With the package array, I want to define a new column type for my tables with the command


However, the command I’d like to use is not a switch but a plain, unary macro like \emph or \textsc, so I must define \switchon such that

{\switchon some text}

will be equivalent to

\macro{some text}

(if it must be, I could live with \switchon some text \switchoff but I think this is not necessary.)

Converting a switch to a macro (e.g. \em to \emph) is pretty simple but how would I do it the other way round?


It seems, I also have to fight this problem which does not seem to allow for an explicit \switchoff (because I need to support the X column type of tabularx and it does not seem to work well together with newcolumntype):


Where \theswitch must be some (sensible) combination of \lowercase and other font macros. \lowercase has no ‘switch’ version (I think) which makes things a bit complicated.

  • Was exactly is a switch to you? I only know the term from if-switches. – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '11 at 9:50
  • They use that name in the l2-tabu manual. (They also use the term global macro.) I guess it means a macro whose effect is valid until the next \endgroup. – Debilski Mar 28 '11 at 10:11
  • Ok, I see. But this macros normally don't have a \switchoff version, which got me confused. Note that all font macros have "switch" versions as well. – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '11 at 10:23
  • Similar question: How to apply a macro to each column of a table – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '11 at 11:13

You can use the collcell package to feed the cell content to a macro:



Then \macro will receive the cell content as only argument, i.e. #1.

If the macro should be simply \emph or \textsc you can use the "switch" versions directly. For \emph it would be \em and for \textsc it is \scshape. See e.g. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rf10/pstex/latexcommands.htm for a table of such macros.

  • collcell is at the moment too new for our uses, unfortunately. – Debilski Mar 28 '11 at 10:12
  • @Debilski: You can easily install it locally if your distribution doesn't provide it. See also my updated answer. – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '11 at 10:25
  • Bad thing is, I need to use \lowercase which has no ‘switch’ version. – Debilski Mar 28 '11 at 10:33
  • 1
    @Debilski: with collcell, you can use any macro, and \lowercase as well. – Bruno Le Floch Mar 28 '11 at 11:05
  • @Debilski: If you don't want/can't use collcell you can use a macro like in TH. answer, but it wont work in the last column. See also the very similar question How to apply a macro to each column of a table for alternatives like using \halign directly. – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '11 at 11:16

Define a macro like



  • I’m a bit ashamed of myself now, because I’ve already had this in the code but because a spurious \textnormal confused me, I did not notice it. Anyway, is it possible to have that without the explicit \switchoff? – Debilski Mar 28 '11 at 9:48
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    This wont work in the last column of array because the \switchoff is "hidden" by the \\. – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '11 at 9:49
  • @Debilski: You need the \switchoff to mark the end of the argument. But you can hide it like the collcell commands in a \newcolumntype: \newcolumntype{V}{>{\switchon}l<{\switchoff}} – Ulrike Fischer Mar 28 '11 at 11:55
  • @Martin: Good point! – TH. Mar 29 '11 at 17:34

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