{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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19
votes
4answers
3k views

How to make a real backslash (escape) character?

I just want a good way to make a backslash character (or whatever character(s) any given format uses as escape characters), suitable to \write to a file or pass to a pdfTeX primitive. Let me ...
19
votes
3answers
355 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. ...
19
votes
2answers
274 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
votes
3answers
1k views

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
votes
2answers
462 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
votes
2answers
1k views

Why do we need \ldots?

While trying to understand Chapter 12 of Knuth's TeXbook about Glueing, I run into troubles in understanding why \ldots ends up in looking better than .... It seems to me that the usual period . has ...
19
votes
1answer
1k views

Why are the latex, pdflatex and pdftex binaries identical?

I apologize if this question is somewhat off-topic but I think that this is the best place to find an answer. This is sort of an oddity that's confused me for years. When I run latex -v I get: ...
19
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
19
votes
1answer
332 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
votes
4answers
840 views

Which commands consisting of a non-letter eat spaces afterwards?

Command names consist of a sequence of letters (until and excluding the first non-letter) or of a single non-letter. Command names ending in a letter (including of course those consisting of a single ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Defining commands that are scoped to a particular environment

Is it possible to define commands in a separate namespace so that they only work within a particular environment? For example, can I create a package named foo that defines a foo environment and a ...
18
votes
2answers
400 views

When is \relax necessary after a \ifcase#1 statement

In the LaTeX kernel (latex.ltx) we see some examples of \ifcase#1\or a\or b\or ... (an \ifcase without an added \relax), but when we look at some packages most of them add this statement after the ...
18
votes
1answer
870 views

formal syntax rules of \dimexpr \numexpr \glueexpr

After looking at various answers on the site and by looking at the documentation of e-tex, I am still wondering what is exactly allowed in the various types of expressions, i.e. \numexpr, \dimexpr and ...
18
votes
1answer
944 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
386 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
votes
2answers
399 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
votes
2answers
433 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
3k 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⟩’. [...] ...
17
votes
4answers
787 views

LaTeX, package documentation look-up

I am on OS X (10.6 Snow Leopard) using TeXLive-2011 to typeset a simple .tex file I am editing in Vim and trying to learn. My problem is: how do I... gradually learn about what TeX can do for me get ...
17
votes
3answers
230 views

Is it possible to interact with TeX mid-process?

Quoting from an answer to Typesetting the entire Song That Never Ends I ran this code once, and aborted the process after it reported producing something like 47,000 pages (in a very short amount ...
17
votes
2answers
5k views

Difference between setting parindent and hangindent

Is there a difference between setting \parindent to 1em and to setting \parindent to 0em, \hangindent to 1em, and \hangafter to -1 that shows in practical use? The nodes created by TeX are ...
17
votes
4answers
822 views

Detokenizing without extra spaces?

I have a need to pass through potentially arbitrary characters untouched and found this macro: \def\test#1{\expandafter\zap@space\detokenize{#1} \@empty} The problem is that \detokenize inserts ...
17
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
958 views

Selectively suppress generation of typeset output

Is it possible put TeX into a "mute" mode in which all typesetting is suppressed? \documentclass{article} \pagestyle{empty} \begin{document} \suppress This text will not be seen in the generated ...
17
votes
1answer
921 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
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
390 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
147 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 ...
16
votes
2answers
201 views

Multiple consecutive \par's equivalent to just one?

I think the answer to this question should be positive but I just couldn't find it answered elsewhere: Are multiple consecutive \par's the same as a single \par? For example, is \par\par the same as ...
16
votes
2answers
741 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
votes
2answers
435 views

Filling gaps by repeating a character

I want to create a macro like \mymacro that has four arguments; first and fourth arguments are any letters, second argument is a character and the third argument is a length. When I say \mymacro{م} ...
16
votes
3answers
1k 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
votes
5answers
2k views

Teach me how to use \loop…\repeat constructs, etc

The following code snippet is a part of the solution given here: \def\IncludeOutput#1{ \parskip=2mm \def\examplename{#1} \pdfximage{\Directory/\examplename.pdf}% ...
16
votes
2answers
6k views

\llap (or \rlap) at the begining of an indented paragraph

If I use a \llap{text} command at the begining of an indented paragraph, the text is not indented and is put on the line above the paragraph. \documentclass{article} \begin{document} \parindent=2cm ...
16
votes
2answers
994 views

What is the difference between square brackets and curly brackets in a command invocation?

Pardon the naive beginner question. In a command like: \textcolor[HTML]{4C7045}{dark green text}, or \documentclass[12pt]{article}, or \begin{figure}[htb], why are some arguments surrounded by [] and ...
16
votes
1answer
317 views

Ligatures and hyphenations: the effect of empty brace groups {}

For the following example, \hsize =2in shelf{}ful shelf{}ful shelf{}ful rot{}ten rot{}ten shelf{}ful shelf{}ful shelf{}ful shelf{}ful shelf{}ful rot{}ten rot{}ten shelf{}ful shelf{}ful \bye The ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Write to log without wrapping

I'd like to to generate some metadata in the log file that I can copy to another application. But the log file is wrapped to 80 columns and I end up with newlines embedded in what I'm putting there. ...
16
votes
1answer
570 views

Is \toks necessary to define \g@addto@macro? Can token registers be avoided in generel?

In LaTeX2e kernel, there is a useful macro \g@addto@macro: \long\def\g@addto@macro#1#2{% \begingroup \toks@\expandafter{#1#2}% \xdef#1{\the\toks@}% \endgroup} However, I think the ...
16
votes
1answer
915 views

\jobname, character codes and \detokenize

I recently wanted to compare \jobname to a string (with the xstring package) and was rather surprised that the string never matched. Tho internet told me that I had to use \detokenize on the string. ...
16
votes
1answer
355 views

Semantics of negative glues

This question is about the semantics of glues like 0pt plus -1fill, where the coefficient in front of the fill is negative. The following minimal example shows my attempt to figure this out ...
15
votes
7answers
3k views

Can I see a plain TeX source file please?

all the LaTeX-tutorials tell me how LaTeX is an extention simplifying the building of TeX documents. Understandably, no one uses plain TeX anymore, right? But I seem to learn better when I grasp the ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

Which “TeX” should one use?

This question is from my confusion with the editor. In the WinEdt 6.0, there is a button for different kinds of "TeX". How do I know which one I should use and what's the difference?
15
votes
2answers
1k views

Where to find official (!) and extended documentation for tex/latex's commandline options (especially -interaction modes)?

Today I tried to learn more about the several interaction modes for tex/latex/pdflatex etc. The manpages turned out to be not very helpful: $ man tex ... -interaction mode Sets the ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

\aftergroup a list of tokens

\aftergroup executes the next token after the end of the current group. Is there a variant, \Vaftergroup{\some\tokens\a\b} that would put \some\tokens\a\b after the current group ends? Of course, one ...
15
votes
4answers
864 views

File copy without expansion

What is the command for file copy? I want to copy the contents of one file into another without any command expansion. In a command line driven operating system one would use copy source target I ...
15
votes
3answers
377 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
votes
3answers
4k views

What is the difference between \empty and \@empty?

I want to elaborate a command that would print differently simple differential dx and multidimensional differential d^3x. For this purpose I invented the command \dif with one optional argument. It is ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

Breakable vboxes

In Plain TeX how can I make vboxes breakable, and can I handle/measure them separately? What I'm trying to do, is that I have a portion of text, that is treated separately (no indention, narrower, ...
15
votes
2answers
350 views

Define a shortcut (-> to \rightarrow) in plain TeX

I'ld like to make -> a shortcut for \rightarrow. Is that possible with Plain TeX or has it to do with the loaded font?
15
votes
2answers
249 views

\expandafter with \uppercase ordering

As I understand it, the behavior of \expandafter is such that if \a and \b are macros, then \expandafter\a\b will first expand \b then \a. But my understanding must be wrong, because I don't ...