{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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18
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
18
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 ...
18
votes
3answers
856 views

What is a “Control Sequence”?

When you get an error in LaTeX, the message "Undefined control sequence" is printed. Why is it called "control sequence" and not "command", for example? How does the sequence work? Is this a TeX or ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

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 ...
18
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
302 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
838 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
360 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
4answers
795 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
387 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
385 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
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 ...
17
votes
2answers
355 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
229 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
4answers
731 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
835 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
3answers
339 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
143 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
189 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
675 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
403 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
972 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
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 ...
16
votes
4answers
832 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 ...
16
votes
1answer
295 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
2k views

What does \relax do? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How can I speed up LaTeX compilation? What is the difference between \relax and {}? The title suggest the question. On and off, I see macros here in TeX.SE and I see ...
16
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 ...
16
votes
1answer
546 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
861 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
333 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
4answers
897 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
808 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
352 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
4answers
625 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
304 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
3answers
2k 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⟩’. [...] ...
15
votes
2answers
208 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
344 views

Using the filename in the document?

I have a bunch of documents called wk01.tex wk02.tex and so on up to (eventually) 20. These are weekly handouts for a course I TA. Currently, each document starts with a \def\classweek{5} or whatever. ...
15
votes
2answers
483 views

Why does `x_\text y` work?

As far as I have understand the tokenization in LaTeX, x_\text y will be split up into x _ \text y Now the _ will consume/bind to the next token. However, \text takes an argument as well. If _ ...
15
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

How to add a hook to a macro

LaTeX uses hooks extensively, one method employed is the command g@addto@macro. It is defined in source2e as: \long\def\g@addto@macro#1#2{% \begingroup \toks@\expandafter{#1#2}% ...
15
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 ...
15
votes
2answers
803 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
854 views

\def taking rest of the line as argument

I know how to define a macro that will take the rest of the paragraph as parameter. Simply write \def\a#1\par{\textbf{#1}}. But, how do I write a macro whose argument will extend to the end of the ...
15
votes
1answer
203 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
251 views

\def two macros with same name, but different argument syntax

Is it possible to have macros with the same name, but different “syntax”? E.g. we have the primitive \font which could be seen as having 3 arguments(a. without size information; b. giving the ...
15
votes
3answers
638 views

Unbalanced output routine

The TeX primitive \output behaves almost like a toks register, except in the fact that it is always surrounded by braces. For instance, after \output={\plainoutput}, the result of \showthe\output is ...
15
votes
2answers
207 views

Test whether \end will really end the run

Can I test whether calling the \end primitive will really end the run? The naive \ifdim\pagegoal=16383.99998pt yes\else no\fi is not sufficient (even adding to that mix \deadcycles). According to ...
15
votes
1answer
350 views

How can latex and pdflatex be both symbolic links to same executable (pdftex) and not behave the same?

When I run $ latex my_doc.tex and $ pdflatex my_doc.tex it works, and when I run $ pdftex my_doc.tex it doesn't work. The thing is I noticed that both LaTeX and pdflatex commands are ...