The \newcommand macro allows to use an optional argument for the first parameter #1 with:

\newcommand{\mycommand}[3][defaultfor1]{blah blah blah}

Is it possible to have more than one option with \newcommand?

  • 48
    No-one said it explicitly, but the answer to the question Is it possible to have more than one option with \newcommand? appears to be No, not without extra packages.
    – PatrickT
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 17:06

6 Answers 6


Try the LaTeX 3 package xparse. For example:

\NewDocumentCommand{\foocmd}{ O{default1} O{default2} m }{#1~#2~#3}
                            %     ⤷ #1        ⤷ #2    ⤷ #3
  \foocmd{foo} \par
  \foocmd[nondefault1]{foo} \par
  \foocmd[nondefault2][notfoo2]{foo} \par

Result of above's LaTeX code

You may read the documents for more information.

  • 2
    Agreed - the flexibility with xparse even allows for an optional starred * version of the command \foocmd by using the s parameter. See the xparse documentation.
    – Werner
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 20:59
  • 1
    Does that also remove the 9 parameters arguments limit?
    – raphink
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 20:59
  • 1
    Note that optional arguments defined by xparse work properly when nested, so \foo[[bar]]{stuff} works to parse [bar] as the optional argument. That is not true for \newcommand.
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:01
  • 2
    @Raphink No, as the underlying mechanism is still TeX based. We really don't want to encourage >9 arguments for any macro: use keyval input!
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:02
  • Selecting this answer, since it shows a nice example of \DeclareDocumentCommand and egreg already reached rep cap today anyway ;-)
    – raphink
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:05

You've got answers for other approaches, so here is the basics using the kernel only. You'll need to define your macros by hand, something like

  % Do stuff

This can of course be extended to more complex cases. (Here, I'm leaving it up to you whether to make your function \long or not. If you want part of it to be long, then all of the internal macros should be long. The xparse approach allows this to vary between arguments, based on some internal shuffling.)

  • Thanks, that's interesting. I've seen such constructions in some packages already, but I'd really like to avoid it :-)
    – raphink
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:00
  • I was just writing a solution like this one! Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:00
  • Well I'd just got to the end of this, and was starting on twoopt and xparse, when the other two answers popped up :-)
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:03
\newcommandtwoopt{\xyz}[3][Def1][Def2]{Something with #1, #2 and #3}

There are also \renewcommandtwoopt and \providecommandtwoopt.

However the xparse package (part of the LaTeX3 package tree, but works also with LaTeX2e) provides \DeclareDocumentCommand that gives great flexibility in defining commands with optional arguments in every position and also *-versions.

Historical note

In TeX Live there is a newcommand.py Python script accompanied by documentation accessible by texdoc newcommand. For example, to obtain code for defining a command with two optional arguments and a mandatory one, one launches

python /usr/local/texlive/2011/texmf-dist/doc/latex/newcommand/newcommand.py

and at the prompt % Prototype: answers with

MACRO twoopt OPT[#1={Def1}] OPT[#2={Def2}] #3

where \twoopt is the macro we want to define. The script will build a skeleton for defining the macro:


  % Put your code here.
  % You can refer to the arguments as #1 through #3.

The commented lines should be replaced by the actual code.

With the specification

MACRO finalopt #1 OPT[#2={default}]

one defines a macro with a mandatory argument followed by an optional one:


  % Put your code here.
  % You can refer to the arguments as #1 and #2.
  • @egreg: So twoopt is only limited to two optional arguments I guess?
    – raphink
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 20:59
  • Yes. See Yan Zhou's answer for more optional arguments.
    – egreg
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 21:01

One more resolution for several optional arguments problem.


\newcommandx{\foo}[4][1=defaultFirstArg, 3=defaultThirdArg]{#1~#2~#3~#4}


I hope there is nothing to comment here. Also \renewcommandx, \newenvironmentx, \renewenvironmentx, \providecommandx, \DeclareRobustCommandx, \CheckCommandx and their starred versions are available.

Upd. As far as you can see in my example two optional arguments with madatory one in between give you possibility to specify any one of them.


There is a disadvantage using two or more optional arguments. If the user wants to change the default for the second argument, then he must specify the default value of the first argument explicitly. As an example, the optional depth argument of \raisebox should be set, but the resulting height should not be changed. That makes the first optional argument cumbersome:


An alternative approach is to design the macro with one optional argument exactly, but supporting the key value interface. Nice would be:


Also it is easy to define new keys to support new features without changing the signature of the command (number and type of options).

There are many packages that support defining and parsing keys (e.g., keyval and similar packages, pgfkeys, …).


I know I'm late on this. Another solution without requiring any additional packages might be:

First we define a command to check whether something is entered:


The above is not expandable and checks the width, so entering something, which doesn't produce contents of any width, wouldn't end up as intended. So better would be:


Then we use this command to create our new command:


With \foo being the command which should be called if leave out the second argument and \bar if you use it. This way you can use the first argument as a normal optional argument and the second argument behaves similar to an optional argument but you have to set the {}.

Call the function like this:


if you use both,


if you use only the second, and


if you use only the first.

  • There are a couple of things I don’t understand: (1) Why \setbox1 and not \setbox0 as the conventions about local vs. global assignments would dictate? (2) Are you sure you don’t actually mean \MyIfEmptyTF{#2}{\foo}{\bar{#2}}?
    – GuM
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 8:18
  • @GuM I fixed the \setbox1, thanks, when I first wrote this answer I did not know those conventions to be honest. The \foo and \bar were intended to be anything OP wants, I therefore didn't forward the argument.
    – Skillmon
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 10:23
  • By the way, in LaTeX it's better to do \sbox{0}{...} rather than \setbox0=\hbox{...}.
    – egreg
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 20:18

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