Programming with GAP

GAP is a system for discrete computational algebra, with particular emphasis on Computational Group Theory. GAP provides a programming language, a library of thousands of functions implementing algebraic algorithms written in the GAP language as well as large data libraries of algebraic objects, for example the Small Groups Library which contains, among others, all 423 164 062 groups of order at most 2000 except 1024.

This lesson gives an introduction to GAP. It is centred around a common task of searching in the Small Groups Library for interesting examples and counterexamples, and a particular research problem in which we will be interested is to find examples of non-trivial groups such that the average order of their elements is an integer.

The lesson will lead the learner along the path from working in the GAP command line and exploring algebraic objects interactively to saving the GAP code into files, creating functions and regression tests, and further to performing comprehensive search and extending the system by adding new attributes.

On this path, the learner will become familiar with:


The lesson is oriented on learners possessing the minimal theoretical background (at least at the level of an undergraduate group theory course) and willing to learn how concepts from abstract algebra may be explored using computational tools. No previous experience of working with GAP is required.

Learners only need to understand the concepts of files and directories (including home and working directories) and know how to start GAP.

Getting ready

  1. In your home directory, create a new directory called avgord.
  2. Start GAP:
    • on Linux and OS X, call path-to-your-gap-installation/gap-4.X.Y/bin/ (edit the path as necessary);
    • on Windows, call it via the appropriate menu or by double-clicking on the gap-4.X.Y/bin/gap.bat file in your GAP installation.
  3. Set your current directory to avgord calling ChangeDirectoryCurrent from the IO package (if GAP is installed correctly, by default it should be loaded when GAP starts):
    • on Linux and OS X, call ChangeDirectoryCurrent("/home/username/avgord"); (edit the path as necessary; remember to type the full path to your home directory instead of ~).
    • on Windows, call ChangeDirectoryCurrent("C:/Users/username/avgord"); (edit the path as necessary; remember to use / instead of \);
  4. Verify that your current directory is set up properly: call DirectoryCurrent(); on Windows or Exec("pwd"); on Linux and OS X and check that the path in the output points to the avgord directory.


Setup Download files required for the lesson
00:00 1. First session with GAP Working with the GAP command line
00:40 2. Some more GAP objects Further examples of objects and operations with them
01:00 3. Functions in GAP Functions as a way of code re-use
01:55 4. Using regression tests Test-driven development
02:45 5. Small groups search Modular programming: putting functions together
How to check some conjecture for all groups of a given order
03:40 6. Attributes and Methods How to record information in GAP objects
04:30 Finish

The actual schedule may vary slightly depending on the topics and exercises chosen by the instructor.