This is a question about token processing in TeX. What am I doing wrong when implementing \FutureLetNoSpace?

The book TEX in Practice: Volume III: Tokens, Macros, by Stephan v. Bechtolsheim, really does a good job explaining TeX in detail. However, I ran into a stumbling block that I cannot solve using \tracingall alone.

Could someone demonstrate how I might use the code from the book. I also thought \FutureLetNoSpace is the user-level/document-level command. It seems to imitate \futurelet.


Here I write the text "Hello there!", and inject my token checker immediately after the "t". It checks for the token "h". If found, it should yield a nice log message and "TRUE" in the document.

\usepackage{fontspec}% xelatex

%\tracingall % all hell breaks loose

\catcode`@=11 % or \makeatletter to change category code of @ to 11 and temporarily to access kernel macro \@tabularcr

\long\def\DoLongFutureLet #1#2#3#4{%
  \def\@FutureLetDecide{% hangs here
    #1#2\@FutureLetToken% becomes \ifx#2\@FutureLetToken, which compares two expanded tokens
    \fi% the \@FutureLetNext gets grabbed into \futurelet below

\def\DoFutureLet #1#2#3#4{%
} % identical to \DoLongFutureLet

\def\FutureLetNoSpace #1#2{%
  \def\@FutureLetNoSpaceA{#1}% save arg
  \def\@FutureLetNoSpaceB{#2}% save arg

  \DoFutureLet{\ifx}{ }%
    {\@FutureLetThree}{\@FutureLetOk}% \@FutureLetThree if it is a space token.

  \def\noexpand\@FutureLetThree\space{\noexpand\@FutureLetOne}% force expansion of space into a space token and recall \@FutureLetOne
\@FutureLetNoSpaceTemp% why are we calling this macro here?

\def\@FutureLetOk{% called when no space is found

\long\def\DoLongFutureLetNoSpace #1#2#3#4{%
  \def\@FutureLetDecideNoSpace{% \@FutureLetTokenNoSpace is self-contained by this macro
    #1#2\@FutureLetTokenNoSpace% becomes \ifx#2\@FutureLetTokenNoSpace, which compares two expanded tokens
      \def\@FutureLetNextNoSpace{#4}% whatever should get executed on match
      {\@FutureLetDecideNoSpace}% call \@FutureLetDecideNoSpace instead of \futurelet
\def\DoFutureLetNoSpace #1#2#3#4{%

\catcode`@=12 % or \makeatother to restore category code of @ to 12

Hello t\DoFutureLetNoSpace{\ifx}{h}{\typeout{\noexpand\@FutureLetTokenNoSpace value: \meaning\@FutureLetTokenNoSpace}}TRUE}{\typeout{\noexpand\@FutureLetTokenNoSpace value: \meaning\@FutureLetTokenNoSpace}FALSE}here!


The last four lines of the trace in the console:

\DoFutureLet #1#2#3#4->\DoLongFutureLet {#1}{#2}{#3}{#4}
  • 1
    "futurelet that ignores spaces" is more or less the definition of latex's \@ifnextchar – David Carlisle May 18 '18 at 13:04
  • As @DavidCarlisle says, plus see The TeXbook, p. 376. – GuM May 18 '18 at 13:16
  • @GuM So awesome. Thanks! It is not the same implementation as in TEX in Practice, but useful. It uses \afterassignment like in Manuel's answer. – Jonathan Komar May 18 '18 at 13:41
  • What's the problem with \afterassignment? It's more secure to do \def\foo{\afterassignment\nextstep\let\gobble= } than \expandafter\def\expandafter\foo\space{\nextstep}. – Manuel May 18 '18 at 16:35
  • @Manuel I have no problem with it. As I said the comments to your answer, it seems more elegant. I am just trying to grasp the code from the book. I thought I understood its recursive calls, but it keeps choking. Safer is better, of course! – Jonathan Komar May 18 '18 at 16:42
   {\afterassignment\futureletagain\let\nexttoken= }

This started as just a substitute for \futurelet\nexttoken\action ignoring spaces \futureletignorespaces\nexttoken\action. But I changed the code a bit so that it lets you define the second argument on the fly:

\futureletignorespaces\nexttoken\action % or you could define \action in the argument
  • Doesn't work yet. – Manuel May 18 '18 at 12:10
  • +1 for effort haha. I am well aware that my question is a pain. – Jonathan Komar May 18 '18 at 12:13
  • It does work now. – Manuel May 18 '18 at 12:16
  • Note that this has the same syntax as \futurelet. \futurelet\nexttoken\action or \futureletignorespaces\nexttoken\action. – Manuel May 18 '18 at 12:17
  • Then why switch to \afterassignment? I seem to remember one of them puts a token back into the token stream. – Jonathan Komar May 18 '18 at 12:20

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