Skip to main content

10: Using integers in calculator functions

Overview

In this guide, you are going to write a simple calculator program that creates a single actor with several public entry-point functions to perform basic arithmetic operations.

For this guide, the actor is named Calc. The program uses the cell variable to contain an integer number that represents the current result of a calculator operation.

This program supports the following function calls:

  • The add function call accepts input and performs addition.

  • The sub function call accepts input and performs subtraction.

  • The mul function call accepts input and performs multiplication.

  • The div function call accepts input and performs division.

  • The clearall function clears the cell value stored as the result of previous operations, resetting the cell value to zero.

The div function also includes code to prevent the program from attempting to divide by zero.

Prerequisites

Before getting started, assure you have set up your developer environment according to the instructions in the developer environment guide.

Create a new project

Open a terminal shell on your local computer, if you don’t already have one open.

To create a new project, run the following command:

Use dfx new <project_name> to create a new project:

dfx new calc

You will be prompted to select a language that your backend canister will use. Select 'Motoko':

? Select a backend language: ›  
❯ Motoko
Rust
TypeScript (Azle)
Python (Kybra)

Then, select a frontend framework for your frontend canister, or select 'No frontend canister':

  ? Select a frontend framework: ›  
❯ SvelteKit
React
Vue
Vanilla JS
No JS template
No frontend canister

Lastly, you can include extra features to be added to your project:

  ? Add extra features (space to select, enter to confirm) ›
⬚ Internet Identity
⬚ Bitcoin (Regtest)
⬚ Frontend tests

Modify the default configuration

For this guide, let’s modify the default dfx.json configuration file to use a more specific name for its main program.

Open the dfx.json configuration file in a text editor. Then, change the main key setting from the default main.mo program name to calc_main.mo.

For example:

"main": "src/calc_backend/calc_main.mo",

For this guide, changing the name of the source file from main.mo to calc_main.mo simply illustrates how the setting in the dfx.json configuration file determines the source file to be compiled.

In a more complex dapp, you might have multiple source files instead of a single main program file. More complex applications might also have specific dependencies between multiple source files that you need to manage using settings in the dfx.json configuration file.

In a scenario like that, with multiple canisters and programs defined in your dfx.json file, having multiple files all named main.mo might make navigating your workspace more difficult. The name you choose for each program isn’t significant, but it is important that the name you set in the dfx.json file matches the name of your program in the file system.

Save your changes and close the file to continue.

Modify the default program

For this guide, you need to replace the default program with a program that performs basic arithmetic operations.

To replace the default program, copy the template main.mo file to create a new file named calc_main.mo by running the following command:

cp src/calc_backend/main.mo src/calc_backend/calc_main.mo

Then, open the src/calc_backend/calc_main.mo file in a text editor and delete the existing content.

Copy and paste this code into the calc_main.mo file:

// This single-cell calculator defines one calculator instruction per
// public entry point (add, sub, mul, div).

// Create a simple Calc actor.
actor Calc {
var cell : Int = 0;

// Define functions to add, subtract, multiply, and divide
public func add(n:Int) : async Int { cell += n; cell };
public func sub(n:Int) : async Int { cell -= n; cell };
public func mul(n:Int) : async Int { cell *= n; cell };
public func div(n:Int) : async ?Int {
if ( n == 0 ) {
return null // null indicates div-by-zero error
} else {
cell /= n; ?cell
}
};

// Clear the calculator and reset to zero
public func clearall() : async Int {
if (cell : Int != 0)
cell -= cell;
return cell
};
};

You might notice that this sample code uses integer (Int) data types, enabling you to use positive or negative numbers. If you wanted to restrict the functions in this calculator code to only use positive numbers, you could change the data type to only allow natural (Nat) data.

Save your changes and close the file to continue.

Start the local canister execution environment

Before you can build the calc project, you need to connect to the canister execution environment running locally in your development environment, or you need to connect to a subnet that you can access.

Starting the network locally requires a dfx.json file, so you should be sure you are in your project’s root directory. For this guide, you should have two separate terminal shells, so that you can start and see network operations in one terminal and manage your project in another.

To start the local canister execution environment:

Open a new terminal window or tab on your local computer.

  • You should now have two terminals open.
  • You should have the project directory as your current working directory.

Then, start the local canister execution environment on your machine by running the following command:

dfx start

After you start the local network, the terminal displays messages about network operations. Leave the terminal that displays network operations open and switch your focus to your original terminal where you created your new project.

Register, build, and deploy the dapp

After you connect to the local canister execution environment, you can register, build, and deploy your dapp locally.

Register, build, and deploy your dapp by running the following command in your project's directory:

dfx deploy

The dfx deploy command output displays information about the operations it performs.

Testing canister functionality

You now have a program deployed as a canister on your local canister execution environment. You can test the program by using dfx canister call commands.

Use the dfx canister call command to call the calc_backend canister add function and pass it the input argument 10 by running the following command:

dfx canister call calc_backend add '(10)'

When you pass an argument enclosed by the single quotation marks and parentheses,the interface description language (IDL) parses the argument type, so you don’t need to specify the argument type manually.

Verify that the command returns the value expected for the add function. For example, the program displays output similar to the following:

(10 : int)

Call the mul function and pass it the input argument 3 by running the following command:

dfx canister call calc_backend mul '(3)'

Verify that the command returns the value expected for the mul function. For example, the program displays output similar to the following:

(30 : int)

Call the sub function and pass it the input argument 5 of type number by running the following command:

dfx canister call calc_backend sub '(5)'

Verify that the command returns the value expected for the sub function. For example, the program displays output similar to the following:

(25 : int)

Call the div function and pass it the input argument 5 by running the following command:

dfx canister call calc_backend div '(5)'

Verify that the command returns the value expected for the div function. For example, the program displays output similar to the following:

(opt (5 : int))

You might notice that the div function returns an optional result. The program makes the result optional to enable the div function to return null in the case of a division-by-zero error.

Because the cell variable in this program is an integer, you can also call its functions and specify negative input values. For example, you might run the following command:

dfx canister call calc_backend mul '(-4)'

which returns:

(-20 : int)

Call the clearall function and verify it resets the cell value to zero:

dfx canister call calc_backend clearall

For example, the program displays output similar to the following:

(0 : int)

Next steps

In the next guide, let's look at incrementing natural numbers