12

Very strange discovery today for a newbie. If I want to type pounds, I could use \pounds to get the British Pounds symbol, but apparently Latex does not recognize \dollars. (I have to type \$). Is there a reason behind that?

  • 14
    The symbol for pounds is not in ASCII. – egreg Apr 26 at 14:55
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    Is something stopping you from defining \newcommand\dollars{\$}? Maybe the creator(s) of LaTeX didn't bother providing such a definition since writing \$ would seem quicker than writing \dollars does? – Mico Apr 26 at 14:57
35

The reason is good old ASCII code that has a slot for $, but no slot for £.

Since $ has a special meaning for TeX, Knuth decided that in order to obtain the “$” glyph one just needed to escape $, so to type \$.

The pound symbol is available in fonts, but there used to be no straightforward way to input it (remember that when TeX was born there was no Unicode and code pages extending ASCII differed wildly among operating systems). Hence the solution was to define a control sequence for it.

There is no need for \dollars: I don't think you believe that typing \dollars is more practical than typing \$.

Now that we have Unicode and UTF-8 it's much simpler to type £ instead of \pounds.

\documentclass{article}

\begin{document}

\$100 is good, but £100 is better.

\end{document}

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    @jxhyc If you have an up-to-date LaTeX system, just type in £ and see. – egreg Apr 26 at 15:53
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    These days £100 isn't much better than $100. – Ian Thompson Apr 26 at 18:40
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    $5 is better than nothing. And nothing is better than perfect happiness. Therefore $5 is better than perfect happiness. – Michael Hardy Apr 27 at 3:10
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    I would argue about it being simpler, unless you either have a British-specific keyboard, or use pounds frequently enough to have memorized the extended key combination. \pounds is MUCH simpler for most of us. – jamesqf Apr 27 at 3:34
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    Using US-International-Layout AltGr+Shift+4 gives a '£', AltGr+5 gives a '€' (not hard to remember, if you occasionally use either of them) – chtz Apr 28 at 0:39
6

FWIW, dollars and pounds are on equal footing in ConTeXt:

\starttext
\textdollar 100 is good, but \textsterling 100 is better.
\stoptext

or an Wolfgang Schuster mentions in the comments, use \asciimode and directly enter the symbols:

\asciimode
\starttext
$100 is good, but £100 is better.
\stoptext
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    With \asciimode you can write $100 is good, but £100 is better. without the need for TeX commands. – Wolfgang Schuster Apr 27 at 21:38
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    and so is LaTeX, which too has \textdollar and \textsterling (\pounds is historical) – Frank Mittelbach Apr 28 at 19:01
5

The LaTeX kernel has both \textdollar and \textsterling, which require no extra packages. The legacy textcomp package adds many others, including \texteuro, \textcent, \textyen and \textdollaroldstyle for a dollar sign with two bars. (Use textcomp with legacy 8-bit fonts or fontspec with modern ones.)

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  • 1
    all of textcomp is part of the kernel these days – Frank Mittelbach Apr 28 at 19:02

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