The main target applications for GMP are cryptography applications and research, Internet security applications, algebra systems, computational algebra research, etc.
GMP is carefully designed to be as fast as possible, both for small operands and for huge operands. The speed is achieved by using fullwords as the basic arithmetic type, by using fast algorithms, with highly optimised assembly code for the most common inner loops for a lot of CPUs, and by a general emphasis on speed.
GMP is faster than any other bignum library. The advantage for GMP increases with the operand sizes for many operations, since GMP uses asymptotically faster algorithms.
The first GMP release was made in 1991. It is continually developed and maintained, with a new release about once a year.
GMP is distributed under the GNU LGPL. This license makes the library free to use, share, and improve, and allows you to pass on the result. The license gives freedoms, but also sets firm restrictions on the use with non-free programs.
GMP's main target platforms are Unix-type systems, such as GNU/Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, Mac OS X/Darwin, BSD, AIX, etc. It also is known to work on Windows in both 32-bit and 64-bit mode.
GMP is brought to you by a team listed in the manual.
GMP is carefully developed and maintained, both technically and legally. We of course inspect and test contributed code carefully, but equally importantly we make sure we have the legal right to distribute the contributions, meaning users can safely use GMP. To achieve this, we will ask contributors to sign paperwork where they allow us to distribute their work.
GMP floating point numbers are stored in objects of type mpf_t and functions operating on them have an mpf_ prefix.
The mantissa of each float has a user-selectable precision, limited only by available memory. Each variable has its own precision, and that can be increased or decreased at any time.
The exponent of each float is a fixed precision, one machine word on most systems. In the current implementation the exponent is a count of limbs, so for example on a 32-bit system this means a range of roughly 2^-68719476768 to 2^68719476736, or on a 64-bit system this will be greater. Note however mpf_get_str can only return an exponent which fits an mp_exp_t and currently mpf_set_str doesn't accept exponents bigger than a long.
Each variable keeps a size for the mantissa data actually in use. This means that if a float is exactly represented in only a few bits then only those bits will be used in a calculation, even if the selected precision is high.
All calculations are performed to the precision of the destination variable. Each function is defined to calculate with “infinite precision” followed by a truncation to the destination precision, but of course the work done is only what's needed to determine a result under that definition.
The precision selected for a variable is a minimum value, GMP may increase it a little to facilitate efficient calculation. Currently this means rounding up to a whole limb, and then sometimes having a further partial limb, depending on the high limb of the mantissa. But applications shouldn't be concerned by such details.
The mantissa in stored in binary, as might be imagined from the fact precisions are expressed in bits. One consequence of this is that decimal fractions like 0.1 cannot be represented exactly. The same is true of plain IEEE double floats. This makes both highly unsuitable for calculations involving money or other values that should be exact decimal fractions. (Suitably scaled integers, or perhaps rationals, are better choices.)
mpf functions and variables have no special notion of infinity or not-a-number, and applications must take care not to overflow the exponent or results will be unpredictable. This might change in a future release.
Note that the mpf functions are not intended as a smooth extension to IEEE P754 arithmetic. In particular results obtained on one computer often differ from the results on a computer with a different word size.
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