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2.14. Handling Very Large or Very Small Numbers

2.14.3. Discussion

The BCMath library is easy to use. You pass in your numbers as strings, and the function return the sum (or difference, product, etc.) as a string. However, the range of actions you can apply to numbers using BCMath is limited to basic arithmetic.

The GMP library is available as of PHP 4.0.4. While most members of the GMP family of functions accept integers and strings as arguments, they prefer to pass numbers around as resources, which are essentially pointers to the numbers. So, unlike BCMath functions, which return strings, GMP functions return only resources. You then pass the resource to any GMP function, and it acts as your number.

The only downside is when you want to view or use the resource with a non-GMP function, you need to explicitly convert it using gmp_strval( ) or gmp_intval( ).

GMP functions are liberal in what they accept. For instance:

$four = gmp_add(2, 2);            // You can pass integers
$eight = gmp_add('4', '4');       // Or strings
$twelve = gmp_add($four, $eight); // Or GMP resources
print gmp_strval($twelve);        // Prints 12

However, you can do many more things with GMP numbers than addition, such as raising a number to a power, computing large factorials very quickly, finding a greatest common divisor (GCD), and other fancy mathematical stuff:

// Raising a number to a power
$pow = gmp_pow(2, 10);             // 1024

// Computing large factorials very quickly
$factorial = gmp_fact(20);         // 2432902008176640000

// Finding a GCD
$gcd = gmp_gcd (123, 456);         // 3

// Other fancy mathematical stuff
$legdendre = gmp_legendre(1, 7);   // 1

The BCMath and GMP libraries aren't necessarily enabled with all PHP configurations. As of PHP 4.0.4, BCMath is bundled with PHP, so it's likely to be available. However, GMP isn't bundled with PHP, so you'll need to download, install it, and instruct PHP to use it during the configuration process. Check the values of function_defined('bcadd') and function_defined('gmp_init') to see if you can use BCMath and GMP.



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