2013-01-28: LaTeX, Page Counts, and Sub-Documents

The source for this post is online at 2013-01-28-latex-pages.scrbl.

Categories: LaTeX Make

I was recently preparing a grant proposal and had an annoying problem: the proposal had to be submitted as many separate PDFs and each had different page length requirements. Clearly I could make one giant PDF with LaTeX and then use something like Print to File many times with different page ranges, but that would just be horrible. In addition, wouldn’t it be annoying to keep track of how many pages I had already written for each section?


In order to solve the first problem, I created a beautiful Makefile that would make each of the individual documents by using PDFtk to split them off of the master. The proper way to do that is:

  pdftk ${INPUT}.pdf cat ${FROM}-${TO} output ${OUTPUT}.pdf

where ${FROM} or ${TO} could be dropped.

The Makefile took care of this splendidly:


all: summ.pdf desc.pdf bio.pdf budget.pdf refs.pdf


summ.pdf: master.pdf

    pdftk $< cat 1 output $@


desc.pdf: master.pdf

    pdftk $< cat 2-16 output $@


bio.pdf: master.pdf

    pdftk $< cat 17-18 output $@


budget.pdf: master.pdf

    pdftk $< cat 19 output $@


refs.pdf: master.pdf

    pdftk $< cat 20-end output $@


%.pdf: %.tex

    pdflatex $(basename $@)

    bibtex $(basename $@)

But the annoying problem during development was... how to ensure that there will actually always be 20+ pages, even when I’m in the middle of writing? In particular, before the description has reached the 15 page mark?

The key was to use a little LaTeX macro to add pages until the page count reached the correct number.




% 1

\setcounter{page}{1} \include{summ}

% 2 - 16

\setcounter{page}{1} \include{desc}


\forloop{descpages}{\value{page}}{\value{page} < 16}{



% 17 - 18

\setcounter{page}{1} \include{bio}


\forloop{biopages}{\value{page}}{\value{page} < 2}{



% 19

\setcounter{page}{1} \include{budget}

% 20 - end

\setcounter{page}{1} \bibliography{all}


Although it is a totally trivial and stupid program (that I can’t figure out how to abstract and make nicer), it is still wonderful that LaTeX can do this sort of thing and make my work-flow so much simpler.

I love programs and being able to make them do what I need. I can’t imagine how sad life would be if you didn’t have the ability to change your computer when it wasn’t behaving the way you wanted.