Number)
 (Article, Page Number)
APA(Author, Year)
In-line (all)Macdonald (2003) proves ...
 In a recent study, Macdonald (2003) ...
 In 2003, Macdonald ...
Adding a Citation

In Writer, a citation is called a bibliography entry by analogy to the markers used for other types of indexes and tables. However, this choice can be misleading. The process of adding a citation differs from adding any other type of entry marker in at least three ways:

  • The citation uses the text of the Short Name, also called the identifier, store in the bibliographic record, rather than existing independently, like an index marker.

  • The bibliography entry is formatted from the Index/Table tab of the Insert Index/Table screen.

  • Like other entry markers, a bibliography marker may be used to generate the bibliography. However, you also can create a bibliography marker from the bibliography database.

To add a citation or bibliography entry:

1. Place the mouse cursor where you want the citation.

In the Chicago style, citations generally go into foot notes or end notes. In both the MLA and APA styles, citations generally go at the end of a sentence or at least at a natural pause, such as a comma. However, depending on the citation style and who you are writing for, an internal citation is sometimes acceptable. For example, instead of adding (Smith, 1999) at the end of the sentence, you may prefer to write something like, "According to Smith . . ." with Smith as your citation.

2. Select Insert > Indexes and Tables > Bibliography Entry.

The Insert Bibliography Entry screen opens.

3. Select the entry source:

  • From bibliography database: the Short Name (identifier) for a record in the bibliography database is used.

  • From document content: a bibliography record is created and stored within the document rather than in the database.

Your choice depends on your work method. Those who keep careful lists of their sources probably will find the database to be more convenient. By contrast, those who are less organized or wish to avoid sorting through sources related to other documents may prefer to add to entries to the document.

4. If you select From bibliography database, select the Short Name from the drop-down list at the bottom of the screen. Then, select the Insert button to add the citation.

5. If you select From document content, select the New button.

The Define Bibliography Entry screen opens. You do not need to fill in all of the available screens. Instead, enter only the definitions you require for the form of citation you are using.

From Writer's viewpoint, you need to enter:

  • The Short Name: the text for the bibliographic entry.

  • The Type: the type of source you are citing.

For most citation formats, you also need the Author, Book Title or Title for an article or shorter work and Year of publication. In some cases, you also may want to use one of the User-Defined fields for the city.

6. Select the OK button when you are finished. Then, use the Insert button to add the bibliography entry to the document.

Note: Formatting for a bibliography entry is set from the Index/Table tab of the Insert Index/Table screen. Until you have added the bibliography, the entry many not be formatted in the way you prefer.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Anonymous's picture

Is 1.2 the last version ?


filim's picture

Bibus is alive and very well - now works with both OOo and MsWord - latest release ver 1.2

Is possible Re-use bibliography for other style?

mauri's picture

Hi!, I have some questions.
- Is possible Re-use the bibliography for other styles? To complete a bibliographyc daba dase is a hard work for me. If I want use this bibliography for other journal, for example, I want to introduce:
Author(s): Borges Jose Luis, Garcia Juan.

Ok, then I'd want the reference will show for one journal
[1] Borges J. et al
and for other journal
[1] Borges Jose Luis, Garcia Juan
Is this possible? How?
In LaTeX, BitTex, the data needed is selected in the data base filtering with style selecting. In the first example, only the first letter "J" of de author name is selecting and "et al" is added, but the data base has all the name "Jose" and there are all author names "Borges Jose Luis Garcia Juan".

Thanks for your time and I'm sorry for my poor english.

Reference List

ajondo's picture

The part about setting the title for the bibliography was great help.

i did not know about how to re-title the bibliography Works if you are using the MLA style or Reference List.


APA - Psychologist, not Psychiatrist

Magnus Larsson's picture

Great HOWTO!

But as references concern details, and I am a psychologist, there is one detail that I want to comment on: To my knowledge, and according to the APA style manuals, APA stand for American Psychological Association, not American Psychiatric Association......


Magnus Larsson

Aren't the Short Names supposed to be meaningless in the Samples

Anonymous's picture

After all they are SAMPLES waiting for you to put in the Real Content.

Re: Aren't the Short Names supposed to be meaningless in the Sam

Bruce_Byfield's picture

My assumption is that a sample is meant to show you how to do something.

The sample database uses no recognized bibliographical style, and misuses the fields as well. In my book, that makes it useless as a sample.

A lot of people -- including me -- puzzled over the sample for some time before realizing how to use the database.

Title limits

Anonymous's picture

I tried to insert a book with a long title and it won't accept it. Do you know a solution for this?

ERROR MSG: The string 'EPA's Problems with Collection and Management of Scientific Data and Its Efforts To Address Them.' cannot be converted because it exceeds max length '50

Great article

Anonymous's picture

I just wrote a 20 page report not too long ago and having this article then would of been great. I hope in the future, OpenOffice will have a complete template setup for IEEE style for us Computer Students!

I could create one, but that would be too much work/time for me that I can currently afford.

If I do create one, is there a file a could backup and transfer to other pc's to provide my template to everyone ??




Stephan's picture

Well, let's face it - the current bibliography support in OpenOffice is a pain in the neck.
But wait - there is hope:
Check out Bibus. This Python program solved many of my referencing problems in OOo.

Isn't bibus outdated?

Anonymous's picture

Isn't bibus outdated? I heard that it isn't updated for some time now.

New Bibus release

Anonymous's picture

Bibus is alive and very well - now works with both OOo and MsWord - latest release ver 1.2


Anonymous's picture

Is 1.2 the last version ?

Yes, I think that the

TIMBaER's picture

Yes, I think that the current version (1.2) is the last version.

Distributing templates

Bruce_Byfield's picture


You could post your template to:

But check first. There may already be a template for the citation style you need.

Thank you!

Scriptics's picture

Hi Bruce,

thanks for the link!