I often use LaTeX to make my documents. Since it is all text, it makes sense to use Git (in combination with Github) as my version control system (it offers more control than, say, Dropbox over what and how often things are backed up + I can add meaningful commit messages). From time to time things will be passed around in their compiled PDF form, then addenda will be made to that (possibly by others) and things can get… messy, if you do not recall what version of your document you created that particular PDF with.

To solve this, I use git describe which prints out what commit you are on. An example output.

$ git describe

Here, v4.5 is a tag of mine, 39 is the number of commits since that tag and gb338f76 is the commit hash. Next up you will want that information used in your LaTeX document. I pass it on by compiling with:

pdflatex '\newcommand{\versionortoday}{$(shell git describe --dirty)}\input{latexdocument}'

Where latexdocument is your actual main document. Note that I use --dirty this adds a dirty tag to the describe output in case there are uncommitted changes in the working tree. Compiling this way will provide your LaTeX document with the command \versionortoday. However this may create problems when someone copies your document tree, but not the entire git repository and thus want to compile without the version mention. As a backup for that, add the following in your LaTeX document preamble.


This command makes \versionortoday display today’s date (hence the ortoday part of the command’s name) if the \versionortoday command is not yet defined at that moment. So now using the command in your LaTeX document will output the version according to git or, in case it is not provided, will put the date in that place.