EECS 211
C++ Style

Follow the rules below to write clean simple C++ code. For further examples of good style, see Ol' Doc McCann's List of Programming Style Guidelines.

Indent consistently

There are several indenting styles commonly used by C and C++ programmers. See this Wikipedia entry for a list. The book uses the Allman (BSD) style. I use the K & R style. Either is fine but be consistent.

In all styles, one cardinal rule of indentation is followed:

Indentation = nesting

Nested code, e.g., statements in a for-loop, is always indented some constant number of spaces (2, 3, or 4 are typical) from the nesting element, e.g., the start of the for-loop or if-statement. Statements nested at the same level have the same indentation. The following is very bad indentation:

   void square_array(int x[], int n, int y[])
{
for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i) {
   int z = x[i];
     y[i] = z * z;
      }
      }

The function heading is not nested and should not be indented. The for-loop is nested and should be indented. The y[i] = ... line should be indented the same as the int z ... line. The close brace for the for-loop should be under the 'f' for the for. The close brace of the function should be under the 'v' of void. The proper indentation for this code is:

void square_array(int x[], int n, int y[])
{
  for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i) {
    int z = x[i];
    y[i] = z * z;
  }
}
>

Initialize Variables

When a variable has an initial value, assign it in the declaration of the variable, not in a separate assignment statement. E.g., don't write

int main (void)
{
  int a;
  
  a = 4;
  ...
}

write

int main (void)
{
  int a = 4;
  ...
}

It's shorter, clearer, and prepares you for C++ where, with some data types, it's more efficient.

>

Initialize Class Variables Directly

When initializing a variable holding an instance of a class, write

MyClass thing( value );

not

MyClass thing = value;

The second form is equivalent to

MyClass thing ( MyClass( value ) );

This creates a temporary then copies it. While most compilers will optimize the second form into the more efficient first form, there are times when they can't. So use the first form and be sure.

This does not apply to basic numeric datatypes and such. int n = 12; is more typical than int n( 12 );.

Locally declare for-loop variables

Instead of

int i;

for (i = 0; i < n; ++i) {
  ...
}

write

for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i) {
  ...
}

It's shorter and keeps the scope of i as narrow as possible. A code maintainer can tell that this i is used only in this loop and nowhere else.

Name Constants

Don't scatter literal values like 12 and 52 and 31 throughout your code. Define named constants at the start of the file, using const type variable = value;.

Define A Function for Each Task

It has been said that the major task of a programmer is managing complexity. Code grows quickly and it's important to keep it modular and self-documenting, for easy repair and extension. Well-named modular functions are central to writing good code.

Define a function when

Use Good Names

Nothing is more important to readable code than good names. It's also the case that naming is often done very badly. See the Naming section of Roedy Green's How to Write Unmaintainable Code for examples of what not to do.

Here are some guidelines for good names:

Avoid Needless Variables

Declare variables to

If neither of these applies, don't create a variable. For example, in

int twoDigits(int number)
{
  int result;

  result = firstDigit(number) + secondDigit(number);
  return result;
}

the variable is absolutely useless. Write

int twoDigits(int number)
{
  return firstDigit(number) + secondDigit(number);
}

Avoid Repeated Code

Never repeat code for anything at all complex. Every copy of such code will have to be updated if you find a bug or want to make an improvement.

The two ways to avoid repeated code are:

Use double not float

double is the default floating point type for C++. If you write the number 3.0 in C++ code, it's a double, not a float. Double has the best trade-off between precision and use of space for most code.

Avoid "using" declarations in header files

Note: The Deitel book vioates this rule frequently.

A "using" declaration, such as using std::string; can be very useful in avoiding clutter in your code. It lets you write string str = "foo"; rather than std::string str = "foo";.

Such declarations should only appear in implementation code, i.e., .cpp files. They should never appear in header files. "Using" declarations in header files can cause name conflicts. If one header file has using std::string; and another has using astronomy::string;, then there will be a name conflict when both header files are included by another file. The whole point of namespaces was to avoid such collisions.

"Using" declarations are fine in .cpp files, because those files are compiled independently.

Include "header guards" in all header files

Always surround the code in a header with a guard form:

#ifndef NAME_H
#define NAME_H
...
...
#endif

where NAME is the uppercase form of the header file name, e.g., COMPLEX_H for the header file complex.h.

The guard form prevents the header code from being read more than once, no matter how many files are compiled that #include it. This is not just for efficiency. Compiler errors will occur when a header is read multiple times.

Use member initializer lists in constructors

Whenever possible (which is almost always), initialize private data members like this:

Complex::Complex(double r, double i) : real(r), imag(i) { }

not like this:

Complex::Complex(double r, double i)
{
  real = r; imag = i;
}

Initializers are not only clearer, but they also avoid creating default instances when data members hold user-defined data structures.

Initialization is done in the order in which the variables are declared. To avoid warning messages, be sure to list variables in declaration order in the member initialization list.

Declare destructor as virtual if any member function is virtual.

For safety, if a class has any virtual member functions, then make the destructor virtual too, like this:

class SomeClass
{
  ...
  virtual ~SomeClass();
  ...
}

This is explained in Section 13.9, and in many places online, such as here.

Use typedef's to clarify code using generic containers

The standard library containers are great for producing efficient robust code quickly. But the template notation can clutter up your code pretty quickly. Use typedef to define clear names for each container-based object. This will simplify the code overall, and make it much easier to change which container you're using.

So, instead of this

set<string> names;
for (set<string>::const_iterator i = names.begin;
     i != names.end();
     ++i)
{
  ...
}
set<string>::iterator found = find(names.begin(), names.end(), "John");
if (found != names.end()) {
  ...
}

Write this

typedef set<string> List;
typedef List::const_iterator ConstListIter;
typedef List::iterator ListIter;

for (ConstListIter i = names.begin; i != names.end();  ++i)
{
  ...
}

ListIter found = find(names.begin(), names.end(), "John");
if (found != names.end()) {
  ...
}

This becomes particularly useful with the map containers. See Chapter 22 in Deitel for more examples.


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