I want to create unique ID numbers for my documents, and am doing so using a random number generator like this:

\usepackage[first=1, last=100000000]{lcg}

However, really I would like to create a random number once on first build of the document and then have the same number used from then on in subsequent builds. Can I do this? and if so, how?

  • Hi, this is an interesting question and it looks like you've received a good answer. However, wouldn't it be easier to just create the random number some other way and hard-code it into your document? For example, you could use the following website. random.org/integers
    – James
    Oct 26, 2021 at 13:04
  • See the seed option for lcg (page 2 of manual). Oct 26, 2021 at 21:45
  • @JohnKormylo: Can you expand on how the seed option will help? The OP wants an initial random integer that is then retained for subsequent builds. I assume you are suggesting to use a seed value. But if the OP must enter a random seed, then they might as well just input a random document number instead, correct? Now if the OP needs many persistent random numbers generated in a single document, then I can see how a seed value would be useful.
    – James
    Oct 27, 2021 at 11:13
  • 1
    @James, yes, one could create the number some other way, but it imposes the burden to do this on all users of a document template I am creating. The solution provided hides this extra step from the users who then don't have to think about it. It's pretty cool.
    – crobar
    Oct 27, 2021 at 14:37
  • @crobar: I understand now. I didn't realize you were creating this for other users.
    – James
    Oct 27, 2021 at 15:19

3 Answers 3


You can save the generated random number to a file named \jobname.rid, then every time you build the document, it reads that file. If you delete the .rid file then a new random number is generated:


% ID code
% Create a variable "\c_crobar_id_file_str" that contains the .rid file name:
\str_const:Nx \c_crobar_id_file_str { \c_sys_jobname_str . rid }
% Create a macro "\crobar@set@ID" that assigns its argument to the integer "\c_crobar_random_int":
\cs_new_protected:Npn \crobar@set@ID #1
  { \int_const:Nn \c_crobar_random_int {#1} }
% Check if the .rid file exists:
\file_if_exist:nTF { \c_crobar_id_file_str }
    % If it does, input it:
    \file_input:n { \c_crobar_id_file_str }
    % If the file doesn't exist, create one and assign using \crobar@set@ID
    \crobar@set@ID { \int_rand:nn { 1 } { 100000000 } }
    % Then open the .rid file for writing (iow = IO/Write)
    \iow_open:Nn \g_tmpa_iow { \c_crobar_id_file_str }
    % Now write "\crobar@set@ID{<random number>}" to the .rid file
    \iow_now:Nx \g_tmpa_iow
      { \crobar@set@ID { \int_use:N \c_crobar_random_int } }
    % And close the .rid file
    \iow_close:N \g_tmpa_iow
% Finally, create a user-level command \random that writes the integer \c_crobar_random_int
\cs_new:Npn \random { \int_to_arabic:n { \c_crobar_random_int } }
% ID code

This document ID is \random.

Running the document on my machine resulted in:

enter image description here

  • This could be the solution, thanks! However, is it possible to use an alternative file name/extension so that one can still delete the default aux file if necessary (or delete the ID file only)? Also, can this be used in a cls file to hide the complexity from users?
    – crobar
    Oct 26, 2021 at 12:30
  • @crobar Changed it to use a dedicated file. The code is the same whether it's in a class file, or in the preamble, as long as \random is not used before the random number is assigned. Oct 26, 2021 at 12:46
  • very impressive, thanks. Unfortunately I'll have to google every command to fully understand it!
    – crobar
    Oct 26, 2021 at 12:54
  • @crobar I added some comments along the code to (hopefully) make it easier to understand. The code uses mostly expl3 interface functions, so if you want to take a deeper look into how it works, I suggest looking for these functions in interface3.pdf instead. If there's any specific part you are having trouble to understand, feel free to ask Oct 26, 2021 at 13:08
  • I've been struggling a bit to use this. I tried putting the example all in one file and building it, but it failed. I then tried splitting into a cls and tex file with everything up to \end{filecontents*} in the cls. The first error I get is like ! Undefined control sequence. l.1 \crobar. I'm also curious about why there is no \begin{filecontents*}? Also I understand this is using LaTeX3 code, and after having searched, I'm not really sure what I need to do to use it in LaTeX2E?
    – crobar
    Oct 27, 2021 at 13:47

Not an answer, but extending the idea of an ID into the visual space:

Since a glyph in a font is (mapable to) a code-number, setting the randomizer to a Unicode codeblock, say, \int_rand:nn { 19968 } { 40938 }, running it multiple times and typesetting it in an appropriate font, a many-digit ID number can become an ID "phrase":

ID word

There are many blocks:

ID word2

Possible use-case could be to replace GUIDs or larger, representing them in a more compact form.


Try to load \jobname.rid, and if it fails, create a random ID to a command \docID and store its definition in \jobname.rid.


\usepackage[first=1, last=100000000]{lcg}

   % writing \def\docID{<ID>} to \jobname.rid


ID: \docID


Caution: random seed seams to depend on time up to minute (so it is the same in runs within the same minute).

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