What is the best way to declare a constant to be used within TikZ? I am using \pgfmathsetmacro because I have seen others do it on this site. A constant should be a simple thing, so I am bit confused why it should be necessary to use a low level(pgf) command for this!? When using the ellipse command I have a strange problem where I need to wrap the constant in an extra set of {} when used like this:

\draw (6,6) ellipse (\r and 1);.


! Package PGF Math Error: Unknown operator 'a' or 'an' (in '1and 1').

Why is that?

Related: Problems with TikZ calculations


  \draw (0,0) ellipse (1 cm and 1 cm);    %ok
  \draw (1,1) ellipse (1 and 1);          %ok
  \draw (2,2) ellipse (1 cm and \r cm);   %ok
  \draw (3,3) ellipse (1 and \r);         %ok
  \draw (4,4) ellipse (\r cm and 1 cm);   %ok
  \draw (5,5) ellipse ({\r} and 1);       %ok
  \draw (6,6) ellipse (\r and 1);         %not ok
  \draw (7,7) ellipse (\r{} and 1);       %ok

Edit: From @marmot's comment and experiment I have found, that \constant{} also works as in \draw (7,7) ellipse (\r{} and 1);... but what is the correct way to declare and use a constant - I can not find it in the TikZ manual. Should I always use \constant{}, or maybe only when problems arise?

  • 3
    \r and expands to 1and which the parser cannot make sense of.
    – user121799
    May 8 '18 at 3:51
  • @marmot: Yes - but who ate the space? What is correct syntax? I do not suppose it is \r{} !? Like in \newcommand{\abc}{\emph{abc}} \abc{}. May 8 '18 at 4:03
  • 2
    Isn't that just the usual behavior of TeX? \documentclass{article} \begin{document} Hello Car\LaTeX how's your day? \end{document}
    – user121799
    May 8 '18 at 4:10
  • @marmot: Yes - I try to always use \LaTeX{} (as I do not use xspace). -but does \pgfmathsetmacro work the same way as commands? May 8 '18 at 15:03
  • 1
    It has nothing to do specifically with \pgfmathsetmacro but with the fact that \r is a macro and trailing spaces get eaten up, just like spaces after \LaTeX do.
    – user121799
    May 8 '18 at 16:43

It's from the old parts of the code and this is something that should have been done via keys. In tikz.code.tex you can find this

    \pgfutil@in@{ and }{#1}% <==== This is the part that it looks for a pattern

Since there is whitespace around the and you need to have whitespace around it.

This usage is deprecated by the developers and they recommend ellipse [x radius=<>, y radius=<>] syntax.

This is both mentioned in the manual and also in the source code comments

% Syntax for circles:
% circle [options] % where options should set, at least, radius
% circle (radius) % deprecated
% Syntax for ellipses:
% ellipse [options] % identical to circle.
% ellipse (x-radius and y-radius) % deprecated
% radii can be dimensionless, then they are in the xy-system

For example in the positioning syntax, you don't have this problem


\node (a) {a};
\node[above=1of a] {b};% 1cmof a also works

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