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What is the default value of medskipamount in the article class? I have not been able to locate this information. Is there some database where default values of various parameters can be accessed?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Using \showthe\medskipamount will produce the answer:

6.0pt plus 2.0pt minus 2.0pt.

\medskipamount is a "rubber length", i.e., it can be stretched (plus) or shrunk (minus) by a certain amount. (This is useful for, e.g., stretching page contents so that the last text line will be positioned exactly at the bottom margin.)

\medskipamount is not defined by article.cls, but part of the LaTeX kernel; its definition can be found in section 16.5 "Vertical spacing" of source2e.

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Perfect, thanks lockstep. What does the plus/minus mean? In some environments the medskipamount value will differ by that amount? – user001 Feb 21 '12 at 23:24
@user001: Yes. Please read some documentation on TeX. The concept you are looking for is glue. – Martin Schröder Feb 21 '12 at 23:33

Using \showthe\medskipamount will print the quantity in your .log file, just like \show\medskip will print

> \medskip=macro:
->\vspace \medskipamount .

in your .log file, showing what the macro does. For shorthand (rather than viewing the .log file), you can also print the amount in your actual document output using \the\medskipamount.

The printlen package is made especially for printing lengths using \printlength{<len>} within your document and switching between measurement units when printing via \uselengthunit{<unit>}:

enter image description here

\usepackage{printlen}% http://ctan.org/pkg/printlen
  \verb!\parskip! in points (\verb!pt!): & \the\parskip \\
  \verb!\textwidth! in inches (\verb!in!): & \uselengthunit{in}\printlength{\textwidth} \\
  \verb!3cm! in points (\verb!pt!): & \uselengthunit{pt}\printlength{\dimexpr3cm} \\
  \verb!2pt+.5\parindent-3bp! in centimetres (\verb!cm!): & \uselengthunit{cm}\printlength{\dimexpr2pt+.5\parindent-3bp}

Printing of font-specific components can vary depending on where it's used within the document. For example, \baselineskip is 0pt within tabular, but 12pt within regular text (when using \documentclass{article}).

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