Automation of stuff that does not need to be automated at all is one of my most favorite procrastination activities. As an experienced (and most of the time unsuccessful) submitter to conferences organized by ACL (ACL, NAACL, EACL, EMNLP), I spent a lot of procrastinating time improving the Makefile compiling the papers.

Here are few commented snippets from the Makefiles. Hopefully, someone finds that useful.

The normal LaTeX stuff

I compile the paper using latexmk.

main.pdf: $(FILES)
	latexmk -pdflatex="$(LATEX) %O %S" -pdf -dvi- -ps- -halt-on-error main

I keep the dependencies in variable FILES, so I can use it in multiple targets without recompiling the paper over and over. Variable LATEX contains the LaTeX compiler. I mostly use pdflatex, so I do not have to deal with unexpected problems when I upload pre-prints to arXive where only pdflatex is allowed.

Currently, I draw most figures using tikz. Previously, I made the figure using Inkscape which required converting the SVG files into PDF. I did that using a wildcard target. First I defined a wildcard:

SVGFILES := $(wildcard img/*.svg)

This is then listed among dependencies as $(SVGFILES:%.svg=%.pdf) in the FILES variable. The target that converts the

%.pdf : %.svg
	inkscape -A $*.pdf $*.svg

If the paper contains plots from matplotlib, I handle them similarly by keeping one Python script per plot and by calling the scripts in the Makefile via a wildcard.

For continuous building as I write, I have a special target watch:

	latexmk -pdflatex="$(LATEX) %O %S" -pdf -dvi- -ps- -interaction=nonstopmode -synctex=1 -pvc main

Calling make watch starts a process that recompiles the paper every time the source code changes, but of course, it does not monitor the changes in scripts that generate images.

Separating the paper from the appendix

The main body of the paper and the appendix should be submitted in two separate pdf files. PDFs can be easily split in the terminal using for instance pdftk. To do so, we need to know first where to cut the PDF.

The following LaTeX code creates a file a prints the page number where the appendix starts into file appendix.tmp.



Then, I can add two targets to the Makefile that create two separate PDFs for the main paper and the appendix submission.

paper_submission.pdf: main.pdf
	pdftk main.pdf cat 1-$$(( `cat appendix.tmp` - 1 )) output paper_submission.pdf

appendix_submission.pdf: main.pdf
	pdftk main.pdf cat `cat appendix.tmp`-end output appendix_submission.pdf

Attaching source code

A good paper with reproducible results always comes with source code. Because I always have the code in a separate git repository, I keep the updated code next to the paper. The following Makefile snippet does the following:

  1. Clones the repository if it does not exist.

  2. Pulls if there is something new in the main branch.

  3. Exports the code (it is the checkout-index thing), so I am sure I am submitting the full history of commit to the conference.

  4. Creates a tarball for submission.

	if [ ! -e code_repository ]; then git clone $(REPO) code_repository; fi
	cd code_repository; \
	if `git fetch --dry-run | grep .`; then \
		git pull; \
		mkdir -p ../code \
		cd code_repository; git checkout-index -a -f --prefix=../code/; \
		cd ..; \
		tar zcvf code.tgz code; \
		rm -r code; \

Variable REPO contains the address to the remote repository. To make sure this shell stuff works out, I also SHELL=bash at the beginning of the Makefile, but it might not be necessary.

Further tricks

When submitting the camera-ready version to the conference, we are also asked to add the LaTeX source code as a zip file. I do it using the following target. $(FILES)
	zip *.sty *.bst *.bib $(FILES)

And finally, if you plan to use an external grammar checker such as Grammarly, you might want to compile the paper in such a way that you easily copy the text without dealing with hyphenation and weird characters. For that, I tried to compile the paper as HTML. Here is the snippet that does that, but it is far from being perfect.

html/$(NAME)_html.html: $(FILES)
	mkdir -p html
	sed -e 's/%\\aclfinalcopy/\\aclfinalcopy/' $(NAME).tex > main_html.tex
	make4ht -e mk4ht.mk4 --xetex --utf8 --jobname $(NAME)_html --output-dir html main_html.tex
	rm $(NAME)_html-*.{svg,png} $(NAME)_html*.* || true