# Defining a list environment with multiple optional arguments

I'm trying to define a list environment with multiple optional arguments and with a default values for those arguments. For example, creating a new environment with a name newenv, which accepts two arguments, and if they aren't present uses default values:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{array}
\usepackage{multicol}
\usepackage{enumerate}

\begin{document}

\newenvironment{newenv}[2][2]
{\begin{multicols}[#1]\begin{enumerate}[#2]}
{\end{enumerate}\end{multicols}}

\begin{newenv}{2}{2}
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\end{document}


What am I missing?

• The default \newenvironment (like \newcommand and friends) accepts only one optional argument. For multiple optional arguments, consider the xparse interface: \NewDocumentEnvironment{newenv}{o o}{<beg env>}{<end env>}. However, with multiple optional arguments, the only way to specify the second, would be to also specify the first, even if it could be empty. How else would the parser know that the only optional argument is the second? In such instances, a key-value approach is preferred. – Werner Feb 15 '13 at 17:57

I would use the enumitem package for this- it eases the syntax and does the heavy lifting for us

The first part is to setup a new list environment

\newlist{newenv}{enumerate}{5}
\setlist[newenv]{label=\arabic*.}


which has a default label of 1., 2., etc

We then setup a new key, columns

\SetEnumitemKey{columns}{before=\begin{multicols}{#1},
after=\end{multicols}}


which allows us to use all variety of combinations, as demonstrated in the MWE below

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{enumitem}
\usepackage{multicol}

\newlist{newenv}{enumerate}{5}
\setlist[newenv]{label=\arabic*.}

\SetEnumitemKey{columns}{before=\begin{multicols}{#1},
after=\end{multicols}}

\begin{document}
\begin{newenv}[label=\roman*),columns=4]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[columns=3]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[label=\roman*)]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[label*=(A\arabic*),columns=3]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\item e
\item f
\end{newenv}

\end{document}


I agree with Werner that multiple optional arguments should be replaced by a key-value syntax. Here's a way:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{enumerate,multicol,xparse}

\ExplSyntaxOn
\NewDocumentEnvironment{newenv}{ O{} }
{
\keys_set:nn { aksr/newenv }
{
#1           % use the options
}
\int_compare:nT { \l__aksr_columns_tl > 1 } % more than one column
{ \begin{multicols}{ \l__aksr_columns_tl } }
% We must pass the optional argument expanded
\use:x { \exp_not:N \begin{enumerate}[ \l__aksr_label_tl ] }
}
{
\end{enumerate}
\int_compare:nT { \l__aksr_columns_tl > 1 }
{ \end{multicols} }
}

\tl_new:N \l__aksr_columns_tl
\tl_new:N \l__aksr_label_tl

\keys_define:nn { aksr/newenv }
{
columns .tl_set:N  = \l__aksr_columns_tl,
columns .initial:n = 2,
label   .tl_set:N  = \l__aksr_label_tl,
label   .initial   = 1.,
}
\ExplSyntaxOff

\begin{document}
\begin{newenv}
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[columns=1]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[label=i)]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[label=(A),columns=3]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\item e
\item f
\end{newenv}

\end{document}


It's quite straightforward, once we have some hand with it. The only subtlety is that we must pass the argument to \begin{enumerate} expanded and not the token list variable, so \use:x comes to rescue.

The two keys just store the value in a token list variable for later usage. The defaults are simply established by giving the values before evaluating the optional argument to newenv.

You may consider adopting enumitem rather than enumerate.

Here's a different version that works with enumitem and shows the use of "unknown" keys:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{enumitem,multicol,xparse}

\ExplSyntaxOn
\NewDocumentEnvironment{newenv}{ O{} }
{
% clear the options passed to enumitem
\tl_clear:N \l__aksr_enumitem_tl
\keys_set:nn { aksr/newenv }
{
#1 % use the options
}
\int_compare:nT { \l__aksr_columns_tl > 1 } % more than one column
{ \begin{multicols}{ \l__aksr_columns_tl } }
% We must pass the optional argument expanded; we append
% the label key and value to the other possibly set options
\tl_put_right:Nn \l__aksr_enumitem_tl { label = }
\tl_put_right:NV \l__aksr_enumitem_tl \l__aksr_label_tl
\aksr_beginenum:V \l__aksr_enumitem_tl
}
{
\end{enumerate}
\int_compare:nT { \l__aksr_columns_tl > 1 }
{ \end{multicols} }
}
\cs_new_protected:Npn \aksr_beginenum:n #1
{
\begin{enumerate}[#1]
}
\cs_generate_variant:Nn \aksr_beginenum:n {V}

\tl_new:N \l__aksr_columns_tl
\tl_new:N \l__aksr_label_tl
\tl_new:N \l__aksr_enumitem_tl

\keys_define:nn { aksr/newenv }
{
columns .tl_set:N  = \l__aksr_columns_tl,
columns .initial:n = 2,
label   .tl_set:N  = \l__aksr_label_tl,
label   .initial:n = \arabic*.,
%% unknown keys will be passed to enumitem
unknown .code:n    = \tl_put_right:Nx \l__aksr_enumitem_tl
{
\l_keys_key_tl % the key name
\tl_if_empty:nF { #1 } % the value, if not empty
{ = \exp_not:n { #1 } } , },
}
\ExplSyntaxOff

\begin{document}
\begin{newenv}
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[columns=1,noitemsep]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[label=\roman*)]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\hrule

\begin{newenv}[label=(\alph*),columns=3]
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\item e
\item f
\end{newenv}

\end{document}

• +1: Very nice, but in the second MWE there is an \ExplSyntaxOff missing before \begin{document}. – Henri Menke Jul 27 '14 at 14:09
• @egreg If I wanted to learn to understand this syntax, what should I start by reading? I have tried to puzzle out some of the LaTeX 3 documentation before in order to learn this but everything seems to assume I already know basically how it works and my efforts have proved fruitless. It just seems too alien and quite unlike anything else I deal with. (Maybe it is more familiar to people with programming knowledge but I can basically manage a simplish shell script and nothing more.) [I have a horrible feeling I've either asked this question before or seen somebody else do so but no idea where.] – cfr Jul 27 '14 at 14:54
• @cfr I have no background in programming, other than (La)TeX. Look at texdoc expl3 and texdoc interface3; then work out some examples. – egreg Jul 27 '14 at 14:58
• @egreg When activating the columns = 3 key (for example) in the first level and nesting newenv all are in 3 columns. The columns = 3 key should be active only at the level at which it is used and use the default value at the rest of the levels, is what I am saying correct? – Pablo González L Mar 28 at 17:41
• @PabloGonzálezL Add columns = 1, before #1 % use the options – egreg Mar 28 at 18:09

At risk of being reprimanded for the suggestion, you could use different delimiters for the different optionals. The line

\NewDocumentEnvironment{newenv}{ O{2} D<>{(a)} }


Specifies that there are two optional arguments, the first is of type O which is a standard square bracketed optional with default whatever is in the following brace group (here 2). The second optional argument is of type D ("D"elimited) with left delimiter <, right delimiter > and has default whatever is given in the following brace group, here (a).

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{array}
\usepackage{multicol}
\usepackage{enumerate}
\usepackage{xparse}

\NewDocumentEnvironment{newenv}{ O{2} D<>{(a)} }
{\begin{multicols}{#1}\begin{enumerate}[#2]}
{\end{enumerate}\end{multicols}}

\begin{document}

\begin{newenv}[2]<i.>
\item a
\item b
\item c
\item d
\end{newenv}

\end{document}

• +1; but the syntax is complicated and the order must be respected. – egreg Feb 15 '13 at 18:30
• @egreg Both true! key-val is indeed the superior approach, I don't know it well enough to have provided a decent answer so left that for the experts and took the low hanging fruit :) – Scott H. Feb 15 '13 at 18:49