12.1 Functions, An Overview

Functions differ from scripts in three ways. Unlike scripts, functions are not activated by a keystroke. Instead, they are called from a script or another user-defined function. When you call a function, the function performs its designated task and then returns control to the calling script or function.

Second, functions can accept parameters. A parameter is data the function uses to complete its task. For example, if you want JAWS to speak a message, you use the SayFormattedMessage function. In order for this function to perform its task of speaking the desired message, you must provide the text of the message along with the desired output type. JAWS then uses the text and desired output type to determine if the message should be spoken and then speak it. Without this information, JAWS cannot perform the task of the function.

Finally a function differs from a script in that it can also send a value back to the calling script. This value is referred to the function's return or return value. For example, the GetLine built-in function retrieves the line of text found at the location of the active cursor. When it determines the correct text, the function returns the text as a string that you can then store in a local string variable.

You create functions to carry out repetitive tasks. Instead of placing the same code in any number of different scripts, you can put the code in one function and then call it from those scripts. This makes maintaining your scripts and user-defined functions much easier. Suppose you create scripts and user-defined functions for an application. Within the script file for that application, you have placed the same code in several different scripts. Now suppose there is a newer version of the application available. You discover that your scripts no longer perform as expected and need to be updated due to the changes in the application.

Since you placed the same code in several scripts, you must modify each of them and then test those modifications. On the other hand, had you placed the same code in a single user-defined function, then you would have only had to modify and test one block of code.