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Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:44:28 +1030
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Will Robertson <[log in to unmask]>
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
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On 29/01/2011, at 9:39 AM, Bruno Le Floch wrote:

>> As this is ment for document level, I am tempted to use
>> \NewDocumentCommand. But this word is longer than the whole code of the
>> macro itself, that blows some simple code really up. On the other hand,
>> using \def would be very short but is not LaTeX3-ish. \cs_new:Nn doesn't
>> let me define something without a : at the end. Or would a \tl_new be a
>> good way?
> I don't know what the right way of doing things is. Two ways I can think of are
> \cs_new:Npn \ie {i.\,e.}
> \tl_new:Nn \ie {i.\,e.}

These commands are only intended to be used for actual package code. For my own (unpublished because it's insignificant) package for doing this, I use \DeclareRobustCommand since I wrote it before I was using xparse.

But \NewDocumentCommand is probably the way to go, although it seems over the top: (after all, consider the name -- it's for creating "document commands")

1.  You want the "newness" checking so you don't clash with some other possible definition of \ie

2.  For this type of macro it's often desirable to have "protected" commands, so that the \ie is kept as a macro inside LaTeX2e-termed "moving arguments" such as section headings and captions.

But a better way to do this sort of thing would be to write something like

    \NewDocumentCommand \NewShorthand { mm } {%
       \NewDocumentCommand #1 {} {#2}%

so you can then write

    \NewShorthand \ie {i.e.}

I actually think this idea of a "document shorthand" such as this, being a macro with no arguments (or perhaps with a very simple macro replacement rule -- say anything expandable that doesn't rely on counters or position in the document) should be a somewhat formal construct that we define. In fact, I think it should use a different syntax than the regular "gobble space" undelimited macro, such as the equivalent of


which would be used in-text as "blah blah blah (\ie/, yar yar yar)" or "blah \ie/ yar" -- in other words, spaces are preserved after the macro. The reasoning being that (and I think I've said this before) even experienced LaTeX authors make mistakes with things like writing "The \LaTeX Companion" or whatever, and eliminating this source of error would be -- I think -- a usability improvement for people that want to use it.

Perhaps a trailing semicolon would be a better idea; I'm not really sure what the best syntax here would be. (There is a package somewhere on CTAN that defines shorthands using @ symbols (so you'd write, like, "@ie@"), but that syntax might be a bit extreme for me.)

But perhaps that's all being a bit prescriptionist, and just because I like to write like that doesn't mean we should force everyone to. But besides the interface improvement with avoiding the spaces behaviour, such a "shorthand" system could also be used in post-processing to convert a document with author shorthands into an "expanded" document that doesn't require the macros.

What do you think?

-- Will