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The GraphIt Programming Language

This guide introduces GraphIt language features and shows how they can be used in programs.


GraphIt is an imperative language with statements, control flow, and high-level operators on sts of vertices ane edges. In this section, we describe some of the language’s basic constructs.


Functions can take any number of parameters, including none. Each parameter must be declared with its name followed by its type (separated by a :). In the following example, the function add takes two parameters named a and b, both of which are of type float, and returns a single result (named c) that is also a float. The function result is separated from the list of parameters by a -> and the function declaration is delimited by the end keyword.

func add(a : float, b : float) -> c : float
  c = a + b;

Like functions in MATLAB, GraphIt functions can return any number of results, including none. In the next example, the function minMax takes two float parameters and return two float results: the smaller of the two inputs as the first result and the larger of the two inputs as the second result.

func minMax(a : float, b : float) 
    -> (c : float, d : float)
  if a < b
    c = a;
    d = b;
    c = b;
    d = a;

Note that the list of function results must be surrounded by parentheses if the function returns more than one result. (The parentheses are optional if the function returns just a single result.)


Variables are declared in function bodies or in the global scope using the var keyword. The following example declares an integer variable named foo:

var foo : int;

The variable can be initialized with the following syntax.

var foo : float = 0.0;

The const keyword creates a variable that cannot be modified after initialization. Individual elements of const vectors can still be updated.


Single-line comments start with %:

h = 0.01;  % h is the time-step size.

Multi-line comments are surrounded by %{ and %}:

h is the time-step size.
h is initialized to one millisecond.
h = 0.001;

Control Flow Statements

GraphIt supports a variety of control flow constructs, including if statements, while loops, do-while loops and for loops.

If Statements

In GraphIt, a simple if statement looks something like this:

if x < 1
  print "x is less than 1";

An if statement can optionally include an else clause as well as an any number of elif (else-if) clauses:

if x < 1
  print "x is less than 1";
elif x > 5
  print "x is greater than 5";
  print "x is between 1 and 5";

While Loops

A while loop in GraphIt looks like this:

while x < 100
  x = 2 * x;

As with if statements, logical operators and comparison operators can be used to construct more complex conditions. Note that if the condition of a while loop is false when a GraphIt program first encounters the loop, the loop body will not be executed at all.

For Loops

GraphIt for loops are more like those found in MATLAB, Julia and Python than those available in C. You can use a for loop to iterate over the set of all integers between two values, as shown in the following example.

for i in 0:10
  print i;

Note that the lower bound is inclusive while the upper bound is exclusive (like Python), so the above example prints all integers between 0 and 9 but omits 10.

Elements, Vectors, VertexSets, EdgeSets

Elements, vertexsets, edgesets and vectors form GraphIt’s data model.


An element is a type that stores one or more data fields, much like a struct in C/C++. For example, a vertex in a social network representing a person can have a Person Element type. In the future, we plan to support fields in the Element. Currently, fields associated with an Element are expressed as separate Vectors descrived below.

element Person


Vectors are associated with an element. Essentially they act as fields of the elements. The following code says that age is a vector for Person Element type. Each Person would have an associated age field, and the field is initialized to 0.

const age : vector {Person}(int) = 0;


Edgesets are have connectivity information. In particular, edge set definitions specify the type of elements from which each edge’s endpoints come. The following declares a set of spring elements that each connect two points from the edges set:

const edges : edgeset{Follow}(Person,Person);

There is no explicit graph type in GraphIt; rather, graphs are formed implicitly from the edgesets. This is similar to how graphs are often defined in mathematical papers (i.e. as an ordered pair G = (V,E)).


Vertexsets are sets of vertices of a specific Element Type. people is a vertexset made up of endpoint elements of Person Type from the edges edgeset.

const people : vertexset{Person} = edges.getVertices();

Set Opeartors

Edgeset Operators

from, to and filter

from and to Filters out edges whose source vertex is in the input set.

const people_age_over_40 : vertexset{Person} = ... 
const people_age_over_60 : vertexset{Person} = ...

func main()
  % find edges between people over 40 years old to people over 60 years old
  var filtered_edges : edgeset{Friend}(Person, Person} = 

filter simply supplies a boolean function that checks every edge.

srcFilter and dstFilter

srcFilter and dstFilter filters out edges where the input boolean filtering function filter_func returns true.

func filter_func(v : Vertex) -> output : bool
    output =  age[v] > 40;

func main()
  filtered_edges = edges.srcFilter(filter_func);


This operator applies a function updateEdge to every edge. In one iteration of PageRank,

func updateEdge(src : Vertex, dst : Vertex)
    new_rank[dst] += contrib[src];

func main()


This operator applies a function (updateEdge) to every edge. Returns a vertexset that contains destination vertices whose entry in the vector has been modified in updateEdge. The programmer can optionally disable deduplication within modfieid vertices. Deduplication is enabled by default.

func updateEdge(src : Vertex, dst : Vertex)
    parent[dst] = src;

func main()
  edges.applyModified(updateEdge,parent, true);

combining edgeset operators

The various operators can be and often are chained together.

frontier = edges.from(frontier).to(toFilter).applyModified(updateEdge,parent, true);

Vertexset Operators


The filter operator is similar to the edgeset filter, except for it is applied on a single vertex and not edge.


The apply operator is similar to the edgeset apply operator, but applied to a vertex.

Scheduling Language

For now, we refer users to the Section 5 of the arxiv report on how to use the scheduling language.