Functions vs Annotation Functions

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Pine, besides operators, also has functions and annotation functions. Occasionally, for brevity’s sake, this manual will refer to annotation functions as simply annotations. Syntactically they are similar (however there are some differences which will now be discussed), but they have different purposes and usage effects.

Functions are used for calculating values and always return a result. Functions never have side effects. Function calls are used in expressions along with operators. Essentially, they determine the calculation algorithm. Functions are divided into built-in or custom (user-defined). Examples of built-in functions: sma, ema, iff.

Function annotations are used for determining meta information which describes an indicator being created (they also have side effects). All annotations are built-in. Annotations may

  • assign a name to an indicator
  • determine which variables appear incoming and outgoing (by default, It’s also possible to assign a name and default values for incoming variables). Outgoing variables are displayed on the chart as graphs or other layouts.
  • some other visual effects (e.g., background coloring)

Name, color and each graph’s display style are determined in annotations. Examples of function annotations: study, input, plot.

A few annotations have not only side effects (in the form of determining meta information) but also return a result. ‘Plot’ and ‘hline’ are such annotations. However this result can be used only in other annotations and can’t take part in the indicator’s calculations (see annotation ‘fill’).

Syntactically, user-defined functions, built-in functions and annotation functions are similar in use within the script: to use either function or annotation one should specify its name as well as the list of actual arguments in parentheses. The main difference is in usage semantic. Also, there is a difference in passing arguments - annotations and built-in functions accept keyword arguments while user-defined functions does not (see release note on kwargs in built-in functions).

Function calls allows to pass arguments only by position. For most of programming languages it's the only available method of arguments passing. Function annotation calls also accepts keyword arguments. This allows to specify only part of arguments leaving others by default. Compare the following:

study('Example', 'Ex', true)

and

study(title=Example, shorttitle=Ex, overlay=true)

It’s possible to mix positional and keyword arguments. Positional arguments must go first and keyword arguments should follow them. So the following call is not valid:

study(precision=3, Example)

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