Functions are “self-contained” code modules that fulfil a particular mission. In general, functions “take in” data, process it, and “return” the output. It can be used over and over and over again once a function is written. Functions can be “called” from other functions within.
A mission is encapsulated by functions (they combine many instructions into a single line of code). Many programming languages have many built-in functions that would otherwise require many steps to be taken, such as the calculation of a number’s square root. Generally speaking, we don’t care how a position does what it does, just that it does it. So the “flow of control” of a function is:
- The programme enters a line of code containing a “function call”.
- Entering the function is the programme (starts at the first line in the function code).
- From top to bottom, all instructions inside the feature are executed.
- The software leaves the feature and returns to where it began from.
- Any data computed and RETURNED by a function is used in the original line of code instead of the function.
Benefits of Writing Functions
- They cause us to conceive as a bunch of sub-steps of our programme. (Each sub-step can be a function of its own. Just split the overall programme into sub-steps when every programme seems too hard!)
- They allow us, instead of rewriting it, to reuse code.
- Functions allow us to clean our variable namespace (local variables only “live” as long as the function does). In other words, function 1 can use a variable called I and a variable called I can also be used by function 2 and there is no misunderstanding. Each I variable exists only when the given function is executed by the computer.
Functions allow us, in isolation from the rest, to test small parts of our software. In interpreted languages, including Matlab, this is particularly true, but can be useful in C, Java, ActionScript, etc.
Steps to Writing a Function
- Understand the function’s meaning.
- Define the data that comes from the caller into the function (in the form of parameters)!
- To achieve its objective, define what data variables are required within the function.
- Decide on the collection of steps to achieve this purpose that the software would use. (An Algorithm)
The good aspect about functions is that they have many names that are common. They are called differently in various programming languages, such as functions, methods, sub-routines, procedures, etc. If you come across some words like that, then just think about the same idea.
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