Here is the example, copied from here

square = Function[x, x^2];
square1 = #^2 &;

the timing and unpacking status shows

data = RandomReal[{0, 10}, {10000}];

AbsoluteTiming[Developer`PackedArrayQ[Map[square, data]]]
AbsoluteTiming[Developer`PackedArrayQ[tmp1 = Map[square1, data]]]

{0.000771589, True}
{0.000748647, True}

Now we add external variable into these two definition.

a = 1
square = Function[x, x^2 + a];
square1 = #^2 + a &;

and time it again, you got

{0.0336384, False}
{0.0062035, True}

we can see & is still autocompiled, while Function is not. Why? I think the documentation treats them as identical way of writing. This distinction is oddly subtle, I just found it today. What is bad is that without Function, we can not give parameters names, thus less readability.

  • $\begingroup$ To be precise, it seems that square = Function[x, x^2 + a]; isn't compared in Map. I think this can be considered as another evidence that the auto-compilation of pure function is still not that stable currently. $\endgroup$
    – xzczd
    Dec 3, 2016 at 6:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's not just about autocompilation. square is slower than square1 without compilation. You can use Trace to see that there is a significant difference in the evaluation. Autocompilation can be switched of with SetSystemOptions["CompileOptions" -> {"MapCompileLength" -> \[Infinity]}] and increases the difference in your second case, while it removes the difference in your first case. $\endgroup$
    – Karsten7
    Dec 3, 2016 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, @Karsten7. I think it is might not be the point. The goal to use Function is to make use of autocompilation. When & and Function both been autocompiled, they are of same speed. If speed is not of concern, then I can just use square2[x_] := x^2;, and in case of "MapCompileLength" -> \[Infinity], square2[x_] := x^2 is actually faster than Function. $\endgroup$
    – matheorem
    Dec 3, 2016 at 7:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ square2 = With[{a = a}, Function[x, x^2 + a]] would autocompile properly. Maybe "InlineExternalDefinitions" is handled differently? $\endgroup$
    – Karsten7
    Dec 3, 2016 at 7:50
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ SetSystemOptions[ "CompileOptions" -> {"CompileReportFailure" -> True, "InternalCompileMessages" -> True}] can be used to switch on the generation of an error message. $\endgroup$
    – Karsten7
    Dec 3, 2016 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


The solution, as suggested by Karsten7, in a comment is to use With.

data = RandomReal[{0, 10}, {10000}];

a = 1;
With[{a = a}, square = Function[x, x^2 + a]];
square1 = #^2 + a &

Timing[Developer`PackedArrayQ[Map[square, data]]]
Timing[Developer`PackedArrayQ[tmp1 = Map[square1, data]]]

{0.000578, True}

{0.000528, True}

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The question asks why, perhaps we could elucidate the underlying reason. $\endgroup$
    – M.R.
    Jan 10, 2017 at 3:07

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