4. Operators

To make it easier to write Pike, and to make the code somewhat shorter, some functions can be called with just one or two characters in the code. These functions are called operators and we have already seen how they work in plenty of examples. In this chapter I will describe in detail what they do. The operators are divided into categories depending on their function, but beware that some operators have meanings that go way beyond the scope of the category they are in.

4.1. Arithmetic operators

The arithmetic operators are the simplest ones, since they work just like you remember from math in school. The arithmetic operators are:

Additiona + b`+the sum of a and b
Subtractiona - b`-b subtracted from a
Negation- a`-minus a
Multiplicationa * b`*a multiplied by b
Divisiona / b`/a divided by b
Moduloa % b`%the remainder of a division between a and b

The third column, "Identifier" is the name of the function that actually evaluates the operation. For instance, a + b can also be written as `+(a, b). I will show you how useful this can be at the end of this chapter.

When applied to integers or floats these operators do exactly what they are supposed to do. The only operator in the list not known from basic math is the modulo operator. The modulo operator returns the remainder from an integer division. It is the same as calculating a - floor(a / b) * b. floor rounds the value down to closest lower integer value. Note that the call to floor isn't needed when operating on integers, since dividing two integers will return the result as an integer and it is always rounded down. For instance, 8 / 3 would return 2.

If all arguments to the operator are integers, the result will also be an integer. If one is a float and the other is an integer, the result will be a float. If both arguments are float, the result will of course be a float.

However, there are more types in Pike than integers and floats. Here is the complete list of combinations of types you can use with these operators:

OperationReturned typeReturned value
int + int
intthe sum of the two values
float + int
int + float
float + float
floatthe sum of the two values
string + string
int + string
float + string
string + int
string + float
stringIn this case, any int or float is first converted to a string. Then the two strings are concatenated and the resulting string is returned.
array + array
arrayThe two arrays are concatenated into a new array and that new array is returned.
mapping + mapping
mappingA mapping with all the index-value pairs from both mappings is returned. If an index is present in both mappings the index-value pair from the right mapping will be used.
multiset + multiset
multisetA multiset with all the indices from both multisets is returned.
int - int
intThe right value subtracted from the left.
float - int
int - float
float - float
floatThe right value subtracted from the left.
string - string
stringA copy of the left string with all occurrences of the right string removed.
array - array
arrayA copy of the left array with all elements present in the right array removed. Example: ({2,1,4,5,3,6,7}) - ({3,5,1}) will return ({2,4,6,7}).
mapping - mapping
mappingA new mapping with all index-value pairs from the left mapping, except those indices that are also present in the right mapping.
multiset - multiset
multisetA copy of the left multiset without any index present in the left multiset.
- int
intSame as 0 - int.
- float
floatSame as 0 - float.
int * int
intthe product of the two values
float * int
int * float
float * float
floatthe product of the two values
array(string) * string
stringAll the strings in the array are concatenated with the string on the right in between each string. Example: ({"foo","bar"})*"-" will return "foo-bar".
array(array) * array
arrayAll the arrays in the left array are concatenated with the array on the right in between each array. Example: ({ ({"foo"}) ,({"bar"})})*({"-"}) will return ({ "foo","-","bar" }).
string * int
stringThis operation will concatenate the string N times. Example: "foo"*3 will return "foofoofoo".
string * float
stringThis operation will concatenate the string X times. Example: "foo"*2.5 will return "foofoofo".
array * int
stringThis operation will concatenate the array N times. Example: ({"foo"})*3 will return ({"foo","foo","foo"}).
array * float
stringThis operation will concatenate the array X times. Example: ({1,2,3})*2.5 will return ({1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2}).
int / int
intThe right integer divided by the left integer rounded towards minus infinity.
float / int
int / float
float / float
floatThe right value divided by the left value.
string / string
array(string)In symmetry with the multiplication operator, the division operator can split a string into pieces. The right string will be split at every occurrence of the right string and an array containing the results will be returned. Example: "foo-bar"/"-" will return ({"foo","bar"})
string / int
array(string)This will split the string into pieces. The size of the pieces is given by the integer. Only complete pieces will be included in the result, the 'reminder' is discarded. Example: "foo-bar"/2 will return ({"fo","o-","ba"})
string / float
array(string)This is similar to dividing a string with an integer, but it allows fraction-sized segments and the reminder will always be included. Example: "foo-bar"/2.5 will return ({"fo","o-b","ar"})
array / int
array(array)This is similar to dividing a string with an integer, but splits an array. Example: ({1,2,3,4,5,6,7})/2 will return ({({1,2}),({3,4}),({5,6})})
array / float
array(array)You should be able to predict what this does by now. :) Example: ({1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8})/2.5 will return ({({1,2}),({3,4,5}),({6,7}),({8})})
int % int
intThe remainder of a division. If a and b are integers, a%b is the same as a-(a/b)*b
float % float
int % float
float % int
floatThe remainder of a division. If a and b are floats, a%b is the same as a-floor(a/b)*b
string % int
stringThe remainder of a string division. Example: "foo-bar"%2 will return "r"
array % int
stringThe remainder of an array division. Example: ({1,2,3,4,5,6,7})%2 will return ({7})

4.2. Comparison operators

The arithmetic operators would be hard to use for anything interesting without the ability to compare the results to each other. For this purpose there are six comparison operators:

Samea == b`==1 if a is the same value as b, 0 otherwise
Not samea != b`!=0 if a is the same value as b, 1 otherwise
Greater thana > b`> 1 if a is greater than b, 0 otherwise
Greater than or equal toa >= b`>=1 if a is greater to or equal to b, 0 otherwise
Lesser thana < b`< 1 if a is lesser than b, 0 otherwise
Lesser than or equal toa <= b`<=1 if a is lesser than or equal to b, 0 otherwise

The == and != operators can be used on any type. For two values to be same they must be the same type. Therefore 1 and 1.0 are not same. Also, for two values of pointer types to be the same the two values must be pointers to the same object. It is not enough that the two objects are of the same size and contain the same data.

The other operators in the table above can only be used with integers, floats and strings. If you compare an integer with a float, the int will be promoted to a float before the comparison. When comparing strings, lexical order is used and the values of the environment variables LC_CTYPE and LC_LANG are respected.

4.3. Logical operators

Logical operators are operators that operate with truth values. In Pike any value except zero is considered true. Logical operators are a very basic part of Pike. They can also decide which arguments to evaluate and which not to evaluate. Because of this the logical operators do not have any identifiers and can not be called as normal functions. There are four logical operators:

Anda && bIf a is false, a is returned and b is not evaluated. Otherwise, b is returned.
Ora || bIf a is true, a is returned and b is not evaluated. Otherwise, b is returned.
Not! aReturns 0 if a is true, 1 otherwise.
If-elsea ? b : cIf a is true, b is returned and c is not evaluated. Otherwise c is returned and b is not evaluated.

4.4. Bitwise/set operators

These operators are used to manipulate bits as members in sets. They can also manipulate arrays, multisets and mappings as sets.

Shift lefta << b`<<Multiplies a by 2, b times.
Shift righta >> b`>>Divides a by 2, b times.
Inverse (not)~ a`~Returns -1-a.
Intersection (and)a & b`&All elements present in both a and b.
Union (or)a | b`|All elements present in a or b.
Symmetric difference (xor)a ^ b`^All elements present in a or b, but not present in both.

The first three operators can only be used with integers and should be pretty obvious.

The other three, intersection, union and symmetric difference, can be used with integers, arrays, multisets and mappings. When used with integers, these operators considers each bit in the integer a separate element. If you do not know about how bits in integers work I suggest you go look it up in some other programming book or just don't use these operators on integers.

When intersection, union or symmetric difference is used on an array each element in the array is considered by itself. So intersecting two arrays will result in an array with all elements that are present in both arrays. Example: ({7,6,4,3,2,1}) & ({1, 23, 5, 4, 7}) will return ({7,4,1}). The order of the elements in the returned array will always be taken from the left array. Elements in multisets are treated the same as elements in arrays. When doing a set operation on a mapping however, only the indices are considered. The values are just copied with the indices. If a particular index is present in both the right and left argument to a set operator, the one from the right side will be used. Example: ([1:2]) | ([1:3]) will return ([1:3]).

4.5. Indexing

The index and range operators are used to retrieve information from a complex data type.

Indexa [ b ]`[]Returns the index b from a.
Lookupa ->identifier`->Looks up the identifier. Same as a["identifier"].
Assign indexa [ b ] = c`[]=;Sets the index b in a to c.
Assign indexa ->identifier = c`->=Sets the index "identifier" in a to c.
Rangea [ b .. c ]`[..]Returns a slice of a starting at the index b and ending at c.
Rangea [ .. c ]`[..]Returns a slice of a starting at the beginning of a and ending at c.
Rangea [ b .. ]`[..]Returns a slice of a from the index b to the end of a.

The index operator can be written in two different ways. It can be written as ob [ index ] or ob->identifier. However, the latter syntax is equal to ob [ "identifier" ].

You can only index strings, arrays, mapping, multisets and objects, and some of these can only be indexed on certain things as shown in this list:

Returns the ascii value of the Nth character in the string.
Return the element in the array corresponding to the integer.
Sets the element in the array to the mixed value.
Returns the value associated with the index, 0 if it is not found.
Associate the second mixed value with the first mixed value.
Returns 1 if the index (the value between the brackets) is present in the multiset, 0 otherwise.
If the mixed value is true the index is added to the multiset. Otherwise the index is removed from the multiset.
Returns the value of the named identifier in the object.
Set the given identifier in the object to the mixed value. Only works if the identifier references a variable in the object.
Returns the value of the named constant identifier in the program.
Returns a piece of the string.
Returns a slice of the array.

When indexing an array or string it is sometimes convenient to access index from the end instead of from the beginning. This function can be performed by using a negative index. Thus  arr[-i]  is the same as arr[sizeof(arr)-i]. Note however that this behavior does not apply to the range operator. Instead the range operator clamps it's arguments to a suitable range. This means that a[b..c] will be treated as follows:

  • If b is less than zero, the range will begin at the start of the array as if b had been zero.
  • If b is greater or equal to sizeof(a) an empty array/string will be returned.
  • If c is less than b, an empty array/string will be returned.
  • If c is greater or equal to sizeof(a) the range will continue to the end of the array/string.
  • No errors are generated in any of the above cases.

4.6. The assignment operators

There is really only one assignment operator, but it can be combined with lots of other operators to make the code shorter. An assignment looks like this:

	variable = expression;
The variable can be a local variable, a global variable or an index in an array, object, multiset or mapping. This will of course set the value stored in variable to expression. Note that the above is also an expression which returns the value of the expression. This can be used in some interesting ways:
	variable1 = variable2 = 1; // Assign 1 to both variables
	variable1 =(variable2 = 1); // Same as above

	// Write the value of the expression, if any
	if(variable = expression)
Using assignments like this can however be confusing to novice users, or users who come from a Pascal or Basic background. Especially the if statement can be mistaken for if(variable == expression) which would mean something completely different. As I mentioned earlier, the assignment operator can be combined with another operator to form operators that modify the contents of a variable instead of just assigning it. Here is a list of all the combinations:

SyntaxSame asFunction
variable += expressionvariable = variable + expressionAdd expression to variable
variable -= expressionvariable = variable - expressionSubtract expression from variable
variable *= expressionvariable = variable * expressionMultiply variable with expression
variable /= expressionvariable = variable / expressionDivide variable by expression
variable %= expressionvariable = variable % expressionModulo variable by expression
variable <<= expressionvariable = variable << expressionShift variableexpression bits left
variable >>= expressionvariable = variable >> expressionShift variableexpression bits right
variable |= expressionvariable = variable | expressionOr variable with expression
variable &= expressionvariable = variable & expressionAnd variable with expression
variable ^= expressionvariable = variable ^ expressionXor variable with expression

In all of the above expressions variable can actually be any of type of assignable values. Assignable values are also known as lvalues and here is a list of lvalues:

Lvalue typeSyntaxValid assignment type
a local or global variable identifiersame as variable
an element in an array array [ int ]any type
elements in elements in an array array [ string ]any type This is like map(arr, `[]=,string_indexing_element, assignment_element)
an element in an string string [ int ]integer
an element in a mapping mapping[mixed] or mapping->identifierany type
an element in a multiset multiset[mixed] or multiset->identifiertrue / false
a variable in an object object[string] or object->identifiersame type as named variable
a list of lvalues [ lvalue, lvalue ] an array, first value in the array will be assigned to the first lvalue in the list, second value in the array to the second value in the list etc.

4.7. The rest of the operators

Now there are only a couple of operators left. I have grouped them together in this section, not because they are not important, but because they do not fit in any particular categories.

Callinga ( args )`()Calls the function a.
splice@ anoneSends each element in the array a as an individual argument to a function call.
Increment++ anoneIncrements a and returns the new value of a.
Decrement-- anoneDecrements a and returns the new value of a.
Post incrementa ++noneIncrements a and returns the old value of a.
Post decrementa --noneDecrements a and returns the old value of a.
casting(type) anoneTries to convert a into a value of the specified type.
Nulla, bnoneEvaluates a and b, then returns b.

The most important of these operators is the calling operator. It is used to call functions. The operator itself is just a set of parenthesis placed after the expression that returns the function. Any arguments to the function should be placed between the parenthesis, separated by commas. We have already seen many examples of this operator, although you might not have realized it was an operator at the time. The function call operator can do more than just calling functions though; if the 'function' is in fact an array, the operator will loop over the array and call each element in the array and returns an array with the results.

If on the other hand, the 'function' is a program, the operator will clone an object from the program and call create() in the new object with the arguments given. In fact, the function clone is implemented like this:

object clone(mixed p, mixed ... args) { ( (program)p )(@args); }
On the subject of function calls, the splice operator should also be mentioned. The splice operator is an at sign in front of an expression. The expression should always be an array. The splice operator sends each of the elements in the array as a separate argument to the function call. The splice operator can only be used in an argument list for a function call.

Then there are the increment and decrement operators. The increment and decrement operators are somewhat limited: they can only be used on integers. They provide a short and fast way to add or subtract one to an integer. If the operator is written before the variable (++a) the returned value will be what the variable is after the operator has added/subtracted one to it. If the operator is after the variable (a++) it will instead return the value of the variable before it was incremented/decremented.

Casting is used to convert one type to another, not all casts are possible. Here is a list of all casts that actually _do_ anything:

casting fromtooperation
intstringConvert the int to ASCII representation
floatstringConvert the float to ASCII representation
stringintConvert decimal, octal or hexadecimal number to an int. Note that this will only work with decimal numbers in future versions.
stringfloatConvert ASCII number to a float.
stringprogramString is a filename, compile the file and return the program. Results are cached.
stringobjectThis first casts the string to a program, (see above) and then clones the result. Results are cached.
objecttypeThis calls the function 'cast' with a string containing the type as an argument.
stringarraySame as doing values(string)
array(int)stringThis does the inverse of the operation above. Ie. it constructs a string from an array of integers.
arrayarray(type)This recursively casts all values in the array to type.
mappingarraySame as Array.transpose(({indices(mapping),values(mapping)). Example: (array)([1:2,3:4]) will return ({ ({1,2}), ({3,4}) })
multisetarraySame as doing indices(multiset).
intfloatReturns a float with the same value as the integer.
floatintReturns the integer closest to the float.
functionobjectSame as function_object(function).

You can also use the cast operator to tell the compiler things. If a is a variable of type mixed containing an int, then the expression (int)a can be used instead of a and that will tell the compiler that the type of that expression is int.

Last, and in some respect least, is the comma operator. It doesn't do much. In fact, it simply evaluates the two arguments and then returns the right hand one. This operator is mostly useful to produce smaller code, or to make defines that can be used in expressions.

4.8. Operator precedence

When evaluating an expression, you can always use parenthesis to tell the compiler in which order to evaluate things. Normally, the compiler will evaluate things from left to right, but it will evaluate operators with higher priority before those with lower. The following table shows the relative priority of all the operators in descending order:

(a) a() a[b] a->b a[b..c] ({}) ([]) (<>)
!a ~a (type)a ++a --a
a++ a--
a*b a/b a%b
a+b a-b
a>>b a<<b
a>b a>=b a<b a<=b
a==b a!=b


The expressionis evaluated in this order:
 1+2*2  1+(2*2) 
 1+2*2*4  1+((2*2)*4) 
 (1+2)*2*4  ((1+2)*2)*4 
 1+4,c=2|3+5  (1+4),(c=((2|3)+5)) 
 1+5 & 4 == 3  (1+(5 & 4)) == 3 
 c=1,99  (c=1),99 
 !a++ + ~--a() (!(a++)) + (~((--a)())) 

4.9. Operator functions

As mentioned earlier a + b can just as well be written as `+(a, b). Together with the function map which calls a function for every index in an array and the splice operator this can be used to create some very very fast and compact code. Let's look at some examples:

map(arr, `-)
This will return an array with each element negated.
map(text/"\n",`/," ")
This will divide a text into lines, each line will then be mapped through `/ and divided into an array of words.
`+(0, @arr)
This will add all the integers in the array arr together.
int abs(int a) { return ( a>0 ? `+ : `-)(a); }
This is a rather absurd but working function which will return the absolute value of a.