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  • After reading through this guide, check out some good first issues to contribute to by going to our list of good first issues. We offer small issues perfect for aspiring developers. These tasks provide an opportunity to learn how to set up your local workspace, create your first pull request on GitHub, and contribute towards solving minor problems or making small enhancements in JabRef. It is essential to note that the issues vary in difficulty. Some are simpler, while others are more complex. Our primary aim is to guide you through the code, ensuring that the understanding scope remains manageable. Sometimes, grasping the code might demand more effort than actually writing lines of code.
  • In case you are aiming to contribute other improvements, please head over to our general JabRef contribution page.
  • In case you are an instructor and want to use JabRef as a software engineering example, please head to

Contribute code

Understanding the basics of code contributions

We welcome contributions to JabRef and encourage you to follow the GitHub workflow specified below. If you are not familiar with this type of workflow, take a look at GitHub’s excellent overview on the GitHub flow and the explanation of Feature Branch Workflow for the idea behind this kind of development.

  1. Get the JabRef code on your local machine. Detailed instructions about this step can be found in our guidelines for setting up a local workspace.
    1. Fork the JabRef into your GitHub account.
    2. Clone your forked repository on your local machine.
  2. Create a new branch (such as fix-for-issue-121). Be sure to create a separate branch for each improvement you implement.
  3. Work on the new branch — not the main branch. Refer to our code how-tos if you have questions about your implementation.
  4. Create a pull request. For an overview of pull requests, take a look at GitHub’s pull request help documentation.
  5. In case your pull request is not yet complete or not yet ready for review, create a draft pull request instead.

In case you have any questions, please comment on the issue - or show up in our gitter chat. Please also help others in case of general questions there.

Formal requirements for a pull request

The main goal of the formal requirements is to provide credit to you and to be able to understand the patch.

Add your change to

You should edit the file located in the root directory of the JabRef source. Add a line with your changes in the appropriate section.

If you did internal refactorings or improvements not visible to the user (e.g., UI, .bib file), then you don’t need to put an entry there.

Format of keyboard shortcuts

Example: <kbd>Ctrl</kbd> + <kbd>Enter</kbd>

In case you add keys to the changelog, please follow these rules:

  • <kbd> tag for each key
  • First letter of key capitalized
  • Combined keys separated by +
  • Spaces before and after separator +

Author credits

Please, do not add yourself at JavaDoc’s @authors. The contribution information is tracked via the version control system and shown at We also link to the contributors page in our about dialog.

Your contribution is considered being made under MIT license.

Write a good commit message

See good commit message or commit guidelines section of Pro Git. For the curious: Why good commit messages matter!. The first line of your commit message is automatically taken as the title for the pull-request. All other lines make up the body of the pull request. Add the words fixes #xxx to your PR to auto-close the corresponding issue.

Test your code

We know that writing test cases takes a lot of time. Nevertheless, we rely on our test cases to ensure that a bug fix or a feature implementation doesn’t break anything. In case you do not have time to add a test case, we nevertheless ask you to at least run gradlew check to ensure that your change doesn’t break anything else.

When adding a new Localization.lang entry

Add new Localization.lang("KEY") to a Java file. The tests will fail. In the test output a snippet is generated, which must be added to the English translation file.


Opens\ JabRef's\ Twitter\ page=Opens JabRef's Twitter page
Expected :[]
Actual   :[Opens\ JabRef's\ Twitter\ page (src\main\java\org\jabref\gui\ LANG)]

Add the above snippet to the English translation file located at src/main/resources/l10n/ Crowdin will automatically pick up the new string and add it to the other translations.

You can also directly run the specific test in your IDE. The test “LocalizationConsistencyTest” is placed under src/test/java/org.jabref.logic.l10n/ Find more information in the JabRef developer docs.

When adding a library

Please try to use a version available at JCenter and add it to build.gradle. In any case, describe the library at We need that information for our package maintainers (e.g., those of the debian package). Also add a txt file stating the license in libraries/. It is used at gradlew processResources to generate the About.html files. You can see the result in build\resources\main\help\en\About.html or when clicking Help -> About.

When making an architectural decision

In case you add a library or do major code rewrites, we ask you to document your decision. Recommended reading:

We simply ask to create a new markdown file in docs/adr following the template presented at

In case you want to directly add a comment to a class, simply use the following template (based on sustainable architectural decisions):

In the context of <use case/user story u>,
facing <concern c>
we decided for <option o>
and neglected <other options>,
to achieve <system qualities/desired consequences>,
accepting <downside / undesired consequences>,
because <additional rationale>.

Create a pull request

Create a pull request on GitHub following GitHub’s guide “Creating a pull request from a fork”. For text inspirations, consider How to write the perfect pull request.

If you want to indicate that a pull request is not yet complete before creating the pull request, you may consider creating a draft pull request. Alternatively, once the PR has been created, you can add the prefix [WIP] (which stands for “Work in Progress”) to indicate that the pull request is not yet complete, but you want to discuss something or inform about the current state of affairs.

How to improve the developer’s documentation

For improving developer’s documentation, go on at the docs/ subdirectory of JabRef’s code and edit the file. GitHub offers a good guide at Editing files in another user’s repository.