C++ Notes: Function Structure


Every function (except main) should be declared near the beginning of a program with a prototype which gives the return type (or void), name, and the parameter names and types. Parameter names are not required in prototypes, but they are very useful to readers of your program.
void printChars(char c, int count);
Note that prototypes always end with a semicolon. If you are developing a program with many modules, its common to put the prototypes into an include file. Assuming you are using prototypes, the order of the later function definitions doesn't matter. Prototypes are needed by the compiler to know how many and type of the parameters, and the return value type.

Function Definition

The first line of a function definition (called the function header) is the same at a prototype, except that it is followed by the function body in braces. Neither the header nor the body is followed by a semicolon.
void printChars(char c, int count) {
   for (int i=0; i<count; i++) {
     cout << c;
}//end printChars

void functions

If a function doesn't return a value (perhaps it changes a reference parameter, changes a global, or produces a side-effect like I/O), it must be declared as void type. In some programming languages (Visual Basic, Pascal, Fortran, ...), void functions are called by a different name (subroutine, procedure, ...).

Local Variables

All variables that are declared in a function are local to the function. They can not be referenced from outside the function (local scope). Their lifetime is the same as the activation of the function: they are created when the function is called and are destroyed when the function returns. They have no initial values so will have whatever value happens to be in memory when they are allocated. Parameters are like local variables (local scope, function lifetime), but are assigned an initial value from the corresponding expression in the function call.

Return statement

The return statement stops execution and returns to the calling function. A void function doesn't need a return statement -- when the end is reached, it automatically returns. However, a void function may optionally have one or more return statements.