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Is there a TeX command that returns the width of a given text as length value, so that I can use the result directly as a length argument of another command?

I mean, I would like to have a command \getWidth{my text} and want to use the result directly as the first argument of \parbox:

\parbox{\getWidth{my text}}{my foo\\bar text}
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3 Answers 3

up vote 59 down vote accepted

Use the calc package:

\parbox{\widthof{my text}}{...}
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Thanks. That's exactly what I looked for. –  Stefan Endrullis May 19 '11 at 12:05
    
I think calc package may redefine some units. For example, I get an error using math unit mu when the package is loaded. –  M.Reza Nov 22 '13 at 7:20
    
@M.Reza mu can be used only in math and only for \mkern or \mskip. –  egreg Nov 22 '13 at 10:04

I like to answer the question in a more general way, so that it is useful to a wider group of people.

There are the following macros which allow to store the width, height (the material above the baseline) and depth (the material below the baseline) of a given content.

\settowidth{\somelength}{<content>}
\settodepth{\somelength}{<content>}
\settoheight{\somelength}{<content>}

The calc package also provides one for the total height (height + depth):

\settototalheight{\somelength}{<content>}

as well as

\widthof{<content>}
\heightof{<content>}
\depthof{<content>}
\totalheightof{<content>}

which can be used directly inside \setlength or \addtolength.

If you need multiple dimension of the same content you can also store it in a box register and use its dimension directly (the above macros do this as well internally). These are dimension expressions and can be prefixed with a factor, e.g. .5\wd\mybox is half the width.

\newsavebox\mybox
\sbox{\mybox}{<content>}
\wd\mybox % width
\ht\mybox % height
\dp\mybox % depth

For the totalheight you need to add \ht\mybox and \dp\mybox together.

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This can be done with the calc package

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{calc}

\begin{document}
 \newlength{\myl}
\settowidth{\myl}{test text}
\the\myl
\end{document}

\the\myl will print out the value ~37pt.

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22  
\settowidth is actually part of standard LaTeX. Comment out the calc line and you'll see it still works. –  Matthew Leingang May 19 '11 at 9:39

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