3.5. Adding New Functions

So far we have only been using the functions that are built into C++, but it is also possible to add new functions. Actually, we have already seen one function definition: main. The function named main is special because it indicates where the execution of the program begins, but the syntax for main is the same as for any other function definition:

void NAME ( LIST OF PARAMETERS ) {
  STATEMENTS
}

You can make up any name you want for your function, except that you can’t call it main or any other C++ keyword. The list of parameters specifies what information – if any – you have to provide in order to use, or call, the new function.

main doesn’t take any parameters, as indicated by the empty parentheses () in it’s definition. The first couple of functions we are going to write also have no parameters, so the syntax looks like this:

void newLine () {
  cout << endl;
}

This function is named newLine; it contains only a single statement, which outputs a new line character, represented by the special value endl.

The first word of the header is the “return type”: **void: ** returns nothing; **int: ** returns an int; double: * returns a double; **string: ** returns a string;

In main we can call this new function using syntax that is similar to the way we call the built-in C++ commands:

int main () {
  cout << "First Line." << endl;
  newLine ();
  cout << "Second Line." << endl;
  return 0;
}

The output of this program is

First line.

Second line.

Notice the extra space between the two lines. What if we wanted more space between the lines? We could call the same function repeatedly:

int main () {
  cout << "First Line." << endl;
  newLine ();
  newLine ();
  newLine ();
  cout << "Second Line." << endl;
  return 0;
}

Or we could write a new function, named threeLine, that prints three new lines:

Here we define the threeLine function, which calls the newLine function three times. The result is a function that prints three lines after it is called.

You should notice a few things about this program:

Note

In general, you’ll want to write your code so that it is easy for others to follow. This is especially important if you choose computer science as a career!

So far, it may not be clear why it is worth the trouble to create all these new functions. Actually, there are a lot of reasons, but this example only demonstrates two:

  1. Creating a new function gives you an opportunity to give a name to a group of statements. Functions can simplify a program by hiding a complex computation behind a single command, and by using English words in place of arcane code. Which is clearer, newLine or cout << endl?

  2. Creating a new function can make a program smaller by eliminating repetitive code. For example, a short way to print nine consecutive new lines is to call threeLine three times. How would you print 27 new lines?

Construct a function that correctly prints the perimeter of a rectangle.

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