Consider the following document:

  \caption{A caption.}
Some text after the figure.

Until recently, this compiled fine on my Devuan Beowulf (~= Debian Buster) system. Then after an apt-get dist upgrade a month and a half ago, it stopped compiling, complaining about the H placement:

 LaTeX Error: Unknown float option `H'.

However, on my laptop, with Ubuntu 18.04.3 (Bionic) - it continues to work.

Why could this be happening? And - how can I circumvent this?


Effect of source tweaking

  • If I remove the \usepackage{subcaption} - it works.
  • If I move the \usepackage{subcaption} after the float - it still doesn't work.
  • If I replace [H] with [h] - it works.

TeXLive versions

  • New broken system: 2018.20190227-2
  • Working laptop system: 2017.20180305-1

Full log:

Latexmk: This is Latexmk, John Collins, 18 June 2019, version: 4.65.
Latexmk: applying rule 'pdflatex'...
Rule 'pdflatex': The following rules & subrules became out-of-date:
Run number 1 of rule 'pdflatex'
Running 'pdflatex --shell-escape  -recorder  "a.tex" -file-line-error -synctex=1'
This is pdfTeX, Version 3.14159265-2.6-1.40.20 (TeX Live 2019/Debian) (preloaded format=pdflatex)
 \write18 enabled.
entering extended mode
LaTeX2e <2018-12-01>
Document Class: article 2018/09/03 v1.4i Standard LaTeX document class
(/usr/share/texlive/texmf-dist/tex/latex/float/float.sty) (./a.aux)

! LaTeX Error: Unknown float option `H'.

See the LaTeX manual or LaTeX Companion for explanation.
Type  H <return>  for immediate help.

l.5 \begin{figure}[H]

  • 2
    you probably need to update the float package on the system where it doesn't work. (It works in a fully updated texlive 2018 and in texlive 2019) – David Carlisle Oct 4 at 11:12
  • It also works in Texlive shipped with Debian buster. Might it be that you haven't upgraded all texlive related packages during the upgrade? – Sergei Golovan Oct 4 at 11:41
  • @DavidCarlisle: I just did that, and it still doesn't work. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 12:01
  • You are using a local (possibly changed) copy of float.sty. Try removing that. Well, you were, now you edited it out... – LaTeXer Oct 4 at 12:01
  • 1
    if you put \tracingmacros1 as the first line of the test file above you should get a 3Mb log file which you could zip up and send to me (google my name for a gmail address) (oh or pastebin is OK) – David Carlisle Oct 4 at 12:39

tl;dr : Your distro packaged a bad version of caption.sty.

This is due to your machine using a particularly inopportune version of the Debian SID texlive-latex-recommended package. A bug in caption.sty resulted in this failure; while it was promptly fixed, the texlive-latex-recommended package picked up the buggy caption.sty.

If you download an up-to-date versions of the the subcaption package, and place it your local texmf tree - the document should compile fine.

Also - check your /etc/apt/sources.list. There was a known glitch in some scenarios of upgrading to Devuan Beowulf which put APT lines for the Devuan Unstable repositories (ceres rather than beowulf) in the APT sources.

Thanks @DavidCarlisle for pointing me in that direction and @PhelypeOleinik for pinpointing the exact bug.

  • It was a bug in caption.sty. Your version had \def\@xfloat#1[#2]{\caption@ORI@xfloat{#1}[{#2}]\caption@settype{#1}}, while the new has \def\@xfloat#1[#2]{\caption@ORI@xfloat{#1}[#2]\caption@settype{#1}}. This made the \@ifnextchar test see the extra { instead of H when looking for it. – Phelype Oleinik Oct 4 at 13:37
  • 2
    More on that: The bug was reported here, and it apparently lasted one single day on CTAN. Your debian packaging chose the wrong day to update its version :-) – Phelype Oleinik Oct 4 at 13:39
  • Installing the “vanilla TUG” TeX Live is a one-time-a-year burden. It allows you to update packages without waiting for Debian do it; and you'll have the last stable version of TeX Live. – egreg Oct 4 at 14:22
  • @egreg: Is that what I get if I simply download TeXLive directly? Or is there some "annual TUG distro"? – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 17:20
  • @einpoklum TeX Live is released once a year. Packaged versions provided by GNU/Linux distributions may (and usually do) lag behind. – egreg Oct 4 at 17:29

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