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I have concluded that the package float allows figures to float within the section they belong to. However for one particular section I need to restrict the floating to the subsection (without forcing the exact location).

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX/Floats,_Figures_and_Captions#Custom_Floats I think this is the description of what I need, but I can't work further with it.

outer counter - the presence of this parameter indicates that the counter associated with this new float should depend on outer counter, for example 'chapter'.

I need to set that outer counter to be subsection rather than section which is the default. however I only need that for one specific section. Everywhere else floats can float...

Seeing this:

\newfloat{type}{placement}{ext}[outer counter]

I have tried and replaced figure for figuresubsec on the cases I needed and used this:

\newfloat{figuresubsec}{htbp}{floats-ext}[subsection]

however the pictures do appear but don't move to their subsection and they don't appear in the list of figures.

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Use the \FloatBarrier command of the placeins package.

EDIT: Counters associated with a float may influence float numbering, e.g. "Table 1.3" (third table in section 1 of an article) instead of "Table 3" (third table in an article). Those counters bear no direct relationship to float placement. (In the LaTeX standard book class, there's one indirect relationship: The \chapter command acts as a float barrier.)

EDIT2: The \newfloat command is used to create new types of floats, e.g. "maps" besides tables and figures. These "maps" may be listed in a "list of maps", but (unless you do some hacking) won't appear in the list of figures.

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    placeins has a sections option that places a \FloatBarrier before each section command, so that \usepackage[section]{placeins} does what the qner wants. Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 7:18
  • @Charles Stewart: The OP seems to want a \FloatBarrier for subsections (and only within one particular section), and I don't think there's a package option for that.
    – lockstep
    Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 7:24
  • @lockstep: And, indeed, for one particular subsection - I had misread the qn. Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 9:24
  • \FloatBarrier can be placed anywhere in the code, so it worked just fine. I'll keep in mind the automation \usepackage[section]{placeins} for the future
    – Splashy
    Commented Nov 8, 2010 at 3:13
  • @lockstep: in book class, '\subsection' is the float barrier (or at least it seems to be)
    – Splashy
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 14:50

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