{tex-core} is for questions that are independent of formats and macro packages. Such questions usually relate to low-level TeX programming or the behaviour of TeX at an underlying level. Note that even Plain TeX is a format in itself; for questions about it, use {plain-tex}.

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LaTeX @ (at) symbol [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why do LaTeX internal commands have an @ in them? What does the @ symbol mean in LaTeX? I'm looking at the source of apa.cls, and there's a declaration: ...
20
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3answers
990 views

Why does TeX remove braces around delimited arguments?

On pp. 203–204 of the TeXbook, Knuth describes how TeX absorbs macros' arguments: delimited go until the first appearance of the delimiter, and undelimited go until the next token, in both cases ...
20
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5answers
896 views

Where do I find \futurelet's nasty behaviour documented?

Until recently, I thought that execution of \futurelet\testtoken<token1><token2>... has the following effect: The control sequence \testtoken is \let to <token2> and ...
20
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2answers
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What are the exact semantics of \detokenize?

How does \detokenize work? The e-TeX Short Reference Manual states: When followed by a <general text>, expands to yield a sequence of character tokens of \catcode 10 (space) or 12 ...
20
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1answer
465 views

How does a TeX engine read and render the input stream?

I am new to TeX programming and I have not finished reading the TeXBook yet. I need at a glance tutorial about how a TeX engine reads, processes, and produces its output. My mental model as a newbie ...
20
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1answer
114 views

Is implicit `\relax` in conditionals explained anywhere in the TeXbook?

I have been relying for years on TeX's behavior where, say \if1\fi expands to nothing and \if1\else\fi does the same. In the second case TeX inserts an 'implicit' \relax when it tries to expand \else. ...
20
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2answers
208 views

Has a command access to its own name?

Can two commands where the one is a copy of the other so that \ifx gives true have different behaviour depending on the actual name used for a call? \documentclass{article} \newcommand\red{some code ...
20
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1answer
287 views

The \lowercase trick

We have a number of questions or rather answers using (and explaining) the \lowercase “trick”. \begingroup \lccode`\~=`\. \lowercase{\endgroup\def~}#1{foo with #1} However, after reading on ...
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5answers
964 views

How does one append material to a token list?

Several times, the floatrow package uses \newtoks which (according to this website) means that a token register is allocated. An example code snippet is ...
19
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4answers
389 views

Extract all emphasized words from latex document

I need to produce a list of all words that are emphasised in my LaTeX document (=which are enclosed by \emph{...}). How can I use awk to process the .tex file and extract all patterns starting with ...
19
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3answers
294 views

If I redefine a command that has a starred variant, will that always disable the starred variant?

If I redefine a command that has a starred variant, will this always effectively disable the starred variant, as a side effect of redefining the unstarred variant? A related question: Do starred ...
19
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2answers
381 views

Will LaTeX work on any TeX?

As I understand it, latex is simply a macro package for tex, as in tex the program, not the format. (Again, weird, but I understand LaTeX to be a format of TeX.) Does this imply that LaTeX the ...
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2answers
236 views

global confusion

Simply put, when should I care if something is global or not? What does this really mean? If my package, for example, provides \newcommand*{\setfooter}[1]{\def\mypackage@footer{#1}} And I later ...
19
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3answers
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Obfuscating TeX

Given TeX's system of catcodes, I imagine that one can obfuscate TeX to a remarkable degree. With a view to learning more about the internals of TeX, I ask: How might I go about adding a block of ...
19
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2answers
728 views

TeX's algorithms for “breaking paragraph into lines” and “setting the glue”

I want to learn more about the implementation of TeX's text-justification algorithm (setting the glue). After scanning through ch.12 of Knuth's TeXbook, I'm guessing that setting the glue must ...
19
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2answers
438 views

Outright impossible TeX byte sequence

Out of a hacker's interest, I am wondering if there is any byte sequence that can never occur in any valid TeX document before \end is processed. I thought of things like {\catcode`}=9\catcode`\=9 ...
19
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3answers
526 views

Whatsits: when are they used in practice?

This question came up in discussions surrounding the question How to replace a large block of text by an empty block of the same size?, which basically asks for a vmode analog of \phantom. My question ...
19
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1answer
662 views

Why do the definitions of \quad, etc. have \relax in them?

Plain Tex defines \quad so: \def\quad{\hskip1em\relax} Why is the \relax there? It's usually used as a token that can't be expanded, serving as a "do nothing" operation after macro expansion is ...
19
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1answer
1k views

What are the differences between TeX counts and LaTeX counters?

The title already states the whole question. It has been answered by Joseph Wright at http://www.texdev.net/2009/11/17/tex-counts-and-latex-counters/, but I have not seen the according answer here at ...
18
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1answer
296 views

Why can words with hyphen char not be hyphenated?

Assume I have a word like Baden-Württemberg. TeX can't hyphenate any of these two word parts. Why? why isn't it something like this: where the small ticks indicate possible hyphenation points. A ...
18
votes
1answer
961 views

Knuth's line breaking algorithm

I'm trying to understand the basics of Knuth's line breaking algorithm. At the beginning of Chapter 12: Glue of his TeXbook, there is a figure like the one below. My question is: where did those ...
18
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1answer
242 views

Plain TeX online documentation/references?

I am a non-beginner plain TeX user, mostly typesetting cheat sheets for computer science. I own The TeXbook and have seen some TeX manuals for the compilers, such as pdfTeX manuals and so forth. My ...
18
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1answer
288 views

Drawbacks of redefining math accents with extra leading {}?

As I discovered through the non-bug latex/4253, TeX has a (mis)feature whereby it ignores braces around a \mathaccent construction: ${a_b}_c$ works, but ${\tilde a_b}_c$ fails with a "Double ...
17
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1answer
620 views

How does TeX actually work?

Lots of useful information for human beings, especially in academia. But, what is actually underlying the TeX engine? How does it really work? Does it parse everything and just put the stuff together? ...
17
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3answers
292 views

Where can I find a documentation for low-level tex conditionals like \if?

I want to understand low-level stuff like \if better. I'm not looking for some random examples off Google showing me some statements but a specification of some sort - something mean and unforgiving. ...
17
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2answers
349 views

Why does this simple \ifx test fail?

This should be easy, but I don't understand why the test below fails... I expected Hurrah! to be printed when the \currentchar count reaches 90 (i.e. the character code of Z). There must be some ...
17
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2answers
293 views

Get the lion to run in loops. Tersely

Various constructions can cause TeX (aka the lion) to go into an infinite loop. The simplest example is \def~{~}~, which defines ~ to expand to itself, then expands it. Now, if we exclude macro ...
17
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5answers
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Are there purely expandable variants of \MakeUppercase?

\MakeUppercase and \uppercase use TeX's uccode, and they are not purely expandable. Say, \edef\temp{\MakeUppercase{abc}} will fail. Sometimes purely expandable macros are very useful. They are ...
17
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2answers
289 views

What is \box255?

I'm just reading the everyshi manual, and it says: This package provides the hooks \EveryShipout and \AtNextShipout whose arguments are executed after the output routine has constructed ...
17
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1answer
559 views

How does TeX handle \else and \fi in conditionals?

I have seen packages using \def\afterelse#1\else#2\fi{\fi#1} which TeX seems happy to accept. But on taking the first branch, isn't TeX expecting \else instead of \fi? That is, isn't the following ...
17
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2answers
5k views

\nothing, \varnothing and \emptyset

This is probably a question about TeX's history. Why there is no command \nothing? If there's no \nothing, why \varnothing is called \varnothing instead of \nothing? If I try to compile a document ...
17
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1answer
126 views

What primitives can expandably tell us about the current horizontal list?

I've been writing some code that expands macros and catches characters and non-expandable primitives as they reach TeX's stomach, and I encountered an issue: since I gather letters one by one, with ...
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7answers
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What is the canonical way to write a for-loop macro?

At a basic level TeX does not provide a for-loop construct, but allows tail-end recursion, however Knuth defined \loop in the plain macros. Coders have been coming with variations of their own ever ...
16
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3answers
3k views

What is the difference between \ifx\somecommand\undefined and \ifdefined\somecommand\else?

What is the difference between \ifx\cyrdash\undefined and \ifdefined\cyrdash\else? \cyrdash is any macro.
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2answers
547 views

How does one publish/promote a new package?

I just took all the wonderful information supplied here, and wrote a small package that makes it possible to use Unicode characters for section, subsection, subsubsection, paragraph, subparagraph and ...
16
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2answers
258 views

Use of \everyeof and \endlinechar with \scantokens

The e-TeX \scantokens primitive allows retokenization of input. However, it is almost always used in a group where \everyeof and \endlinechar are set (see for example Can I convert a string to catcode ...
16
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2answers
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When is it good practice to use \unskip

One sees in source2e the command \unskip used in various places. My understanding in general terms is that the macro is the equivalent of \ignorespacesbehind. Where would it be recommended to use ...
16
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3answers
869 views

Does `\noexpand` have to be a primitive?

Background: I'm trying to deepen my understanding of TeX and how the intricacies work (spurred a little by this place, I should say, and hoping one day to not be a "Cargo Cult Programmer" - see When ...
16
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2answers
610 views

Difference between \let\foo\relax and \def\foo{} for disabling

When I want some macro to (temporarily) do nothing, I normally write \let\foo\relax But somebody asked me why I don't just do \def\foo{} and I realized I couldn't answer his question. So, I ...
16
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1answer
828 views

What does \marks do?

Recently I had cause to define a macro called \marks. If I try something like \newcommand{\marks}{fred} I get the error ! LaTeX Error: Command \marks already defined. In LaTeX, if I do ...
16
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2answers
3k views

What's the difference between \tolerance and \badness ?

I'm having some difficulty understanding this sentence on page 29, Chapter 6 of Knuth's TeXbook: Run TeX again, and begin this time by saying \hsize=2in \tolerance=1600 \input story ...
16
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1answer
821 views

How do \lastskip and \ifdim work?

I thought I knew the answer to this question, but I can't understand the following plain TeX code: \noindent\hskip1pt\ifdim\lastskip=0pt lastskip was 0pt\fi\par \noindent\hskip1pt\showthe\lastskip ...
16
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1answer
249 views

Why are \new… defined as \outer in the plain TeX format?

In plain.tex, D.E.Knuth decided to define as \outer all the macros which allocate registers: \newcount, \newdimen, \newskip, \newread, \newwrite. This forbids them from entering the argument of ...
16
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3answers
250 views

Can I convert a string to catcode 11?

In the TeX FAQ there's a way to test if the jobname is equal to something (comparing the jobname). The difficulty of the naïve test is that the contents of the \jobname primitive are catcode 12 so to ...
16
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1answer
614 views

Is it still worthwhile to let TeX try line-breaking without hyphenation?

Here's TeX's line-breaking approach (as I understand it) in a nutshell: If \pretolerance is positive, try to break a paragraph into lines without inserting discretionary hyphens and without ...
16
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1answer
455 views

When can one use implicit braces instead of explicit braces?

For context, an implicit character is a control sequence that has been \let to a character. For example, both plain TeX and LaTeX use \let\bgroup{ \let\egroup} making \bgroup and \egroup into implicit ...
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3answers
1k views

How to compile the source code of TeX

I am more and more interested in the system TeX (and LaTeX) and I want to study it more deeply. I am not telling that I want to learn how to use it, but I want to understand its mechanism now. The ...
15
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3answers
2k views

\string command behavior - Plain TeX

I would like to learn Plain TeX and I'm reading Knuth's "The TeXBook". At Chapter 7, Knuth talks about the \string command and how it converts control sequences into lists of characters tokens. Why ...
15
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3answers
288 views

Parsing strings containing diacritical marks (macros?)

I apologize that this question may seem very much like several other recent ones I have asked (Parsing leading hardspaces, Parsing a \$ as part of an improved \getargs command). They are all related ...
15
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3answers
866 views

Difference between \mskip and \mkern

What are the differences between \mskip and \mkern? The TeXbook writes the following (ch. 18): You can insert math glue into any formula just by giving the command ‘\mskip⟨muglue⟩’. [...] ...