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Maple FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about

functions and procedures

An example of a function:

# Accepts a picture and an integer n and repeats the picture n times on the same display.
> rotntimes:=proc(pic, n) local i;
The parameters of this function are pic and n.  There is one local variable.  The last command in this procedure is the value returned (the thing that is returned from a 'display' command is another picture).  When you type this command in and hit ENTER, nothing seems to happen.  You have just entered the defintion of the function.  From now on, any time in Maple that you type rotntimes(pic,5); (where pic is a picture), you will see the picture rotated 5 times.  See here for some examples of this procedure at work.

I hit enter after I typed in the function and nothing happened.  What is wrong?

When you hit enter, the function definition is now in Maple.  You have not told Maple to execute the commands in the defintion.  This is done with a call to the function.

What is a function in Maple?

A function is a collection of instructions.  This set of instructions is accessed each time a call to the function is made.  Most of the functions that you use are built into Maple, but there is a way to write your own.

When should I write my own functions?

You should write your own functions whenever you are repeating lines of Maple with cut and paste.   It is probably more efficient to write a function if you have to do the same operation over and over.  Whenever you are performing an operation to a list of objects, you should almost definitely write a function.  It is good programming form to use functions even when it is not necessary (so...just about always).

What is a local variable?

A local variable is one that has values while the procedure is running, but does not have a value before the procedure starts nor after it ends.  Local variables are declared on the first or second line of the definition of the function.

What is a global variable?

A global variable is a variable that is set outside the function.  You might use a global variable for lookup values or to keep track of a value that changes each time you call the function.  In general you should avoid the use of global variables because it is considered bad programming style to use them.  Here are some examples of functions that use global variables.

Why do I sometimes get the messages like?:

Warning, `varname` in call to `seq` is not local
Warning, `varname` is implicitly declared local
Maple is informing you that you have failed to declare 'varname' as a local or global variable and it is taking a guess that the variable is local or global.  Many times Maple is wrong, but even when it is correct, you should not ignore these messages.  You should go back and correct your function definition so that the variables are all declared either local or global (or a parameter).

When do I use the command 'RETURN' in my procedure?

A function in Maple usually returns the value of the last command executed in the definition.  If you wish to have the function stop halfway through a calculation (say, if some condition is met), then you may use the command 'RETURN.'  'RETURN' forces the function to stop executing and return the value that is next to the command.  Look here for an example of this function at work.

What is with that really short notation with the -> arrow?

This is another way of declaring a function.  If the definition of your function can be made in one line (is one simple command) and does not require the use of any local variables, then this notation is much more convenient, shorter, but also terser.  The short notation consists of the parameters enclosed in parentheses and separated by commas, followed by an arrow ->, followed by the command.  Here are some examples.  This notation is especially useful when you are using the map command to operate on a list of values.  You do not need an 'end' command at the end of one of these defintions, becuase it is automatically assumed that the end of the function is the first semicolon or colon that follows the arrow.

What does od and fi mean?

Notice that od and fi are do and if spelled backwards.  Every time that you have a for loop or a while loop the format is given as
for blah from blah to blah do blah-blah-blah od;
while blah do blah-blah-blah od;
To tell Maple what commands you want to perform during the loop you list the commands in the blah-blah-blah spot.  The last command in the loop is followed by the command od and it tells Maple to group all of commands in blah-blah-blah together.  Basically, the command od means the same as 'end the do loop.'  In Maple 6 and higher you can use end do in place of od.
Each time that you have an if-then-else statement the form of the command is like
if blah then blah-blah-blah fi;
if blah then blah else blah-blah-blah fi;
The fi at the end of the statement says 'end the clause in the if statement' and tells Maple to group all of the commands in the blah-blah-blah part of the if statement together.  In Maple 6 and higher you may use the command end if in place of fi.
Check here for examples of functions that use the for-do-od, while-do-od and if-then-else-fi statements.

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