For every successful build, the output document from your LaTeX file will automatically be uploaded to your Dropbox—syncing across all your devices everywhere.

Note: I shifted to a Docker-based solution. Know more here.

When working with collaborators in large projects, an efficient continuous integration and deployment pipeline will keep your sanity. The same goes with LaTeX documents, even if you’re working alone, a good pipeline can increase your document’s portability and use.

In this tutorial, we’ll go through the process of setting-up a continuous integration pipeline via Travis-CI and an automatic deployment scheme through Dropbox. This means that everytime you perform a git commit, Travis-CI will attempt to build your document. If the build is successful, the output (mostly the .pdf file) will be automatically uploaded to your Drobox. Our pipeline will look like this:

Figure 1: LaTeX with Continuous Integration and Deployment Workflow

In order to make this tutorial straightforward, I’ll assume that these preliminary steps were already done:

First, we’ll start by configuring our Dropbox account to obtain authorization keys, then move forward with writing our .travis.yml file.

Configuring our Dropbox account

This step probably is the easiest part of this tutorial. Make sure that you have access to curl or wget to accomplish these tasks. Most Linux distributions (I’m using Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) already have these. If you are a Windows user, you can try running these via Cygwin (warning: I haven’t tested this tutorial against cygwin!).

Dropbox uploader is a portable shell script that is designed to interact with the Dropbox API via the command-line. It’s lightweight, so you can easily include this in your repository. To install, simply type the following:

curl "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/andreafabrizi/Dropbox-Uploader/master/dropbox_uploader.sh" -o dropbox_uploader.sh


And then give execution permission to the script and execute it:

$chmod +x dropbox_uploader.sh$ ./dropbox_uploader.sh


This will then guide you to configure your access via Dropbox. This typically involves going to Dropbox’s Developer’s Page, creating your Application, and generating your OAuth2 key. Afterwards, you’ll obtain a file ~./dropbox_uploader that contains your access key. Remember that you have this for now, we’ll be using this file later on.

Make sure that dropbox_uploader.sh (the shell file) is inside the your project repository. This means that it will be tracked by Git via git add. We’ll also put the file ~./dropbox_uploader inside our directory, but since it contains security information regarding our Dropbox accounts, we will first encrypt it via travis encrypt. Head on to the next step for more information.

Setting-up Travis-CI

If you’ve been using a continuous integration service before, you may already know the purpose of a .travis.yml file. For starters, this file contains the build script that will be followed everytime you perform a git push. I’ll first show you the “final product,” then we’ll build each component one-by-one:

sudo: required
dist: trusty
before_install:
- openssl aes-256-cbc -K $encrypted_XXXXXXXXXXXX_key -iv$encrypted_XXXXXXXXXXXX_iv -in .dropbox_uploader.enc -out ~/.dropbox_uploader -d
- ./tlsetup.sh

script:
- make latex COMPILER=xelatex
- ./dropbox_uploader.sh upload _build/main.pdf ${TRAVIS_BRANCH}/main-latest.pdf - ./dropbox_uploader.sh upload _build/main.pdf${TRAVIS_BRANCH}/main-${TRAVIS_JOB_NUMBER}.pdf  • sudo: required : we’ll be needing some sudo privileges here to install Texlive and other additional packages • dist: trusty : as of now, the most stable Linux distribution in Travis is Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (trusty). There’s a 16.04 version, but requires some Docker utilities to achieve. • openssl... : this takes your encrypted .dropbox_uploader keys to gain access to Dropbox. You will need to replace the X’s here with the values given to you by travis encrypt. I’ll walk you through this later on. • ./tlsetup.sh : a build script to install Texlive and other required packages. I’ll leave a Github gist for you to modify and use in your project. • make latex... : a minimal Makefile that I created for easy compilation of LaTeX files. You don’t need to use this, nevertheless, I’ll leave a Github gist for you to use. • ./dropbox_uploader.sh upload... : executes the Dropbox Uploader and performs the upload command to take your build artifacts into Dropbox. Again, I’ll walk you through each component so you can customize your own Makefiles and set-up scripts or build on-top of mine. In case you feel overwhelmed, don’t be! Once you see “upload notifications” popping up in your Dropbox, I assure you that it will feel worth it! Encrypting your Dropbox access keys We’ll be needing our access keys inside our repository in order to make the upload successful. However, we should never upload the actual ~/.dropbox_uploader inside the repo. Instead, we need it to encrypt it using a Travis tool: $ gem install travis


Log-in to Travis and encrypt our files. You can perform these commands inside your working directory:

$travis login --auto$ travis encrypt-file ~/.dropbox_uploader


You will then have the encrypted file .dropbox_uploader.enc. Add this to your repository instead of the actual ~/.dropbox_uploader file. In addition, you should see in the wizard that you need to add an openssl... key similar to the one above. Copy, and put that in your .travis.yml file.

Set-up TexLive Installation

Next, we need to install TexLive in our Travis build. In the .travis.yml above, all of the installation details can be found in ./tlsetup.sh. This installs a minimal TexLive 2015 distribution, the XeLaTeX compiler, and the biber package to handle all your bibliographic needs. At the bottom of the script, you can add all required packages your document needs like algpseudocode, hyperref, etc.

Why not use texlive-full? Although texlive-full installs almost all of the packages we will use, this slows down our build time. Here, we just need to perform a minimal installation, then add only the required packages we’ll need.

Feel free to use this script to come up with your own. In case you have suggestions in improving the build script and lessen build times, just comment on the gist and I will update it!

Remember that tlsetup.sh should be inside your repository. In addition, let’s grant some execute permission to this file:

$chmod +x tlsetup.sh  Create your Makefile The Makefile contains the workhorse for compiling your LaTeX documents. Below is my Makefile containing a minimal workflow consisting of the commands pdflatex, pdflatex, biber, pdflatex done in succession. Locally, you can run this file by typing the following command: $ make latex


This assumes that the root .tex file to be compiled is named main. You can easily change this by supplying a value to the PROJECT argument:

$make latex PROJECT=MyNewFileName  The output file is stored in the _build directory, though you can edit this by passing a value to the BUILDDIR argument: $ make latex PROJECT=MyNewFileName BUILDDIR=output_dir


You can also change the LaTeX compiler from pdflatex to xelatex through the COMPILER argument. In my sample .travis.yml file, we’re actually using the xelatex compiler.

$make latex PROJECT=MyNewFileName BUILDDIR=output_dir COMPILER=xelatex  Upload Travis artifacts into Dropbox So once the Texlive distribution is installed properly (via tlsetup.sh) and once the compilation has been done successfully (via Makefile), we can then upload the Travis artifacts (i.e, the files created during a Travis “run”) into Dropbox. For our purposes, we’ll be uploading the .pdf file from the _build directory into Dropbox. This is easily done by the following script as seen in .travis.yml: $ ./dropbox_uploader.sh upload _build/main.pdf ${TRAVIS_BRANCH}/main-latest.pdf$ ./dropbox_uploader.sh upload _build/main.pdf ${TRAVIS_BRANCH}/main-${TRAVIS_JOB_NUMBER}.pdf


In this set-up, we’re invoking the ./dropbox_uploader.sh script and executing the upload command. We’ll be uploading from our “local directory” the artifact _build/main.pdf into the “remote directory” \${TRAVIS_BRANCH}. This means that for every branch, we’ll create a specific folder. For each folder, we’ll upload a -latest file and another file corresponding to a Travis job.

Of course, this is purely opinionated and you can modify this depending on your needs. You can check the list of Travis variables in this link. Also, be sure to update your “local directory” _build/main.pdf in case you’re using a different output directory and project name.

Perform a git push and see the magic happen!

If you’ve followed these steps properly, you should see that the output .pdf is uploaded on the branch where you’ve performed a git push. You’ll probably see a master directory pertaining to the master branch, and two files, main-latest.pdf and main-{TRAVIS_BUILD_NUMBER}.pdf, inside.

In case there are errors, be sure to check the Job Log in Travis-CI. In my experience, most of the errors come from missing packages in my TeX document that I wasn’t able to install beforehand. Be sure to check those gotchas and include them in the install script below.

Lastly, there are other ways to speed-up the build script and one of them is via a Docker image. It may be easier to have an image with the full TexLive installation inside so that we only need to bother with the Makefile.

Hope this short tutorial helps! Leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions to make this thing easier!

References

• This tutorial by H. Vakharia is good. Here, he uses Sephamore CI and Docker in his workflow. I adapted this work for a regular Travis-CI build.
• This short tutorial for uploading Travis artifacts to Dropbox is also nice.

Changelog

• 09-28-2018: Update figure using Tikz for consistency