# [NTG-context] Dropped caps, \startlines\stoplines, and indentation question

Taco Hoekwater taco at elvenkind.com
Sun Jan 29 18:59:05 CET 2006

Adrian Drury wrote:
> Is there a way to calculate the width of some number of characters (or a
> string of characters) to use as a dimension parameter? For example, a
> macro that returns the width in points of 5 space characters in the
> current font? I figured hardcoding the width of a space as a percentage
> of an em might work, but would probably not be consistent across fonts.
> Is that true, or is it really that simple?

That would break now and then. Here is how you get the natural
size of a space:

\setbox0=\hbox{ }

now \wd0 (the WiDth of box 0) is the 'natural' width of a space.
But note that this is not 100% accurate in normal typesetting,
because TeX adjusts spaces when needed for justification.
Anyway, after this \setbox command,

5\wd0

is the width of five spaces, etc.

Chees, taco