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Say No to Latex Bloat: A Docker Approach

May 31, 2024    LaTex Docker Hack ☕️ buy me a coffee

Ever wanted to use Latex but worried about bloating your system with tons of packages? This was the exact situation I found myself in whilst trying to install TexMaths for LibreOffice! I have used docker-based latex before through the VSCode extension LatexWorkshop and this has worked very well. So, why not “install” latex directly on my computer? This post will guide you through creating a custom Docker image to keep Latex contained and your system clean.

By using Docker, we can create a self-contained environment with all the Latex packages we need. This way, our main system stays nice and lean. The base image for our custom build is a mere 0.07GB, but after we add Latex packages, it jumps to a whopping 4.05GB.


  1. We’ll create a couple of files: core.sh and a Dockerfile (found here). We’ll stick these in a directory called /opt/latex.
  2. Give execution rights to core.sh by running chmod +x core.sh
  3. Next, we’ll create a directory called /opt/latex/bin and add this directory to your system’s PATH environment variable. This will allow us to call Latex tools from anywhere on our system.
  4. Finally, we’ll create symlinks to core.sh in /opt/latex/bin for any Latex tools we want to use. For example, we can create a symlink for pdflatex with ln -s /opt/latex/{core.sh,bin/pdflatex}.


Since your entire home directory is mounted, you might wish to increase your security by setting root as the owner, and only setting owner as having write permissions.

# Set owner and group to root
sudo chown root:root core.sh Dockerfile
# Set chmod permissions to 755
# Owner : read, write, execute
# Group : read, execute
# Public: read, execute
sudo chmod 755 core.sh Dockerfile

How it Works

The core.sh script is the brain of the operation. It checks if a Docker image named latex:passthrough exists. If not, it builds that image using the instructions in the Dockerfile. Then, it calls the desired Latex tool within the Docker container by identifying the symlink basename and passing the arguments to the container. Finally, whilst running the container we give it access to $PWD at /tmp (our working directory), and /home at (shock) /home to allow the tools to use relative and absolute file paths. This way, we can use Latex tools as if they were installed on our system, but everything actually happens within the isolated Docker environment.

The Dockerfile is pretty straightforward. It starts with the ubuntu:23.10 image and installs the texlive-full package, which includes everything we need to get started. This is the part where you can add additional packages, such as dvisvgm. Finally, it sets the working directory to /tmp inside the container.

So, with Docker and a little bit of scripting, we can keep our system clean and whilst harnessing the power of latex!





if [ -z "$(docker images -q $TAG 2> /dev/null)" ]; then
    docker build -t $TAG /opt/latex/

ME=$(basename "$0")

docker run --rm -v `pwd`:/tmp -v /home:/home $TAG $ME $@


FROM ubuntu:23.10

RUN apt-get update && \
    apt-get install --no-install-recommends -y \
        texlive-full && \
    rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*