For those who aren’t interested in typesetting mathematics I made a shorter version with the math-related commands taken out: csname-text.tex, csname-text.pdf. ‘csname-math’ contains all the missing math commands: csname-math.tex, csname-math.pdf.

The file ‘keywords’ contains some other things worth knowing about: special characters, keywords, dimensions, catcodes: keywords.tex, keywords.pdf.

If you look at ‘csname’ you will see that about a third of the control sequences are primitives, i.e. they are built into the TeX program. The remainder are defined in the file `plain.tex`

(see here →, or search your TeX installation).

`plain.tex`

:

1. sets up code tables: `\catcode`

s, `\mathcode`

s, `\sfcode`

s, `\delcode`

s

2. allocates registers: `\count`

, `\dimen`

, `\skip`

, `\muskip`

, `\box`

, `\toks`

, input streams, output streams, math families, languages, insertions

3. sets parameters (e.g. `\tolerance`

, `\hbadness`

, `\parindent`

, `\parskip`

, etc.)

4. loads information about fonts

5. then come text macros, e.g. `\frenchspacing`

, `\normalbaselines`

, `\enspace`

, `\break`

, `\centerline`

, tabbing macros

6. macros for math

7. macros for output e.g. `\folio`

, `\raggedbottom`

, `\footnote`

, `\topinsert`

, `\midinsert`

, `\pageinsert`

8. hyphenation and everything else.

This list is from Appendix B of the TeXbook, which begins with a table showing commonly used Plain TeX control sequences with an example of their use, followed by a description of the macros contained in `plain.tex.`

Some macros are used as auxiliary macros in the construction of other macros, e.g. `\textindent`

which is used in `\item`

, `\itemitem`

and `\vfootnote`

. Or `\joinrel`

, which is used to join math symbols together to make new ones, e.g. `\bowtie`

is constructed like this: `\def\bowtie{\mathrel\triangleright\joinrel\mathrel\triangleleft}`

.

The private macros (those with ‘@’ in them) are also auxiliary macros used by `plain.tex`

e.g. `\f@@t`

, `\f@t`

and `\@foot`

are used in building the `\footnote `

macro, `\m@g`

is used in the `\magnification`

macro. The idea of having ‘@’ in the control sequences is so that they will not be accidentally overwritten by user-defined macros.

David Bausum’s webpage (→) lists and gives definitions of all the TeX primitives. The appendix of ‘TeX by Topic’ also has a list of the primitives. ‘TeX for the Impatient’ has a ‘Capsule summary of commands’ which gives short definitions of the primitives and Plain TeX commands. If you read German ‘Einführung in TeX’ has a very full glossary of Plain and primitive TeX commands and the private macros too. (See below for links to these books.)

TeX Reference Manual by David Bausum: → list of TeX primitive control sequences with definitions and examples. Also available as a PDF: →

Plain TeX Reference by Norman Walsh: → The ‘parameters’ section at the end lists the default settings of Plain TeX.

TeX Reference Card by J.H. Silverman: →

A page in French with information about typesetting French in plain XeTeX: →

This site seems to be defunct, but the files can be accessed via the Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://visuel.ouvaton.org/*

The file Velene.pdf contains most of the information that was on the web page.

A Summary of Common TeX Control Sequences by Daniel J. Plonsey: →

Other resources on the same server: →

Plain TeX quick reference from New Mexico Tech (seems to be a précis of the non-mathematical chapters of the TeXbook): →

The teTeX HOWTO (for Linux users) has a short section on TeX commands: →

Big collection of TeX links: →

Getting Started with Plain TeX by D. R. Wilkins →

Summary of Commonly-Used Features of Plain TeX by the same author →

A Gentle Introduction to TeX by Michael Doob → Available as a PDF and .tex file.

TeX for the Impatient (Abrahams, Hargreaves, Berry) →

Another page → with a link to the source files: →

Einführung in TeX by Norbert Schwarz (sehr gutes Buch) →

A Plain TeX Primer by Malcolm Clark

TeX by Topic by Victor Eijkhout →

By the same author: The Computer Science of TeX and LaTeX →

The Advanced Texbook by David Salomon

The TeXbook by D. E. Knuth

This page → has the source file of the TeXbook (texbook.tex). You can’t run it, but you can read it to see how it’s done.

See also this page → which has a link to

`manmac.tex`

, macros written by Knuth to aid in typesetting the TeXbook.
TeX: The Program, volume B of ‘Computers and Typesetting’ (volume A is the TeXbook) → contains the Pascal source code of the TeX program, mixed with descriptive text. (Knuth calls this ‘literate programming’.)

Paragraphing macros: →

Michigan macros. Lots of useful macros here. I had to tinker with/adapt some of them to get them to work. →

Stanford macros. Huge collection of TeX macros from Stanford University: →