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Ruby Functions

This section covers defining functions, passing arguments to them, and the difference between parameters and arguments.

Ref: WGR Chapter 2. Objects, methods, and local variables

Ref: WGR Chapter 2, Section 2.4, "A close look at method arguments"

Expression values

In Ruby, every expression evaluates to some value

>> 2 + 2
=> 4
>> (2+2).zero?
=> false
>> "zero" if (2+2).zero?
=> nil

Function values

The value of a function is the value of the final statement

(or the value sent to return if that comes first)

Parameters and return values

def to_fahrenheit(celsius)
  celsius * 9.0 / 5 + 32
  • celsius is a parameter
  • the value of a function is the value of the final statement
    • in this case, the only statement
  • the keyword return is available, but usually unnecessary

Arguments vs. Parameters

def to_fahrenheit(celsius)
  celsius * 9.0 / 5 + 32
boiling = 100
  • Technically speaking, arguments are passed and parameters are declared
  • Note that the variable names don't have to match!
  • In this code, boiling is an argument and celsius is a parameter
    • In practice, the two terms are interchangeable

Splat arguments

def greet(greeting, *names)
  names.each do |name|
    puts "#{greeting}, #{name}!"

>> greet("Hello", "Alice", "Bob", "Charlie")
Hello, Alice!
Hello, Bob!
Hello, Charlie!

Default values

def eat(food = "chicken")
  puts "Yum, #{food}!"

>> eat
Yum, chicken!

>> eat "arugula"
Yum, arugula!

The default hash parameter

When calling a method, if the final argument is a hash, you can leave off the curly braces

def add_to_x_and_y(amount, vals)
  x = vals[:x]
  y = vals[:y]
  x + y + amount

add_to_x_and_y(2, {:x => 1, :y => 2})

# same as...
add_to_x_and_y 2, :x => 1, :y => 2

# same as...
add_to_x_and_y 2, x: 1, y: 2

# same as...
add_to_x_and_y 2, y: 2, x: 1

the "options hash" pattern

To pass variable parameters, or to pass named parameters, you can use an options hash:

bake("Sourdough", :flour => "sour")
bake("Pumpernickel", :creamer => "butter")

def bake(name, options = {})
  flour = options[:flour] || "rye"
  creamer = options[:creamer] || "cream"
  puts "baking a nice #{flour} loaf with #{creamer}"
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