Variables in the C++ programming language, which Maple uses (all of your sketches are C++ programs in disguise), have a property called scope. Simply put, a variable’s scope is made up of all of the lines where the variable can be used.

Scope in C++ is a fairly complex topic, so we won’t try to describe it in full here. Instead, we present a simplified view, describing two different kinds of scopes, global and local. For more detailed information, consult a C++ reference.

Global and Local Variables

A global variable is one that can be “seen” by every function in a program. In the Maple IDE, any variable declared outside of a function (like setup() and loop()) is a global variable.

A local variable can only be “seen” inside of a particular function. You can declare a variable to be local to a function by declaring it inside of the curly braces which enclose that function.

When programs start to get larger and more complex, local variables are a useful way to ensure that a function has exclusive access to its own variables. This prevents programming errors when one function mistakenly modifies variables used by another function.

It is also sometimes useful to declare and initialize a variable inside a for loop. This creates a variable that can only be accessed from inside the loop body.


Here is an example sketch (which you can copy into the Maple IDE and run on your Maple) that illustrates the use of global and local variables, as well as declaring variables inside of a for loop. Be sure to open a serial monitor after you verify and upload the sketch:

int globalVar;  // any function will see this variable

void setup() {
  // since "globalVar" is declared outside of any function,
  // every function can "see" and use it:
  globalVar = 50;

  // the variables "i" and "d" declared inside the "loop" function
  // can't be seen here.  see what happens when you uncomment the
  // following lines, and try to Verify (compile) the sketch:
  // i = 16;
  // SerialUSB.print("i = ");
  // SerialUSB.println(i);
  // d = 26.5;
  // SerialUSB.print("d = ");
  // SerialUSB.println(d);

void loop() {
  // since "i" and "d" are declared inside of the "loop" function,
  // they can only be seen and used from inside of it:
  int i;
  double d;

  for (int j = 0; j < 5; j++) {
      // variable i can be used anywhere inside the "loop" function;
      // variable j can only be accessed inside the for-loop brackets:
      i = j * j;
      SerialUSB.print("i = ");

  // globalVar can be accessed from anywhere.  note how even
  // though we set globalVar = 50 in the "setup" function, we can
  // see that value here:
  SerialUSB.print("globalVar = ");

  // d can be accessed from anywhere inside the "loop" function:
  d = 26.5;
  SerialUSB.print("d = ");
  SerialUSB.println(" (before separateFunction())");


  // notice how even though separateFunction() has a variable
  // named "d", it didn't touch our (local) variable which has
  // the same name:
  SerialUSB.print("d = ");
  SerialUSB.println(" (after separateFunction())");

void separateFunction() {
  // variable "d" here has the same name as variable "d" inside of
  // the "loop" function, but since they're both _local_
  // variables, they don't affect each other:
  double d = 30.5;
  SerialUSB.print("d = ");
  SerialUSB.println(" (inside of separateFunction())");

See Also

License and Attribution

Portions of this page were adapted from the Arduino Reference Documentation, which is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.