Write Smart Contracts with Sui Move

Welcome to the Sui tutorial for building smart contracts with the Move language. This tutorial provides a brief explanation of the Move language and includes concrete examples to demonstrate how Move can be used in Sui.


Move is an open source language for writing safe smart contracts. It was originally developed at Facebook to power the Diem blockchain. However, Move was designed as a platform-agnostic language to enable common libraries, tooling, and developer communities across blockchains with vastly different data and execution models. Sui, 0L, and Starcoin are using Move, and there are also plans to integrate the language in several upcoming and existing platforms (e.g., Celo).

The Move language documentation is available in the Move GitHub repository and includes a tutorial and a book describing language features in detail. These are invaluable resources to deepen your understanding of the Move language but not strict prerequisites to following the Sui tutorial, which we strived to make self-contained. Further, Sui does differ in some ways from Move, which we explore here.

In Sui, Move is used to define, create and manage programmable Sui objects representing user-level assets. Sui imposes additional restrictions on the code that can be written in Move, effectively using a subset of Move (a.k.a. Sui Move), which makes certain parts of the original Move documentation not applicable to smart contract development in Sui. Consequently, it's best to simply follow this tutorial and relevant Move documentation links provided in the tutorial.

Before we look at the Move code included with Sui, let's talk briefly about Move code organization, which applies both to code included with Sui and the custom code written by the developers.

Move code organization

The main unit of Move code organization (and distribution) is a package. A package consists of a set of modules defined in separate files with the .move extension. These files include Move functions and type definitions. A package must include the Move.toml manifest file describing package configuration, for example package metadata or package dependencies. See Move.toml for more information about package manifest files.

The minimal package source directory structure looks as follows and contains the manifest file and the sources subdirectory where one or more module files are located:

├── Move.toml
├── sources
    ├── m1.move

See Package Layout and Manifest Syntax for more information on package layout.

We are now ready to look at some Move code! You can either keep reading for an introductory description of the main Move language constructs or you can jump straight into the code by writing a simple Move package, and checking out additional code examples.

First look at Move source code

The Sui platform includes framework Move code that is needed to bootstrap Sui operations. In particular, Sui supports multiple user-defined coin types, which are custom assets defined in the Move language. Sui framework code contains the Coin module supporting creation and management of custom coins. The Coin module is located in the coin.move file. As you would expect, the manifest file describing how to build the package containing the Coin module is located in the corresponding Move.toml file.

Let's see how module definition appears in the Coin module file:

module sui::coin {

(Let's not worry about the rest of the module contents for now; you can read more about modules in the Move book later.)

Important: In Sui Move, package names are always in CamelCase, while the address alias is lowercase, for examples sui = 0x2 and std = 0x1. So: Sui = name of the imported package (Sui = sui framework), sui = address alias of 0x2, sui::sui = module sui under the address 0x2, and sui::sui::SUI = type in the module above.

As we can see, when defining a module we specify the module name (Coin), preceded by the name of the package where this module resides (Sui). The combination of the package name and the module name is used to uniquely identify a module in Move source code (e.g., to be able to use if from other modules). The package name is globally unique, but different packages can contain modules with the same name. Module names are not unique, but combined with unique package name renders a unique combination.

For example, if you have package "P" that has been published, you cannot publish another package named "P". At the same time you can have module "P1::M1", "P2::M1", and "P1::M2" but not another, say, "P1::M1" in the system at the same time.

In addition to having a presence at the source code level, as we discussed in Move code organization, a package in Sui is also a Sui object and must have a unique numeric ID in addition to a unique name, which is assigned in the manifest file:

sui = "0x2"

Move structs

The Coin module defines the Coin struct type that can be used to represent different types of user-defined coins as Sui objects:

struct Coin<phantom T> has key, store {
    info: Info,
    value: u64

Move's struct type is similar to struct types defined in other programming languages, such as C or C++, and contains a name and a set of typed fields. In particular, struct fields can be of a primitive type, such as an integer type, or of a struct type.

You can read more about Move primitive types and structs in the Move book.

In order for a Move struct type to define a Sui object type such as Coin, its first field must be info: Info, which is a struct type defined in the object module. The Move struct type must also have the key ability, which allows the object to be persisted in Sui's global storage. Abilities of a Move struct are listed after the has keyword in the struct definition, and their existence (or lack thereof) helps enforcing various properties on a definition or on instances of a given struct.

You can read more about struct abilities in the Move book.

The reason that the Coin struct can represent different types of coin is that the struct definition is parameterized with a type parameter. When an instance of the Coin struct is created, it can be passed an arbitrary concrete Move type (e.g. another struct type) to distinguish different types of coins from one another.

Learn about Move type parameters known as generics and also about the optional phantom keyword) at your leisure.

In particular, one type of custom coin already defined in Sui is Coin<SUI>, which represents a token used to pay for Sui computations (more generally known as gas) - in this case, the concrete type used to parameterize the Coin struct is the SUI struct in the SUI module:

struct SUI has drop {}

We will show how to define and instantiate custom structs in the section describing how to write a simple Move package.

Move functions

Similarly to other popular programming languages, the main unit of computation in Move is a function. Let us look at one of the simplest functions defined in the Coin module, that is the value function.

public fun value<T>(self: &Coin<T>): u64 {

This public function can be called by functions in other modules to return the unsigned integer value currently stored in a given instance of the Coin struct. Direct access to fields of a struct is allowed only within the module defining a given struct as described in Privileged Struct Operations. The body of the function simply retrieves the value field from the Coin struct instance parameter and returns it. Note that the coin parameter is a read-only reference to the Coin struct instance, indicated by the & preceding the parameter type. Move's type system enforces an invariant that struct instance arguments passed by read-only references (as opposed to mutable references) cannot be modified in the body of a function.

You can read more about Move references in the Move book.

We will show how to call Move functions from other functions and how to define the new ones in the section describing how to write a simple Move package.

In addition to functions callable from other functions, however, the Sui flavor of the Move language also defines so called entry functions that can be called directly from Sui (e.g., from a Sui application that can be written in a different language) and must satisfy a certain set of properties.

Entry functions

One of the basic operations in Sui is transfer of gas objects between addresses representing individual users. And one of the simplest entry functions is defined in the SUI module to implement gas object transfer:

public entry fun transfer(c: coin::Coin<SUI>, recipient: address, _ctx: &mut TxContext) {

(Let's not worry about the function body for now - since the function is part of Sui framework, you can trust that it will do what it is intended to do.)

In general, an entry function, must satisfy the following properties:

  • have the entry modifier
    • Note: The visibility does not matter. The function can be public, public(friend), or internal.
  • have no return value
  • (optional) have a mutable reference to an instance of the TxContext struct defined in the TxContext module as the last parameter

More concretely, the transfer function is public, has no return value, and has three parameters:

  • c - represents a gas object whose ownership is to be transferred
  • recipient - the address of the intended recipient
  • _ctx - a mutable reference to an instance of the TxContext struct (in this particular case, this parameter is not actually used in the function's body as indicated by its name starting with _)
    • Note that since it is unused, the parameter could be removed. The mutable reference to the TxContext is optional for entry functions.

You can see how the transfer function is called from a Sui CLI client in Calling Move code.

Last update 7/21/2022, 3:28:42 PM