In the course of attempting to out-pedant another mathematician, I wanted to \show the catcode of $ to convince myself that it was a "special" character in ordinary TeX as well as LaTeX. I was just using a "dumb tex" session (that is, I invoked tex from the commandline with no file) so what I wanted was to be able to type:


but that didn't work. In the end, I did


but that just doesn't smell right. What's the best way to \show the catcode of a token?

(To be clear, the result of a \showcatcode should go to the terminal and the log, not in the document itself.)

  • 2
    I believe that \showthe works for any internal integer, even strange ones like \parshape.
    – TH.
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


Well, it's not complicated:

  • 1
    Now that is bizarre. I tried that and it gave me nonsense. Yet now when I try it again, it works. Did you invoke M-x quantum-butterfly again? (I suspect that my earlier experiments messed things up so that the above didn't work, but not being used to working with tex on the commandline, I didn't spot it.) Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 10:53
  • I don't know what you met. (And I'm not an Emacser.) It does work for me, plain TeX and LaTeX.
    – Leo Liu
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 11:52
  • 3
    Otherwise a simple \show $ will indicate that it is the math shift $, whereas \show * (say) gives the character *. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 13:25
  • xkcd.com/378
    – Caramdir
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 15:10
  • 1
    @Caramdir: Yep, I remember that I've seen it. And as a vimer, I hate emacs :)
    – Leo Liu
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 15:30

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