Using Functions to Simplify Your Code

If you have written even one Arduino sketch, you have already defined the
contents of at least two functions:

setup() and


User Defined Functions

You can add any number of additional functions to your arduino sketch.
The structure and contents of functions must follow some guidelines
as shown in the figure below.

Anatomy of a Function
the name of the function below is loop. The name of a function can
not contain spaces or punctuation marks (only letters, numbers, digits, and
the underscore character (_) are allowed. Function names must begin
with a letter or underscore. Case matters, so loop is not the same as
loop takes no parameters, so its parameter list is just void (or blank)
If loop took 2 or more parameters, they must be separated by commas.
return type
At most, a function can only return a single value.
loop does not return any value, which is consistent with the fact that its
“return type” of void
function definition
a list of statements enclosed in curly braces
return statement
the return statement is only required if the function’s return type is not void

Breaking Up Your Code into Two Functions

As written, the loop() function above repeats the same set of steps, with
different parameters, 3 times. The program can be considerably shortened and
clarified by moving the repeated steps to an external function, as shown below:

Re-writing the Above Using a Function

Things to note in the example below:

Global variables
These variables are declared outside of any function; they are accessible to all functions.
Local variables
These variables are declared within a function, and are only visible within that function.
The calling function (loop) invokes the called function (turnOn) with two parameters.
The called function (turnOn) assigns its received parameters to two arguments, in the
order in which they were listed by the calling function. So, e.g., in the first
call to turnOn, the local variable pin is assigned to the value RLED. The
local variable onTime is assigned to the value 2000.
return type
Since the return type in this case is void, the called function (turnOn) does not
need a return statement. When the called function finishes executing its last
statement, program control just returns to the calling function.

Limitations on Functions

You can add any number of functions to your sketch to streamline your code.

The name of each function must be unique, and different than the names of
Arduino’s predefined functions.

Advantage of Using Functions

There are several advantages of subdividing your code using functions.

  1. Your code is simpler and easier to read (and therefore maintain).
  2. If your new custom function has an error, then that error is localized within the function,
    and not repeated elsewhere in the program.
  3. If you later decide to change the way your function works, it will only
    be necessary to fix it in one place, rather than making serveral similar fixes at
    various places in your program.

Disadvantages of Using Functions

It takes a lot of time for a processor to call a function. The
processor has to set aside its current state (e.g., the address of the statement
it last executed, the values of all the variables it knows about). Then it
has to “jump” to the memory location where the new function is defined,
execute all the statements in that function, and finally re-load its state
from before the function was called.