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= Introduction
Decimal is a standards-compliant arbitrary precision decimal floating-point type for Ruby.
It is based on the Python Decimal class.
The current implementation is written completely in Ruby, so it is rather slow.
The intentention is to experiment with this pure-ruby implementation to
define a nice feature-set and API for Decimal and have a good test suite for its
specification. Then an efficient implementation could be written, for example
by using a C extension wrapper around the decNumber library.
The documentation for this package is available at
The code is at
== Standars compliance.
Decimal pretends to be conformant to the General Decimal Arithmetic Specification
and the revised IEEE 754 standard (IEEE 754-2008).
= Examples of use
To install the library use gem from the command line: (you may not need sudo)
sudo gem install ruby-decimal
Then require the library in your code:
require 'decimal'
Now we can use the Decimal class simply like this:
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3) -> 0.3333333333333333333333333333
Decimal() is a constructor that can be used instead of
== Contexts
Contexts are environments for arithmetic operations. They govern precision, set rules
for rounding, determine which signals are treated as exceptions, and limit the range
for exponents.
Each thread has an active context that can be accessed like this:
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 28
The active context can be globally for the current thread:
Decimal.context.precision = 2
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 2
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3) -> 0.33
Decimal.context.precision += 7
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 9
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3) -> 0.333333333
Or it can be altered locally inside a block:
Decimal.context do
Decimal.context.precision = 5
puts Decimal.context.precision
end -> 5
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 9
The block for a local context can be passed the current context as an argument:
Decimal.context do |local_context|
local_context.precision = 5
puts Decimal.context.precision
end -> 5
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 9
A context object can be used to define the local context:
my_context = Decimal::Context(:precision=>20)
Decimal.context(my_context) do |context|
puts context.precision
end -> 20
And individual parameters can be assigned like this:
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 9
puts Decimal.context.rounding -> half_even
Decimal.context(:rounding=>:down) do |context|
puts context.precision
puts context.rounding
Contexts created with the Decimal::Context() constructor
inherit from Decimal::DefaultContext.
Default context attributes can be established by modifying
that object:
Decimal::DefaultContext.precision = 10
Decimal.context = Decimal::Context(:rounding=>:half_up)
puts Decimal.context.precision -> 10
Note that a context object assigned to Decimal.context is copied,
so it is not altered through Decimal.context:
puts my_context.precision -> 20
Decimal.context = my_context
Decimal.context.precision = 2
puts my_context.precision -> 20
So, DefaultContext is not altered when modifying Decimal.context.
Methods that use a context have an optional parameter to override
the active context (Decimal.context) :
Decimal.context.precision = 3
puts Decimal(1).divide(3) -> 0.333
puts Decimal(1).divide(3, my_context) -> 0.33333333333333333333
Individual context parameters can also be overriden:
puts Decimal(1).divide(3, :precision=>6) -> 0.333333
There are two additional predefined contexts Decimal::ExtendedContext
and Decimal::BasicContext that are not meant to be modified; they
can be used to achieve reproducible results. We will use
Decimal::ExtendedContext in the following examples:
Decimal.context = Decimal::ExtendedContext
Results are normally rounded using the precision (number of significant digits)
and rounding mode defined in the context.
Decimal.context.precision = 4
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3) -> 0.3333
puts Decimal('1E20')-Decimal('1E-20') -> 1.000E+20
Decimal.context.rounding = :half_up
puts +Decimal('100.05') -> 100.1
Decimal.context.rounding = :half_even
puts +Decimal('100.05') -> 100.0
Note that input values are not rounded, only results; we use
the plus operator to force rounding here:
Decimal.context.precision = 4
x = Decimal('123.45678')
puts x -> 123.45678
puts +x -> 123.5
Precision can be also set to exact to avoid rounding, by using
the exact property or using a 0 precision. In exact mode results
are never rounded and results that have an infinite number of
digits trigger the Decimal::Inexact exception.
Decimal.context.exact = true
puts Decimal('1E20')-Decimal('1E-20') -> 99999999999999999999.99999999999999999999
puts Decimal(16).sqrt -> 4
puts Decimal(16)/Decimal(4) -> 4
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3) -> Exception : Decimal::Inexact
Decimal.context.precision = 5
puts Decimal('1E20')-Decimal('1E-20') -> 1.0000E+20
puts Decimal(16).sqrt -> 4
puts Decimal(16)/Decimal(4) -> 4
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3) -> 0.33333
There are also some methods for explicit rounding that provide
an interface compatible with the Ruby interface of Float:
puts Decimal('101.5').round -> 102
puts Decimal('101.5').round(0) -> 102
puts Decimal('101.12345').round(2) -> 101.12
puts Decimal('101.12345').round(-1) -> 1.0E+2
puts Decimal('101.12345').round(:places=>2) -> 101.12
puts Decimal('101.12345').round(:precision=>2) -> 1.0E+2
puts Decimal('101.5').round(:rounding=>:half_up) -> 102
puts Decimal('101.5').ceil -> 102
puts Decimal('101.5').floor -> 101
puts Decimal('101.5').truncate -> 101
==Special values
==Numerical conversion
By default, Decimal is interoperable with Integer and Rational.
Conversion happens automatically to operands:
puts Decimal('0.1') + 1 -> 1.1
puts 7 + Decimal('0.2') -> 7.2
puts Rational(5,2) + Decimal('3') -> 5.5
Conversion can also be done explicitely with
the Decimal constructor:
puts Decimal(7) -> 7
puts Decimal(Rational(1,10)) -> 0.1
Converting a Decimal to other numerical types can be done with specific Ruby-style methods.
puts Decimal('1.1').to_i -> 1
puts Decimal('1.1').to_r -> 11/10
(note the truncated result of to_i)
Or with a generic method:
puts Decimal('1.1').convert_to(Integer) -> 1
puts Decimal('1.1').convert_to(Rational) -> 11/10
Conversion is also possible to Float:
puts Decimal('1.1').to_f -> 1.1
puts Decimal('1.1').convert_to(Float) -> 1.1
And with GDAS style operations:
puts Decimal('1.1').to_integral_value -> 1
The conversion system is extensible. For example, we can include BigDecimal into it
by defining suitable conversion procedures:
Decimal.context.define_conversion_from(BigDecimal) do |x, context|
Decimal.context.define_conversion_to(BigDecimal) do |x|
Now we can mix BigDecimals and Decimals in expressions and convert from Decimal
to BigDecimal:
puts'1.1') + Decimal('2.2') -> 3.3
puts Decimal('1.1').convert_to(BigDecimal) -> 0.11E1
Note that the conversions are defined in a Context object and will be available only
when that context applies. That way we can define conversions for specific purposes
without affecting a program globally.
As another example consider conversion from Float to Decimal, which is not defined by
default because it can be defined in different ways depending on the purpose.
A Float constant such as 0.1 defines a Float object which has a numerical value close to,
but not exactly 1/10. When converting that Float to Decimal we could decide to preserver
the exact numerical value of the number or try to find a simple decimal expression within
a given tolerance. If we take the first approach we can define this conversion:
Decimal.context.define_conversion_from(Float) do |x, context|
s,e = Math.frexp(x)
s = Math.ldexp(s, Float::MANT_DIG).to_i
e -= Float::MANT_DIG
Note that the conversion we've defined depends on the context precision:
Decimal.local_context(:precision=>20) { puts Decimal(0.1) } -> 0.10000000000000000555
Decimal.local_context(:precision=>12) { puts Decimal(0.1) } -> 0.100000000000
== More Information
Consult the documentation for the classes Decimal and Decimal::Context.
= Decimal vs BigDecimal
Decimal solves some of the difficulties of using BigDecimal.
One of the major problems with BigDecimal is that it's not easy to control the number of
significant digits: while addition, subtraction and multiplication are exact (unless a limit is used),
divisions will need to be passed precision explicitly or they will loose an indeterminate number of digits.
With Decimal, Context objects are used to specify the exact number of digits to be used for all operations:
Decimal.context.precision = 10
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3)
Contexts are thread-safe and can be used for individual operations:
puts Decimal(1).divide(Decimal(e),>4))
Or use locally in a block without affecting other code:
Decimal.local_context {
Decimal.context.precision = 3
puts Decimal(1)/Decimal(3)
puts Decimal.context.precision
This allows in general to write simpler code; e.g. this is an exponential function, adapted from the
'recipes' in Python's Decimal:
def exp(x,c=nil)
i, lasts, s, fact, num = 0, 0, 1, 1, 1
Decimal.local_context(c) do |context|
context.precision += 2
while s != lasts
lasts = s
i += 1
fact *= i
num *= x
s += num / fact
return +s
The final unary + applied to the result forces it to be rounded to the current precision
(because we have computed it with two extra digits)
The result of this method does not have trailing insignificant digits, as is common with BigDecimal.
= Roadmap
* Version 0.3.0: Implement the remaining of GDA functions
* Complete documentation (README sections on special values & exceptions, etc. and method descriptions.)
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