Imagine I have a complete latex file and I want to extract only the text that appears in a specified environment (i.e., within a custom hypothesis environment)

For example:

Lots of stuff that I don't want extracted
 The content that I want to extract
Lots more stuff I don't want to exract
 Some more content that I want to extract

The question: What's a simple way of taking a complete latex source file and extracting just the text in a specified environment and saving it to a new text file?

Although I'm not an expert I've heard a lot of people talk about Perl scripts being good for string manipulation. I also sometimes use regular expressions. Thus, in addition to a specific solution to the above problem, I would be interested to hear about general approaches to related LaTeX text manipulation tasks.

Update: Copying and pasting is not a desired option because the environment occurs over 20 times in a 20,000 word document.

  • 3
    It's simple to write a perl script to do what you ask, particularly with the layout that you use: cat file.tex | perl -lne '/^\\end{hypothesis}/ && $c = 0; $c and print; /^\\begin{hypothesis}/ && $c = 1;'. An answer more suitable for this site would have LaTeX write out the file when the document was compiled! This is certainly possible as it is what beamer does for "fragile" frames. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 11:58
  • @Andrew Thanks for that. The solution in Perl does look elegant. And the write-while-compiling option sounds useful and possibly easier to learn for someone who has never used Perl. Hopefully someone will provide an answer on how to write-while-compiling. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 12:22
  • Could you modify your question to explain why just firing up notepad* and copy/pasting the text is not a viable option? (*or your editor of choice)
    – Seamus
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 12:27
  • To avoid copy and paste, you could make a separate .tex file where you define a bunch of macros like \def\hypothesis1{Ice melts faster than wood} ... \def\hypothesisN{....} Then you could use the macros in both places.
    – Geoff
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 12:41
  • Do you expect to have LaTeX code/macros within the hypothesis block? If so, do you want them to be expanded before the external file gets written? For example, if you have \begin{hypothesis}\textbf{Foo}\end{hypothesis}, can you tell us specifically how you want the output file to look?
    – ESultanik
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 12:49

3 Answers 3


As well as the options provided by Ulrike, you might also be interested in the extract package, which was written for exactly the problem you're looking to solve.

To export all text within the hypothesis environment to a file called filename, add the following code to the preamble:

\usepackage[active, generate=filename, extract-env={hypothesis}]{extract}

Writing the content of one environment to a file is easy: LaTeX already knows the filecontents-environment. The filecontents packages extends this environment. fancyvrb defines VerbatimOut. The listings package has some internal code (used e.g. by the showexpl) too. If you want to collect the content of more than one environment you will have to change their definition so that the end doesn't close the file.

If you don't care about the line breaks and the comments in your environment you can also try something like this:




abc % cde

some text
  • 1
    @ulrike: is it possible to loop this command to create a new file for each problem? I think I could manually name each environment, say testA, testB, or test1, test2, etc.
    – MeTutel
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 18:36
  • +1 I've just used it for this answer Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 11:34

As Will Robertson let me know, the extract package makes the task very easy.

For the sake of completeness, the following code in the preamble did what I wanted:

\usepackage[active, generate=filename, extract-env={hypothesis}]{extract}

exporting all text within the hypothesis environment to a file called filename.

  • 1
    Useful. I've edited this information (i.e. the actual code) into Will Robertson's answer. (I did it that way round mainly because you'd already accepted that one.) Anyway, wanted to give you kudos for not just saying 'that package worked', but also coming back and posting the code.
    – Esteis
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 20:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .