An operator is a thing that does a thing. It’s what programmers might refer to as a function. You use a == to define them.

Five == 5
Five + 5 \* 10

You can also give them arguments.

IsFive(x) == x = 5

Or multiple arguments.

SumWithFive(a, b) == a + b + 5

You can use them anywhere you use any other expression.

{ Five, SumWithFive(Five, Five) } \* { 5, 15 }

Remember, you can use the “No Behavior Spec” option in your TLC model to test various operators and cases.

Write an operator that tests if two numbers are not equal.

Neq(a,b) == a /= b works, as does Neq(a,b) == ~(a = b).

Higher-Order Operators

You can write operators that take other operators if you use a special syntax:

Sum(a, b) == a + b
Do(op(_,_), a, b) == op(a, b)

Do(Sum, 1, 2) = 3

You can also make operators recursive if you specify them with the RECURSIVE keyword before invocation:

RECURSIVE SetReduce(_, _, _)

SetReduce(Op(_, _), S, value) == IF S = {} THEN value
                              ELSE LET s == CHOOSE s \in S: TRUE
                                   IN SetReduce(Op, S \ {s}, Op(s, value)) 

CandlesOnChannukah == SetReduce(Sum, 2..9, 0) \* 44

Write an operator that determines whether a second operator is commutative over two given numbers. An operator is commutative if f(a,b) = f(b,a).

IsCommutative(f(_, _), a, b) == f(a, b) = f(b, a)

Integrating with PlusCal

If your operator doesn’t reference any PlusCal variables (such as IsEmpty(S) == S = {}), you can put it above the start of the PlusCal algorithm and it will be usable like any other expression.

If your operator does reference any PlusCal variables (such as HasMoneyLeft == money > 0), it has to appear in or after the algorithm. The first way to do this is to put it after the TLA+ translation. This is simple, but it also means the PlusCal can’t call the operator. Fine for invariants, less-fine for conditionals. To place the operator directly in your code, you can use a define block:

  Foo(bar) == baz
  \* ...
end define

Your define block must come before the begin.