I am currently writting my thesis and use several graphics which I make using tikz. For now on my workflow/document looks as the following:

In the latex project folder I have a seperate folder where I store all my .tex files which contains the drawings.

So for example:

  • business_model_overview.tex
  • distribution_of_findings.tex
  • ...

I then include these files in the main latex_file just by using the \include option.

The tikz files mentioned above are created capsulated either using Tikz_EDT or QTikz.

I nowstarted to rearranging my worklfow as I swapped using Kile as Editor instead of Overleaf as before. I heared about the standalone_package I did not use till now.

Simple qeustion: Would the use of the standalone package could make my life/workflow easier in any form? Is my current workflow okay or did you see some aspects for improvement as I can adjust now before starting over. [ One downward as I see till now could be that every time I recompile each picture must be compiled again. But not sure if this is really so bad. ]

Many thanks in advacne for suggestions.

  • I actually use always the standalone class for creating TikZ pictures ('cause so I can see more details and so on), but your way of doing TeX (or writing your thesis) isn't bad. I can tell only for me: I would do it exactly that way (but I wouldn't use an external TikZ editor for creating pictures, as you mentioned it is better to use the standalone package …). – current_user Aug 15 at 17:54
  • 3
    You're using \include for those pictures? That is not good, as \include does a \clearpage, \input seems like the reasonable thing to do for pictures (if they shouldn't be made standalone). – Skillmon Aug 15 at 17:55
  • My workflow for documents with many TikZ graphics differs quite a lot. I'll create a write-up (using GNU make). – Skillmon Aug 15 at 17:57
  • @Skillmon sorry that was my fault, I look it up and you were right, I use \input rather than \include – SRel Aug 15 at 18:11
  • Not directly applicable but possibly helpful: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/123058/… – Ethan Bolker Aug 16 at 15:55
up vote 16 down vote accepted

So as promised in the comments, here is my current setup for image-heavy documents using TikZ and similar (the below uses TikZ, circuitikz, includes SVGs, plots created with Python and possibly other images):

I maintain a shared preamble for all standalone TeX creations (like those of TikZ and circuitikz images) to sync stuff like font sizes and other stuff related to design. Additionally there is a shared preamble for every TikZ picture and a shared one for the circuitikz stuff.

For my latest work the shared preamble only includes

\documentclass[tikz]{standalone}

the one dedicated to all ordinary TikZ pictures is in fact empty and the one for all the circuitikz images contains

\usepackage[european,straightvoltages]{circuitikz}

For every image I can now create a file which contains only a \begin{document} and \end{document} and the contents in between (additional preamble material for that file could be added here, too). circuitikz image code is saved as img/<filename>.circuit, ordinary TikZ pictures as img/<filename>.tikz.

The next thing to setup is a Makefile for the main document and another Makefile for all those images.

The main Makefile for my latest project looks like this:

# User defined variables {{{
##########################################
# engine to be used
TEX    = pdflatex
# flags for that engine
FLAGS  = -halt-on-error -8bit
# relative path to included TeX-files
TEXF   = ./tex
# relative path to included TeX-files containing only preamble stuff
PREF   = ./preamble
# relative path to img folder containing tikz and circuit files
IMGF     = ./img
##########################################
# }}}
# Automatically defined variables {{{
##########################################
FILE   = $(wildcard ./*.tex)
SFILES = $(wildcard $(TEXF)/*.tex)
PREAMB = $(wildcard $(PREF)/*.tex)
PREAMB += $(wildcard $(PREF)/*.sty)
PREAMB += $(wildcard ./*.sty)
NAME   = $(FILE:%.tex=%)
OUT    = $(NAME).pdf
FMT    = $(NAME).fmt
##########################################
# }}}
# default target {{{
## the name 'quick' maybe misleading! 'all' might be faster if $(FILE) hasn't
## changed. 'quick' is for quickly running TeX assuming that you know what
## you're doing
quick: $(FMT) img
    $(TEX) $(FLAGS) -fmt="$(NAME)" $(FILE)
    #$(TEX) $(FLAGS) $(FILE);
# }}}
all: img $(OUT) #bib
$(OUT): $(FILE) $(SFILES) $(PREAMB)# {{{
    $(TEX) $(FLAGS) $(FILE);
    $(TEX) $(FLAGS) $(NAME).tex > /dev/null;
    $(TEX) $(FLAGS) $(NAME).tex > /dev/null;
# }}}
$(FMT): $(FILE) $(PREAMB)# {{{
    $(TEX) -ini -enc -jobname="$(NAME)" "&$(TEX)" mylatexformat.ltx """$(FILE)"""
# }}}
img: # {{{
    cd $(IMGF); make -j4
# }}}
.PHONY: clean cleantex cleansubfoldertex quick all img clean_img
clean: cleantex cleansubfoldertex clean_img
cleantex: # {{{
    -rm $(shell find $(NAME)\.* | grep -Ev '\.tex$$' | grep -Ev '\.sty$$' | grep -Ev '\.bib$$')
# }}}
cleansubfoldertex: # {{{
    -cd $(TEXF); rm $(shell cd $(TEXF); find * | grep -v tex);
# }}}
clean_img: # {{{
    -cd $(IMGF); make clean
# }}}

This Makefile has the default target quick, which will build a custom format if something in ./preamble/ or the main file has changed, call the Makefile for the images with the option -j4 which means that that Makefile can run 4 processes in parallel and build the PDF. It assumes that there is only one file with the file extension .tex which is the main file of the project.

The other targets are:

  • all: running TeX three times (and building the images if necessary)
  • clean: calling cleantex, cleansubfoldertex and clean_img
  • cleantex: delete every file having the same name as the main file, except those having the file extensions .tex, .sty and .bib
  • cleansubfoldertex: delete all files in ./tex/ except those containing tex in their names or file extension
  • clean_img: call the img Makefile with clean

The second Makefile should be placed in the ./img/ sub folder. It defines the rules to build the different image file types.

# User defined variables {{{
##########################################
# engine to use for everything that needs TeX
TEX     = pdflatex
# flags for the TeX engine
TFLAG   = -halt-on-error
# Python call
PY          = python
# flags for python
PFLAG   = 
# inkscape call (used for conversion of svg to pdf)
INK         = inkscape
# flags for inkscape
IFLAG   = --without-gui
# output option for inkscape
IOOPT   = --export-pdf=
# relative path to included TeX-files containing preamble stuff
# circuit related preamble
CPREAMB = circuit_preamble.tex
# tikz related preamble
TPREAMB = tikz_preamble.tex
# shared preamble
MPREAMB = ct_preamble.tex
# a configuration file for python
PYCONF  = custom_rcParams.py
# file extensions of different files
# for the tikz pictures
TIKZ    = tikz
# for circuitikz pictures
CIRC      = circuit
# for plots created by python
PYPL        = plot.py
# for svg files
SVG         = svg
##########################################
# }}}
# Automatically defined variables {{{
##########################################
CFILES   = $(wildcard ./*.$(CIRC))
PFILES   = $(wildcard ./*.$(PYPL))
SFILES   = $(wildcard ./*.$(SVG))
TFILES   = $(wildcard ./*.$(TIKZ))
COUT     = $(CFILES:%.$(CIRC)=%.$(CIRC).pdf)
POUT     = $(PFILES:%.$(PYPL)=%.$(PYPL).pdf)
SOUT     = $(SFILES:%.$(SVG)=%.$(SVG).pdf)
TOUT     = $(TFILES:%.$(TIKZ)=%.$(TIKZ).pdf)
##########################################
# }}}

all: circuit pypl svg tikz
circuit: $(COUT)
pypl: $(POUT)
svg: $(SOUT)
tikz: $(TOUT)

%.$(CIRC).pdf: %.$(CIRC) $(CPREAMB) $(MPREAMB)
    $(TEX) $(TFLAG) -jobname="$<" "\input{$(MPREAMB)}\input{$(CPREAMB)}\input{$<}"
    -rm $<.aux
    -rm $<.log

%.$(TIKZ).pdf: %.$(TIKZ) $(TPREAMB) $(MPREAMB)
    $(TEX) $(TFLAG) -jobname="$<" "\input{$(MPREAMB)}\input{$(TPREAMB)}\input{$<}"
    -rm $<.aux
    -rm $<.log

%.$(PYPL).pdf: %.$(PYPL) $(PYCONF)
    $(PY) $(PFLAG) $<

%.$(SVG).pdf: %.$(SVG)
    $(INK) $(IFLAG) $< $(IOOPT)"$<.pdf"

.PHONY: all circuit pypl svg tikz clean clean_tikz clean_circuit clean_pypl clean_svg

clean: clean_tikz clean_circuit clean_pypl clean_svg

clean_circuit:
    -rm $(COUT)
clean_tikz:
    -rm $(TOUT)
clean_pypl:
    -rm $(POUT)
clean_svg:
    -rm $(SOUT)

All the PDFs created by it have the naming scheme <filename>.<type>.pdf, so every TikZ picture which's source was named <filename>.tikz will create a PDF named <filename>.tikz.pdf. This way the clean target knows which PDFs can be removed and you can distinguish the files and use different \includegraphics options based on the filename.

One important thing left to do is setting up graphicx to recognize those image files as PDFs. This is done with

\usepackage[]{graphicx}
\DeclareGraphicsRule{.circuit.pdf}{pdf}{*}{}
\DeclareGraphicsRule{.tikz.pdf}{pdf}{*}{}
\DeclareGraphicsRule{.plot.py.pdf}{pdf}{*}{}
\DeclareGraphicsRule{.svg.pdf}{pdf}{*}{}

Now you can include your TikZ picture with \includegraphics{img/<filename>.tikz.pdf}.

Running make in the directory of your main file should build everything necessary for your finished PDF.

The overall approach keeps a clean structure with distinctive names for different types of content.

Possible speed gains

The above method builds really quick, as it parallelizes as much as possible (if you have many cores in your machine, you can change the -j4 option to more processes). Further speed gains could be achieved with building formats for the TikZ and circuitikz files.

Stuff to add

The project I used this on was a formulary for an exam, so I didn't need any bibliography or index. These should be added to the main Makefile if you need those (and shouldn't be too hard to do).

  • Wow, many thanks for the detailed description of your way handling pictures with tikz. I will have a try in using some aspects :) – SRel Aug 15 at 19:03

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