Citation keys

The Better BibTeX Configuration can be found under the regular Zotero preferences pane, tab ‘Better BibTeX’.

The configuration of Better BibTeX is a little baroque compared to the standard Zotero Bib(La)TeX exporters (which only have hidden preferences). The defaults should just work, but here’s an attempt to describe what they do.

Making any change here will drop your entire export cache. This is usually not a problem unless you have a really large library, but you can read about what is involved here.

Force citation key to plain text

default: yes

If you have deviated from the default citation key format pattern by [specifying your own]({{ ref . “citing” }}), you may wind up with non-ASCII characters in your citation keys. You can prevent that using the fold function at the appropriate place in your pattern, but checking this checkbox will just apply fold to all your keys.

default: yes

Enable searching on citation keys. Slows down startup on very large libraries. Requires Zotero restart to enable/disable.

Keeping citation keys unique

Keep keys unique

default: within each library

Auto-generated (non-pinned) keys automatically get a postfix when they would generate a duplicate. By default, the check for duplicates is restricted to the library/group the item lives in. When set to global, the check will include all libraries/groups, so auto-generated keys would be globally unique. Changing this setting does not affect existign keys - for this you would need to select the items and refresh the keys.


  • across all libraries
  • within each library

On conflict with a pinned key, non-pinned keys will be

default: kept (causes key duplicates)

This determines what happens if you pin a key to a value that is already in use in a different reference but not pinned there. Neither are ideal, you just get to pick your poison. If you let BBT change the non-pinned key by adding a postfix character, the citation key changes which could be problematic for existing papers. If you keep the non-pinned key as-is, your library now has duplicate keys.


  • postfixed (causes key changes)
  • kept (causes key duplicates)

Ideographs in citekeys

Apply kuroshiro romajization in Japanese names/titles. Uses a lot of memory.

default: no

When on, BBT will load kuroshiro for romajization in citation keys. This uses a lot of memory, easily 100MB. If you don’t have Japanese titles/names, keep this off.

Enable ‘jieba’ filter in citekey patterns. Uses a lot of memory.

default: no

When on, BBT will make Chinese word segmentation available for citation keys construction. This uses a lot of memory, easily 70MB. If you don’t have Chinese titles/names, keep this off.

Warn me when changing citation keys in bulk

default: 10

For those who are curious about what the Clear/Generate BibTeX key right-click options do, this will warn you if you are doing this on more than 10 (default) at the same time, to prevent your curiosity from changing all your citation keys at once.