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I would like to define a *'d version of a command, something like


If I try to do this, LaTeX complains that I'm trying to redefine \foo, so I guess I need to do something special to handle *s. But what?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 46 down vote accepted

See this entry in the UK TeX FAQ.

The "elegant" way is to use the suffix package (which requires eTeX):






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Does this work with commands with optional arguments too? If so how? –  YAK Mar 11 at 10:59
@YAK I don't know. Note that the combination starred/optional is very rare. –  lockstep Mar 11 at 11:37
Ups, I meant normal arguments, not optionals. And it works (\WithSuffix\newcommand\foo*[1]{Foo #1}) but warns "No 2nd argument following newcommand"... –  YAK Mar 11 at 12:13

If you look at source2e you might see a lot of lines that look like


This makes \foo a one-argument command that has regular and starred versions. The starred version is the expansion of \@foo while the nonstarred version is that of \@@foo. Using the @ sign in the auxiliary macros is a TeX convention which some authors embrace and some avoid.

There are higher-level ways to do it (as lockstep points out) but once you learn this pattern it's not too hard to use. Just make sure it's between \makeatletter...\makeatother or in a .sty file.

Edits removed some inaccuracies and editorializing.

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What's the controversy with @? FWIW, it's also used in Plain and ConTeXt (although far less in the latter, which do is more common, leading to some funny command names such as \dodohideblock). –  Will Robertson Oct 22 '10 at 3:22
Let me be clear that I follow the @-convention and am not advocating against it. But I can also see the point of view that the name \@foo (or \f@o or \f@@) doesn't help the human reader understand the relationship. \@foowithstar and \@foowithoutstar might be better. Sorry if I blew that internal ambivalence into a controversy. :-) Also, I wanted to point out that @'s are not required in auxiliary macros. –  Matthew Leingang Oct 22 '10 at 11:12
Yes, using '@' in place of vowels is a pain in the neck, whereas using it as a divider is fine. –  Joseph Wright Oct 23 '10 at 17:39

LaTeX3 solution:

    {blahblah}% If a star is seen
    {blah}%     If no star is seen
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