Loki Astari

Thoughts of a former code monkey.

Functions

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Usage

All C++ applications must have at least one function; this is called main(). Additionally, you can have user defined functions that encapsulate individual tasks, thus allowing the code to be cleaner and easier to read. Therefore, this is a useful feature if you repeat the same task many time with only slight variations:

function1.cpp

#include <string>
#include <iostream>

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
{
     std::cout << "What is your first name?\n";
     std::string firstName;
     std::cin >> firstName;

     std::cout << "What is your second name?\n";
     std::string secondName;
     std::cin >> secondName;

     std::cout << "What is your Mother's name?\n";
     std::string motherName;
     std::cin >> motherName;

     std::cout << "What is your Father's name?\n";
     std::string fatherName;
     std::cin >> fatherName;
}

It is easy to spot the obvious repetition here. We can simplify this code by using a function that does all the common work. Anything that is unique we can pass as parameters to the function.

function2.cpp

#include <string>
#include <iostream>

std::string getNameFor(std::string who)
{
    std::cout << "What is your " << who << " name?\n";
    std::string result;
    std::cin >> result;
    return result;
}

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
{
     std::string firstName  = getNameFor("first");
     std::string secondName = getNameFor("second");
     std::string motherName = getNameFor("Mother's");
     std::string fatherName = getNameFor("Father's");
}

Definition

OK. We have seen an example but what is the exact format of a function

function3.cpp

// A function definition is very simple
<ReturnType>  <FunctionName>(<OptionalArgumentList>)
{
    <OptionalCode>
}

//  ReturnType:            This is the name of any type (built in or user defined)
//                         At the end of function you must have a statement
//                         that returns an object of this type.
//
//  FunctionName:          A unique name that identifies the function.
//
//  OptionalArgumentList:  This is either empty.
//                         Or a comma separated list of parameters.
//                         Because C++ is strongly typed each parameter is defined
//                         with both a type and a name.
//
//  OptionalCode:          We will be discussing this in more detail throught
//                         these articles. But the new statement to learn is
//                         `return <Value>`. This is the value returned by the
//                         function to the original caller.
//
//  Value:                 Notice that above I use the term `Value` and not object.
//                         A `Value` here can be an explicit object or the result
//                         of evaluating an expression (temporary object). Note
//                         one type of expression is a function call.
//
//                         return "An explicit String Object";
//
//                         return theResultOfAFunctionCall("Get A Result");

If a function has void return type then you don't need to Return Statement. With any other return type your function must exit by using a Return Statement. The Return Statement determines the value returned to the caller from the function. The one exception to this rule (and their has to be an exception to make it a rule) is int main(). If you don't explicitly have a Return Statement int int main() the compiler will plant return 0; for you.

Forward Declaration

One thing to note about a function is that you can not use it before a declaration. We rewrite the original example above as:

function4.cpp

#include <string>
#include <iostream>

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
{
     std::string firstName  = getNameFor("first");
     std::string secondName = getNameFor("second");
     std::string motherName = getNameFor("Mother's");
     std::string fatherName = getNameFor("Father's");
}

std::string getNameFor(std::string who)
{
    std::cout << "What is your " << who << " name?\n";
    std::string result;
    std::cin >> result;
    return result;
}

The only difference from above here is that I have moved the main() function before the getNameFor() function. This will generate a compilation error as you are using the function getNameFor() before a declaration. This may seem a potential problem but it is a deliberate technique that makes sure you spell things correctly before use. In the above situation the only change you need to make is a forward declaration. This allows you to declare a function before you define it. The utility of this will become clear when we start defining modules.

function5.cpp

#include <string>
#include <iostream>

// Add a forward declaration
extern std::string getNameFor(std::string who);

// A forward declaration is basically a function declaration without a body.
// Add an extern prefix and a semicolon on the end (the rest you should copy
// and paste from the function definition).
//
//
// Note: For the languages lawyers who want to complain about the extern.
//       Just hold your horses we will get to the intricacies in due course;
//       this is only lesson 4.

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
{
     std::string firstName  = getNameFor("first");
     std::string secondName = getNameFor("second");
     std::string motherName = getNameFor("Mother's");
     std::string fatherName = getNameFor("Father's");
}

std::string getNameFor(std::string who)
{
    std::cout << "What is your " << who << " name?\n";
    std::string result;
    std::cin >> result;
    return result;
}

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