I'm trying to compile a LaTeX code with an older version of some package. Thus, I'm having a few issues due to undefined commands.

How can I add conditional code so that I can define some work-around commands of this older package version?

% I want something like this:
if command \foobar is not defined

% I don't need an "else" clause here, but it would be good
% to know how to add one, in case I need it in future

end if
  • Doesn't \newcommand contains a built-in check that the command you are trying to define is not already defined? – Willie Wong Aug 27 '10 at 18:08
  • @Willie Wong: But then it complains horribly that it's already defined. I guess the point here is to silently fail if the command is already defined. – Andrew Stacey Aug 27 '10 at 18:28
  • Ah, it seems I misunderstood the question. – Willie Wong Aug 27 '10 at 21:01

The LaTeX kernel command \providecommand{\foobar}{FooBar} does exactly what you want.

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I think that \providecommand is what you want for this, as lockstep says, but it's worth mentioning the \@ifundefined LaTeX command which tests for whether or not a command is defined and executes some code if it is or isn't. It's more flexible than \providecommand in that it doesn't just deal with defining a particular command. Here's a simple example that I use when anglicising a few commands:


So if the command \centre is not defined then it defines the environment centre.

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  • 1
    This should be promoted. This is a nice way to define environments as well as commands conditionally which I was about to ask about separately. – Huck Bennett Oct 21 '15 at 21:45

The ifthen package provides some easy-to-use macros for this. For example:

  %% Do this if it is undefined
  %% Do this if it is defined

You can also do it in plain TeX (which doesn't require any external packages):

  %% Do this if it is undefined
  %% Do this if it is defined
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The e-TeX primitives that LaTeX wraps (apparently) are \ifdefined and \ifcsname. Use like this:

\ifdefined \foobar \else

Use \ifcsname if you need to construct the command name with macros:

\ifcsname foobar\endcsname \else

The \ifdefined and \ifcsname control sequences do not exist in the original tex program, but they do in all latex/xetex/pdftex variants on my Ubuntu system.

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  • 3
    These commands are no TeX primitives, but defined in e-tex. In newer tex distributions, latex usually links to pdftex, which includes the e-tex extensions already. If you run your code snippets through plain tex you'll see, that they won't work, running them through etex works. Good answer nonetheless. – Elmar Zander Nov 30 '11 at 13:18
  • There seems to be conflicting statements here. The first sentence says \ifdefined and \ifcsname are TeX primitives, and the last sentence says otherwise. – SimplyKnownAsG Mar 19 '14 at 18:21

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