Set Declaration and Attributes

Set attributes

Each set has an optional list of attributes which further specify its intended behavior in the model. The attributes of sets are given in this table. The attributes IndexDomain is only relevant to indexed sets.



See also



The IndexDomain attribute









The Text and Comment attributes


comment string

The Text and Comment attributes


NoSave, ElementsAreNumerical, ElementsAreLabels





Simple Sets


A simple set in AIMMS is a finite collection of elements. These elements are either strings or integers. Strings are typically used to identify real-world objects such as products, locations, persons, etc. Integers are typically used for algorithmic purposes. With every simple set you can associate indices through which you can refer (in succession) to all individual elements of that set in indexed statements and expressions.

Most basic example

An example of the most basic declaration for the set Cities from the previous example follows.

Set Cities {
    Index      : i,j;

This declares the identifier Cities as a simple set, and binds the identifiers i and j as indices to Cities throughout your model text.

More detailed example

Consider a set SupplyCities which is declared as follows:

Set SupplyCities {
    SubsetOf   : Cities;
    Parameter  : LargestSupplyCity;
    Text       : The subset of cities that act as supply city;
    Definition : {
        { i | Exists( j | Transport(i,j) ) }
    OrderBy    : i;

The | operator used in the definition is to be read as “such that” (it is explained in Set, Set Element and String Expressions). Thus, SupplyCities is defined as the set of all cities from which there is transport to at least one other city. All elements in the set are ordered lexicographically. The set has no index of its own, but does have an element parameter LargestSupplyCity that can hold any particular element with a specific property. For instance, the following assignment forms one way to specify the value of this element parameter:

LargestSupplyCity := ArgMax( i in SupplyCities, sum( j, Transport(i,j) ) );

Note that this assignment selects that particular element from the subset of SupplyCities for which the total amount of Transport leaving that element is the largest.

The SubsetOf attribute

With the SubsetOf attribute you can tell AIMMS that the set at hand is a subset of another set, called the subset domain. For simple sets, such a subset domain is denoted by a single set identifier. During the execution of the model AIMMS will assert that this subset relationship is satisfied at all times.

Root sets

Each simple set that is not a subset of another set is called a root set. As will be explained later on, root sets have a special role in AIMMS with respect to data storage and ordering.

The Index attribute

An index takes the value of all elements of a set successively and in the order specified by its declaration. It is used in operations like summation and indexed assignment over the elements of a set. With the Index attribute you can associate identifiers as indices into the set at hand. The index attributes of all sets must be unique identifiers, i.e. every index can be declared only once.

The Parameter attribute

A parameter declared in the Parameter attribute of a set takes the value of a specific element of that set. Throughout the sequel we will refer to such a parameter as an element parameter. It is a very useful device for referring to set elements that have a special meaning in your model (as illustrated in the previous example). In a later chapter you will see that an element parameter can also be defined separately as a parameter which has a set as its range.

The Text and Comment attributes

With the Text attribute you can specify one line of descriptive text for the end-user. This description can be made visible in the graphical user interface when the data of an identifier is displayed in a page object. You can use the Comment attribute to provide a longer description of the identifier at hand. This description is intended for the modeler and cannot be made visible to an end-user. The Comment attribute is a multi-line string attribute.

Quoting identifier names in Comment

You can make AIMMS aware that specific words in your comment text are intended as identifier names by putting them in single quotes. This has the advantage that AIMMS will update your comment when you change the name of that identifier in the model editor, or, that AIMMS will warn you when a quoted name does not refer to an existing identifier.

The OrderBy attribute

With the OrderBy attribute you can indicate that you want the elements of a certain set to be ordered according to a single or multiple ordering criteria. Only simple sets can be ordered.

Ordering root sets

A special word of caution is in place with respect to specifying an ordering principle for root sets. Root sets play a special role within AIMMS because all data defined over a root set or any of its subsets is stored in the original data entry order in which elements have been added to that root set. Thus, the data entry order defines the natural order of execution over a particular domain, and specifying the OrderBy attribute of a root set may influence overall execution times of your model in a negative manner. Set Element Ordering discusses these efficiency aspects in more detail, and provides alternative solutions.

Ordering criteria

The value of the OrderBy attribute can be a comma-separated list of one or more ordering criteria. The following ordering criteria (numeric, string or user-defined) can be specified.

  • If the value of the OrderBy attribute is an indexed numerical expression defined over the elements of the set, AIMMS will order its elements in increasing order according to the numerical values of the expression.

  • If the value of the OrderBy attribute is either an index into the set, a set element-valued expression, or a string expression over the set, then its elements will be ordered lexicographically with respect to the strings associated with the expression. By preceding the expression with a minus sign, the elements will be ordered reverse lexicographically.

  • If the value of the OrderBy attribute is the keyword User, the elements will be ordered according to the order in which they have been added to the subset, either by the user, the model, or by means of the Sort operator.

Specifying multiple criteria

When applying a single ordering criterion, the resulting ordering may not be unique. For instance, when you order according to the size of transport taking place from a city, there may be multiple cities with equal transport. You may want these cities to be ordered too. In this case, you can enforce a more refined ordering principle by specifying multiple criteria. AIMMS applies all criteria in succession, and will order only those elements that could not be uniquely distinguished by previous criteria.


The following set declarations give examples of various types of automatic ordering. In the last declaration, the cities with equal transport are placed in a lexicographical order.

Set LexicographicSupplyCities {
    SubsetOf  : SupplyCities;
    OrderBy   : i;
Set ReverseLexicographicSupplyCities {
    SubsetOf  : SupplyCities;
    OrderBy   : - i;
Set SupplyCitiesByIncreasingTransport {
    SubsetOf  : SupplyCities;
    OrderBy   : sum( j, Transport(i,j) );
Set SupplyCitiesByDecreasingTransportThenLexicographic {
    SubsetOf  : SupplyCities;
    OrderBy   : - sum( j, Transport(i,j) ), i;

The Property attribute

In general, you can use the Property attribute to assign additional properties to an identifier in your model. The applicable properties depend on the identifier type. Sets, at the moment, only support a single property.

  • The property NoSave specifies that the contents of the set at hand will never be stored in a case file. This can be useful, for instance, for intermediate sets that are necessary during the model’s computation, but are never important to an end-user.

  • The properties ElementsAreNumerical and ElementsAreLabels are only relevant for integer sets (see also Integer Sets). They will ignored for non-integer sets.

Dynamic property selection

The properties selected in the Property attribute of an identifier are on by default, while the nonselected properties are off by default. During execution of your model you can also dynamically change a property setting through the Property statement. The PROPERTY statement is discussed in The OPTION and PROPERTY Statements.

The Definition attribute

If an identifier can be uniquely defined throughout your model by a single expression, you can (and should) use the Definition attribute to specify this global relationship. AIMMS stores the result of a Definition and recomputes it only when necessary. For sets where a global Definition is not possible, you can make assignments in procedures and functions. The value of the Definition attribute must be a valid expression of the appropriate type, as exemplified in the declaration

Set SupplyCities {
    SubsetOf   : Cities;
    Definition : {
        { i | Exists( j | Transport(i,j) ) }

Integer Sets

Integer sets

A special type of simple set is an integer set. Such a set is characterized by the fact that the value of the SubsetOf attribute must be equal to the predefined set Integers or a subset thereof. Integer sets are most often used for algorithmic purposes.

Usage in expressions

Elements of integer sets can also be used as integer values in numerical expressions. In addition, the result of an integer-valued expression can be added as an element to an integer set. Elements of non-integer sets that represent numerical values cannot be used directly in numerical expressions. To obtain the numerical value of such non-integer elements, you can use the Val function (see Intrinsic Functions for Sets and Set Elements).

Interpret values as integer or label?

The interpretation of integer set elements will as integer values in numerical expressions, raises an ambiguity for certain types of expressions. If anInteger is an element parameter into an integer set anIntegerSet,

  • how should AIMMS handle the expression

    if (anInteger) then

    where anInteger holds the value '0'. On the one hand, it is not the empty element, so if AIMMS would interpret this as a logical expression with a non-empty element parameter, the if statement would evaluate to true. If AIMMS would interpret this as a numerical expression, the element parameter would evaluate to the numerical value 0, and the if statement would evaluate to false.

  • how should AIMMS handle the assignment

    anInteger := anInteger + 3;

    if the values in anIntegerSet are non-contiguous? If AIMMS would interpret anInteger as an ordinary element parameter, the + operator would refer to a lead operator (see also Lag and Lead Element Operators), and the assignment would assign the third next element of anInteger in the set anIntegerSet. If AIMMS would interpret anInteger as an numerical value, the assignment would assign the numerical value of anInteger plus 3, assuming that this is an element of anIntegerSet.

You can resolve this ambiguity assigning one of the properties ElementsAreLabels and ElementsAreNumerical to anIntegerSet. If you don’t assign either property, and you use one of these expressions in your model, AIMMS will issue a warning about the ambiguity, and the end result might be unpredictable.


In order to fill an integer set AIMMS provides the special operator .. to specify an entire range of integer elements. This powerful feature is discussed in more detail in Enumerated Sets.


The following somewhat abstract example demonstrates some of the features of integer sets. Consider the following declarations.

Parameter LowInt {
    Range      : Integer;
Parameter HighInt {
    Range      : Integer;
Set EvenNumbers {
    SubsetOf    : Integers;
    Index       : i;
    Parameter   : LargestPolynomialValue;
    OrderBy     : - i;

The following statements illustrate some of the possibilities to compute integer sets on the basis of integer expressions, or to use the elements of an integer set in expressions.

! Fill the integer set with the even numbers between
! LowInt and HighInt. The first term in the expression
! ensures that the first integer is even.

EvenNumbers := { (LowInt + mod(LowInt,2)) .. HighInt by 2 };

! Next the square of each element i of EvenNumbers is added
! to the set, if not already part of it (i.e. the union results)

for ( i | i <= HighInt ) do
    EvenNumbers += i^2;

! Finally, compute that element of the set EvenNumbers, for
! which the polynomial expression assumes the maximum value.

LargestPolynomialValue := ArgMax( i, i^4 - 10*i^3 + 10*i^2 - 100*i );

Ordering integer sets

By default, integer sets are ordered according to the numeric value of their elements. Like with ordinary simple sets, you can override this default ordering by using the OrderBy attribute. When you use an index in specifying the order of an integer set, AIMMS will interpret it as a numeric expression.



A relation or multidimensional set is the Cartesian product of a number of simple sets or a subset thereof. Relations are typically used as the domain space for multidimensional identifiers. Unlike simple sets, the elements of a relation cannot be referenced using a single index.

Tuples and index components

An element of a relation is called a tuple and is denoted by the usual mathematical notation, i.e. as a parenthesized list of comma-separated elements. Throughout, the word index component will be used to denote the index of a particular position inside a tuple.

Index tuple

To reference an element in a relation, you can use an index tuple, in which each tuple component contains an index corresponding to a simple set.

The SubsetOf attribute

The SubsetOf attribute is mandatory for relations, and must contain the subset domain of the set. This subset domain is denoted either as a parenthesized comma-separated list of simple set identifiers, or, if it is a subset of another relation, just the name of that set.


The following example demonstrates some elementary declarations of a relation, given the two-dimensional parameters Distance(i,j) and TransportCost(i,j). The following set declaration defines a relation.

Set HighCostConnections {
    SubsetOf   : (Cities, Cities);
    Definition : {
        { (i,j) | Distance(i,j) > 0 and TransportCost(i,j) > 100 }

Indexed Sets


An indexed set represents a family of sets defined for all elements in another set, called the index domain. The elements of all members of the family must be from a single (sub)set. Although membership tables allow you to reach the same effect, indexed sets often make it possible to express certain operations very concisely and intuitively.

The IndexDomain attribute

A set becomes an indexed set by specifying a value for the IndexDomain attribute. The value of this attribute must be a single index or a tuple of indices, optionally followed by a logical condition. The precise syntax of the IndexDomain attribute is discussed on The IndexDomain attribute.


The following declarations illustrate some indexed sets with a content that varies for all elements in their respective index domains.

Set SupplyCitiesToDestination {
    IndexDomain  : j;
    SubsetOf     : Cities;
    Definition   : {
        { i | Transport(i,j) }
Set DestinationCitiesFromSupply {
    IndexDomain  : i;
    SubsetOf     : Cities;
    Definition   : {
        { j | Transport(i,j) }
Set IntermediateTransportCities {
    IndexDomain  : (i,j);
    SubsetOf     : Cities;
    Definition   : DestinationCitiesFromSupply(i) * SupplyCitiesToDestination(j);
    Comment      : {
        All intermediate cities via which an indirect transport
        from city i to city j with one intermediate city takes place

The first two declarations both define a one-dimensional family of subsets of Cities, while the third declaration defines a two-dimensional family of subsets of Cities. Note that the * operator is applied to sets, and therefore denotes intersection.

Subset domains

The subset domain of an indexed set family can be either a simple set identifier, or another family of indexed simple sets of the same or lower dimension. The subset domain of an indexed set cannot be a relation.

No default indices

Declarations of indexed sets do not allow you to specify either the Index or Parameter attribute. Consequently, if you want to use an indexed set for indexing, you must locally bind an index to it. For more details on the use of indices and index binding refer to INDEX Declaration and Attributes and Binding Rules.