Using XeTeX(xelatex) [i got the same using pdflatex] on Debian I am trying to save some compilation time using tikz external. Yet, the figures are never updated unless I delete the corresponding files. Otherwise I get

===== Image 'figures/mwe-figure0' is up-to-date. ======

eventhough I changed something, e.g. labels or coordinates

\pgfversion gives me 2.10


\tikzset{external/system call={%
xelatex \tikzexternalcheckshellescape
-halt-on-error -shell-escape -interaction=batchmode
-jobname "\image" "\texsource"}}
\node (f) at (0,0){d};

Interestingly, when I add

\tikzset{external/up to date check=md5}

to the preamble I get

! Package pgfkeys Error: I do not know the key '/tikz/external/up to date check
'and I am going to ignore it. Perhaps you misspelled it.

What could be the cause of that?

PS: If it provides any insights to you, the *.dpth files are empty.

  • 1
    I would recommend using ctan.org/pkg/memoize or ctan.org/pkg/robust-externalize; both are leagues better than tikzexternalize.
    – mcmuffin6o
    Mar 27 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


I have an implementation for an automatic recognition of changes already for quite a while and it works I think for all versions of pgf with the externalization feature. Just add the following into your preamble:

    {\tikzset{external/remake next}}{}%

You can include tikz files by the following code:


You don't need the \footnotesize but that's how I usually include diagrams.

  • bene's solution is appealing to me because it doesn't require fiddling with apt and tex-life so i can leave updating my distribution to apt-get entirely. yet, it only works with pdftex, not with xetex, due to filemode. In case somebody is looking for that in the future: I just modified the perl script so that it simply deletes the pdf if it is older than the tikz image, consequently it will then be recompiled, of course i also had to adapt the tex code accordingly. That solves the issue for now
    – sheß
    Jul 17, 2013 at 15:03

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