biber without building from TLContrib

I’ve written in the past about the biber program, a replacement for BibTeX when using the biblatex system for citations in LaTeX. The biggest stumbling block to using biber to date has been the need to build it from the source. On Windows, that also means getting a working Perl installation, which is a non-standard item on that operating system. However, there is now an alternative approach, at least for people using TeX Live 2010. The new TLContrib system for additions to TeX Live now includes a biber package for Windows, Mac OS X (64 bit) and Linux.

To get biber installed, you’ll need to use the Command Prompt or Terminal. On Windows, you probably need to run the Command Prompt as the Administrator, while on the Mac or Linux you will  probably want to sudo the following. To get biber installed, all you need to type is

tlmgr --repository install biber

The system will then get on with installing biber, which you can then use as a replacement for BibTeX. I’d then add biber to my graphical editor’s list of programs to make it easy to use: the detail of course depends on which editor you use.

What is particularly interesting here is that it has been possible to build a stand-alone biber. This should mean that at some stage both TeX Live and MiKTeX can integer ate it directly. This will really make biber a viable choice for most people using biblatex: building from the source is not most people’s idea of ‘easy to use’!

7 thoughts on “biber without building from TLContrib

  1. Hello Joseph,

    I want to add that there was a small discussion on the MiKTeX Mailing List about biber and MiKTeX these days.

    Also an Windows with MiKTeX it isn’t really hard to bring biber to work. I just installed Strawberry Perl

    which I need anyway for the glossaries package, downloaded the from

    and extracted the biber.exe to the


    directory. That’s all.

    Now you can use it from the command line.

    The tricky part is to bring it to work `automatically’ with texify from MiKTeX. Here Ulrike Fischer made a few suggestions which I will summarize here. Below you will find the links to the discussion, if someone is interested.

    Before starting texify one has to set the BIBTEX variable to the full path to biber, e.g.

        set BIBTEX=c:...miktexbinbiber.exe

    while the tex file has to contain these lines:


    If one now starts texify from the command line biber will be executed. The remaining question is how to make your editor so clever to set the environment variable before starting texify. For WinEdt v6.0 you will find a solution in the second link below.

    Best regards,
    Stefan Pinnow

  2. I’ve posted before about building biber by installing Strawberry Perl. I’ve never had an issue with doing that, but I know that other people find it a bit intimidating.

    I’d note that you don’t need to add biber.exe to the MiKTeX directory to get it to work as a stand-alone program. I never use texify so don’t worry about that sort of thing. (I tend to either do stuff by hand or write a batch file for each project as a one-off.)

  3. It’s true that you don’t have to add biber.exe to the MiKTeX directory, but it is nice to have it somewhere in the PATH and since miktex/bin directory already is in the path it makes live easy.

    Ok, you are a really advanced user and know what has to be called at which time AND

  4. Strawberry Perl adds itself to the PATH, so simply

    make install

    for biber should do the trick without altering the MiKTeX directory.

    Most of the time, I just stick to ‘latex, bibtex, latex, latex’, hence not using texify. (texify is slower over all for me as I tend to know where I am in the number of runs required.)

  5. I often try to convice novice to do “new” stuff and therefore it should be as easy as possible. And texify is one of the most easiest things. When something additional is required then I install them a button in there editor and can just say something like:

    “At the end of writing just press the yellow and blue buttons to create the glossary and the nomenclature.”

    Otherwise I agree to use (pdf)latex which is quicker because of less runs.

  6. Hi,

    I want to implement biblatex+biber for the UTF8 capability. But I’ve only just learned to use TeXShop on my Mac. Having installed Biber according to your instructions, how do I add it to the menu that has “Latex,” “BibTex,” etc.? Or how do I run Biber in place of BibTex manually?

    Very much a novice user here! Thanks so much for blogging this information.

    Jesse, University of Minnesota

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