I am a big fan of latexmk and lately I have been looking a bit towards LuaTeX. However I am yet to find a way to get the functionality of latexmk (mainly recompilation on changes and automatic rerun an appropriate number of times to resolve cross references and such) for LuaTex. Is there something similar and if not how do you LuaTeX people survive without it? :)

5 Answers 5


You can use Lua(La)TeX with latexmk by setting the -pdflatex parameter:

-pdflatex=<program> - set program used for pdflatex.
(replace '<program>' by the program name)

So latexmk should call lualatex instead of pdflatex if you invoke it like this:

latexmk -pdflatex=lualatex -pdf <texfile>

or with newer versions of latexmk there is direct Lua(La)TeX/XeLaTeX support:

Use lualatex. That is, use lualatex to process the source file(s) to pdf (in place of pdflatex).
This option is exactly equivalent to specifying the following sequence of options:
-pdflatex="lualatex %O %S" -pdf -dvi- -ps-

  • 4
    How can one pass --shell-escape?
    – koppor
    Mar 8, 2018 at 20:52

Instead of adding the -lualatex flag to each application of latexmk, you could place the following

$pdflatex = 'lualatex -file-line-error %O %S';
$pdf_mode = 1;

in an '.latexmkrc' file. This file should reside in your home folder, if you use lualatex in all your jobs, or in the folder(s) where your lualatex jobs are.

More generally, you will find a host of examples and boilerlate code for .latexmkrc in the respective CTAN repository


Since version 4.51 of latexmk, you can use the following .latexmkrc:

$pdf_mode = 4;
$postscript_mode = $dvi_mode = 0;
  • 1
    For the second line $postscript_mode = $dvi_mode = 0;, I think both default to false/0 anyway.
    – Alex Povel
    Mar 23, 2019 at 22:17
  • 1
    For more info latexmk man page: "$pdf_mode [0] ... If equal to 4, generate a pdf version of the document using lualatex".
    – eugenhu
    Oct 2, 2021 at 7:04

The following syntax is valid, as of latexmk 4.80. To have latexmk use LuaLaTeX to build a PDF file (the usual choice), just do

latexmk -pdflua foo.tex

Alternatively you could use the seemingly equivalent -lualatex option instead of -pdflua. To add the -shell-escape option, since this was asked about in a comment, just do

latexmk -pdflua -shell-escape foo.tex

This is directly from the documentation one obtains from texdoc latexmk, namely the latexmk manual. One can get a shorter help summary from latexmk -h or latexmk --help. There is also some additional documentation in the latexmk source file, which is a Perl script, specifically about how latexmk detects build dependencies.

Additional comment. The current manual says the following


Use lualatex. That is, use lualatex to process the source file(s) to pdf. The generation of dvi and postscript files is turned off. This option is equivalent to using the following set of options

-pdflua -dvi- -ps-

This appears to be incorrect or out of date. Perhaps it was correct once. But just using -pdflua does not generate any DVI or PostScript files. It would be surprising if it did. So I presume the -lualatex and the -pdflua options are the same. At any rate, I cannot see any differences between them.

  • Technically, if everything is as it appears, -lualatex does do the same thing as -pdflua -dvi- -ps- (and both these options are equivalent to -pdflua). It is inaccurate to say the manual is "incorrect"; maybe it would be more accurate to say the manual is "misleading" because it adds the extra -dvi- -ps- when there is no need to do so. Jul 15, 2023 at 4:33

I currently run MacTeX under macOS Ventura, and I use lualatex as my default engine for everything nowadays. This is my current .latexmkrc file, which I keep in my home directory.

# Custom .latexmkrc file.

# Always create PDFs and set default engine to LuaLaTeX.
$pdf_mode = 4;
# Set the lualatex variable.
$lualatex = 'lualatex --file-line-error %O %S';

# The next two preview variables are mutually exclusive!
# Preview after each build.
# Equivalent to -pv on command line.
# $preview_mode = 1;
# Preview continuously.
# Equivalent to -pvc on command line.
# $preview_continuous_mode = 1;

# Comment out to use Preview.app.
# Give -pv on the command line.
$pdf_previewer = 'open -a Skim.app %S';

# Special latexmk makeindex line for .dtx files.
$makeindex = "makeindex -s gind.ist %O -o %D %S";

# Files to be cleaned.
$clean_ext = "deriv equ glo gls gsprogs hd listing lol" .
" _minted-%R/* _minted-%R nav snm synctex.gz tcbtemp vpprogs";

The very last line is treated as having a comment by the code formatting here, but it is not a comment in the .latexmkrc file.

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