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variable variable_name : type;
variable variable_name : type := initial_value;

Rules and Examples

variable HEIGHT : integer := 8;
variable COND : boolean := true;
variable IN_STRING : string(1 to 80);
variable M,N : bit := '1';
variable I : integer range 0 to 3;

A Variable may be given an explicit initial value when it is declared. If a variable is not given an explicit value, it’s default value will be the leftmost value (‘left) of its declared type.

variable I : integer range 0 to 3; -- initial value of I is 0
variable X : std_ulogic; -- initial value of X is 'U'

Variables within subprograms (functions and procedures) are initialized each time the subprogram is called:

function PARITY (
    X : std_ulogic_vector
) return std_ulogic is
    variable TMP : std_ulogic := '0';
    for J in X'range loop
        TMP := TMP xor X(J);
    end loop; -- no need to initialise TMP
    return TMP;

Variables in processes except for for loop variables receive their initial values at the start of the simulation time (time = 0 ns). In this example we need to reset TMP to ‘0’ each time the process is activated:

process (A)
    variable TMP : std_ulogic := '0';
    TMP := '0';

    for I in A'low to A'high loop
        TMP := TMP xor A(I);
    end loop;

    ODD <= TMP;
end process;

Shared variables may be declared within an architecture, block, generate statement, or package:

shared variable variable_name : type;

Shared variables may be accessed by more than one process.

Synthesis Issues

Variables are supported for synthesis, providing they are of a type acceptable to the logic synthesis tool.

In a clocked process, each variable which has its value read before it has had an assignment to it will be synthesized as the output of a register.

In a combinational process, reading a variable before it has had an assignment may cause a latch to be synthesized.

Variables declared in a subprogram are synthesized as combinational logic.