Getting Help

Sage has extensive built-in documentation, accessible by typing the name of a function or a constant (for example), followed by a question mark:

sage: tan?
Type:        <class 'sage.calculus.calculus.Function_tan'>
Definition:  tan( [noargspec] )
Docstring:

    The tangent function

    EXAMPLES:
        sage: tan(pi)
        0
        sage: tan(3.1415)
        -0.0000926535900581913
        sage: tan(3.1415/4)
        0.999953674278156
        sage: tan(pi/4)
        1
        sage: tan(1/2)
        tan(1/2)
        sage: RR(tan(1/2))
        0.546302489843790
sage: log2?
Type:        <class 'sage.functions.constants.Log2'>
Definition:  log2( [noargspec] )
Docstring:

    The natural logarithm of the real number 2.

    EXAMPLES:
        sage: log2
        log2
        sage: float(log2)
        0.69314718055994529
        sage: RR(log2)
        0.693147180559945
        sage: R = RealField(200); R
        Real Field with 200 bits of precision
        sage: R(log2)
        0.69314718055994530941723212145817656807550013436025525412068
        sage: l = (1-log2)/(1+log2); l
        (1 - log(2))/(log(2) + 1)
        sage: R(l)
        0.18123221829928249948761381864650311423330609774776013488056
        sage: maxima(log2)
        log(2)
        sage: maxima(log2).float()
        .6931471805599453
        sage: gp(log2)
        0.6931471805599453094172321215             # 32-bit
        0.69314718055994530941723212145817656807   # 64-bit
sage: sudoku?
File:        sage/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/sage/games/sudoku.py
Type:        <type 'function'>
Definition:  sudoku(A)
Docstring:

    Solve the 9x9 Sudoku puzzle defined by the matrix A.

    EXAMPLE:
        sage: A = matrix(ZZ,9,[5,0,0, 0,8,0, 0,4,9, 0,0,0, 5,0,0,
    0,3,0, 0,6,7, 3,0,0, 0,0,1, 1,5,0, 0,0,0, 0,0,0, 0,0,0, 2,0,8, 0,0,0,
    0,0,0, 0,0,0, 0,1,8, 7,0,0, 0,0,4, 1,5,0,   0,3,0, 0,0,2,
    0,0,0, 4,9,0, 0,5,0, 0,0,3])
        sage: A
        [5 0 0 0 8 0 0 4 9]
        [0 0 0 5 0 0 0 3 0]
        [0 6 7 3 0 0 0 0 1]
        [1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0]
        [0 0 0 2 0 8 0 0 0]
        [0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 8]
        [7 0 0 0 0 4 1 5 0]
        [0 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 0]
        [4 9 0 0 5 0 0 0 3]
        sage: sudoku(A)
        [5 1 3 6 8 7 2 4 9]
        [8 4 9 5 2 1 6 3 7]
        [2 6 7 3 4 9 5 8 1]
        [1 5 8 4 6 3 9 7 2]
        [9 7 4 2 1 8 3 6 5]
        [3 2 6 7 9 5 4 1 8]
        [7 8 2 9 3 4 1 5 6]
        [6 3 5 1 7 2 8 9 4]
        [4 9 1 8 5 6 7 2 3]

Sage also provides ‘Tab completion’: type the first few letters of a function and then hit the tab key. For example, if you type ta followed by TAB, Sage will print tachyon, tan, tanh, taylor. This provides a good way to find the names of functions and other structures in Sage.

Functions, Indentation, and Counting

To define a new function in Sage, use the def command and a colon after the list of variable names. For example:

sage: def is_even(n):
...       return n%2 == 0
...
sage: is_even(2)
True
sage: is_even(3)
False

Note: Depending on which version of the tutorial you are viewing, you may see three dots ... on the second line of this example. Do not type them; they are just to emphasize that the code is indented. Whenever this is the case, press [Return/Enter] once at the end of the block to insert a blank line and conclude the function definition.

You do not specify the types of any of the input arguments. You can specify multiple inputs, each of which may have an optional default value. For example, the function below defaults to divisor=2 if divisor is not specified.

sage: def is_divisible_by(number, divisor=2):
...       return number%divisor == 0
sage: is_divisible_by(6,2)
True
sage: is_divisible_by(6)
True
sage: is_divisible_by(6, 5)
False

You can also explicitly specify one or either of the inputs when calling the function; if you specify the inputs explicitly, you can give them in any order:

sage: is_divisible_by(6, divisor=5)
False
sage: is_divisible_by(divisor=2, number=6)
True

In Python, blocks of code are not indicated by curly braces or begin and end blocks as in many other languages. Instead, blocks of code are indicated by indentation, which must match up exactly. For example, the following is a syntax error because the return statement is not indented the same amount as the other lines above it.

sage: def even(n):
...       v = []
...       for i in range(3,n):
...           if i % 2 == 0:
...               v.append(i)
...      return v
Syntax Error:
       return v

If you fix the indentation, the function works:

sage: def even(n):
...       v = []
...       for i in range(3,n):
...           if i % 2 == 0:
...               v.append(i)
...       return v
sage: even(10)
[4, 6, 8]

Semicolons are not needed at the ends of lines; a line is in most cases ended by a newline. However, you can put multiple statements on one line, separated by semicolons:

sage: a = 5; b = a + 3; c = b^2; c
64

If you would like a single line of code to span multiple lines, use a terminating backslash:

sage: 2 + \
...      3
5

In Sage, you count by iterating over a range of integers. For example, the first line below is exactly like for(i=0; i<3; i++) in C++ or Java:

sage: for i in range(3):
...       print i
0
1
2

The first line below is like for(i=2;i<5;i++).

sage: for i in range(2,5):
...       print i
2
3
4

The third argument controls the step, so the following is like for(i=1;i<6;i+=2).

sage: for i in range(1,6,2):
...       print i
1
3
5

Often you will want to create a nice table to display numbers you have computed using Sage. One easy way to do this is to use string formatting. Below, we create three columns each of width exactly 6 and make a table of squares and cubes.

sage: for i in range(5):
...       print '%6s %6s %6s'%(i, i^2, i^3)
     0      0      0
     1      1      1
     2      4      8
     3      9     27
     4     16     64

The most basic data structure in Sage is the list, which is – as the name suggests – just a list of arbitrary objects. For example, the range command that we used creates a list:

sage: range(2,10)
[2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

Here is a more complicated list:

sage: v = [1, "hello", 2/3, sin(x^3)]
sage: v
[1, 'hello', 2/3, sin(x^3)]

List indexing is 0-based, as in many programming languages.

sage: v[0]
1
sage: v[3]
sin(x^3)

Use len(v) to get the length of v, use v.append(obj) to append a new object to the end of v, and use del v[i] to delete the \(i^{th}\) entry of v:

sage: len(v)
4
sage: v.append(1.5)
sage: v
[1, 'hello', 2/3, sin(x^3), 1.50000000000000]
sage: del v[1]
sage: v
[1, 2/3, sin(x^3), 1.50000000000000]

Another important data structure is the dictionary (or associative array). This works like a list, except that it can be indexed with almost any object (the indices must be immutable):

sage: d = {'hi':-2,  3/8:pi,   e:pi}
sage: d['hi']
-2
sage: d[e]
pi

You can also define new data types using classes. Encapsulating mathematical objects with classes is a powerful technique that can help to simplify and organize your Sage programs. Below, we define a class that represents the list of even positive integers up to n; it derives from the builtin type list.

sage: class Evens(list):
...       def __init__(self, n):
...           self.n = n
...           list.__init__(self, range(2, n+1, 2))
...       def __repr__(self):
...           return "Even positive numbers up to n."

The __init__ method is called to initialize the object when it is created; the __repr__ method prints the object out. We call the list constructor method in the second line of the __init__ method. We create an object of class Evens as follows:

sage: e = Evens(10)
sage: e
Even positive numbers up to n.

Note that e prints using the __repr__ method that we defined. To see the underlying list of numbers, use the list function:

sage: list(e)
[2, 4, 6, 8, 10]

We can also access the n attribute or treat e like a list.

sage: e.n
10
sage: e[2]
6

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