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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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up vote 92 down vote accepted

Use the calc package (\usepackage{calc}):

\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.


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


as well as


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.

\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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How do you automate the addition of these two values together? – kando Jun 27 at 19:31
@kando: You can use additions inside \setlength when you load the calc package. – Martin Scharrer Jun 30 at 18:26

This can be done without the calc package


  \settowidth{\myl}{test text}

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

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\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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