In the pgfmanual I found today under Section 50.4.4 Customizing the Externalization that you can have multicore support during externalization using the mode list and make.

% step 1: generate main.makefile:
pdflatex main
% step 2: generate ALL graphics on 2 processors:
make -j 2 main.makefile
% step 3: include the graphics:
pdflatex main

I am using Windows 7 and MiKTeX. Since I never used make I downloaded it here: http://www.gnu.org/software/make/. Then I used this MWE (main.tex):


% Important
\tikzexternalize[mode=list and make]


    \addplot coordinates {(0,0) (1,1) (4,4)};


So I used a batch file like the pgfmanual said:

% step 1: generate main.makefile:
pdflatex main
% step 2: generate ALL graphics on 2 processors:
make -j 2 main.makefile
% step 3: include the graphics:
pdflatex main

But it doesnt' work. I get a message during the make -j 2 main.makefile part:

make: Nothing to be done for 'main.makefile'

Then I used make -f main.makefile like it was suggested during the first pdflatex main and I get:

process_begin: CreateProcess(NULL, cat main.figlist, ...) failed.
process_begin: CreateProcess(NULL, cat main.figlist, ...) failed.

Here a screenshot for the make part:

enter image description here

This is how the make file looks like:

ALL_FIGURE_NAMES=$(shell cat main.figlist)

allimages: $(ALL_FIGURES)
    @echo All images exist now. Use make -B to re-generate them.


include $(ALL_FIGURE_NAMES:%=%.dep)

    mkdir -p $(dir $@)
    touch $@ # will be filled later.

    pdflatex -halt-on-error -interaction=batchmode -jobname "main-figure0" "\def\tikzexternalrealjob{main}\input{main}"

main-figure0.pdf: main-figure0.md5

main-figure0.pdf is not generated -- but main-figure0.md5 is generated.

Update (Christian's Answer)

I tried your advice (ALL_FIGURE_NAMES=main-figure0) and replaced the code in the makefile but it still doesn't work.

enter image description here

I voted to close the question. It seems that only I have the problem. Thanks for the help!

closed as off-topic by Dr. Manuel Kuehner, Jesse, user31729, lockstep, egreg May 31 '14 at 21:40

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  • I was about to answer that the list and make option was probably not intended to be run on windows at all, but the $(dir $@) line tends to prove otherwise. Have you tried from an administrator console? – T. Verron May 30 '14 at 11:11
  • make -j 2 main.makefile : this probably didn't work because you miss the -f flag before the name of the makefile. And the .md5 files are generated during the first run of pdflatex. – T. Verron May 30 '14 at 11:14
  • Hello. Thanks for the hints. I also tried it with administrator rights and with adding the missing -f flag. No luck. Can you guys confirm the error on Windows? – Dr. Manuel Kuehner May 30 '14 at 12:08
  • Apparently it is a known bug since a few years now (I haven't been able to find any binary more recent than 2006). If recompiling from the source is possible for you, you can try the patch described here: lists.gnu.org/archive/html/make-w32/2008-03/msg00008.html – T. Verron May 30 '14 at 12:35
  • 3
    It seems to narrow. Apparently other people don't have my problem. – Dr. Manuel Kuehner May 31 '14 at 17:45

This is actually a typo in the pgf manual:

You need the -f option, i.e. it has to be

% step 1: generate main.makefile:
pdflatex main
% step 2: generate ALL graphics on 2 processors:
make -j 2 -f main.makefile
% step 3: include the graphics:
pdflatex main

It has already been corrected some time ago and will become part of the next PGF release.

Regarding your make problems with "CreateProcess failed" :

  1. you can try to install cygwin and call make from within cygwin. difficulty: medium (unless you are familiar with linux shells)
  2. you can copy the makefile to some other name and modify it manually. To this end, substitute

    ALL_FIGURE_NAMES=$(shell cat main.figlist)


ALL_FIGURE_NAMES=main-figure0 main-figure1 main-figure2

etc. The file list should resemble the content of main.figlist. You would need to update this copy of the makefile whenever a new item arrives, but it should work.

  • Thanks. But the error remains: 'process_begin: CreateProcess(NULL, cat main.figlist, ...) failed.' Btw - is the 'external/optimize=false' new? Because my file (about 6 months old) didn't compile anymore and I had to add 'optimize=false' in order to export the plots. – Dr. Manuel Kuehner May 30 '14 at 13:05
  • I should have read the comment more carefully. Perhaps gnu make does not work without cygwin :-( Installing cygwin, however, is also more of an advanced topic – Christian Feuersänger May 30 '14 at 13:11
  • external/optimize is very old... can you take a look into the log files of the failing images (P-figure0.log or something like that) and pose a new question regarding the compile failures? – Christian Feuersänger May 30 '14 at 13:14
  • @ChristianFeuersänger : The gmane link I posted above mentions a bug with the $(shell ...) directives in win32 make. The thread is dated from 2008 and the last release I could find was 2006. Thus the problem seems unlikely to be related to tikz. – T. Verron May 30 '14 at 13:37
  • interesting. I have edited my answer. – Christian Feuersänger May 30 '14 at 13:59

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