[texhax] Avoiding \special{} conflicts

Douglas McKenna doug at mathemaesthetics.com
Sat Feb 27 01:58:15 CET 2016

\special{} commands insert arbitrary text strings into a box's contents.  The strings are exported along with the box and its contents by the interpreter to whatever's on the back end willing to respond to the information (DVI tools, XDVI tools, PDF tools, in my case a custom eBook reader program linked to my own TeX interpreter library, etc.).

I'm assuming that the rule is that any backend that doesn't recognize a particular \special{} exported its way simply ignores it.  So far so good.

I would like to implement some \specials{} so as to deliver to my backend (client program) information I place inside a box, using macro commands defined in the TeX source code.

Is there an informal syntax or agreed-upon formatting standard in the TeX community for ensuring that a custom \special{} extension such as this doesn't conflict with or confuse an existing \special{} being used in some package, format, or other part of the greater TeX ecosystem?

How does one determine the currently supported set of implemented \special{} commands that everyone in the TeX world depends upon, so I can avoid creating a conflict?

How are such conflicts resolved?


Doug McKenna

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