I am running emacs 25.3 and have been having issues with my bib files. Whenever I edit the bib file and reformat/sort the entries it takes a long time to carry out the reformatting (15-20 seconds) and after it is finished emacs hangs. I noticed CPU usage on one core goes to 100% while reformatting and stays there after completion. I need to kill emacs to get out of this loop.

The bib file I have is not terribly large, several hundred entries with a total of ~8k lines. I ran a test on a smaller bib file (~2k lines) and experienced the same issue. Are my bib files too large? Is there a way to identify which part of the reformat/sort is causing it to hang?

  • Please clarify what you mean by hangs Emacs. What behavior do you see? Do you see the same problem if you start Emacs using emacs -Q? If so, consider M-x report-emacs-bug. If not, bisect your init file to find the culprit.
    – Drew
    Apr 15, 2020 at 14:52
  • @Drew You commented as I wrote my answer below. By hang, I mean I cannot do anything in emacs (cannot move cursor, cannot change buffers, cannot close buffer, etc.). The ONLY thing that still works is C-g followed by hitting the top-left "x" to close the window. However, as you suggested, the issue was in the init file.
    – tnknepp
    Apr 15, 2020 at 15:04

1 Answer 1


I got the idea this may be a problem in my init (.emacs) file so I began commenting out sections and zeroed in on wc-mode and linum-mode. I have read that combining word-count mode and linum-mode is problematic for scrolling large files (I've never experienced this), but this is the first I have heard of it interfering with bibtex-mode. Here are three solutions (all require completely disabling word count mode...might as well uninstall it):

  1. comment out both modes. This solved the problem and the .bib files takes roughly 1 second to save.

  2. permanently disable wc-mode. Disable linum-mode when in bibtex-mode using the following hook:

    (add-hook 'bibtex-mode-hook (lambda() (nlinum-mode 0)))

The .bib file takes roughly 10 seconds to save

  1. permanently disable wc-mode, install nlinum and enable it in the .emacs file. This works without problem and the .bib file takes roughly 5-10 seconds to save.

The optimal solution as far as performance is concerned is completely disabling word counts and line numbering. I prefer line numbering when writing (code, latex, etc.), so option 3 provides a good trade off. I'll keep this posted for posterity in case anyone else has similar problems.

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