Here is another casualty of TeX's flat namespace and another reason to start using LaTeX3...

I noticed today that the algorithm2e and keystroke packages clash. More specifically, they both define a command called \Return:

  • in algorithm2e, \Return is a command for typesetting the pseudocode Return keyword;
  • in keystroke, \Return is a command that typesets Return.

Both packages define their \Return command using \newcommand; therefore, if both packages are loaded, LaTeX returns an error when it encounters the second \newcommand\Return.

I solved the problem by giving keystroke's \Return a new, unique name that doesn't clash with anything I'm using so far, like so:



\Return \quad \ksReturn

That worked, but I have a question:

As a user (not a package writer/maintainer), what is best practice for fixing a clash between two homonymous, yet different, commands defined in two different packages, without altering either of the .sty files? Can my approach have any detrimental side-effect (aside from my new name possibly generating a different clash)?

Side note: keystroke is quite an old package. At the time of writing this post, the current version dates back to November 2000, whereas the current version of algorithm2e was released more recently, in January 2013.

Edit: a less problematic and more powerful package for typesetting menu sequences, paths, and keyboard shortcuts is the excellent menukeys package.

  • 4
    If the command you redefine is used internally in the package, that could obviously have some bad side-effects. Something to think about. – Sean Allred Oct 4 '13 at 1:42
  • @SeanAllred That's a good point! In this specific case, I actually checked beforehand: \Return occurs only once in keystroke.sty: in its own definition. Therefore, no problem here; but otherwise, my approach would be problematic, you're right. One would hope that the package writer would use @ in her internal-command names to reduce the risk of conflict, but not everyone follows that practice. – jubobs Oct 4 '13 at 7:08
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    In an ideal world, the macros to be used only inside an environment such as algorithm would be defined just there and not at the outer level. But even this wouldn't solve all problems, because it's not so strange thinking to use the \Return key symbol inside algorithm. Probably the keystroke package should have defined its commands in the form \key{Return}. Oh, no! \key is used somewhere else… – egreg Oct 4 '13 at 8:01
  • @egreg The keystroke package does have a \keystroke (not \key) macro for typesetting keyboard keys. – jubobs Oct 19 '13 at 17:26

First, save the clashing identifiers:


Then defined two macros to setup the correct bindings.


Last patch the entry points using \Return so that they start with the appropriate @setupbindings macro. You can do this programatically by loading the replacement text of that entry point in a token register and refefining the entrypoint with \edef:

% Some code that loads the expansion text of \entrypoint in toks0

It is impossible to attain the largest level of genericity because, to the best of my knowledge, it is not possible to recover the application template of a macro in TeX. But if you really need this, you can write \patch macro so that


does the same thing as the pseudo-code above. Dealing with \long and \outer modificators and macros having arguments can be a bit tedious, though, so it might be suitable to semi-manually patch the relevant macros.

EDIT — Well, it is actually possible to recover the application template of a macro and I should know this pretty good since I included a macro doing this in my Bhrìd TeX format! :-) Here is an untested translation for plain TeX:


  \edef\next{\noexpand\toksloadmeaning@A\the\toks0 \noexpand\and\the\toks2 %

After \toksloadcsmeaning\controlsequence\to{\toks1}\and{\toks3} the token register \toks1 contains the application template and \toks3 the meaning of the macro. With this in hand, writing a \patch macro should be a piece of cake.

  • What do you mean by "entry points"? – jubobs Nov 19 '13 at 17:28
  • I mean macros of the package's interface that may contain a \Return when expanded. It is a rather poor choice of a name, but did not have a better idea as I wrote this. – Michael Le Barbier Grünewald Nov 19 '13 at 22:06

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