Imperative language

Ada is a multi-paradigm language with support for object orientation and some elements of functional programming, but its core is a simple, coherent procedural/imperative language akin to C or Pascal.

In other languages

One important distinction between Ada and a language like C is that statements and expressions are very clearly distinguished. In Ada, if you try to use an expression where a statement is required then your program will fail to compile. This rule supports a useful stylistic principle: expressions are intended to deliver values, not to have side effects. It can also prevent some programming errors, such as mistakenly using the equality operator "=" instead of the assignment operation ":=" in an assignment statement.

Hello world

Here's a very simple imperative Ada program:

with Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet is begin -- Print "Hello, World!" to the screen Ada.Text_IO.Put_Line ("Hello, World!"); end Greet;

which we'll assume is in the source file greet.adb.

If you compile that source with the GNAT compiler and run the executable, you will get an unsurprising result.

$ gprbuild greet.adb
using project file [...]_default.gpr
Compile
   [Ada]          greet.adb
Bind
   [gprbind]      greet.bexch
   [Ada]          greet.ali
Link
   [link]         greet.adb

 $ ./greet
Hello, World!
 $

There are several noteworthy things in the above program:

  • A subprogram in Ada can be either a procedure or a function. A procedure, as illustrated above, does not return a value when called.
  • with is used to reference external modules that are needed in the procedure. This is similar to import in various languages or roughly similar to #include in C and C++. We'll see later how they work in detail. Here, we are requesting a standard library module, the Ada.Text_IO package, which contains a procedure to print text on the screen: Put_Line.
  • Greet is a procedure, and the main entry point for our first program. Unlike in C or C++, it can be named anything you prefer. The builder will determine the entry point. In our simple example, gprbuild, GNAT's builder, will use the file you passed as parameter.
  • Put_Line is a procedure, just like Greet, except it is declared in the Ada.Text_IO module. It is the Ada equivalent of C's printf.
  • Comments start with -- and go to the end of the line. There is no multi-line comment syntax, that is, it is not possible to start a comment in one line and continue it in the next line. The only way to create multiple lines of comments in Ada is by using -- on each line. For example:
--  We start a comment in this line...
--  and we continue on the second line...

In other languages

Procedures are similar to functions in C or C++ that return void. We'll see later how to declare functions in Ada.

Here is a minor variant of the "Hello, World" example:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet is begin -- Print "Hello, World!" to the screen Put_Line ("Hello, World!"); end Greet;

This version utilizes an Ada feature known as a use clause, which has the the form use package-name. As illustrated by the call on Put_Line, the effect is that entities from the named package can be referenced directly, without the package-name. prefix.

Imperative language - If/Then/Else

This section describes Ada's if statement and introduces several other fundamental language facilities including integer I/O, data declarations, and subprogram parameter modes.

Ada's if statement is pretty unsurprising in form and function:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Ada.Integer_Text_IO; use Ada.Integer_Text_IO; procedure Check_Positive is N : Integer; begin Put ("Enter an integer value: "); -- Put a String Get (N); -- Read in an integer value if N > 0 then Put (N); -- Put an Integer Put_Line (" is a positive number"); end if; end Check_Positive;

The if statement minimally consists of the reserved word if, a condition (which must be a Boolean value), the reserved word then and a non-empty sequence of statements (the then part) which is executed if the condition evaluates to True, and a terminating end if.

This example declares an integer variable N, prompts the user for an integer, checks if the value is positive and, if so, displays the integer's value followed by the string " is a positive number". If the value is not positive, the procedure does not display any output.

The type Integer is a predefined signed type, and its range depends on the computer architecture. On typical current processors Integer is 32-bit signed.

The example illustrates some of the basic functionality for integer input-output. The relevant subprograms are in the predefined package Ada.Integer_Text_IO and include the Get procedure (which reads in a number from the keyboard) and the Put procedure (which displays an integer value).

Here's a slight variation on the example, which illustrates an if statement with an else part:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Ada.Integer_Text_IO; use Ada.Integer_Text_IO; procedure Check_Positive is N : Integer; begin Put ("Enter an integer value: "); -- Put a String Get (N); -- Reads in an integer value Put (N); -- Put an Integer if N > 0 then Put_Line (" is a positive number"); else Put_Line (" is not a positive number"); end if; end Check_Positive;

In this example, if the input value is not positive then the program displays the value followed by the String " is not a positive number".

Our final variation illustrates an if statement with elsif sections:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Ada.Integer_Text_IO; use Ada.Integer_Text_IO; procedure Check_Direction is N : Integer; begin Put ("Enter an integer value: "); -- Puts a String Get (N); -- Reads an Integer Put (N); -- Puts an Integer if N = 0 or N = 360 then Put_Line (" is due east"); elsif N in 1 .. 89 then Put_Line (" is in the northeast quadrant"); elsif N = 90 then Put_Line (" is due north"); elsif N in 91 .. 179 then Put_Line (" is in the northwest quadrant"); elsif N = 180 then Put_Line (" is due west"); elsif N in 181 .. 269 then Put_Line (" is in the southwest quadrant"); elsif N = 270 then Put_Line (" is due south"); elsif N in 271 .. 359 then Put_Line (" is in the southeast quadrant"); else Put_Line (" is not in the range 0..360"); end if; end Check_Direction;

This example expects the user to input an integer between 0 and 360 inclusive, and displays which quadrant or axis the value corresponds to. The in operator in Ada tests whether a scalar value is within a specified range and returns a Boolean result. The effect of the program should be self-explanatory; later we'll see an alternative and more efficient style to accomplish the same effect, through a case statement.

Ada's elsif keyword differs from C or C++, where nested else .. if blocks would be used instead. And another difference is the presence of the end if in Ada, which avoids the problem known as the "dangling else".

Imperative language - Loops

Ada has three ways of specifying loops. They differ from the C / Java / Javascript for-loop, however, with simpler syntax and semantics in line with Ada's philosophy.

For loops

The first kind of loop is the for loop, which allows iteration through a discrete range.

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet_5a is begin for I in 1 .. 5 loop Put_Line ("Hello, World!" & Integer'Image (I)); -- Procedure call -- ^ Procedure parameter end loop; end Greet_5a;

Executing this procedure yields the following output:

Hello, World! 1
Hello, World! 2
Hello, World! 3
Hello, World! 4
Hello, World! 5

A few things to note:

  • 1 .. 5 is a discrete range, from 1 to 5 inclusive.
  • The loop parameter I (the name is arbitrary) in the body of the loop has a value within this range.
  • I is local to the loop, so you cannot refer to I outside the loop.
  • Although the value of I` is incremented at each iteration, from the program's perspective it is constant. An attempt to modify its value is illegal; the compiler would reject the program.
  • Integer'Image is a function that takes an Integer and converts it to a String. It is an example of a language construct known as an attribute, indicated by the "'" syntax, which will be covered in more detail later.
  • The & symbol is the concatenation operator for String values
  • The end loop marks the end of the loop

The "step" of the loop is limited to 1 (forward direction) and -1 (backward). To iterate backwards over a range, use the reverse keyword:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet_5a_Reverse is begin for I in reverse 1 .. 5 loop Put_Line ("Hello, World!" & Integer'Image (I)); end loop; end Greet_5a_Reverse;

Executing this procedure yields the following output:

Hello, World! 5
Hello, World! 4
Hello, World! 3
Hello, World! 2
Hello, World! 1

The bounds of a for loop may be computed at run-time; they are evaluated once, before the loop body is executed. If the value of the upper bound is less than the value of the lower bound, then the loop is not executed at all. This is the case also for reverse loops. Thus no output is produced in the following example:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet_No_Op is begin for I in reverse 5 .. 1 loop Put_Line ("Hello, World!" & Integer'Image (I)); end loop; end Greet_No_Op;

The for loop is more general than what we illustrated here; more on that later.

Bare loops

The simplest loop in Ada is the bare loop, which forms the foundation of the other kinds of Ada loops.

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet_5b is I : Integer := 1; -- Variable declaration -- ^ Type -- ^ Initial value begin loop Put_Line ("Hello, World!" & Integer'Image (I)); exit when I = 5; -- Exit statement -- ^ Boolean condition -- Assignment I := I + 1; -- There is no I++ short form to increment a variable end loop; end Greet_5b;

This example has the same effect as Greet_5a shown earlier.

It illustrates several concepts:

  • We have declared a variable named I between the is and the begin. This constitutes a declarative region. Ada clearly separates the declarative region from the statement part of a subprogram. A declaration can appear in a declarative region but is not allowed as a statement.
  • The bare loop statement is introduced by the keyword loop on its own and, like every kind of loop statement, is terminated by the combination of keywords end loop. On its own, it is an infinite loop. You can break out of it with an exit statement.
  • The syntax for assignment is :=, and the one for equality is =. There is no way to confuse them, because as previously noted, in Ada, statements and expressions are distinct, and expressions are not valid statements.

While loops

The last kind of loop in Ada is the while loop.

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet_5c is I : Integer := 1; begin -- Condition must be a Boolean value (no Integers). -- Operator "<=" returns a Boolean while I <= 5 loop Put_Line ("Hello, World!" & Integer'Image (I)); I := I + 1; end loop; end Greet_5c;

The condition is evaluated before each iteration. If the result is false, then the loop is terminated.

This program has the same effect as the previous examples.

In other languages

Note that Ada has different semantics than C-based languages with respect to the condition in a while loop. In Ada the condition has to be a Boolean value or the compiler will reject the program; the condition is not an integer that is treated as either True or False depending on whether it is non-zero or zero.

Imperative language - Case statement

Ada's case statement is similar to the C and C++ switch statement, but with some important differences.

Here's an example, a variation of a program that was shown earlier with an if statement:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Ada.Integer_Text_IO; use Ada.Integer_Text_IO; procedure Check_Direction is N : Integer; begin loop Put ("Enter an integer value: "); -- Puts a String Get (N); -- Reads an Integer Put (N); -- Puts an Integer case N is when 0 | 360 => Put_Line (" is due east"); when 1 .. 89 => Put_Line (" is in the northeast quadrant"); when 90 => Put_Line (" is due north"); when 91 .. 179 => Put_Line (" is in the northwest quadrant"); when 180 => Put_Line (" is due west"); when 181 .. 269 => Put_Line (" is in the southwest quadrant"); when 270 => Put_Line (" is due south"); when 271 .. 359 => Put_Line (" is in the southeast quadrant"); when others => Put_Line (" Au revoir"); exit; end case; end loop; end Check_Direction;

This program repeatedly prompts for an integer value and then, if the value is in the range 0..360, displays the associated quadrant or axis. If the value is an Integer outside this range, the loop (and the program) terminate after outputting a farewell message.

The effect of the case statement is similar to the if statement in an earlier example, but the case statement can be more efficient because it does not involve multiple range tests.

Notable points about Ada's case statement:

  • The case expression (here the variable N) must be of a discrete type, i.e. either an integer type or an enumeration type. Discrete types will be covered in more detail later discrete types.
  • Every possible value for the case expression needs to be covered by a unique branch of the case statement. This will be checked at compile time.
  • A branch can specify a single value, such as 0; a range of values, such as 1 .. 89; or any combination of the two (separated by a |).
  • As a special case, an optional final branch can specify others, which covers all values not included in the earlier branches.
  • Execution consists of the evaluation of the case expression and then a transfer of control to the statement sequence in the unique branch that covers that value.
  • When execution of the statements in the selected branch has completed, control resumes after the end case. Unlike C, execution does not fall through to the next branch. So Ada doesn't need (and doesn't have) a break statement.

Imperative language - Declarative regions

As mentioned earlier, Ada draws a clear syntactic separation between declarations, which introduce names for entities that will be used in the program, and statements, which perform the processing. The areas in the program where declarations may appear are known as declarative regions.

  • In any subprogram, the section between the is and the begin is a declarative region.
  • You can have variables, constants, types, inner subprograms, and other entities there. For example:
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Main is procedure Nested is begin Put_Line ("Hello World"); end Nested; begin Nested; -- Call to Nested end Main;
  • A declaration cannot appear as a statement if you need to declare a local variable amidst the statements, you can introduce a new declarative region with a block statement:
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Greet is begin loop Put_Line ("Please enter your name: "); declare Name : String := Get_Line; -- ^ Call to the Get_Line function begin exit when Name = ""; Put_Line ("Hi " & Name & "!"); end; -- Name is undefined here end loop; Put_Line ("Bye!"); end Greet;

Attention

The Get_Line function allows you to receive input from the user, and get the result as a string. It is more or less equivalent to the scanf C function.

It returns a String, which, as we will see later, is an Unconstrained array type. For now we simply note that, if you wish to declare a String variable and do not know its size in advance, then you need to initialize the variable during its declaration.

Imperative language - control expressions

Ada 2012 introduced an expression analog for conditional statements (if and case).

If expressions

Here's an alternative version of an example we saw earlier; the if statement has been replaced by an if expression:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Ada.Integer_Text_IO; use Ada.Integer_Text_IO; procedure Check_Positive is N : Integer; begin Put ("Enter an integer value: "); -- Put a String Get (N); -- Reads in an integer value Put (N); -- Put an Integer declare S : String := (if N > 0 then " is a positive number" else " is not a positive number"); begin Put_Line (S); end; end Check_Positive;

The if expression evaluates to one of the two Strings depending on N, and assigns that value to the local variable S.

Ada's if expressions are similar to if statements. However, there are a few differences that stem from the fact that it is an expression:

  • All branches' expressions must be of the same type
  • It must be surrounded by parentheses if the surrounding expression does not already contain them
  • An else branch is mandatory unless the expression following then has a Boolean value. In that case an else branch is optional and, if not present, defaults to else True.

Here's another example:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Main is begin for I in 1 .. 10 loop Put_Line (if I mod 2 = 0 then "Even" else "Odd"); end loop; end Main;

This program produces 10 lines of output, alternating between "Odd" and "Even".

Case expressions

Analogous to if expressions, Ada also has case expressions. They work just as you would expect.

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; procedure Main is begin for I in 1 .. 10 loop Put_Line (case I is when 1 | 3 | 5 | 7 | 9 => "Odd", when 2 | 4 | 6 | 8 | 10 => "Even"); end loop; end Main;

This program has the same effect as the preceding example.

The syntax differs from case statements, with branches separated by commas.