3.4 Variable Conventions

GMP functions generally have output arguments before input arguments. This notation is by analogy with the assignment operator.

GMP lets you use the same variable for both input and output in one call. For example, the main function for integer multiplication, mpz_mul, can be used to square x and put the result back in x with

mpz_mul (x, x, x);

Before you can assign to a GMP variable, you need to initialize it by calling one of the special initialization functions. When you’re done with a variable, you need to clear it out, using one of the functions for that purpose. Which function to use depends on the type of variable. See the chapters on integer functions, rational number functions, and floating-point functions for details.

A variable should only be initialized once, or at least cleared between each initialization. After a variable has been initialized, it may be assigned to any number of times.

For efficiency reasons, avoid excessive initializing and clearing. In general, initialize near the start of a function and clear near the end. For example,

foo (void)
  mpz_t  n;
  int    i;
  mpz_init (n);
  for (i = 1; i < 100; i++)
      mpz_mul (n, …);
      mpz_fdiv_q (n, …);
  mpz_clear (n);

GMP types like mpz_t are implemented as one-element arrays of certain structures. Declaring a variable creates an object with the fields GMP needs, but variables are normally manipulated by using the pointer to the object. The appropriate pointer types (Nomenclature and Types) may be used to explicitly manipulate the pointer. For both behavior and efficiency reasons, it is discouraged to make copies of the GMP object itself (either directly or via aggregate objects containing such GMP objects). If copies are done, all of them must be used read-only; using a copy as the output of some function will invalidate all the other copies. Note that the actual fields in each mpz_t etc are for internal use only and should not be accessed directly by code that expects to be compatible with future GMP releases.