Some TeX Developments

Coding in the TeX world

Building biblatex-biber

with 25 comments

The biblatex-biber project provides probably the best way for biblatex users to switch to pure UTF-8 bibliography information. However, getting it to build can cause problems: biblatex-biber is a Perl programme, and needs various downloads from CPAN. I thought it would therefore be useful to put some simple recipes here, explaining what I’ve done to get a working biblatex-biber on Windows, Ubuntu and Mac OS X. I’m assuming that the latest biblatex-biber release has been downloaded and unzipped somewhere, and that the Command Prompt/Terminal/Shell is open in that directory (folder).

Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)

Mac OS X comes with Perl installed, so life is relatively easy. At the Terminal, you need to run the cpan script as root:

sudo cpan

The cpan script has its own prompt, but this is very similar to the Terminal one. First, I updated cpan itself and installed a helper module with

install CPAN
reload cpan
install YAML

That done, the various requirements for biblatex-biber can be installed, using the single call

install Data::Dump List::AllUtils Readonly Text::BibTeX Readonly::XS

For the more cautious person (such as me), each install instruction can be given on a separate line: this keeps things a bit more controlled. I accepted the standard settings, except when asked about installing items that were only needed for testing, where I said no.

Once cpan has done all of the installing, you can leave it by typing


So now back at the Terminal prompt, a few simple instructions

perl Build.PL
sudo ./Build install

That put biblatex-biber onto the path for all users: everything then worked correctly.

Ubuntu 9.10

Once again, Perl is installed as standard in Linux distributions: I’m using Ubuntu as a representative system. Before starting cpan, there is an additional step, which is to install an extra Ubuntu package. So at the Terminal, you need to do

sudo apt-get install libxml2-dev

This is needed as otherwise you get some very odd errors in a bit. Now, essentially the same recipe works as for the Mac. First run cpan running and update and install YAML. Then there is a long list of items to install

install Data::Dump List::AllUtils Readonly Text::BibTeX Readonly::XS XML::Writer XML::LibXML File::Slurp

which can again be done one at a time, for the more cautious.

After exiting cpan, the same three lines at the Terminal should work as in the Mac section.

perl Build.PL
sudo ./Build install

Windows (XP, Vista and 7)

To date, my attempts to build biblatex-biber on Windows (using Strawberry Perl) have failed as I can’t get the Perl module Text::BibTeX to install. This is supposed to be optional, but without it biblatex-biber does not seem to work, although I do get it to build. Luckily, there is a self-contained binary for Windows available from the project site. This includes its own Perl system, so there is no need to get Perl set up before trying it. Everything seems to work for me with this version. Any ideas on what is necessary would be helpful!

Written by Joseph Wright

January 23rd, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Posted in biblatex,LaTeX

Tagged with , ,

25 Responses to 'Building biblatex-biber'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Building biblatex-biber'.

  1. Hey thanks for the post.
    On MacOS X 10.5 youll also need to install IPC::Cmd. It dosent work without on my Leopard Systems.

    This was discovered by:



    24 Jan 10 at 10:43 am

  2. Hello tobig,

    I can only report what I can test :-) I’d seen the c.t.t thread, hence the post here. To be honest, things seem easiest on Mac OS X. Running the Build.PL script gave a list of items which were needed but not available, which I then installed, and after that everything worked. As I’ve said, no joy at all on Windows and the Ubuntu issue was a bit awkward to solve.

    Joseph Wright

    24 Jan 10 at 11:01 am

  3. Well i also followed the README and got a quite nice Error Message while trying to execute biber. So after installing IPC:Cmd it works…
    I presume that you already installed the Module for other Reasons or that Snow Leo contains it per default.
    I dont use Perl so often, so i only have a basic set of Modules…


    24 Jan 10 at 11:08 am

  4. Hello tobig,

    I started with a completely “vanilla” Mac OS X 10.6 Perl set up, ran “perl Build.PL” for biblatex-biber and got a list of missing modules. Then I installed them using cpan, and re-ran “perl Build.PL” which did not give any errors. So I’ve no idea about IPC::Cmd – perhaps some other people might report back?

    Joseph Wright

    24 Jan 10 at 11:11 am

  5. Well that may corospondend withh the perl Versions. I just read that Snow Leopard is shipped with 5.10. where IPC::Cmd is a Core Module and Leopard comes with 5.8.8 where IPC::Cmd is not a Core Module. If Core Module means that it is installed per default we got the answer.


    24 Jan 10 at 11:22 am

  6. Hello tobig,

    Makes sense: I used 5.10 on Windows and Ubuntu as well, and there was no mention of IPC::Cmd anywhere.

    Joseph Wright

    24 Jan 10 at 11:33 am

  7. In my case, the problem on Snow Leopard was that an older Perl version was installed by MacPorts due to weird dependencies, so I had to install IPC::Cmd separately.

    Philipp Stephani

    24 Jan 10 at 12:40 pm

  8. Hello Philipp,

    I’ve so far avoided MacPorts entirely as I don’t need it. Either there is a proper Mac version of the software, or I have the tools to build the source and use Terminal or X11 apps. Needing to install Perl twice sounds like a bad idea to me :-)

    Joseph Wright

    24 Jan 10 at 12:53 pm

  9. […] Building biblatex-biber at Some TeX Developments […]

  10. Thanks! Worked like a charm. I have filed a bug with ubuntu, because using utf-8-bibtex files with biblatex prevents them from properly sorting the bibliography (at least in non-english languages). Following your instructions has solved that bothersome problem.


    29 Jan 10 at 10:26 pm

  11. The lack of UTF-8 support in BibTeX is well known, hence the need for different approaches.

    Joseph Wright

    30 Jan 10 at 4:29 pm

  12. Worked a treat – just had to install Mac Developer tools first.


    3 Feb 10 at 9:02 pm

  13. Hello Aaron,

    Yes, I should have said I have the tools installed. Handy for lots of things.

    Joseph Wright

    3 Feb 10 at 9:16 pm

  14. Can’t seem to get the Windows version installed though… downloaded the special Windows package but can’t get it to compile with ActivePerl….


    16 Feb 10 at 8:54 pm

  15. Hi!

    Can anybody tell me how to write a shell script for using Biber within Texshop on 10.6? – Thanks


    26 Feb 10 at 4:51 pm

  16. […] recently posted some information on building biblatex-biber. Since then, v0.5 of biblatex-biber has appeared and […]

  17. Why do you need a script?

    Joseph Wright

    27 Feb 10 at 4:57 pm

  18. Hi, I just followed your guide and noticed that under MacOSX 10.6.3 two additional Perl packages are needed not to build but to run biber: Config::General and Log::Log4perl
    Best, Georg


    29 May 10 at 9:59 pm

  19. Just tried it out and everything went fine until I got the following error message:

    cpan[10]> install YAML
    Running install for module ‘YAML’
    Running make for A/AD/ADAMK/YAML-0.71.tar.gz
    Has already been unwrapped into directory /Users/jon/.cpan/build/YAML-0.71-6dqx2a
    Could not make: Unknown error
    Warning (usually harmless): ‘YAML’ not installed, will not store persistent state
    Running make test
    Can’t test without successful make
    Running make install
    Make had returned bad status, install seems impossible

    So where do I go from here? How should I interpret the above statement?


    7 Jun 10 at 1:50 pm

  20. In my tests I’ve always got away without YAML (with some warnings about it not being installed). Could you say what platform you are on and exactly what steps you took (apart from when I chose to do it deliberately I’ve never seen YAML get installed by my route to building biber).

    Joseph Wright

    7 Jun 10 at 9:48 pm

  21. I’d like to mention that nowadays precompiled binaries for Mac and Linux are available on SourceForge and from TLcontrib, so manual compilation is usually not necessary any more.


    16 Nov 10 at 8:39 am

  22. Philipp, you are of course correct: I’ve mentioned the TLcontrib builds:

    Joseph Wright

    16 Nov 10 at 8:45 am

  23. Hi, I’ve just tried to follow your instructions and everything just went fine until i give the command
    perl Build.PL
    It gives out the error message:

    perl Build.PL
    Can’t open perl script “Build.PL”: No such file or directory
    Can anyone tell me what is the problem.
    I´m running a OS 10.6.8 Snow Leopard system.


    28 Apr 14 at 11:11 pm

  24. @Thabang It’s been a while since I’ve needed to build Biber myself: it’s now included in TeX Live/MacTeX, so there really isn’t much need for most of us to worry about this. (I’m no Perl exper!)

    Joseph Wright

    3 May 14 at 7:48 am

  25. Yes, my fault. I solved it now. Thank you!


    3 May 14 at 1:36 pm

Leave a Reply