I am using tikz-qtree to draw a binary tree. As I need to have them labeled I wanted to ues the following macro which work in ordinary tikz:

\newcommand{\A}[1]{\node(a#1){Activity #1};}

However, this does not work; the error is that node is an undefined control sequence.

Of course this macro is used inside a tikzpicture, so basically I just want to dump \node(a1){Activity 1}; if \A{1} is called. I am pretty sure it has to do with my TeXnic. . . Maybe expansion?

Note, the tikz-qtree manual states that

\Tree specifically watches out for the token \node; do not use \path node or other equivalents.

Here is a minimal example:

\newcommand{\A}[1]{\node(a#1){Activity #1};}
\Tree [.\node(a1){A1}; 1 2 ]
Doesn't Work:
% \begin{tikzpicture}
%   \Tree [.\A{1} b c ]
% \end{tikzpicture}


1 Answer 1


As you suspected, the problem is related to expansion: \Tree is expanded first and looks for its parameters before expanding \A. The problem can be solved if \A is expanded first. The \expandafter primitive allows you to do this: the sequence


is replaced by

<token1><expansion of token2>

and this replacement is reexamined by the expansion processor.

Since you also have to take into account the tokens [ and . you'll need three \expandafter commands:


\newcommand{\A}[1]{\node(a#1){Activity #1};}


\expandafter\Tree \expandafter[\expandafter.\A{A} 1 2 ]

  \expandafter\Tree \expandafter[\expandafter.\A{1} b c ]

  • My tree consists of \A's only actually. It seems that \expandafter\Tree \expandafter[\expandafter.\A{1} \expandafter\A{2} c ] doesn't work.
    – Rasmus
    Jun 9, 2011 at 15:25
  • @Rasmus: I doubt that finding and maintaining the correct \expandafter sequence is easier that writing the \node directly. Jun 10, 2011 at 8:32
  • @Rasmus: I agree with Ulrike Fischer. Doing some tests, as the tree grows, the host of \expandafters will render the code almost impossible to read; it's even difficult to find the exact sequence that they should follow. Jun 10, 2011 at 14:48
  • 1
    @Ulrike, @Gonzalo, yeah I agree. Given the current solution it is not practical. Had it been possible to write \Tree [.\A{1} \A{2} \A{3} ] it would have been much more clean. Oh well. Thanks, though.
    – Rasmus
    Jun 13, 2011 at 9:47
  • 2
    I would really like to see a solution with \Tree [.\A{1} \A{2} \A{3} ] as the syntax for the actual tree. This would be extremely useful for linguistics. Dec 9, 2013 at 10:23

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