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For debugging a complicated macro I would like to print out the catcode of a token. Optimally I would like to have a macro \getcatcode such that, for example, \getcatcode{a} would expand to 10. How can this be done?

I found lots of information about how to set/change catcodes, but nothing about how to read them.

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BTW: the catcode of a is 11 (letter) not 10 (space). – Martin Scharrer Jun 22 '11 at 13:22
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Use \catcode together with \the to get the catcode of the token:


Note: The ` turns the next character into its ASCII number which is required for \catcode.

As custom macro:


Special characters must be escaped with a backslash, e.g. % must be written as \%, # as \# etc. It doesn't hurt to write normal letters the same way, e.g. \getcatcode\a works as well.

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As explained in an exercise of the TeXbook one can also write

      beginning of group\or
      end of group\or
      math shift\or
      end of line\or

 The category code is `\printcatcode\%'

Just to point out that any of the "code tables" in TeX can be used to access the value (\catcode, \lccode, \uccode, \mathcode, \delcode, \sfcode).

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The solutions offered by Martin and egreg print the current catcode of a character. I understood the original question to be how one can print the catcode of a token, i.e., one that has already been scanned, possibly in the past, when different catcodes were in effect. Consider this:


     \message{The catcode of the ##1 in \noexpand#1 is \getcatcode{##1}.^^J}


Clearly the @s stored in the macros \x and \y have two different catcodes. However, with Martin's macro, we get:

The catcode of the @ in \x  is 12.
The catcode of the @ in \y  is 12.

That is because Martin's macro prints the 'current' catcode of the character represented by the token, rather than the catcode actually stored in the token.

The following is a better solution:

  % locally ensure that characters have their expected catcodes
  \catcode`\ =10%
    \ifcat\noexpand#1 10\else%

With this, we get the expected answer:

The catcode of the @ in \x  is 11.
The catcode of the @ in \y  is 12.

The code is a bit awkward and I wonder if there is a more elegant solution. I was unable to test for catcodes 0, 1, 2, 5, 9, 14, and 15, but I am not sure if such catcodes can actually occur after the input has been tokenized.

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Category codes 1 and 2 can certainly exist: think \def\x{{a}} which holds three tokens, {, a and }. – Joseph Wright Feb 24 '15 at 14:36

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