next up previous

1 Overview of Fortran 90     continued...

Modules
Fortran 90 has a new kind of program unit, the module, that is neither part of Fortran 77 nor included in most pre-90 Fortran compilers. Because of this lack of implementation history, and because modules impose more sophisticated name management requirements on implementations, modules have triggered some controversy. When this dust finally settles, however, modules are likely to be generally accepted as one of the most important and useful features of Fortran 90.

Unlike main programs and external subprograms, modules are not themselves executable program units. Rather, they contain definitions that can be conveniently accessed and used by executable program units. For example, a module might contain interface blocks for a library of external procedures and be used to make the interfaces of these library procedures explicit in an application using that library. A likely growing trend is to repackage the entire library in a module-that is, to place all of the procedure definitions in a module (assuming the procedures can be written in Fortran)-which has the twin benefits to an application of making the procedure interfaces explicit without the need for interface blocks and giving the application developer a powerful tool for namespace management.

Data related uses of modules are just as important as procedure related uses. User-defined type definitions can be placed in a module and thus made available to the other program units of an application , and indeed this is the preferred way of packaging most type definitions. Data objects, of any type, kind, and shape can be declared in a module and thus become global data objects for an application using that module. This provides a non- storage-associated global data alternative to COMMON, which can be used where storage association is a problem (e.g., in distributed memory environments). Arrays in modules can be allocatable, thus providing a means of having dynamic arrays conveniently accessible to any of the program units of the application.