Here is my problem: I have a 100+ page document with ~100 tikz plots. Some plots contain 9000+ points, and compiling them with pdflatex -shell-escape (or whatever main_memory_size) fails. I can compile it with lualatex though, but it takes forever. I decided to use:

    \tikzset{external/system call={lualatex \tikzexternalcheckshellescape -shell-                escape -halt-on-error -interaction=nonstopmode -jobname "\image" "\texsource"}}
    \tikzset{external/force remake}

And it fails with

    "16684 words still in use, bla-bla ...may be you did not enable shell-escape         ...bla-bla write18...please refer to picture-17.log", 

but there is no error message in that log. If I switch back to pdflatex, with proper adjustments, error log says again that I'm out of memory. I thought lualatex manages memory dynamically, and externalize should work when regular compilation fails, but I got the opposite case. I have 4-core i7 with 8Gb RAM, hardly half is used.. What to do? I use TexNic center and MikTex, so in the editor options of course I hap put the -shell-escape as well as -enable-write18 in all possible combinations for both pdflatex output profile and lualatex profile. I have a main .tex file with several included chapters, with separate tikzpistures in .tex files as well. Moreover, if I delete all the images from the TikzFigures/ folder, now both lualatex and pdflatex fail already at the first image. If I comment out lines responsible for externalization, it compiles. It takes 5 minutes and 500Mb of memory, but it compiles with one warning about scrbook\float@addtolist that it is about to get outdated.


    \pgfplotsset{every axis/.append style={line width=1pt, 
    tick style={tick align=outside, line width=0.6pt}}}
    \pgfplotsset{ticks=both}%/.append style={thin}}
    \pgfplotsset{ylabel shift=-4pt}
    \pgfplotsset{yticklabel style={xshift=0.1cm}}
    \pgfplotsset{label style={font=\small}}
    \pgfplotsset{every axis legend/.style={inner ysep=1.5pt}}
    \usetikzlibrary{automata, arrows}
    \lstset{backgroundcolor=\color{light-gray}}%, xleftmargin=\noindent} 


    \tikzset{external/system call={lualatex \tikzexternalcheckshellescape 
    -enable-write18 -halt-on-error -interaction=nonstopmode 
    -jobname "\image" "\texsource"}}
    \tikzset{external/force remake}

    \renewcommand{\nomname}{List of Symbols}

      \@clubpenalty \clubpenalty
       {\@latex@warning{Empty `thebibliography' environment}}







    \addcontentsline{toc}{chapter}{List of Symbols}


    \printnomenclature [14mm]



! Package tikz Error: Sorry, the system call 'lualatex --shell-escape -intera
ion=nonstopmode -jobname "TikzFigures/phd_thesis-figure17" "\def\tikzexternal
aljob{phd_thesis}\input{phd_thesis}"' did NOT result in a usable output file
ikzFigures/phd_thesis-figure17' (expected one of .pdf:.jpg:.jpeg:.png:). Plea
verify that you have enabled system calls. For pdflatex, this is 'pdflatex -
ell-escape'. Sometimes it is also named 'write 18' or something like that. Or
aybe the command simply failed? Error messages can be found in 'TikzFigures/p
_thesis-figure17.log'. If you continue now, I'll try to typeset the picture.
  • 2
    Did you run lualatex --shell-escape yourFile? Can you extend your example to make it compilable, i.e. \documentclass{<theClassYouAreUsing>} all over to \end{document}?
    – Johannes_B
    Dec 16, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    Welcome to TeX.SX! You can have a look at our starter guide to familiarize yourself further with our format. Dec 17, 2013 at 10:42
  • Seems that "externalize" simply does not work with lualatex. If I compile the main file with pdftex, with {external/system call={lualatex -... it still fails with "pdftex out of memory" althoug it is supposed to call lualatex as I understand.
    – Alexander
    Dec 17, 2013 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


Why not using pdflatex with increasing memory manually.

here is an example (numbers are arbitrary large, you may want try some other values)

  \tikzset{external/system call= {pdflatex -save-size=80000 
                           -jobname "\image" "\texsource"}} 
  • I just did. Not a single picture produced. And I already solved the issue of 9000 dots in a plot by plotting it with matplotlib and including as a ".png". So this should not be a memory failure now.
    – Alexander
    May 17, 2014 at 10:16

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