Can't Define Bibliography Entry, or open Tools > Bibliography Database (on Ubuntu)


This question is related to the ask “Why the insert record in Bibliography Database can’t be clicked” which has been marked as answered, but no working solution is provided there.

Goal: I want to use the built-in bibliography tools.


  • When I try to open “Tools > Bibliography Database”, nothing at all happens (where a pop-up window should appear, going by other people’s screenshots)
  • When I click “Insert > Table of Contents and Index > Bibliography Entry”, “New” is greyed out. I can click “Edit”, then I get to the “Define Bibliography Entry” window, but “Short name” and “OK” are greyed out and I can’t write in the “Short name” field. In can write in the other fields.

Preliminary info:
Ubuntu Version 22.04.2 LTS
LibreOffice Version (ubuntu package version: 1:7.3.7.-0ubuntu0.22.04.2)

Steps I have taken:

  • when I first checked, I didn’t have a JRE installed. I installed it, closed and reopened LibreOffice, which then shows me the installed version as “Vendor: Ubuntu, Version: 11.0.19” and the location as the (correct) path: /usr/lib/jvm/java-11-openjdk-amd64. The checkmark is on.

  • I checked that I have libreoffice-base installed:

apt list libreoffice-base
> libreoffice-base/jammy-updates 1:7.3.7-0ubuntu0.22.04.2 amd64

which seems to be the current and full package (going by

  • Tools > Options > LibreOffice Base > Databases shows file path to:
    where the directory /database contains:
drwxrwxr-x 2 mercury mercury 4096 Jul 23  2020 biblio
-rw-r--r-- 1 mercury mercury 2687 Jul 23  2020 biblio.odb

In the directory biblio there is one file (biblio.dbf) that shows how entries are formatted, and one (biblio.dbt) with the outdated exemplary entries that I’ve heard about in other posts. They have the same permissions as biblio.odb. So they exist, but LibreOffice can’t seem to access them.
Although as far as I can tell the file permissions are as they should be, I tried and changed them to -rw-rw-rw- for biblio.odb, /biblio/biblio.dbf and /biblio/biblio.dbt (the latter being into which I suppose new entries are written). As this didn’t change anything in the (lack of) functionality, even after closing and opening LibreOffice, I reverted the permissions to their original state.

The problem seems to be: LibreOffice should be able to read the files, but that’s not the case, or I would at least be able to select the preloaded entries.

Any ideas what else I can check or where the problem may lie?

(edit: added keywords)

If nothing shows up with Tools>Bibliography Databases, you perhaps used some DB in the past and changed for a custom DB (not necessarily a bibliography DB). Try Edit>Exchange Database. You have a list of known (=already used DBs) and a Browse button to select a new one. Use it if biblio is not in the list. Select a DB and Define.

Does it fix your problem?

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Thank you for the suggestion! It wasn’t the solution to my particular problem, but since I do want to use other databases in the future, it helps me to know where I can do that.

Ubuntu does not install the Base component.
sudo apt install libreoffice-base

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Thank you! I misunderstood the output of the apt list command and thought the package was already installed, when instead it just listed the available package. The installed package now looks like this:

apt list libreoffice-base
> libreoffice-base/jammy-updates,now 1:7.3.7-0ubuntu0.22.04.2 amd64 [installed]

sudo apt install libreoffice-base solved the problem.

dpkg is the program which cares about installed packages. It can install packages that have been downloaded one way or the other. It can list installed programs and their files.

apt is the “master” program with access to package repositories. It can list accessible packages that are not yet installed.

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Thank you!