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4.11: Why functions?

It may not be clear why it is worth the trouble to divide a program into functions. There are several reasons:

  • Creating a new function gives you an opportunity to name a group of statements, which makes your program easier to read, understand, and debug.
  • Functions can make a program smaller by eliminating repetitive code. Later, if you make a change, you only have to make it in one place.
  • Dividing a long program into functions allows you to debug the parts one at a time and then assemble them into a working whole.
  • Well-designed functions are often useful for many programs. Once you write and debug one, you can reuse it.

Throughout the rest of the book, often we will use a function definition to explain a concept. Part of the skill of creating and using functions is to have a function properly capture an idea such as "find the smallest value in a list of values". Later we will show you code that finds the smallest in a list of values and we will present it to you as a function named min which takes a list of values as its argument and returns the smallest value in the list.