FiniteDifferenceFormula Toolkit
This Julia package, also ported to Python, https://github.com/fdformula/FiniteDifferenceFormula.py, provides a general and comprehensive toolkit for generating finite difference formulas, working with Taylor series expansions, and teaching/learning finite difference formulas. It generates finite difference formulas for derivatives of various orders by using Taylor series expansions of a function at evenly spaced points. It also gives the truncation error of a formula in the bigO notation. We can use it to generate new formulas in addition to verification of known ones. By changing decimal places, we can also investigate how rounding errors may affect a result.
Beware, though formulas are mathematically correct, they may not be numerically useful. This is true especially when we derive formulas for a derivative of higher order. For example, run compute(9,5:5), provided by this package, to generate a 10point central formula for the 9th derivative. The formula is mathematically correct, but it can hardly be put into use for numerical computing without, if possible, rewriting it in a special way. Similarly, the more points are used, the more precise a formula is mathematically. However, due to rounding errors, this may not be true numerically.
To run the code, you need the Julia programming language (https://julialang.org/). From v1.3.3 on, you may start Julia with
the option t auto
.
How to install the package
In Julia REPL, execute the following two commands in order.
 import Pkg
 Pkg.add("FiniteDifferenceFormula")
The package exports the following functions
activatejuliafunction
, compute
, decimalplaces
, find
, findbackward
,
findforward
, formula
, formulas
, loadcomputingresults
, taylor
,
taylorcoefs
, tcoefs
, truncationerror
, verifyformula
functions, compute
, find
, findforward
, and findbackward
All take the same arguments (n, points, printformulaq = false).
Input
n: the nth order derivative to be found
points: in the format of a range, start : stop, or a vector
printformulaq: print the computed formula or not
points  The points/nodes to be used 

3:2  x[i3], x[i2], x[i1], x[i], x[i+1], x[i+2] 
[1 0 1 1]  x[i1], x[i], x[i+1] 
A vector can be like [1, 0, 2] or [1 0 2]. It will be rearranged so that elements are ordered from lowest to highest with duplicate ones removed.
Output
Each function returns a tuple, (n, points, k[:], m), where n, points, k[:] and m are described below. With the information, you may generate functions for any programming language of your choice.
While 'compute' may fail to find a formula using the points, others try to find one, if possible,
by using fewer points in different ways. (See the docstring of each function by, say,
?fd.find
after import FiniteDifferenceFormula as fd
, in Julia REPL.)
The algorithm uses the linear combination of f(x[i+j]) = f(x[i] + jh), where h is the increment in x and j ∈ points, to eliminate f(x[i]), f'(x[i]), f''(x[i]), ..., so that the first nonzero term of the Taylor series of the linear combination is f^(n)(x[i]):
k[1]*f(x[i+points[1]]) + k[2]*f(x[i+points[2]]) + ... + k[len]*f(x[i+points[len]]) = m*f^(n)(x[i]) + ..., m > 0
where len = length(points). It is this equation that gives the formula for computing f^(n)(x[i]) and the truncation error in the bigO notation as well.
function loadcomputingresults
(results)
The function loads results, a tuple of the form (n, points, k, m), returned by compute
.
For example, it may take hours to compute/find formulas invloving hundreds of points. In this
case, we can save the results in a text file and come back later to work on the results
with activatejuliafunction
, formula
, truncationerror
, and so on.
function formula
()
The function generates and lists

k[1]*f(x[i+points[1]]) + k[2]*f(x[i+points[2]]) + ... + k[len]*f(x[i+points[len]]) = m*f^(n)(x[i]) + ..., m > 0

The formula for f^(n)(x[i]), including estimation of accuracy in the bigO notation.

Julia function(s) for f^(n)(x[i]).
function truncationerror
()
The function returns a tuple, (n, "O(h^n)"), the truncation error of the newly computed finite difference formula in the bigO notation.
function decimalplaces
() or decimalplaces
(n)
Without an argument, the function returns current decimal places. With argument n, it sets the decimal places to be n for generating Julia function(s) for formulas if n is a nonnegative integer. It returns the (new) default decimal places. Without/before calling the function, 16 decimal places are used by default.
This function can only affect Julia functions with the suffix "d" such as fd1stderiv2ptcentrald. See function activatejuliafunction().
function activatejuliafunction
()
Call this function to activate the Julia function(s) for the newly computed finite difference formula. For example, after compute(1, 1:1) and decimalplaces(4), it activates the following Julia functions.
fd1stderiv2ptcentrale(f, x, i, h) = ( f(x[i1]) + f(x[i+1]) ) / (2 * h)
fd1stderiv2ptcentrale1(f, x, i, h) = ( 1/2 * f(x[i1]) + 1/2 * f(x[i+1]) ) / h
fd1stderiv2ptcentrald(f, x, i, h) = ( 0.5000 * f(x[i1]) + 0.5000 * f(x[i+1]) ) / h
The suffixes 'e' and 'd' stand for 'exact' and 'decimal', respectively. No suffix? It is "exact". After activating the function(s), we can evaluate right away in the present Julia REPL session. For example,
FiniteDifferenceFormula.fd1stderiv2ptcentrale(sin, 0:0.01:pi, 3, 0.01)
Below is the output of activatejuliafunction(). It gives us the first chance to examine the usability of the computed or tested formula.
import FiniteDifferenceFormula as fd
f, x, i, h = sin, 0:0.01:10, 501, 0.01
fd.fd1stderiv2ptcentrale(f, x, i, h) # result: 0.2836574577837647, relative error = 0.00166666%
fd.fd1stderiv2ptcentrale1(f, x, i, h) # result: 0.2836574577837647, relative error = 0.00166666%
fd.fd1stderiv2ptcentrald(f, x, i, h) # result: 0.2836574577837647, relative error = 0.00166666%
# cp: 0.2836621854632262
function activatejuliafunction
(n, points, k, m) or verifyformula
(n, points, k, m)
They are the same. Each allows users to load a formula from some source to test and see if it is correct. If it is valid, its truncation error in the bigO notation can be determined. Furthermore, if the input data is not for a valid formula, it tries also to find one, if possible, using n and points.
Here, n is the order of a derivative, points are a list, k is a list of the corresponding coefficients of a formula, and m is the coefficient of the term f^(n)(x[i]) in the linear combination of f(x[i+j]), where j ∈ points. In general, m is the coefficient of h^n in the denominator of a formula. For example,
import FiniteDifferenceFormula as fd
fd.activatejuliafunction(2, [1 0 2 3 6], [12 21 2 3 9], 12)
fd.truncationerror()
fd.activatejuliafunction(4, 0:4, [2//5 8//5 12//5 8//3 2//5], 5)
fd.activatejuliafunction(4, [0, 1, 2, 3, 4], [2/5 8/5 12/5 8/3 2/5], 5)
fd.activatejuliafunction(2, [1 2 0 2 3 6], [1.257 21.16 2.01 3.123 9.5], 12)
function taylorcoefs
(j, n = 10) or tcoefs
(j, n = 10)
The function returns the coefficients of the first n terms of the Taylor series of f(x[i+j]) about x[i].
function taylor
(j, n = 10)
The function prints the first n terms of the Taylor series of f(x[i+j]) about x[i].
function taylor
(coefs, n = 10) or taylor
(points, k, n = 10)
The function prints the first n nonzero terms of a Taylor series of which the coefficients are
provided in coefs
or given through points
and k[:]
as in the linear combination
k[1]*f(x[i+points[1]]) + k[2]*f(x[i+points[2]]) + ...
It provides also another way
to verify if a formula is correct.
function formulas
(orders = [1, 2, 3], min_num_of_points = 2, max_num_of_points = 5)
By default, the function prints all forward, backward, and central finite difference formulas for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd derivatives, using 2 to 5 points.
Examples
import FiniteDifferenceFormula as fd
fd.compute(1, 0:2, true) # find, generate, and print "3"point forward formula for f'(x[i])
fd.compute(2, 3:0, true) # find, generate, and print "4"point backward formula for f''(x[i])
fd.compute(3, 9:9) # find "19"point central formula for f'''(x[i])
fd.decimalplaces(6) # use 6 decimal places to generate Julia functions of computed formulas
fd.compute(2, [3 2 1 2 7]) # find formula for f''(x[i]) using points x[i+j], j = 3, 2, 1, 2, and 7
fd.compute(1, 230:230) # find "461"point central formula for f'(x[i]). it may take hours!
fd.formula() # generate and print the formula computed last time you called compute(...)
fd.truncationerror() # print and return the truncation error of the newly computed formula
fd.taylor(2, 5) # print the first 5 terms of the Taylor series of f(x[i2]) about x[i]
coefs = 2*fd.tcoefs(0)  5*fd.tcoefs(1) + 4*fd.tcoefs(2)  fd.tcoefs(5);
fd.taylor(coefs, 7) # print the 1st 7 nonzero terms of the Taylor series of 2f(x[i])  5f(x[i+1]) + 4f(x[i+2])  f(x[i+5])
fd.taylor([0, 1, 2, 5], [2, 5, 4, 1], 7) # same as above
fd.activatejuliafunction() # activate Julia function(s) of the newly computed formula in present REPL session
fd.verifyformula(1, 2:3, [4, 5], 6) # verify if f'(x[i]) = (4f(x[i+2] + 5f(x[i+3)) / (6h) is a valid formula
fd.formulas(2, 5, 9) # print all forward, backword, and central formulas for the 2nd derivative, using 5 to 9 points
fd.formulas([1, 2, 4], 5, 9) # print all forward, backword, and central formulas for the 1st, 2nd, and 4th derivatives, using 5 to 9 points