Chapter 6. Overview of the RefDB command-line clients

Table of Contents

Quickstart guide
The interactive mode of refdba and refdbc
The non-interactive mode of refdba and refdbc
The non-interactive mode of refdbib
Common command-line options for all clients

There are several client applications, each one performing a self-contained subset of tasks. This chapter provides a short overview over common features of the clients. Please refer to the reference chapters about refdba, refdbc, and refdbib for the nitty gritty details.


This manual covers only the clients shipped with RefDB. Please visit the RefDB website for other options. Currently there are tools for both Emacs and Vim which turn these editors into integrated authoring tools with bibliography support.

The clients serve the following purposes:


The system administrator's tool to create or delete databases, set access rights, and view all kinds of statistics.


The client for adding, editing, deleting, and searching reference entries.


The tool to create bibliographies.

refdbc and refdba can be run in an interactive mode where they provide their own command line, similar to a command-line FTP client for example. They use the GNU readline library with its powerful and convenient editing and history capabilities. In a nutshell, you can edit commands on this built-in command line as you can do in your bash or in the Emacs minibuffer. You can scroll through the history of your previous commands with the arrow keys, you can use the tab key to complete command names and filenames, and you can use Ctrl-r to search the history with a regular expression. For further information you should consult the readline manual.

refdba and refdbc can also be run in batch mode. You can specify one of the built-in commands as an argument to the -C option and pipe or redirect data into stdin. This is very useful if you want to automatize tasks using shell scripts.

refdbib does not have an interactive mode and can be run only in batch mode. The result will be written to stdout. However, you'll hardly ever run refdbib directly, as RefDB ships with convenient scripts and Makefiles for this purpose.

Quickstart guide

These are the essential steps to get up and running as a RefDB user:

  1. Ask your RefDB administrator to grant access to an existing reference database or have him create one for you.

  2. If the application server refdbd is not installed to run as a daemon, start it now: refdbd -s & (see Starting refdbd for more options).

  3. Start the refdbc command line client to manage and retrieve references.

  4. Add references to the database.

  5. Retrieve references according to your search criteria.

  6. Create bibliographies with the references in your database.


There is a tutorial for first-time users available at the RefDB documentation page.