Is there a TeX command that returns the width of a given text as length value, so that I can use the result directly as a length argument of another command?

I mean, I would like to have a command \getWidth{my text} and want to use the result directly as the first argument of \parbox:

\parbox{\getWidth{my text}}{my foo\\bar text}

Use the calc package (\usepackage{calc}):

\parbox{\widthof{my text}}{...}
  • I think calc package may redefine some units. For example, I get an error using math unit mu when the package is loaded. – M.Reza Nov 22 '13 at 7:20
  • 1
    @M.Reza mu can be used only in math and only for \mkern or \mskip. – egreg Nov 22 '13 at 10:04

I like to answer the question in a more general way, so that it is useful to a wider group of people.

There are the following macros which allow to store the width, height (the material above the baseline) and depth (the material below the baseline) of a given content.


The calc package also provides one for the total height (height + depth):


as well as


which can be used directly inside \setlength or \addtolength.

If you need multiple dimension of the same content you can also store it in a box register and use its dimension directly (the above macros do this as well internally). These are dimension expressions and can be prefixed with a factor, e.g. .5\wd\mybox is half the width.

\wd\mybox % width
\ht\mybox % height
\dp\mybox % depth

For the totalheight you need to add \ht\mybox and \dp\mybox together.


This can be done without the calc package


  \settowidth{\myl}{test text}

\the\myl will print out the value ~37pt.

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