I'd like to download automatically tons of papers listed on .bib file so I'm trying to find a way to facilitate the process by, e.g. I import or input to a tool a certain .bib file which contains a list of literature, the output is the literature's .pdf file. Any idea to do so?

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    Does it contain DOI or arXiv identifiers? If it does, it may be possible (though, automatic downloads are usually not allowed by journals). – Piotr Migdal May 23 '14 at 15:19
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    Related questions here and here and here – JeffE May 24 '14 at 19:21
  • Don't forget what happened to Aaron Swartz. – Sverre May 26 '14 at 18:21
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    Aaron Swartz's issue wasn't the automatic downloading, it was the intent to distribute the copyright materials. What Macchiavalley is asking has no such problems, at least not directly -- it may still be against policy, but it won't be anywhere near as much of an issue. – Lyndon White Aug 10 '14 at 7:45
  • Maybe a stupid question: Why would you do that? Surely, the bottleneck for reading through the papers is not finding and downloading them, but actually reading and understanding them? – nabla Apr 21 '18 at 17:29

In contrast to the freemium/proprietary tool suggested in the answer by andreas, I propose a FOSS solution that works reliably for this specific task.

Assuming you are connected to a network that provides permissions to legally download the required content, the cross-platform reference manager,JabRef has integrated fetchers to download full-texts for the entries in your library. Import your bib file into Jabref (maybe just start a new library for this task to keep things clean) and select the desired number of entries for which full-text PDFs are needed. Then, from the Quality pull-down menu, select Lookup Fulltext documents.

However, you still have to manually confirm all downloads. From the user's perspective, this requires just a bunch of clicking the OK button in the same on-screen co-ordinate (for pop-ups that appears sequentially for each citation entry). Jabref does all the heavy-lifting and correctly downloads the desired PDFs of the full-text and link each of them appropriately by matching to their relevant citation entry in the library.

The latest master build of Jabref is recommended, since there were some recent fixes to its IEEE fetcher (i.e. if IEEE matters to the OP).

  • Thanks for sharing it, that's an excellent solution, on top of being a FOSS one! – Clément Apr 19 '18 at 17:42

BibTeX is usually a very heterogeneous source of bibliographic references. URLs can be stored in several fields like 'url', 'howpublished', or 'citeulike-linkout-0', 'citeulike-linkout-1'... 'citeulike-linkout-n'. Moreover, some entries have a DOI, arXiv ID, PubMed ID or PMC ID and some don't.

As a developer of Paperpile I had the pleasure to dig into this over the last years, and there is no easy solution to a problem like this, but I think Paperpile comes close to a 'least effort' solution for the user. Let me explain how you can handle such a task with Paperpile.

  1. Simply upload the BibTeX file to Paperpile
  2. Paperpile will automatically match the uploaded references against databases like PubMed or Google Scholar to get better bibliographic information. The key point here is that it will retrieve DOIs which point to the website of the article at the publisher.
  3. You can then trigger automatic download of the PDF of these articles

The nice side effect is that you will have an updated bibliography with many of the articles being up to date and having the abstract. Of course, you can also export your references then again as BibTeX.


You may don't like this answer but automatic download is explicitly forbidden by many publishers and can result in the ban of labs/campus access to the journals of the publisher. Such automatic download can made by e.g. EndNote (actually, it does it automatically in some settings), and done by some students in our lab - as a result, a bunch of IP addresses get blocked.


Mendeley can do this, though for non open access articles, you will get at most the abstract. Also, there's no guarantee on automatically getting pdfs, as this depends on user uploads.


Zotero can import many formats, including *.bib.

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