Thinking in C++ 2nd Edition

Thinking in C++ 2nd edition
VERSION TICA1
8

Revision history:

TICA18: July 29, 1999. Rewrote chapter 8 and added exercises. Replaced all later instances of the “enum hack” with static const (which breaks VC++ a lot, since they still haven’t implemented this relatively ancient and simple feature). Added compiler support for Visual C++ 6.0 (+Service Pack 3) (although this hasn’t been tested with Microsoft’s nmake; you may need to edit the makefiles, copy nmake.exe to make.exe, or locate a gnu make in order to get it to work). You can see the results in CompileDB.txt in Appendix D. Retested all code with Borland C++ Builder 4 plus the downloadable update, and with egcs from July 18, 1999. Cleaned up some code files that were not being automatically compiled because they didn’t have main( )s.

TICA17: June 27, 1999. Rewrote chapter 6 and added exercises. Rewrote chapter 7 and added exercises.

TICA16: June 1, 1999. Rewrote chapter 5 and added exercises. Modifications to chapter 19 before and after presentations at the SD conference. Added “Factories” section to design patterns chapter. Rechecked book code under May 24 build of egcs compiler.

TICA15: April 22, 1999. Rewrote chapter 4 and added exercises.

TICA14, March 28, 1999. Rewrote Chapter 2 and 3. I think they’re both finished. Chapter 3 is rather big since it covers C syntax fundamentals, along with some C++ basics. Added many exercises to Chapters 2 & 3, to complete them both. Chapter 3 was a “hump” chapter; I think the others in section one shouldn’t be as hard. Tried to conform all code in the book to the convention of “type names start with uppercase letters, functions and variables start with lowercase letters”.

TICA13, March 9, 1999. Thorough rewrite of chapter one, including the addition of UML diagrams. I think chapter one is finished, now. Reorganized material elsewhere in the book, but that is still in transit. My goal right now is to move through all the chapters in section one, in order.

TICA12, January 15, 1999. Lots of work done on the Design Patterns chapter. All the exsting programs are now modified and redesigned (significantly!) to compile under C++. Added several new examples. Much of the prose in this chapter still needs work, and more patterns and examples are forthcoming. Changed ExtractCode.cpp so that it generates “bugs” targets for each makefile, containing all the files that won’t compile with a particular compiler so they can be re-checked with new compilers. Generates a master in the book’s root directory called makefile.bugs which descends into each subdirectory and executes make with “bugs” as a target and the –i flag so you’ll see all the errors.

TICA11, January 7, 1999. Completed the STL Algorithms chapter (significant additions and changes), edited and added examples the STL containers chapter. Added many exercises at the ends of both chapters. I consider these both completed now. Added an example or two to the strings chapter.

TICA10, December 28, 1998. Complete rewrite of the ExtractCode.cpp program to automatically generate makefiles for each compiler that the book tests, excluding files that the compiler can’t handle (these are in a special list in the appendices, so you can see what breaks a compiler, and you can create your own). You now don’t need to extract the files yourself (although you still can, for special cases) but instead you just download and unzip a file. All the files in the book (with the exception of the files that are still in Java) now compile with at least one Standard C++ compiler. Added the trim.h, SiteMapConvert.cpp and StringCharReplace.cpp examples to the strings chapter. Added the ProgVals example to chapter 20. Removed all the strlwr( ) uses (it’s a non-standard function).

TICA9, December 15, 1998. Massive work completed on the STL Algorithms chapter; it’s quite close to being finished. The long delay was because (1) This chapter took a lot of research and thinking, including other research such as templates; you’ll notice the “advanced templates” chapter has more in it’s outline (2) I was traveling and giving seminars, etc. I’m entering a two-month hiatus where I’m primarily working on the book and should get a lot accomplished.

TICA8, September 26, 1998. Completed the STL containers chapter.

TICA7, August 14, 1998. Strings chapter modified. Other odds and ends.

TICA6, August 6, 1998. Strings chapter added, still needs some work but it’s in fairly good shape. The basic structure for the STL Algorithms chapter is in place and “just” needs to be filled out. Reorganized the chapters; this should be very close to the final organization (unless I discover I’ve left something out).

TICA5, August 2, 1998: Lots of work done on this version. Everything compiles (except for the design patterns chapter with the Java code) under Borland C++ 5.3. This is the only compiler that even comes close, but I have high hopes for the next verison of egcs. The chapters and organization of the book is starting to take on more form. A lot of work and new material added in the “STL Containers” chapter (in preparation for my STL talks at the Borland and SD conferences), although that is far from finished. Also, replaced many of the situations in the first edition where I used my home-grown containers with STL containers (typically vector). Changed all header includes to new style (except for C programs): <iostream> instead of <iostream.h>, <cstdlib> instead of <stdlib.h>, etc. Adjustment of namespace issues (“using namespace std” in cpp files, full qualification of names in header files). Added appendix A to describe coding style (including namespaces). Added “require.h” error testing code and used it universally. Rearranged header include order to go from more general to more specific (consistency and style issue described in appendix A). Replaced ‘main( ) {}’ form with ‘int main( ) { }’ form (this relies on the default “return 0” behavior, although some compilers, notably VC++, give warnings). Went through and implemented the class naming policy (following the Java/Smalltalk policy of starting with uppercase etc.) but not the member functions/data members (starting with lowercase etc.). Added appendix A on coding style. Tested code with my modified version of Borland C++ 5.3 (cribbed a corrected ostream_iterator from egcs and <sstream> from elsewhere) so not all the programs will compile with your compiler (VC++ in particular has a lot of trouble with namespaces). On the web site, I added the broken-up versions of the files for easier downloads.

TICA4, July 22, 1998: More changes and additions to the “CGI Programming” section at the end of Chapter 23. I think that section is finished now, with the exception of corrections.

TICA3, July 14, 1998: First revision with content editing (instead of just being a posting to test the formatting and code extraction process). Changes in the end of Chapter 23, on the “CGI Programming” section. Minor tweaks elsewhere. RTF format should be fixed now.

TICA2, July 9, 1998: Changed all fonts to Times and Courier (which are universal); changed distribution format to RTF (readable by most PC and Mac Word Processors, and by at least one on Linux: StarOffice from www.caldera.com. Please let me know if you know about other RTF word processors under Linux).

ToDo: Fix autobuild of make test makefile (remove backslashes); add test arguments (what about some kind of autofill via redirection?). Differentiate copy-assignment operator= from other forms of operator=. HorseRace game as example of random number generator in early chapter? Change header numbering scheme as suggested?

__________________________________________________________________________

The instructions on the web site (http://www.BruceEckel.com/ThinkingInCPP2e.html) show you how to extract code for both Win32 systems and Linux (only Red Hat Linux 5.0/5.1 has been tested). The contents of the book, including the contents of the source-code files generated during automatic code extraction, are not intended to indicate any accurate or finished form of the book or source code.

Please only add comments/corrections using the form found on http://www.BruceEckel.com/ThinkingInCPP2e.html

Please note that the book files are only available in Rich Text Format (RTF) or plain ASCII text without line breaks (that is, each paragraph is on a single line, so if you bring it into a typical text editor that does line wrapping, it will read decently). Please see the Web page for information about word processors that support RTF. The only fonts used are Times and Courier (so there should be no font difficulties); if you find any other fonts please report the location.

Thanks for your participation in this project.

Bruce Eckel

“This book is a tremendous achievement. You owe it to yourself to have a copy on your shelf. The chapter on iostreams is the most comprehensive and understandable treatment of that subject I’ve seen to date.”

Al Stevens
Contributing Editor, Doctor Dobbs Journal

“Eckel’s book is the only one to so clearly explain how to rethink program construction for object orientation. That the book is also an excellent tutorial on the ins and outs of C++ is an added bonus.”

Andrew Binstock
Editor, Unix Review

“Bruce continues to amaze me with his insight into C++, and Thinking in C++ is his best collection of ideas yet. If you want clear answers to difficult questions about C++, buy this outstanding book.”

Gary Entsminger
Author, The Tao of Objects

Thinking in C++ patiently and methodically explores the issues of when and how to use inlines, references, operator overloading, inheritance and dynamic objects, as well as advanced topics such as the proper use of templates, exceptions and multiple inheritance. The entire effort is woven in a fabric that includes Eckel’s own philosophy of object and program design. A must for every C++ developer’s bookshelf, Thinking in C++ is the one C++ book you must have if you’re doing serious development with C++.”

Richard Hale Shaw
Contributing Editor, PC Magazine

Thinking

In

C++

Bruce Eckel
President, MindView Inc.

clip_image002[4]

Prentice Hall PTR
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458
http://www.phptr.com
Publisher:
Alan Apt
Production Editor: Mona Pompilli
Development Editor:
Sondra Chavez
Book Design, Cover Design and Cover Photo:
Daniel Will-Harris, daniel@will-harris.com
Copy Editor:
Shirley Michaels
Production Coordinator:Lori Bulwin
Editorial Assistant: Shirley McGuire

clip_image003[4]© 1999 by Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc.
Published by Prentice Hall Inc.
A Paramount Communications Company
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632

The information in this book is distributed on an “as is” basis, without warranty. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, neither the author nor the publisher shall have any liability to any person or entitle with respect to any liability, loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by instructions contained in this book or by the computer software or hardware products described herein.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher or author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Any of the names used in the examples and text of this book are fictional; any relationship to persons living or dead or to fictional characters in other works is purely coincidental.

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN 0-13-917709-4

Prentice-Hall International (UK) Limited, London

Prentice-Hall of Australia Pty. Limited, Sydney

Prentice-Hall Canada, Inc., Toronto

Prentice-Hall Hisapnoamericana, S.A., Mexico

Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited, New Delhi

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Simon & Schuster Asia Pte. Ltd., Singapore

Editora Prentice-Hall do Brasil, Ltda., Rio de Janeiro
dedication

to the scholar, the healer, and the muse

What’s inside…

Thinking in C++ 2nd edition VERSION TICA17 1

Preface 17

Prerequisites…………………………….. 17

Thinking in C…………………………. 17

Learning C++…………………………… 18

Goals……………………………………….. 19

Chapters………………………………….. 20

Exercises………………………………….. 23

Source code……………………………… 24

Coding standards……………………. 25

Language standards………………… 26

Language support…………………… 26

Seminars & CD Roms……………… 26

Errors……………………………………….. 27

Acknowledgements…………………. 27

1: Introduction to objects 29

The progress of abstraction……… 29

An object has an interface………. 31

The hidden implementation…….. 33

Reusing the implementation…. 34

Inheritance: reusing the interface 35

Is-a vs. is-like-a relationships…… 39

Interchangeable objects with polymorphism 40

Creating and destroying objects. 43

Exception handling: dealing with errors 44

Analysis and design…………………. 45

Phase 0: Make a plan………………. 47

Phase 1: What are we making?….. 48

Phase 2: How will we build it?….. 50

Phase 3: Build it……………………… 53

Phase 4: Iteration……………………. 53

Plans pay off…………………………. 55

Why C++ succeeds………………….. 55

A better C……………………………… 56

You’re already on the learning curve 56

Efficiency……………………………… 56

Systems are easier to express and understand 57

Maximal leverage with libraries… 57

Source-code reuse with templates 57

Error handling……………………….. 57

Programming in the large…………. 58

Strategies for transition……………. 58

Guidelines…………………………….. 58

Management obstacles…………….. 60

Summary…………………………………. 61

2: Making & using objects 63

The process of language translation 63

Interpreters……………………………. 64

Compilers……………………………… 64

The compilation process………….. 65

Tools for separate compilation… 66

Declarations vs. definitions……… 67

Linking…………………………………. 71

Using libraries……………………….. 72

Your first C++ program……………. 73

Using the iostreams class…………. 73

Namespaces…………………………… 74

Fundamentals of program structure 75

“Hello, world!”………………………. 76

Running the compiler………………. 77

More about iostreams……………… 77

Character array concatenation…… 78

Reading input…………………………. 78

Simple file manipulation………….. 79

Introducing strings………………….. 80

Reading and writing files…………. 82

Introducing vector…………………… 84

Summary…………………………………. 87

Exercises………………………………….. 88

3: The C in C++ 91

Creating functions…………………… 91

Using the C function library……… 92

Creating your own libraries with the librarian 92

Controlling execution………………. 92

True and false………………………… 92

if-else……………………………………. 92

while…………………………………….. 92

do-while……………………………….. 92

for……………………………………….. 92

The break and continue Keywords 92

switch…………………………………… 92

Recursion……………………………… 92

Introduction to operators………… 92

Precedence…………………………….. 92

Auto increment and decrement…. 92

Introduction to data types………. 92

Basic built-in types…………………. 92

bool, true, & false………………….. 92

Specifiers………………………………. 92

Introduction to Pointers…………… 92

Modifying the outside object……. 92

Introduction to C++ references…. 92

Pointers and references as modifiers…….. 92

Scoping……………………………………. 92

Defining variables on the fly…….. 92

Specifying storage allocation…… 92

Global variables……………………… 92

Local variables………………………. 92

static……………………………………. 92

extern…………………………………… 92

Constants………………………………. 92

volatile…………………………………. 92

Operators and their use……………. 92

Assignment……………………………. 92

Mathematical operators……………. 92

Relational operators………………… 92

Logical operators……………………. 92

Bitwise operators……………………. 92

Shift operators……………………….. 92

Unary operators……………………… 92

The ternary operator……………….. 92

The comma operator……………….. 92

Common pitfalls when using operators 92

Casting operators……………………. 92

sizeof – an operator by itself…….. 92

The asm keyword…………………… 92

Explicit operators…………………… 92

Composite type creation…………. 92

Aliasing names with typedef…….. 92

Combining variables with struct.. 92

Clarifying programs with enum…. 92

Saving memory with union………. 92

Arrays………………………………….. 92

Debugging hints……………………….. 92

Debugging flags……………………… 92

Turning variables and expressions into strings 92

The C assert( ) macro……………… 92

Make: an essential tool for separate compilation 92

Make activities……………………….. 92

Makefiles in this book…………….. 92

An example makefile………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

4: Data abstraction 92

A tiny C-like library………………….. 92

Dynamic storage allocation………. 92

Bad guesses…………………………… 92

What’s wrong?…………………………. 92

The basic object………………………. 92

What’s an object?……………………. 92

Abstract data typing………………… 92

Object details…………………………… 92

Header file etiquette………………… 92

Importance of header files……….. 92

The multiple‑declaration problem 92

The preprocessor directives #define, #ifdef and #endif 92

A standard for header files………. 92

Namespaces in headers……………. 92

Using headers in projects…………. 92

Nested structures……………………… 92

Global scope resolution…………… 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

5: Hiding the implementation 92

Setting limits…………………………….. 92

C++ access control…………………… 92

protected………………………………. 92

Friends……………………………………… 92

Nested friends……………………….. 92

Is it pure?……………………………… 92

Object layout…………………………… 92

The class………………………………….. 92

Modifying Stash to use access control 92

Modifying Stack to use access control 92

Handle classes…………………………. 92

Hiding the implementation……….. 92

Reducing recompilation…………… 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

6: Initialization & cleanup 92

Guaranteed initialization with the constructor 92

Guaranteed cleanup with the destructor 92

Elimination of the definition block 92

for loops………………………………. 92

Storage allocation……………………. 92

Stash with constructors and destructors 92

Stack with constructors & destructors 92

Aggregate initialization……………. 92

Default constructors………………… 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

7: Function overloading & default arguments 92

More name decoration……………. 92

Overloading on return values……. 92

Type-safe linkage…………………… 92

Overloading example………………. 92

unions………………………………………. 92

Default arguments…………………… 92

Placeholder arguments…………….. 92

Choosing overloading vs. default arguments 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

8: Constants 92

Value substitution……………………. 92

const in header files………………… 92

Safety consts…………………………. 92

Aggregates…………………………….. 92

Differences with C………………….. 92

Pointers……………………………………. 92

Pointer to const………………………. 92

const pointer………………………….. 92

Assignment and type checking….. 92

Function arguments & return values 92

Passing by const value…………….. 92

Returning by const value…………. 92

Passing and returning addresses.. 92

Classes…………………………………….. 92

const and enum in classes……….. 92

Compile-time constants in classes 92

const objects & member functions 92

ROMability……………………………. 92

volatile……………………………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

9: Inline functions 92

Preprocessor pitfalls…………………. 92

Macros and access………………….. 92

Inline functions……………………….. 92

Inlines inside classes………………. 92

Access functions……………………. 92

Stash & Stack with inlines……….. 92

Inlines & the compiler……………… 92

Limitations……………………………. 92

Order of evaluation…………………. 92

Hidden activities in constructors & destructors 92

Forward referencing…………………. 92

Reducing clutter………………………. 92

More preprocessor features……… 92

Token pasting………………………… 92

Improved error checking…………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

10: Name control 92

Static elements from C……………. 92

static variables inside functions.. 92

Controlling linkage………………….. 92

Other storage class specifiers……. 92

Namespaces…………………………….. 92

Creating a namespace………………. 92

Using a namespace…………………. 92

Static members in C++…………….. 92

Defining storage for static data members 92

Nested and local classes………….. 92

static member functions………….. 92

Static initialization dependency. 92

What to do…………………………….. 92

Alternate linkage specifications. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

11: References & the copy-constructor 92

Pointers in C++………………………… 92

References in C++……………………. 92

References in functions…………… 92

Argument-passing guidelines……. 92

The copy-constructor………………. 92

Passing & returning by value……. 92

Copy-construction………………….. 92

Default copy-constructor…………. 92

Alternatives to copy-construction 92

Pointers to members………………… 92

Functions………………………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

12: Operator overloading 92

Warning & reassurance……………. 92

Syntax……………………………………… 92

Overloadable operators…………… 92

Unary operators……………………… 92

Binary operators…………………….. 92

Arguments & return values………. 92

Unusual operators………………….. 92

Operators you can’t overload…… 92

Nonmember operators…………….. 92

Basic guidelines……………………… 92

Overloading assignment………….. 92

Behavior of operator=……………. 92

Automatic type conversion……… 92

Constructor conversion…………… 92

Operator conversion……………….. 92

A perfect example: strings……….. 92

Pitfalls in automatic type conversion…….. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

13: Dynamic object creation 92

Object creation………………………… 92

C’s approach to the heap…………. 92

operator new………………………… 92

operator delete……………………… 92

A simple example…………………… 92

Memory manager overhead……… 92

Early examples redesigned………. 92

Stash for pointers…………………… 92

The stack………………………………. 92

new & delete for arrays…………… 92

Making a pointer more like an array 92

Running out of storage……………. 92

Overloading new & delete……….. 92

Overloading global new & delete. 92

Overloading new & delete for a class 92

Overloading new & delete for arrays…….. 92

Constructor calls…………………….. 92

Object placement……………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

14: Inheritance & composition 92

Composition syntax………………… 92

Inheritance syntax…………………… 92

The constructor initializer list…… 92

Member object initialization……… 92

Built-in types in the initializer list 92

Combining composition & inheritance 92

Order of constructor & destructor calls 92

Name hiding………………………….. 92

Functions that don’t automatically inherit 92

Choosing composition vs. inheritance 92

Subtyping……………………………… 92

Specialization…………………………. 92

private inheritance…………………. 92

protected…………………………………. 92

protected inheritance………………. 92

Multiple inheritance…………………. 92

Incremental development……….. 92

Upcasting…………………………………. 92

Why “upcasting”?…………………… 92

Upcasting and the copy-constructor (not indexed) 92

Composition vs. inheritance (revisited) 92

Pointer & reference upcasting…… 92

A crisis…………………………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

15: Polymorphism & virtual functions 92

Evolution of C++ programmers… 92

Upcasting…………………………………. 92

The problem…………………………….. 92

Function call binding………………. 92

virtual functions……………………… 92

Extensibility………………………….. 92

How C++ implements late binding 92

Storing type information………….. 92

Picturing virtual functions………… 92

Under the hood………………………. 92

Installing the vpointer……………… 92

Objects are different……………….. 92

Why virtual functions?…………… 92

Abstract base classes and pure virtual functions 92

Pure virtual definitions…………… 92

Inheritance and the VTABLE…. 92

virtual functions & constructors 92

Order of constructor calls………… 92

Behavior of virtual functions inside constructors 92

Destructors and virtual destructors…….. 92

Virtuals in destructors…………….. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

16: Introduction to templates 92

Containers & iterators……………… 92

The need for containers…………… 92

Overview of templates…………….. 92

The C approach……………………… 92

The Smalltalk approach…………… 92

The template approach…………….. 92

Template syntax……………………… 92

Non-inline function definitions…. 92

The stack as a template……………. 92

Constants in templates…………….. 92

Stash and stack as templates.. 92

The ownership problem…………… 92

Stash as a template…………………. 92

stack as a template………………….. 92

Polymorphism & containers……. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

Part 2: The Standard C++ Library 92

Library overview……………………… 92

17: Strings 92

What’s in a string……………………… 92

Creating and initializing C++ strings 92

Operating on strings…………………. 92

Appending, inserting and concatenating strings 92

Replacing string characters……….. 92

Concatenation using non-member overloaded operators 92

Searching in strings………………….. 92

Finding in reverse…………………… 92

Finding first/last of a set………….. 92

Removing characters from strings 92

Comparing strings…………………… 92

Using iterators……………………….. 92

Strings and character traits……….. 92

A string application………………….. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

18: Iostreams 92

Why iostreams?……………………….. 92

True wrapping……………………….. 92

Iostreams to the rescue……………. 92

Sneak preview of operator overloading 92

Inserters and extractors…………… 92

Common usage………………………. 92

Line-oriented input…………………. 92

File iostreams…………………………… 92

Open modes………………………….. 92

Iostream buffering…………………… 92

Using get( ) with a streambuf…… 92

Seeking in iostreams………………… 92

Creating read/write files…………… 92

stringstreams……………………………. 92

strstreams………………………………… 92

User-allocated storage……………… 92

Automatic storage allocation…….. 92

Output stream formatting……….. 92

Internal formatting data……………. 92

An exhaustive example……………. 92

Formatting manipulators…………. 92

Manipulators with arguments……. 92

Creating manipulators…………….. 92

Effectors……………………………….. 92

Iostream examples………………….. 92

Code generation……………………… 92

A simple datalogger………………… 92

Counting editor………………………. 92

Breaking up big files……………….. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

19: Templates in depth 92

Nontype template arguments….. 92

Default template arguments……. 92

The typename keyword…………… 92

Typedefing a typename……………. 92

Using typename instead of class.. 92

Function templates………………….. 92

A memory allocation system……. 92

Type induction in function templates 92

Taking the address of a generated function template 92

Applying a function to an STL sequence 92

Template-templates…………………. 92

Member function templates……. 92

Why virtual member template functions are disallowed 92

Nested template classes…………… 92

Template specializations…………. 92

Full specialization…………………… 92

Partial Specialization……………….. 92

A practical example………………… 92

Design & efficiency………………… 92

Preventing template bloat…………. 92

Explicit instantiation……………….. 92

Explicit specification of template functions 92

Controlling template instantiation 92

The inclusion vs. separation models 92

The export keyword……………….. 92

Template programming idioms.. 92

The “curiously-recurring template” 92

Traits……………………………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

20: STL Containers & Iterators 92

Containers and iterators………….. 92

STL reference documentation…… 92

The Standard Template Library. 92

The basic concepts………………….. 92

Containers of strings………………… 92

Inheriting from STL containers.. 92

A plethora of iterators……………… 92

Iterators in reversible containers.. 92

Iterator categories…………………… 92

Predefined iterators…………………. 92

Basic sequences: vector, list & deque 92

Basic sequence operations……….. 92

vector………………………………………. 92

Cost of overflowing allocated storage 92

Inserting and erasing elements….. 92

deque……………………………………….. 92

Converting between sequences…. 92

Cost of overflowing allocated storage 92

Checked random-access………….. 92

list…………………………………………….. 92

Special list operations……………… 92

Swapping all basic sequences…… 92

Robustness of lists…………………. 92

Performance comparison………… 92

set…………………………………………….. 92

Eliminating strtok( )……………….. 92

StreamTokenizer: a more flexible solution 92

A completely reusable tokenizer.. 92

stack………………………………………… 92

queue……………………………………….. 92

Priority queues…………………………. 92

Holding bits……………………………… 92

bitset<n>………………………………. 92

vector<bool>…………………………. 92

Associative containers…………….. 92

Generators and fillers for associative containers 92

The magic of maps…………………. 92

Multimaps and duplicate keys….. 92

Multisets……………………………….. 92

Combining STL containers……… 92

Cleaning up containers of pointers 92

Creating your own containers….. 92

Freely-available STL extensions 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

21: STL Algorithms 92

Function objects………………………. 92

Classification of function objects. 92

Automatic creation of function objects 92

SGI extensions………………………. 92

A catalog of STL algorithms……. 92

Support tools for example creation 92

Filling & generating…………………. 92

Counting……………………………….. 92

Manipulating sequences…………… 92

Searching & replacing……………… 92

Comparing ranges…………………… 92

Removing elements…………………. 92

Sorting and operations on sorted ranges 92

Heap operations……………………… 92

Applying an operation to each element in a range 92

Numeric algorithms………………… 92

General utilities………………………. 92

Creating your own STL-style algorithms 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

Part 3: Advanced Topics 92

22: Multiple inheritance 92

Perspective………………………………. 92

Duplicate subobjects……………….. 92

Ambiguous upcasting………………. 92

virtual base classes…………………. 92

The “most derived” class and virtual base initialization 92

“Tying off” virtual bases with a default constructor 92

Overhead…………………………………. 92

Upcasting…………………………………. 92

Persistence…………………………….. 92

Avoiding MI…………………………….. 92

Repairing an interface……………… 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

23: Exception handling 92

Error handling in C…………………… 92

Throwing an exception……………. 92

Catching an exception…………….. 92

The try block………………………… 92

Exception handlers…………………. 92

The exception specification……… 92

Better exception specifications?… 92

Catching any exception……………. 92

Rethrowing an exception………….. 92

Uncaught exceptions……………….. 92

Function-level try blocks…………. 92

Cleaning up……………………………… 92

Constructors…………………………….. 92

Making everything an object…….. 92

Exception matching………………… 92

Standard exceptions………………… 92

Programming with exceptions…. 92

When to avoid exceptions………… 92

Typical uses of exceptions………. 92

Overhead…………………………………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

24: Run-time type identification 92

The “Shape” example……………… 92

What is RTTI?…………………………. 92

Two syntaxes for RTTI…………… 92

Syntax specifics………………………. 92

typeid( ) with built-in types……… 92

Producing the proper type name.. 92

Nonpolymorphic types……………. 92

Casting to intermediate levels……. 92

void pointers…………………………. 92

Using RTTI with templates………. 92

References……………………………….. 92

Exceptions…………………………….. 92

Multiple inheritance…………………. 92

Sensible uses for RTTI…………….. 92

Revisiting the trash recycler……… 92

Mechanism & overhead of RTTI 92

Creating your own RTTI………….. 92

Explicit cast syntax…………………. 92

static_cast…………………………….. 92

const_cast…………………………….. 92

reinterpret_cast…………………….. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

XX: Maintaining system integrity 92

The canonical object form………. 92

An extended canonical form…….. 92

Dynamic aggregation………………. 92

Reference counting………………….. 92

Reference-counted class hierarchies 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

25: Design patterns 92

The pattern concept………………… 92

The singleton…………………………. 92

Classifying patterns…………………. 92

Features, idioms, patterns………… 92

Basic complexity hiding…………… 92

Factories: encapsulating object creation 92

Polymorphic factories……………… 92

Abstract factories……………………. 92

Virtual constructors………………… 92

Callbacks…………………………………. 92

Functor/Command………………….. 92

Strategy…………………………………. 92

Observer……………………………….. 92

Multiple dispatching………………… 92

Visitor, a type of multiple dispatching 92

Efficiency………………………………… 92

Flyweight………………………………. 92

The composite…………………………. 92

Evolving a design: the trash recycler 92

Improving the design……………….. 92

“Make more objects”………………. 92

A pattern for prototyping creation 92

Abstracting usage…………………….. 92

Applying double dispatching…… 92

Implementing the double dispatch 92

Applying the visitor pattern……… 92

RTTI considered harmful?………. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

26: Tools & topics 92

The code extractor…………………… 92

Debugging………………………………… 92

assert( )………………………………… 92

Trace macros…………………………. 92

Trace file………………………………. 92

Abstract base class for debugging 92

Tracking new/delete & malloc/free 92

CGI programming in C++………… 92

Encoding data for CGI…………….. 92

The CGI parser………………………. 92

Using POST…………………………… 92

Handling mailing lists……………… 92

A general information-extraction CGI program 92

Parsing the data files……………….. 92

Summary…………………………………. 92

Exercises………………………………….. 92

A: Coding style 92

File names……………………………….. 92

Begin and end comment tags….. 92

Parens, braces and indentation.. 92

Order of header inclusion………… 92

Include guards on header files…. 92

Use of namespaces………………….. 92

Use of require( ) and assure( )… 92

B: Programming guidelines 92

C: Recommended reading 92

C………………………………………………. 92

General C++…………………………….. 92

My own list of books……………… 92

Depth & dark corners………………. 92

Analysis & Design……………………. 92

The STL…………………………………… 92

Design Patterns………………………… 92

D:Compiler specifics 92

Index 92

Preface

Like any human language, C++ provides a way to express concepts. If successful, this medium of expression will be significantly easier and more flexible than the alternatives as problems grow larger and more complex.

You can’t just look at C++ as a collection of features; some of the features make no sense in isolation. You can only use the sum of the parts if you are thinking about design, not simply coding. And to understand C++ in this way, you must understand the problems with C and with programming in general. This book discusses programming problems, why they are problems, and the approach C++ has taken to solve such problems. Thus, the set of features I explain in each chapter will be based on the way I see a particular type of problem being solved with the language. In this way I hope to move you, a little at a time, from understanding C to the point where the C++ mindset becomes your native tongue.

Throughout, I’ll be taking the attitude that you want to build a model in your head that allows you to understand the language all the way down to the bare metal; if you encounter a puzzle you’ll be able to feed it to your model and deduce the answer. I will try to convey to you the insights which have rearranged my brain to make me start “thinking in C++.”

Prerequisites

In the first edition of this book, I decided to assume that someone else had taught you C and that you have at least a reading level of comfort with it. My primary focus was on simplifying what I found difficult – the C++ language. In this edition I have added a chapter that is a very rapid introduction to C, assuming that you have some kind of programming experience already. In addition, just as you learn many new words intuitively by seeing them in context in a novel, it’s possible to learn a great deal about C from the context in which it is used in the rest of the book.

Thinking in C

For those of you who need a gentler introduction to C than the chapter in this book, I have created with Chuck Allison a CD ROM called “Thinking in C: foundations for Java and C++” which will introduce you to the aspects of C that are necessary for you to move on to C++ or Java (leaving out the nasty bits that C programmers must deal with on a day-to-day basis but that the C++ and Java languages steer you away from). This CD can be ordered at http://www.BruceEckel.com. [Note: the CD will not be available until late Fall 98, at the earliest – watch the Web site for updates]

Learning C++

I clawed my way into C++ from exactly the same position as I expect the readers of this book will: As a C programmer with a very no-nonsense, nuts-and-bolts attitude about programming. Worse, my background and experience was in hardware-level embedded programming, where C has often been considered a high-level language and an inefficient overkill for pushing bits around. I discovered later that I wasn’t even a very good C programmer, hiding my ignorance of structures, malloc( ) & free( ), setjmp( ) & longjmp( ), and other “sophisticated” concepts, scuttling away in shame when the subjects came up in conversation rather than reaching out for new knowledge.

When I began my struggle to understand C++, the only decent book was Stroustrup’s self-professed “expert’s guide,[1] ” so I was left to simplify the basic concepts on my own. This resulted in my first C++ book,[2] which was essentially a brain dump of my experience. That was designed as a reader’s guide, to bring programmers into C and C++ at the same time. Both editions[3] of the book garnered an enthusiastic response and I still feel it is a valuable resource.

At about the same time that Using C++ came out, I began teaching the language. Teaching C++ has become my profession; I’ve seen nodding heads, blank faces, and puzzled expressions in audiences all over the world since 1989. As I began giving in-house training with smaller groups of people, I discovered something during the exercises. Even those people who were smiling and nodding were confused about many issues. I found out, by chairing the C++ track at the Software Development Conference for the last three years, that I and other speakers tended to give the typical audience too many topics, too fast. So eventually, through both variety in the audience level and the way that I presented the material, I would end up losing some portion of the audience. Maybe it’s asking too much, but because I am one of those people resistant to traditional lecturing (and for most people, I believe, such resistance results from boredom), I wanted to try to keep everyone up to speed.

For a time, I was creating a number of different presentations in fairly short order. Thus, I ended up learning by experiment and iteration (a technique that also works well in C++ program design). Eventually I developed a course using everything I had learned from my teaching experience, one I would be happy giving for a long time. It tackles the learning problem in discrete, easy-to-digest steps and for a hands-on seminar (the ideal learning situation), there are exercises following each of the short lessons.

This book developed over the course of two years, and the material in this book has been road-tested in many forms in many different seminars. The feedback that I’ve gotten from each seminar has helped me change and refocus the material until I feel it works well as a teaching medium. But it isn’t just a seminar handout – I tried to pack as much information as I could within these pages, and structure it to draw you through, onto the next subject. More than anything, the book is designed to serve the solitary reader, struggling with a new programming language.

Goals

My goals in this book are to:

1. Present the material a simple step at a time, so the reader can easily digest each concept before moving on.

2. Use examples that are as simple and short as possible. This sometimes prevents me from tackling “real-world” problems,
but I’ve found that beginners are usually happier when they can understand every detail of an example rather than being impressed by the scope of the problem it solves. Also, there’s a severe limit to the amount of code that can be absorbed in a classroom situation. For this I will no doubt receive criticism for using “toy examples,” but I’m willing to accept that in favor of producing something pedagogically useful. Those who want more complex examples can refer to the later chapters of C++ Inside & Out.[4]

3. Carefully sequence the presentation of features so that you aren’t seeing something you haven’t been exposed to. Of course, this isn’t always possible; in those situations, a brief introductory description will be given.

4. Give you what I think is important for you to understand about the language, rather than everything I know. I believe there is an “information importance hierarchy,” and there are some facts that 95% of programmers will never need to know, but would just confuse people and add to their perception of the complexity of the language – and C++ is now considered to be more complex than ADA! To take an example from C, if you memorize the operator precedence table (I never did) you can write clever code. But if you have to think about it, it will confuse the reader/maintainer of that code. So forget about precedence, and use parentheses when things aren’t clear. This same attitude will be taken with some information in the C++ language, which I think is more important for compiler writers than for programmers.

5. Keep each section focused enough so the lecture time – and the time between exercise periods – is small. Not only does this keep the audience’ minds more active and involved during a hands-on seminar, but it gives the reader a greater sense of accomplishment.

6. Provide the reader with a solid foundation so they can understand the issues well enough to move on to more difficult coursework and books.

7. I’ve endeavored not to use any particular vendor’s version of C++ because, for learning the language, I don’t feel like the details of a particular implementation are as important as the language itself. Most vendors’ documentation concerning their own implementation specifics is adequate.

Chapters

C++ is a language where new and different features are built on top of an existing syntax. (Because of this it is referred to as a hybrid object-oriented programming language.) As more people have passed through the learning curve, we’ve begun to get a feel for the way C programmers move through the stages of the C++ language features. Because it appears to be the natural progression of the C-trained mind, I decided to understand and follow this same path, and accelerate the process by posing and answering the questions that came to me as I learned the language and that came from audiences as I taught it.

This course was designed with one thing in mind: the way people learn the C++ language. Audience feedback helped me understand which parts were difficult and needed extra illumination. In the areas where I got ambitious and included too many features all at once, I came to know – through the process of presenting the material – that if you include a lot of new features, you have to explain them all, and the student’s confusion is easily compounded. As a result, I’ve taken a great deal of trouble to introduce the features as few at a time as possible; ideally, only one at a time per chapter.

The goal, then, is for each chapter to teach a single feature, or a small group of associated features, in such a way that no additional features are relied upon. That way you can digest each piece in the context of your current knowledge before moving on. To accomplish this, I leave many C features in place much longer than I would prefer. For example, I would like to be using the C++ iostreams IO library right away, instead of using the printf( ) family of functions so familiar to C programmers, but that would require introducing the subject prematurely, and so many of the early chapters carry the C library functions with them. This is also true with many other features in the language. The benefit is that you, the C programmer, will not be confused by seeing all the C++ features used before they are explained, so your introduction to the language will be gentle and will mirror the way you will assimilate the features if left to your own devices.

Here is a brief description of the chapters contained in this book [[ Please note this section will not be updated until all the chapters are in place ]]

(0) The evolution of objects. When projects became too big and too complicated to easily maintain, the “software crisis” was born, saying, “We can’t get projects done, and if we can they’re too expensive!” This precipitated a number of responses, which are discussed in this chapter along with the ideas of object-oriented programming (OOP) and how it attempts to solve the software crisis. You’ll also learn about the benefits and concerns of adopting the language and suggestions for moving into the world of C++.

(1) Data abstraction. Most features in C++ revolve around this key concept: the ability to create new data types. Not only does this provide superior code organization, but it lays the ground for more powerful OOP abilities. You’ll see how this idea is facilitated by the simple act of putting functions inside structures, the details of how to do it, and what kind of code it creates.

(2) Hiding the implementation. You can decide that some of the data and functions in your structure are unavailable to the user of the new type by making them private. This means you can separate the underlying implementation from the interface that the client programmer sees, and thus allow that implementation to be easily changed without affecting client code. The keyword class is also introduced as a fancier way to describe a new data type, and the meaning of the word “object” is demystified (it’s a variable on steroids).

(3) Initialization & cleanup. One of the most common C errors results from uninitialized variables. The constructor in C++ allows you to guarantee that variables of your new data type (“objects of your class”) will always be properly initialized. If your objects also require some sort of cleanup, you can guarantee that this cleanup will always happen with the C++ destructor.

(4) Function overloading & default arguments. C++ is intended to help you build big, complex projects. While doing this, you may bring in multiple libraries that use the same function name, and you may also choose to use the same name with different meanings within a single library. C++ makes this easy with function overloading, which allows you to reuse the same function name as long as the argument lists are different. Default arguments allow you to call the same function in different ways by automatically providing default values for some of your arguments.

(5) Introduction to iostreams. One of the original C++ libraries – the one that provides the essential I/O facility – is called iostreams. Iostreams is intended to replace C’s stdio.h with an I/O library that is easier to use, more flexible, and extensible – you can adapt it to work with your new classes. This chapter teaches you the ins and outs of how to make the best use of the existing iostream library for standard I/O, file I/O, and in-memory formatting.

(6) Constants. This chapter covers the const and volatile keywords that have additional meaning in C++, especially inside classes. It also shows how the meaning of const varies inside and outside classes and how to create compile-time constants in classes.

(7) Inline functions. Preprocessor macros eliminate function call overhead, but the preprocessor also eliminates valuable C++ type checking. The inline function gives you all the benefits of a preprocessor macro plus all the benefits of a real function call.

(8) Name control. Creating names is a fundamental activity in programming, and when a project gets large, the number of names can be overwhelming. C++ allows you a great deal of control over names: creation, visibility, placement of storage, and linkage. This chapter shows how names are controlled using two techniques. First, the static keyword is used to control visibility and linkage, and its special meaning with classes is explored. A far more useful technique for controlling names at the global scope is C++’s namespace feature, which allows you to break up the global name space into distinct regions.

(9) References & the copy-constructor. C++ pointers work like C pointers with the additional benefit of stronger C++ type checking. There’s a new way to handle addresses; from Algol and Pascal, C++ lifts the reference which lets the compiler handle the address manipulation while you use ordinary notation. You’ll also meet the copy-constructor, which controls the way objects are passed into and out of functions by value. Finally, the C++ pointer-to-member is illuminated.

(10) Operator overloading. This feature is sometimes called “syntactic sugar.” It lets you sweeten the syntax for using your type by allowing operators as well as function calls. In this chapter you’ll learn that operator overloading is just a different type of function call and how to write your own, especially the sometimes-confusing uses of arguments, return types, and making an operator a member or friend.

(11) Dynamic object creation. How many planes will an air-traffic system have to handle? How many shapes will a CAD system need? In the general programming problem, you can’t know the quantity, lifetime or type of the objects needed by your running program. In this chapter, you’ll learn how C++’s new and delete elegantly solve this problem by safely creating objects on the heap.

(12) Inheritance & composition. Data abstraction allows you to create new types from scratch; with composition and inheritance, you can create new types from existing types. With composition you assemble a new type using other types as pieces, and with inheritance you create a more specific version of an existing type. In this chapter you’ll learn the syntax, how to redefine functions, and the importance of construction and destruction for inheritance & composition.

(13) Polymorphism & virtual functions. On your own, you might take nine months to discover and understand this cornerstone of OOP. Through small, simple examples you’ll see how to create a family of types with inheritance and manipulate objects in that family through their common base class. The virtual keyword allows you to treat all objects in this family generically, which means the bulk of your code doesn’t rely on specific type information. This makes your programs extensible, so building programs and code maintenance is easier and cheaper.

(14) Templates & container classes. Inheritance and composition allow you to reuse object code, but that doesn’t solve all your reuse needs. Templates allow you to reuse source code by providing the compiler with a way to substitute type names in the body of a class or function. This supports the use of container class libraries, which are important tools for the rapid, robust development of object-oriented programs. This extensive chapter gives you a thorough grounding in this essential subject.

(15) Multiple inheritance. This sounds simple at first: A new class is inherited from more than one existing class. However, you can end up with ambiguities and multiple copies of base-class objects. That problem is solved with virtual base classes, but the bigger issue remains: When do you use it? Multiple inheritance is only essential when you need to manipulate an object through more than one common base class. This chapter explains the syntax for multiple inheritance, and shows alternative approaches – in particular, how templates solve one common problem. The use of multiple inheritance to repair a “damaged” class interface is demonstrated as a genuinely valuable use of this feature.

(16) Exception handling. Error handling has always been a problem in programming. Even if you dutifully return error information or set a flag, the function caller may simply ignore it. Exception handling is a primary feature in C++ that solves this problem by allowing you to “throw” an object out of your function when a critical error happens. You throw different types of objects for different errors, and the function caller “catches” these objects in separate error handling routines. If you throw an exception, it cannot be ignored, so you can guarantee that something will happen in response to your error.

(17) Run-time type identification. Run-time type identification (RTTI) lets you find the exact type of an object when you only have a pointer or reference to the base type. Normally, you’ll want to intentionally ignore the exact type of an object and let the virtual function mechanism implement the correct behavior for that type. But occasionally it is very helpful to know the exact type of an object for which you only have a base pointer; often this information allows you to perform a special-case operation more efficiently. This chapter explains what RTTI is for and how to use it.

Exercises

I’ve discovered that simple exercises are exceptionally useful during a seminar to complete a student’s understanding, so you’ll find a set at the end of each chapter.

These are fairly simple, so they can be finished in a reasonable amount of time in a classroom situation while the instructor observes, making sure all the students are absorbing the material. Some exercises are a bit more challenging to keep advanced students entertained. They’re all designed to be solved in a short time and are only there to test and polish your knowledge rather than present major challenges (presumably, you’ll find those on your own – or more likely they’ll find you).

Source code

The source code for this book is copyrighted freeware, distributed via the web site http://www.BruceEckel.com. The copyright prevents you from republishing the code in print media without permission.

To unpack the code, you download the text version of the book and run the program ExtractCode (from chapter 23), the source for which is also provided on the Web site. The program will create a directory for each chapter and unpack the code into those directories. In the starting directory where you unpacked the code you will find the following copyright notice:

//:! :CopyRight.txt

Copyright (c) Bruce Eckel, 1999

Source code file from the book “Thinking in C++”

All rights reserved EXCEPT as allowed by the

following statements: You can freely use this file

for your own work (personal or commercial),

including modifications and distribution in

executable form only. Permission is granted to use

this file in classroom situations, including its

use in presentation materials, as long as the book

“Thinking in C++” is cited as the source.

Except in classroom situations, you cannot copy

and distribute this code; instead, the sole

distribution point is http://www.BruceEckel.com

(and official mirror sites) where it is

freely available. You cannot remove this

copyright and notice. You cannot distribute

modified versions of the source code in this

package. You cannot use this file in printed

media without the express permission of the

author. Bruce Eckel makes no representation about

the suitability of this software for any purpose.

It is provided “as is” without express or implied

warranty of any kind, including any implied

warranty of merchantability, fitness for a

particular purpose or non-infringement. The entire

risk as to the quality and performance of the

software is with you. Bruce Eckel and the

publisher shall not be liable for any damages

suffered by you or any third party as a result of

using or distributing software. In no event will

Bruce Eckel or the publisher be liable for any

lost revenue, profit, or data, or for direct,

indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or

punitive damages, however caused and regardless of

the theory of liability, arising out of the use of

or inability to use software, even if Bruce Eckel

and the publisher have been advised of the

possibility of such damages. Should the software

prove defective, you assume the cost of all

necessary servicing, repair, or correction. If you

think you’ve found an error, please submit the

correction using the form you will find at

http://www.BruceEckel.com. (Please use the same

form for non-code errors found in the book.)

///:~

You may use the code in your projects and in the classroom as long as the copyright notice is retained.

Coding standards

In the text of this book, identifiers (function, variable, and class names) will be set in bold. Most keywords will also be set in bold, except for those keywords which are used so much that the bolding can become tedious, like class and virtual.

I use a particular coding style for the examples in this book. It was developed over a number of years, and was inspired by Bjarne Stroustrup’s style in his original The C++ Programming Language.[5] The subject of formatting style is good for hours of hot debate, so I’ll just say I’m not trying to dictate correct style via my examples; I have my own motivation for using the style that I do. Because C++ is a free-form programming language, you can continue to use whatever style you’re comfortable with.

The programs in this book are files that are automatically extracted from the text of the book, which allows them to be tested to ensure they work correctly. (I use a special format on the first line of each file to facilitate this extraction; the line begins with the characters ‘/’ ‘/’:’ and the file name and path information.) Thus, the code files printed in the book should all work without compiler errors when compiled with an implementation that conforms to Standard C++ (note that not all compilers support all language features). The errors that should cause compile-time error messages are commented out with the comment //! so they can be easily discovered and tested using automatic means. Errors discovered and reported to the author will appear first in the electronic version of the book (at http://www.BruceEckel.com) and later in updates of the book.

One of the standards in this book is that all programs will compile and link without errors (although they will sometimes cause warnings). To this end, some of the programs, which only demonstrate a coding example and don’t represent stand-alone programs, will have empty main( ) functions, like this

int main() {}

This allows the linker to complete without an error.

The standard for main( ) is to return an int, but Standard C++ states that if there is no return statement inside main( ), the compiler will automatically generate code to return 0. This option will be used in this book (although some compilers may still generate warnings for this).

Language standards

Throughout this book, when referring to conformance to the ANSI/ISO C standard, I will generally just say ‘C.’ Only if it is necessary to distinguish between Standard C and older, pre-Standard versions of C will I make the distinction.

At this writing the ANSI/ISO C++ committee was finished working on the language. Thus, I will use the term Standard C++ to refer to the standardized language. If I simply refer to C++ you should assume I mean “Standard C++.”

Language support

Your compiler may not support all the features discussed in this book, especially if you don’t have the newest version of your compiler. Implementing a language like C++ is a Herculean task, and you can expect that the features will appear in pieces rather than all at once. But if you attempt one of the examples in the book and get a lot of errors from the compiler, it’s not necessarily a bug in the code or the compiler – it may simply not be implemented in your particular compiler yet.

Seminars & CD Roms

My company provides public hands-on training seminars based on the material in this book. Selected material from each chapter represents a lesson, which is followed by a monitored exercise period so each student receives personal attention. Information and sign-up forms for upcoming seminars can be found at http://www.BruceEckel.com. If you have specific questions, you may direct them to Bruce@EckelObjects.com.

Errors

No matter how many tricks a writer uses to detect errors, some always creep in and these often leap off the page for a fresh reader. If you discover anything you believe to be an error, please use the correction form you will find at http://www.BruceEckel.com. Your help is appreciated.

Acknowledgements

The ideas and understanding in this book have come from many sources: friends like Dan Saks, Scott Meyers, Charles Petzold, and Michael Wilk; pioneers of the language like Bjarne Stroustrup, Andrew Koenig, and Rob Murray; members of the C++ Standards Committee like Nathan Myers (who was particularly helpful and generous with his insights), Tom Plum, Reg Charney, Tom Penello, Chuck Allison, Sam Druker, and Uwe Steinmueller; people who have spoken in my C++ track at the Software Development Conference; and very often students in my seminars, who ask the questions I need to hear in order to make the material clearer.

I have been presenting this material on tours produced by Miller Freeman Inc. with my friend Richard Hale Shaw. Richard’s insights and support have been very helpful (and Kim’s, too). Thanks also to KoAnn Vikoren, Eric Faurot, Jennifer Jessup, Nicole Freeman, Barbara Hanscome, Regina Ridley, Alex Dunne, and the rest of the cast and crew at MFI.

The book design, cover design, and cover photo were created by my friend Daniel Will-Harris, noted author and designer, who used to play with rub-on letters in junior high school while he awaited the invention of computers and desktop publishing. However, I produced the camera-ready pages myself, so the typesetting errors are mine. Microsoft® Word for Windows 97 was used to write the book and to create camera-ready pages. The body typeface is [Times for the electronic distribution] and the headlines are in [Times for the electronic distribution].

The people at Prentice Hall were wonderful. Thanks to Alan Apt, Sondra Chavez, Mona Pompili, Shirley McGuire, and everyone else there who made life easy for me.

A special thanks to all my teachers, and all my students (who are my teachers as well).

Personal thanks to my friends Gen Kiyooka and Kraig Brockschmidt. The supporting cast of friends includes, but is not limited to: Zack Urlocker, Andrew Binstock, Neil Rubenking, Steve Sinofsky, JD Hildebrandt, Brian McElhinney, Brinkley Barr, Larry O’Brien, Bill Gates at Midnight Engineering Magazine, Larry Constantine & Lucy Lockwood, Tom Keffer, Greg Perry, Dan Putterman, Christi Westphal, Gene Wang, Dave Mayer, David Intersimone, Claire Sawyers, Claire Jones, The Italians (Andrea Provaglio, Laura Fallai, Marco Cantu, Corrado, Ilsa and Christina Giustozzi), Chris & Laura Strand, The Almquists, Brad Jerbic, Marilyn Cvitanic, The Mabrys, The Haflingers, The Pollocks, Peter Vinci, The Robbins Families, The Moelter Families (& the McMillans), The Wilks, Dave Stoner, Laurie Adams, The Penneys, The Cranstons, Larry Fogg, Mike & Karen Sequeira, Gary Entsminger & Allison Brody, Chester Andersen, Joe Lordi, Dave & Brenda Bartlett, The Rentschlers, The Sudeks, Lynn & Todd, and their families. And of course, Mom & Dad.

1: Introduction
to objects

The genesis of the computer revolution was in a machine. The genesis of our programming languages thus tends to look like that machine.

But computers are not so much machines as they are mind amplification tools (“bicycles for the mind,” as Steve Jobs is fond of saying) and a different kind of expressive medium. As a result, the tools are beginning to look less like machines and more like parts of our minds, and also like other expressive mediums such as writing, painting, sculpture, animation and filmmaking. Object-oriented programming is part of this movement toward the computer as an expressive medium.

This chapter will introduce you to the basic concepts of object-oriented programming (OOP), including an overview of OOP development methods. This chapter, and this book, assume you have had experience in some programming language, although not necessarily C. If you feel you need more preparation in programming and the syntax of C before tackling this book, you may want to consider MindView’s “Thinking in C: Foundations for C++ and Java” training CD ROM, available at http://www.MindView.net.

This chapter is background and supplementary material. Many people do not feel comfortable wading into object-oriented programming without understanding the big picture first. Thus, there are many concepts that are introduced here to give you a solid overview of OOP. However, many other people don’t get the big picture concepts until they’ve seen some of the mechanics first; these people may become bogged down and lost without some code to get their hands on. If you’re part of this latter group and are eager to get to the specifics of the language, feel free to jump past this chapter – skipping it at this point will not prevent you from writing programs or learning the language. However, you will want to come back here eventually, to fill in your knowledge so that you can understand why objects are important and how to design with them.

The progress of abstraction

All programming languages provide abstractions. It can be argued that the complexity of the problems you’re able to solve is directly related to the kind and quality of abstraction. By “kind” I mean “what is it that you are abstracting?” Assembly language is a small abstraction of the underlying machine. Many so-called “imperative” languages that followed (such as Fortran, BASIC, and C) were abstractions of assembly language. These languages are big improvements over assembly language, but their primary abstraction still requires you to think in terms of the structure of the computer rather than the structure of the problem you are trying to solve. The programmer must establish the association between the machine model (in the “solution space,” which is the place where you’re modeling that problem, such as a computer) and the model of the problem that is actually being solved (in the “problem space,” which is the place where the problem actually exists). The effort required to perform this mapping, and the fact that it is extrinsic to the programming language, produces programs that are difficult to write and expensive to maintain, and as a side effect created the entire “programming methods” industry.

The alternative to modeling the machine is to model the problem you’re trying to solve. Early languages such as LISP and APL chose particular views of the world (“all problems are ultimately lists” or “all problems are algorithmic”). PROLOG casts all problems into chains of decisions. Languages have been created for constraint-based programming and for programming exclusively by manipulating graphical symbols. (The latter proved to be too restrictive.) Each of these approaches is a good solution to the particular class of problem they’re designed to solve, but when you step outside of that domain they become awkward.

The object-oriented approach goes a step further by providing tools for the programmer to represent elements in the problem space. This representation is general enough that the programmer is not constrained to any particular type of problem. We refer to the elements in the problem space and their representations in the solution space as “objects.” (Of course, you will also need other objects that don’t have problem-space analogs.) The idea is that the program is allowed to adapt itself to the lingo of the problem by adding new types of objects, so when you read the code describing the solution, you’re reading words that also express the problem. This is a more flexible and powerful language abstraction than what we’ve had before. Thus OOP allows you to describe the problem in terms of the problem, rather than in terms of the computer where the solution will run. There’s still a connection back to the computer, though. Each object looks quite a bit like a little computer; it has a state, and it has operations that you can ask it to perform. However, this doesn’t seem like such a bad analogy to objects in the real world; they all have characteristics and behaviors.

Some language designers have decided that object-oriented programming itself is not adequate to easily solve all programming problems, and advocate the combination of various approaches into multiparadigm programming languages.[6]

Alan Kay summarized five basic characteristics of Smalltalk, the first successful object-oriented language and one of the languages upon which C++ is based. These characteristics represent a pure approach to object-oriented programming:

1. Everything is an object. Think of an object as a fancy variable; it stores data, but you can “make requests” to that object, asking it to perform operations on itself. In theory, you can take any conceptual component in the problem you’re trying to solve (dogs, buildings, services, etc.) and represent it as an object in your program.

2. A program is a bunch of objects telling each other what to do by sending messages. To make a request of an object, you “send a message” to that object. More concretely, you can think of a message as a request to call a function that belongs to a particular object.

3. Each object has its own memory made up of other objects. Put another way, you create a new kind of object by making a package containing existing objects. Thus, you can build complexity in a program while hiding it behind the simplicity of objects.

4. Every object has a type. Using the parlance, each object is an instance of a class, where “class” is synonymous with “type.” The most important distinguishing characteristic of a class is “what messages can you send to it?”

5. All objects of a particular type can receive the same messages. This is actually a very loaded statement, as you will see later. Because an object of type “circle” is also an object of type “shape,” a circle is guaranteed to receive shape messages. This means you can write code that talks to shapes and automatically handle anything that fits the description of a shape. This substitutability is one of the most powerful concepts in OOP.

An object has an interface

Aristotle was probably the first to begin a careful study of the concept of type; he spoke of things such as “the class of fishes and the class of birds.” The idea that all objects, while being unique, are also part of a class of objects that have characteristics and behaviors in common was directly used in the first object-oriented language, Simula-67, with its fundamental keyword class that introduces a new type into a program.

Simula, as its name implies, was created for developing simulations such as the classic “bank teller problem[7].” In this, you have a bunch of tellers, customers, accounts, transactions, units of money – a lot of “objects.” Objects that are identical except for their state during a program’s execution are grouped together into “classes of objects” and that’s where the keyword class came from. Creating abstract data types (classes) is a fundamental concept in object-oriented programming. Abstract data types work almost exactly like built-in types: You can create variables of a type (called objects or instances in object-oriented parlance) and manipulate those variables (called sending messages or requests; you send a message and the object figures out what to do with it). The members (elements) of each class share some commonality: every account has a balance, every teller can accept a deposit, etc. At the same time, each member has its own state, each account has a different balance, each teller has a name. Thus the tellers, customers, accounts, transactions, etc., can each be represented with a unique entity in the computer program. This entity is the object, and each object belongs to a particular class that defines its characteristics and behaviors.

So, although what we really do in object-oriented programming is create new data types, virtually all object-oriented programming languages use the “class” keyword. When you see the word “type” think “class” and vice versa[8].

Since a class describes a set of objects that have identical characteristics (data elements) and behaviors (functionality), a class is really a data type because a floating point number, for example, also has a set of characteristics and behaviors. The difference is that a programmer defines a class to fit a problem rather than being forced to use an existing data type that was designed to represent a unit of storage in a machine. You extend the programming language by adding new data types specific to your needs. The programming system welcomes the new classes and gives them all the care and type-checking that it gives to built-in types.

The object-oriented approach is not limited to building simulations. Whether or not you agree that any program is a simulation of the system you’re designing, the use of OOP techniques can easily reduce a large set of problems to a simple solution.

Once a class is established, you can make as many objects of that class as you like, and then manipulate those objects as if they are the elements that exist in the problem you are trying to solve. Indeed, one of the challenges of object-oriented programming is to create a one-to-one mapping between the elements in the problem space and objects in the solution space.

But how do you get an object to do useful work for you? There must be a way to make a request of that object so it will do something, such as complete a transaction, draw something on the screen or turn on a switch. And each object can satisfy only certain requests. The requests you can make of an object are defined by its interface, and the type is what determines the interface. A simple example might be a representation of a light bulb:

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Light lt;

lt.on();

The interface establishes what requests you can make for a particular object. However, there must be code somewhere to satisfy that request. This, along with the hidden data, comprises the implementation. From a procedural programming standpoint, it’s not that complicated. A type has a function associated with each possible request, and when you make a particular request to an object, that function is called. This process is usually summarized by saying that you “send a message” (make a request) to an object, and the object figures out what to do with that message (it executes code).

Here, the name of the type/class is Light, the name of this particular Light object is lt, and the requests that you can make of a Light object are to turn it on, turn it off, make it brighter or make it dimmer. You create a Light object by simply declaring a name (lt) for that identifier. To send a message to the object, you state the name of the object and connect it to the message request with a period (dot). From the standpoint of the user of a pre-defined class, that’s pretty much all there is to programming with objects.

The diagram shown above follows the format of the Unified Modeling Language (UML). Each class is represented by a box, with the type name in the top portion of the box, any data members that you care to describe in the middle portion of the box, and the member functions (the functions that belong to this object, which receive any messages you send to that object) in the bottom portion of the box. The ‘+’ signs before the member functions indicate they are public. Very often, only the name of the class and the public member functions are shown in UML design diagrams, and so the middle portion is not shown. If you’re only interested in the class name, then the bottom portion doesn’t need to be shown, either.

The hidden implementation

It is helpful to break up the playing field into class creators (those who create new data types) and client programmers[9] (the class consumers who use the data types in their applications). The goal of the client programmer is to collect a toolbox full of classes to use for rapid application development. The goal of the class creator is to build a class that exposes only what’s necessary to the client programmer and keeps everything else hidden. Why? Because if it’s hidden, the client programmer can’t use it, which means that the class creator can change the hidden portion at will without worrying about the impact to anyone else. The hidden portions usually represent the tender insides of an object that could easily be corrupted by a careless or uninformed client programmer, so hiding the implementation reduces program bugs. The concept of implementation hiding cannot be overemphasized.

In any relationship it’s important to have boundaries that are respected by all parties involved. When you create a library, you establish a relationship with the client programmer, who is also a programmer, but one who is putting together an application by using your library, possibly to build a bigger library.

If all the members of a class are available to everyone, then the client programmer can do anything with that class and there’s no way to enforce any rules. Even though you might really prefer that the client programmer not directly manipulate some of the members of your class, without access control there’s no way to prevent it. Everything’s naked to the world.

So the first reason for access control is to keep client programmers’ hands off portions they shouldn’t touch – parts that are necessary for the internal machinations of the data type but not part of the interface that users need to solve their particular problems. This is actually a service to users because they can easily see what’s important to them and what they can ignore.

The second reason for access control is to allow the library designer to change the internal workings of the class without worrying about how it will affect the client programmer. For example, you might implement a particular class in a simple fashion to ease development, and then later discover you need to rewrite it in order to make it run faster. If the interface and implementation are clearly separated and protected, you can easily accomplish this and require only a relink by the user.

C++ uses three explicit keywords to set the boundaries in a class: public, private, protected. Their use and meaning are quite straightforward. These access specifiers determine who can use the definitions that follow. public means the following definitions are available to everyone. The private keyword, on the other hand, means that no one can access those definitions except you, the creator of the type, inside function members of that type. private is a brick wall between you and the client programmer. If someone tries to access a private member, they’ll get a compile-time error. protected acts just like private, with the exception that an inheriting class has access to protected members, but not private members. Inheritance will be introduced shortly.

Reusing
the implementation

Once a class has been created and tested, it should (ideally) represent a useful unit of code. It turns out that this reusability is not nearly so easy to achieve as many would hope; it takes experience and insight to produce a good design. But once you have such a design, it begs to be reused. Code reuse is one of the greatest advantages that object-oriented programming languages provide.

The simplest way to reuse a class is to just use an object of that class directly, but you can also place an object of that class inside a new class. We call this “creating a member object.” Your new class can be made up of any number and type of other objects, whatever is necessary to achieve the functionality desired in your new class. This concept is called composition (or more generally, aggregation), since you are composing a new class from existing classes. Sometimes composition is referred to as a “has-a” relationship, as in “a car has an engine.”

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(The above UML diagram indicates composition with the filled diamond, which states there is one car.)

Composition comes with a great deal of flexibility. The member objects of your new class are usually private, making them inaccessible to client programmers using the class. This allows you to change those members without disturbing existing client code. You can also change the member objects at run time, to dynamically change the behavior of your program. Inheritance, which is described next, does not have this flexibility since the compiler must place compile-time restrictions on classes created with inheritance.

Because inheritance is so important in object-oriented programming it is often highly emphasized, and the new programmer can get the idea that inheritance should be used everywhere. This can result in awkward and overcomplicated designs. Instead, you should first look to composition when creating new classes, since it is simpler and more flexible. If you take this approach, your designs will stay cleaner. Once you’ve had some experience, it will be reasonably obvious when you need inheritance.

Inheritance:
reusing the interface

By itself, the idea of an object is a convenient tool. It allows you to package data and functionality together by concept, so you can represent an appropriate problem-space idea rather than being forced to use the idioms of the underlying machine. These concepts are expressed as fundamental units in the programming language by using the class keyword.

It seems a pity, however, to go to all the trouble to create a class and then be forced to create a brand new one that might have similar functionality. It’s nicer if we can take the existing class, clone it and make additions and modifications to the clone. This is effectively what you get with inheritance, with the exception that if the original class (called the base or super or parent class) is changed, the modified “clone” (called the derived or inherited or sub or child class) also reflects those changes.

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(The arrow in the above UML diagram points from the derived class to the base class. As you shall see, there can be more than one derived class.)

A type does more than describe the constraints on a set of objects; it also has a relationship with other types. Two types can have characteristics and behaviors in common, but one type may contain more characteristics than another and may also handle more messages (or handle them differently). Inheritance expresses this similarity between types with the concept of base types and derived types. A base type contains all the characteristics and behaviors that are shared among the types derived from it. You create a base type to represent the core of your ideas about some objects in your system. From the base type, you derive other types to express the different ways that core can be realized.

For example, a trash-recycling machine sorts pieces of trash. The base type is “trash,” and each piece of trash has a weight, a value, and so on and can be shredded, melted, or decomposed. From this, more specific types of trash are derived that may have additional characteristics (a bottle has a color) or behaviors (an aluminum can may be crushed, a steel can is magnetic). In addition, some behaviors may be different (the value of paper depends on its type and condition). Using inheritance, you can build a type hierarchy that expresses the problem you’re trying to solve in terms of its types.

A second example is the classic shape problem, perhaps used in a computer-aided design system or game simulation. The base type is “shape,” and each shape has a size, a color, a position, and so on. Each shape can be drawn, erased, moved, colored, etc. From this, specific types of shapes are derived (inherited): circle, square, triangle, and so on, each of which may have additional characteristics and behaviors. Certain shapes can be flipped, for example. Some behaviors may be different (calculating the area of a shape). The type hierarchy embodies both the similarities and differences between the shapes.

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Casting the solution in the same terms as the problem is tremendously beneficial because you don’t need a lot of intermediate models to get from a description of the problem to a description of the solution. With objects, the type hierarchy is the primary model, so you go directly from the description of the system in the real world to the description of the system in code. Indeed, one of the difficulties people have with object-oriented design is that it’s too simple to get from the beginning to the end. A mind trained to look for complex solutions is often stumped by this simplicity at first.

When you inherit from an existing type, you create a new type. This new type contains not only all the members of the existing type (although the private ones are hidden away and inaccessible), but more importantly it duplicates the interface of the base class. That is, all the messages you can send to objects of the base class you can also send to objects of the derived class. Since we know the type of a class by the messages we can send to it, this means that the derived class is the same type as the base class. In the above example, “a circle is a shape.” This type equivalence via inheritance is one of the fundamental gateways in understanding the meaning of object-oriented programming.

Since both the base class and derived class have the same interface, there must be some implementation to go along with that interface. That is, there must be some code to execute when an object receives a particular message. If you simply inherit a class and don’t do anything else, the methods from the base-class interface come right along into the derived class. That means objects of the derived class have not only the same type, they also have the same behavior, which isn’t particularly interesting.

You have two ways to differentiate your new derived class from the original base class. The first is quite straightforward: you simply add brand new functions to the derived class. These new functions are not part of the base class interface. This means that the base class simply didn’t do as much as you wanted it to, so you added more functions. This simple and primitive use for inheritance is, at times, the perfect solution to your problem. However, you should look closely for the possibility that your base class might also need these additional functions. This process of discovery and iteration of your design happens regularly in object-oriented programming.

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Although inheritance may sometimes imply that you are going to add new functions to the interface, that’s not necessarily true. The second way to differentiate your new class is to change the behavior of an existing base-class function. This is referred to as overriding that function.

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To override a function, you simply create a new definition for the function in the derived class. You’re saying “I’m using the same interface function here, but I want it to do something different for my new type.”

Is-a vs. is-like-a relationships

There’s a certain debate that can occur about inheritance: Should inheritance override only base-class functions (and not add new member functions that aren’t in the base class)? This would mean that the derived type is exactly the same type as the base class since it has exactly the same interface. As a result, you can exactly substitute an object of the derived class for an object of the base class. This can be thought of as pure substitution, and it’s often referred to as the substitution principle. In a sense, this is the ideal way to treat inheritance. We often refer to the relationship between the base class and derived classes in this case as an is-a relationship, because you can say “a circle is a shape.” A test for inheritance is whether you can state the is-a relationship about the classes and have it make sense.

There are times when you must add new interface elements to a derived type, thus extending the interface and creating a new type. The new type can still be substituted for the base type, but the substitution isn’t perfect because your new functions are not accessible from the base type. This can be described as an is-like-a relationship; the new type has the interface of the old type but it also contains other functions, so you can’t really say it’s exactly the same. For example, consider an air conditioner. Suppose your house is wired with all the controls for cooling; that is, it has an interface that allows you to control cooling. Imagine that the air conditioner breaks down and you replace it with a heat pump, which can both heat and cool. The heat pump is-like-an air conditioner, but it can do more. Because the control system of your house is designed only to control cooling, it is restricted to communication with the cooling part of the new object. The interface of the new object has been extended, and the existing system doesn’t know about anything except the original interface.

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Of course, once you see this design it becomes clear that the base class “cooling system” is not general enough, and should be renamed to “temperature control system” so that it can also include heating – at which point the substitution principle will work. However, the above diagram is an example of what happens in design and in the real world.

When you see the substitution principle it’s easy to feel like this approach (pure substitution) is the only way to do things, and in fact it is nice if your design works out that way. But you’ll find that there are times when it’s equally clear that you must add new functions to the interface of a derived class. With inspection both cases should be reasonably obvious.

Interchangeable objects
with polymorphism

When dealing with type hierarchies, you often want to treat an object not as the specific type that it is but instead as its base type. This allows you to write code that doesn’t depend on specific types. In the shape example, functions manipulate generic shapes without respect to whether they’re circles, squares, triangles, and so on. All shapes can be drawn, erased, and moved, so these functions simply send a message to a shape object; they don’t worry about how the object copes with the message.

Such code is unaffected by the addition of new types, and adding new types is the most common way to extend an object-oriented program to handle new situations. For example, you can derive a new subtype of shape called pentagon without modifying the functions that deal only with generic shapes. This ability to extend a program easily by deriving new subtypes is important because it greatly improves designs while reducing the cost of software maintenance.

There’s a problem, however, with attempting to treat derived-type objects as their generic base types (circles as shapes, bicycles as vehicles, cormorants as birds, etc.). If a function is going to tell a generic shape to draw itself, or a generic vehicle to steer, or a generic bird to fly, the compiler cannot know at compile-time precisely what piece of code will be executed. That’s the whole point – when the message is sent, the programmer doesn’t want to know what piece of code will be executed; the draw function can be applied equally to a circle, square, or triangle, and the object will execute the proper code depending on its specific type. If you don’t have to know what piece of code will be executed, then when you add a new subtype, the code it executes can be different without changes to the function call. Therefore, the compiler cannot know precisely what piece of code is executed, so what does it do? For example, in the following diagram the BirdController object just works with generic Bird objects, and does not know what exact type they are. This is convenient from BirdController’s perspective, because it doesn’t have to write special code to determine the exact type of Bird it’s working with, or that Bird’s behavior. So how does it happen that, when fly( ) is called while ignoring the specific type of Bird, the right behavior will occur?

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The answer is the primary twist in object-oriented programming: The compiler cannot make a function call in the traditional sense. The function call generated by a non-OOP compiler causes what is called early binding, a term you may not have heard before because you’ve never thought about it any other way. It means the compiler generates a call to a specific function name, and the linker resolves this call to the absolute address of the code to be executed. In OOP, the program cannot determine the address of the code until runtime, so some other scheme is necessary when a message is sent to a generic object.

To solve the problem, object-oriented languages use the concept of late binding. When you send a message to an object, the code being called isn’t determined until runtime. The compiler does ensure that the function exists and it performs type checking on the arguments and return value (a language where this isn’t true is called weakly typed), but it doesn’t know the exact code to execute.

To perform late binding, the compiler inserts a special bit of code in lieu of the absolute call. This code calculates the address of the function body, using information stored in the object itself (this process is covered in great detail in Chapter XX). Thus, each object can behave differently according to the contents of that special bit of code. When you send a message to an object, the object actually does figure out what to do with that message.

You state that you want a function to have the flexibility of late-binding properties using the keyword virtual. You don’t need to understand the mechanics of virtual to use it, but without it you can’t do object-oriented programming in C++. In C++, you must remember to add the virtual keyword because by default member functions are not dynamically bound. Virtual functions allow you to express the differences in behavior of classes in the same family. Those differences are what cause polymorphic behavior.

Consider the shape example. The family of classes (all based on the same uniform interface) was diagrammed earlier in the chapter.

To demonstrate polymorphism, we want to write a single piece of code that ignores the specific details of type and talks only to the base class. That code is decoupled from type-specific information, and thus is simpler to write and easier to understand. And, if a new type – a Hexagon, for example – is added through inheritance, the code you write will work just as well for the new type of Shape as it did on the existing types. Thus the program is extensible.

If you write a function in C++ (as you will soon learn how to do):

void doStuff(Shape& s) {

s.erase();

// …

s.draw();

}

This function speaks to any Shape, so it is independent of the specific type of object it’s drawing and erasing (the ‘&’ means “take the address of the object that’s passed to doStuff( ), but it’s not important that you understand the details of that right now). If in some other part of the program we use the doStuff( ) function:

Circle c;

Triangle t;

Line l;

doStuff(c);

doStuff(t);

doStuff(l);

The calls to doStuff( ) automatically work right, regardless of the exact type of the object.

This is actually a pretty amazing trick. Consider the line:

doStuff(c);

What’s happening here is that a Circle is being passed into a function that’s expecting a Shape. Since a Circle is a Shape it can be treated as one by doStuff( ). That is, any message that doStuff( ) can send to a Shape, a Circle can accept. So it is a completely safe and logical thing to do.

We call this process of treating a derived type as though it were its base type upcasting. The name cast is used in the sense of casting into a mold and the up comes from the way the inheritance diagram is typically arranged, with the base type at the top and the derived classes fanning out downward. Thus, casting to a base type is moving up the inheritance diagram: “upcasting.”

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An object-oriented program contains some upcasting somewhere, because that’s how you decouple yourself from knowing about the exact type you’re working with. Look at the code in doStuff( ):

s.erase();

// …

s.draw();

Notice that it doesn’t say “If you’re a Circle, do this, if you’re a Square, do that, etc.” If you write that kind of code, which checks for all the possible types that a Shape can actually be, it’s messy and you need to change it every time you add a new kind of Shape. Here, you just say “You’re a shape, I know you can erase( ) yourself, do it and take care of the details correctly.”

What’s amazing about the code in doStuff( ) is that somehow the right thing happens. Calling draw( ) for Circle causes different code to be executed than when calling draw( ) for a Square or a Line, but when the draw( ) message is sent to an anonymous Shape, the correct behavior occurs based on the actual type that the Shape is. This is amazing because, as mentioned earlier, when the C++ compiler is compiling the code for doStuff( ), it cannot know exactly what types it is dealing with. So ordinarily, you’d expect it to end up calling the version of erase( ) and draw( ) for Shape, and not for the specific Circle, Square, or Line. And yet the right thing happens, because of polymorphism. The compiler and runtime system handle the details; all you need to know is that it happens and more importantly how to design with it. If a member function is virtual, then when you send a message to an object, the object will do the right thing, even when upcasting is involved.

Creating and destroying objects

Technically, the domain of OOP is abstract data typing, inheritance and polymorphism, but other issues can be at least as important. This section gives an overview of these issues.

Especially important is the way objects are created and destroyed. Where is the data for an object and how is the lifetime of that object controlled? Different programming languages use different philosophies here. C++ takes the approach that control of efficiency is the most important issue, so it gives the programmer a choice. For maximum runtime speed, the storage and lifetime can be determined while the program is being written, by placing the objects on the stack or in static storage. The stack is an area in memory that is used directly by the microprocessor to store data during program execution. Variables on the stack are sometimes called automatic or scoped variables. The static storage area is simply a fixed patch of memory that is allocated before the program begins to run. Using the stack or static storage places a priority on the speed of storage allocation and release, which can be very valuable in some situations. However, you sacrifice flexibility because you must know the exact quantity, lifetime and type of objects while you’re writing the program. If you are trying to solve a more general problem such as computer-aided design, warehouse management or air-traffic control, this is too restrictive.

The second approach is to create objects dynamically in a pool of memory called the heap. In this approach you don’t know until run time how many objects you need, what their lifetime is or what their exact type is. Those decisions are made at the spur of the moment while the program is running. If you need a new object, you simply make it on the heap when you need it, using the new keyword. When you’re finished with the storage, you must release it, using the delete keyword.

Because the storage is managed dynamically, at run time, the amount of time required to allocate storage on the heap is significantly longer than the time to create storage on the stack. (Creating storage on the stack is often a single microprocessor instruction to move the stack pointer down, and another to move it back up.) The dynamic approach makes the generally logical assumption that objects tend to be complicated, so the extra overhead of finding storage and releasing that storage will not have an important impact on the creation of an object. In addition, the greater flexibility is essential to solve general programming problems.

There’s another issue, however, and that’s the lifetime of an object. If you create an object on the stack or in static storage, the compiler determines how long the object lasts and can automatically destroy it. However, if you create it on the heap the compiler has no knowledge of its lifetime. In C++, the programmer must determine programmatically when to destroy the object, and then perform the destruction using the delete keyword. As an alternative, the environment can provide a feature called a garbage collector that automatically discovers when an object is no longer in use and destroys it. Of course, a garbage collector is much more convenient, but it requires that all applications must be able to tolerate the existence of the garbage collector and the overhead for garbage collection. This does not meet the design requirements of the C++ language and so it was not included, although third-party garbage collectors exist for C++.

Exception handling:
dealing with errors

Ever since the beginning of programming languages, error handling has been one of the most difficult issues. Because it’s so hard to design a good error-handling scheme, many languages simply ignore the issue, passing the problem on to library designers who come up with halfway measures that can work in many situations but can easily be circumvented, generally by just ignoring them. A major problem with most error-handling schemes is that they rely on programmer vigilance in following an agreed-upon convention that is not enforced by the language. If the programmer is not vigilant, which often occurs when they are in a hurry, these schemes can easily be forgotten.

Exception handling wires error handling directly into the programming language and sometimes even the operating system. An exception is an object that is “thrown” from the site of the error and can be “caught” by an appropriate exception handler designed to handle that particular type of error. It’s as if exception handling is a different, parallel path of execution that can be taken when things go wrong. And because it uses a separate execution path, it doesn’t need to interfere with your normally-executing code. This makes that code simpler to write since you aren’t constantly forced to check for errors. In addition, a thrown exception is unlike an error value that’s returned from a function or a flag that’s set by a function in order to indicate an error condition – these can be ignored. An exception cannot be ignored so it’s guaranteed to be dealt with at some point. Finally, exceptions provide a way to reliably recover from a bad situation. Instead of just exiting the program, you are often able to set things right and restore the execution of a program, which produces much more robust systems.

It’s worth noting that exception handling isn’t an object-oriented feature, although in object-oriented languages the exception is normally represented with an object. Exception handling existed before object-oriented languages.

Analysis and design

The object-oriented paradigm is a new and different way of thinking about programming and many folks have trouble at first knowing how to approach a project. Now that you know that everything is supposed to be an object, and as you learn to think more in an object-oriented style, you can begin to create “good” designs, ones that will take advantage of all the benefits that OOP has to offer.

A method (also often called a methodology) is a set of processes and heuristics used to break down the complexity of a programming problem. Many OOP methods have been formulated since the dawn of object-oriented programming, and this section will give you a feel for what you’re trying to accomplish when using a method.

Especially in OOP, methodology is a field of many experiments, so it is important to understand what problem the method is trying to solve before you consider adopting one. This is particularly true with C++, where the programming language itself is intended to reduce the complexity involved in expressing a program. This may in fact alleviate the need for ever-more-complex methodologies. Instead, simpler ones may suffice in C++ for a much larger class of problems than you could handle with simple methods for procedural languages.

It’s also important to realize that the term “methodology” is often too grand and promises too much. Whatever you do now when you design and write a program is a method. It may be your own method, and you may not be conscious of doing it, but it is a process you go through as you create. If it is an effective process, it may need only a small tune-up to work with C++. If you are not satisfied with your productivity and the way your programs turn out, you may want to consider adopting a formal method, or choosing pieces from among the many formal methods.

While you’re going through the development process, the most important issue is this: don’t get lost. It’s easy to do. Most of the analysis and design methods are intended to solve the largest of problems. Remember that most projects don’t fit into that category, so you can usually have successful analysis and design with a relatively small subset of what a method recommends. But some sort of process, no matter how limited, will generally get you on your way in a much better fashion than simply beginning to code.

It’s also easy to get stuck, to fall into “analysis paralysis,” where you feel like you can’t move forward because you haven’t nailed down every little detail at the current stage. Remember that, no matter how much analysis you do, there are some things about a system that won’t reveal themselves until design time, and more things that won’t reveal themselves until you’re coding, or not even until a program is up and running. Because of this, it’s critical to move fairly quickly through analysis and design to implement a test of the proposed system.

This point is worth emphasizing. Because of the history we’ve had with procedural languages, it is commendable that a team will want to proceed carefully and understand every minute detail before moving to design and implementation. Certainly, when creating a DBMS, it pays to understand a customer’s needs thoroughly. But a DBMS is in a class of problems that is very well-posed and well-understood. The class of programming problem discussed in this chapter is of the “wild-card” variety, where it isn’t simply re-forming a well-known solution, but instead involves one or more “wild-card factors” – elements where there is no well-understood previous solution, and where research is necessary.[10] Attempting to thoroughly analyze a wild-card problem before moving into design and implementation results in analysis paralysis because you don’t have enough information to solve this kind of problem during the analysis phase. Solving such a problem requires iteration through the whole cycle, and that requires risk-taking behavior (which makes sense, because you’re trying to do something new and the potential rewards are higher). It may seem like the risk is compounded by “rushing” into a preliminary implementation, but it can instead reduce the risk in a wild-card project because you’re finding out early whether a particular design is viable.

It’s often proposed that you “build one to throw away.” With OOP, you may still throw part of it away, but because code is encapsulated into classes, you will inevitably produce some useful class designs and develop some worthwhile ideas about the system design during the first iteration that do not need to be thrown away. Thus, the first rapid pass at a problem not only produces critical information for the next analysis, design, and implementation iteration, it also creates a code foundation for that iteration.

That said, if you’re looking at a methodology that contains tremendous detail and suggests many steps and documents, it’s still difficult to know when to stop. Keep in mind what you’re trying to discover:

1. What are the objects? (How do you partition your project into its component parts?)

2. What are their interfaces? (What messages do you need to be able to send to each object?)

If you come up with nothing more than the objects and their interfaces then you can write a program. For various reasons you might need more descriptions and documents than this, but you can’t really get away with any less.

The process can be undertaken in four phases, and a phase 0 which is just the initial commitment to using some kind of structure.

Phase 0: Make a plan

The first step is to decide what steps you’re going to have in your process. It sounds simple (in fact, all of this sounds simple) and yet people often don’t even get around to phase one before they start coding. If your plan is “let’s jump in and start coding,” fine. (Sometimes that’s appropriate when you have a well-understood problem.) At least agree that this is the plan.

You might also decide at this phase that some additional process structure is necessary but not the whole nine yards. Understandably enough, some programmers like to work in “vacation mode” in which no structure is imposed on the process of developing their work: “It will be done when it’s done.” This can be appealing for awhile, but I’ve found that having a few milestones along the way helps to focus and galvanize your efforts around those milestones instead of being stuck with the single goal of “finish the project.” In addition, it divides the project into more bite-sized pieces and make it seem less threatening (plus the milestones offer more opportunities for celebrating).

When I began to study story structure (so that I will someday write a novel) I was initially resistant to the idea of structure, feeling that when I wrote I simply let it flow onto the page. What I found was that when I wrote about computers the structure was simple enough so that I didn’t need to think much about it, but I was still structuring my work, albeit only semi-consciously in my head. So even if you think that your plan is to just start coding, you still go through the following phases while asking and answering certain questions.

The mission statement

Any system you build, no matter how complicated, has a fundamental purpose, the business that it’s in, the basic need that it satisfies. If you can look past the user interface, the hardware- or system-specific details, the coding algorithms and the efficiency problems, you will eventually find the core of its being, simple and straightforward. Like the so-called high concept from a Hollywood movie, you can describe it in one or two sentences. This pure description is the starting point.

The high concept is quite important because it sets the tone for your project; it’s a mission statement. You won’t necessarily get it right the first time (you may be in a later phase of the project before it becomes completely clear), but keep trying until it feels right. For example, in an air-traffic control system you may start out with a high concept focused on the system that you’re building: “The tower program keeps track of the aircraft.” But consider what happens when you shrink the system to a very small airfield; perhaps there’s only a human controller or none at all. A more useful model won’t concern the solution you’re creating as much as it describes the problem: “Aircraft arrive, unload, service and reload, and depart.”

Phase 1: What are we making?

In the previous generation of program design (called procedural design), this is called “creating the requirements analysis and system specification.” These, of course, were places to get lost: intimidatingly-named documents that could become big projects in their own right. Their intention was good, however. The requirements analysis says “Make a list of the guidelines we will use to know when the job is done and the customer is satisfied.” The system specification says “Here’s a description of what the program will do (not how) to satisfy the requirements.” The requirements analysis is really a contract between you and the customer (even if the customer works within your company or is some other object or system). The system specification is a top-level exploration into the problem and in some sense a discovery of whether it can be done and how long it will take. Since both of these will require consensus among people, I think it’s best to keep them as bare as possible – ideally, to lists and basic diagrams – to save time. You might have other constraints that require you to expand them into bigger documents, but by keeping the initial document small and concise, it can be created in a few sessions of group brainstorming with a leader who dynamically creates the description. This not only solicits input from everyone, it also fosters initial buy-in and agreement by everyone on the team. Perhaps most importantly, it can kick off a project with a lot of enthusiasm.

It’s necessary to stay focused on the heart of what you’re trying to accomplish in this phase: determine what the system is supposed to do. The most valuable tool for this is a collection of what are called “use-cases.” These are essentially descriptive answers to questions that start with “What does the system do if …” For example, “What does the auto-teller do if a customer has just deposited a check within 24 hours and there’s not enough in the account without the check to provide the desired withdrawal?” The use-case then describes what the auto-teller does in that situation.

Use-case diagrams are intentionally very simple, to prevent you from getting bogged down in system implementation details prematurely:

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Each stick person represents an “actor,” which is typically a human or some other kind of free agent (these can even be other computer systems). The box represents the boundary of your system. The ellipses represent the use cases themselves, which are units of functionality as they are perceived from outside of the system. That is, it doesn’t matter how the system is actually implemented, as long as it looks like this to the user.

A use-case does not need to be terribly complex, even if the underlying system is complex. It is only intended to show the system as it appears to the user. For example:

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The use cases produce the requirements specifications, by determining all the interactions that the user may have with the system. You try to discover a full set of use-cases for your system, and once you’ve done that you have the core of what the system is supposed to do. The nice thing about focusing on use-cases is that they always bring you back to the essentials and keep you from drifting off into issues that aren’t critical for getting the job done. That is, if you have a full set of use-cases you can describe your system and move onto the next phase. You probably won’t get it all figured out perfectly at this phase, but that’s OK. Everything will reveal itself in the fullness of time, and if you demand a perfect system specification at this point you’ll get stuck.

If you get stuck, you can kick-start this phase by describing the system in a few paragraphs and then looking for nouns and verbs. The nouns become either actors or parts of use cases (or even entire use cases by themselves), and the verbs become the interactions between the two. You’ll be surprised at how useful a tool this can be; sometimes it will accomplish the lion’s share of the work for you.

Use-cases will identify key features in the system that will reveal some of the fundamental classes you’ll be using. For example, if you’re in the fireworks business, you may want to identify Workers, Firecrackers, and Customers; more specifically you’ll need Chemists, Assemblers, and Handlers; AmateurFirecrackers and ProfessionalFirecrackers; Buyers and Spectators. Even more specifically, you could identify YoungSpectators, OldSpectators, TeenageSpectators, and ParentSpectators.

Although it’s a black art, at this point some kind of scheduling can be quite useful. You now have an overview of what you’re building so you’ll probably be able to get some idea of how long it will take. A lot of factors come into play here: if you estimate a long schedule then the company might not decide to build it, or a manager might have already decided how long the project should take and will try to influence your estimate. But it’s best to have an honest schedule from the beginning and deal with the tough decisions early. There have been a lot of attempts to come up with accurate scheduling techniques (like techniques to predict the stock market), but probably the best approach is to rely on your experience and intuition. Get a gut feeling for how long it will really take, then double that and add 10 percent. Your gut feeling is probably correct; you can get something working in that time. The “doubling” will turn that into something decent, and the 10 percent will deal with final polishing and details[11]. However you want to explain it, and regardless of the moans and manipulations that happen when you reveal such a schedule, it just seems to work out that way.

Phase 2: How will we build it?

In this phase you must come up with a design that describes what the classes look like and how they will interact. An excellent tool in determining classes and interactions is the Class-Responsibility-Collaboration (CRC) card. Part of the value of this technique is that it’s so low-tech: you start out with a set of blank 3” by 5” cards, and you write on them. Each card represents a single class, and on the card you write:

1. The name of the class. It’s important that this name capture the essence of what the class does, so that it makes sense at a glance.

2. The “responsibilities” of the class: what it should do. This can typically be summarized by just stating the names of the member functions (since those names should be descriptive in a good design), but it does not preclude other notes. If you need to seed the process, look at the problem from a lazy programmer’s standpoint: What objects would you like to magically appear to solve your problem?

3. The “collaborations” of the class: what other classes does it interact with? “Interact” is an intentionally broad term; it could mean aggregation or simply that some other object exists that will perform services for an object of the class. Collaborations should also consider the audience for this class. For example, if you create a class Firecracker, who is going to observe it, a Chemist or a Spectator? The former will want to know what chemicals go into the construction, and the latter will respond to the colors and shapes released when it explodes.

You may feel like the cards should be bigger because of all the information you’d like to get on them, but they are intentionally small, not only to keep your classes small but also to keep you from getting into too much detail too early. If you can’t fit all you need to know about a class on a small card, the class is too complex (either you’re getting too detailed, or you should create more than one class). The ideal class should be understood at a glance. The idea of CRC cards is to assist you in coming up with a first cut on the design, so that you can get the big picture and refine the design.

One of the great benefits of CRC cards is in communication. It’s best done real-time, in a group, without computers. Each person takes responsibility for several classes (which at first have no names or other information), and you run a live simulation by going through your use-cases and deciding what messages go to which objects to satisfy each use case. As you go through this process, you discover the classes you need along with their responsibilities and collaborations, and you fill out the cards as you do this. When you’ve moved through all the use cases, you should have a fairly complete first cut of your design.

Before I began using CRC cards, the most successful consulting experiences I had when coming up with an initial design involved standing in front of a team, who hadn’t built an OOP project before, and drawing objects on a whiteboard. We talked about how the objects should communicate with each other, and erased some of them and replaced them with other objects (effectively, I was managing all the “CRC cards” on the whiteboard). The team (who knew what the project was supposed to do) actually created the design; they “owned” the design rather than having it given to them. All I was doing was guiding the process by asking the right questions, trying out the assumptions and taking the feedback from the team to modify those assumptions. The true beauty of the process was that the team learned how to do object-oriented design not by reviewing abstract examples, but by working on the one design that was most interesting to them at that moment: theirs.

Once you’ve come up with a set of CRC cards, you may want to create a more formal description of your design using UML. There are a fair number of books on UML, and you can get the specification at http://www.rational.com. You don’t need to use UML, but it can be helpful, especially if you want to put a diagram up on the wall for everyone to ponder, which is a good idea. An alternative to UML is a textual description of the objects and their interfaces, but this can be limiting.

UML also provides a diagramming notation for describing the dynamic model of your system, for situations where the state transitions of a system or subsystem are dominant enough that they need their own diagrams (such as in a control system), and for describing the data structures, for systems or subsystems where data is a dominant factor (such as a database).

You’ll know you’re done with phase 2 when you have described the objects and their interfaces. Well, most of them – there are usually a few that slip through the cracks and don’t make themselves known until phase 3. But that’s OK. All you are concerned with is that you eventually discover all of your objects. It’s nice to discover them early in the process but OOP provides enough structure so that it’s not so bad if you discover them later. In fact, the design of an object tends to happen in five stages, throughout the process of program development.

Five stages of object design

The design life of an object is not limited to the period of time when you’re writing the program. Instead, the design of an object appears over a sequence of stages. It’s helpful to have this perspective because you stop expecting perfection right away; instead, you realize that the understanding of what an object does and what it should look like happens over time. This view also applies to the design of various types of programs; the pattern for a particular type of program emerges through struggling again and again with that problem (design patterns are covered in Chapter XX). Objects, too, have their patterns that emerge through understanding, use, and reuse.

1. Object discovery. This stage occurs during the initial analysis of a program. Objects may be discovered by looking for external factors and boundaries, duplication of elements in the system, and the smallest conceptual units. Some objects are obvious if you already have a set of class libraries. Commonality between classes suggesting base classes and inheritance may appear right away, or later in the design process.

2. Object assembly. As you’re building an object you’ll discover the need for new members that didn’t appear during discovery. The internal needs of the object may require new classes to support it.

3. System construction. Once again, more requirements for an object may appear at this later stage. As you learn, you evolve your objects. The need for communication and interconnection with other objects in the system may change the needs of your classes or require new classes. For example, here you may discover the need for facilitator or helper classes, such as a linked list, that contain little or no state information and simply help other classes to function.

4. System extension. As you add new features to a system you may discover that your previous design doesn’t support easy system extension. With this new information, you can restructure parts of the system, very possibly adding new classes or class hierarchies.

5. Object reuse. This is the real stress test for a class. If someone tries to reuse it in an entirely new situation, they’ll probably discover some shortcomings. As you change a class to adapt to more new programs, the general principles of the class will become clearer, until you have a truly reusable type.

Guidelines for object development

These stages suggest some guidelines when thinking about developing your classes:

1. Let a specific problem generate a class, then let the class grow and mature during the solution of other problems.

2. Remember, discovering the classes you need (and their interfaces) is the majority of the system design. If you already had those classes, this would be an easy project.

3. Don’t force yourself to know everything at the beginning; learn as you go. That’s the way it will happen anyway.

4. Start programming; get something working so you can prove or disprove your design. Don’t fear procedural-style spaghetti code – classes partition the problem and help control anarchy and entropy. Bad classes do not break good classes.

5. Always keep it simple. Little clean objects with obvious utility are better than big complicated interfaces. When decision points come up, use a modified Occam’s Razor approach: Consider the choices and select the one that is simplest, because simple classes are almost always best. You can always start small and simple and expand the class interface when you understand it better, but as time goes on, it’s difficult to remove elements from a class.

Phase 3: Build it

This is the initial conversion from the rough design to a compiling body of code that can be tested, and especially that will prove or disprove your design. This is not a one-pass process, but rather the beginning of a series of writes and rewrites, as you’ll see in phase 4.

If you’re reading this book you’re probably a programmer, so now we’re at the part you’ve been trying to get to. By following a plan – no matter how simple and brief – and coming up with design structure before coding, you’ll discover that things fall together far more easily than if you dive in and start hacking, and you’ll also realize a great deal of satisfaction. Getting code to run and do what you want is fulfilling, and can easily become an obsession. But it’s my experience that coming up with an elegant solution is deeply satisfying at an entirely different level; it feels closer to art than technology. And elegance always pays off; it’s not a frivolous pursuit. Not only does it give you a program that’s easier to build and debug, but it’s also easier to understand and maintain, and that’s where the financial value lies.

After you build the system and get it running, it’s important to do a reality check, and here’s where the requirements analysis and system specification comes in. Go through your program and make sure that all the requirements are checked off, and that all the use-cases work the way they’re described (an even better approach is to use the requirements analysis and use-cases to generate test code). Now you’re done. Or are you?

Phase 4: Iteration

This is the point in the development cycle that has traditionally been called “maintenance,” a catch-all term that can mean everything from “getting it to work the way it was really supposed to in the first place” to “adding features that the customer forgot to mention” to the more traditional “fixing the bugs that show up” and “adding new features as the need arises.” So many misconceptions have been applied to the term “maintenance” that it has taken on a slightly deceiving quality, partly because it suggests that you’ve actually built a pristine program and all you need to do is change parts, oil it and keep it from rusting. Perhaps there’s a better term to describe what’s going on.

The term is iteration. That is, “You won’t get it right the first time, so give yourself the latitude to learn and to go back and make changes.” You might need to make a lot of changes as you learn and understand the problem more deeply. The elegance you’ll produce if you iterate until you get it right will pay off, both in the short and the long term. Iteration is where your program goes from good to great, and where those issues that you didn’t really understand in the first pass become clear. It’s also where your classes can evolve from single-project usage to reusable resources.

What it means to “get it right” isn’t just that the program works according to the requirements and the use-cases. It also means that the internal structure of the code makes sense to you, and feels like it fits together well, with no awkward syntax, oversized objects or ungainly exposed bits of code. In addition, you must have some sense that the program structure will survive the changes that it will inevitably go through during its lifetime, and that those changes can be made easily and cleanly. This is no small feat. You must not only understand what you’re building, but also how the program will evolve (what I call the vector of change). Fortunately, object-oriented programming languages are particularly adept at supporting this kind of continuing modification – the boundaries created by the objects are what tend to keep the structure from breaking down. They are also what allow you to make changes – ones that would seem drastic in a procedural program – without causing earthquakes throughout your code. In fact, support for iteration might be the most important benefit of OOP.

With iteration, you create something that at least approximates what you think you’re building, and then you kick the tires, compare it to your requirements and see where it falls short. Then you can go back and fix it by redesigning and re-implementing the portions of the program that didn’t work right.[12] You might actually need to solve the problem, or an aspect of the problem, several times before you hit on the right solution. (A study of Design Patterns, described in Chapter XX, is usually helpful here.)

Iteration also occurs when you build a system, see that it matches your requirements and then discover it wasn’t actually what you wanted. When you see the system in operation, you find that you really wanted to solve a different problem. If you think this kind of iteration is going to happen, then you owe it to yourself to build your first version as quickly as possible so you can find out if it’s what you want.

Iteration is closely tied to incremental development. Incremental development means that you start with the core of your system and implement it as a framework upon which to build the rest of the system piece by piece. Then you start adding features one at a time. The trick to this is in designing a framework that will accommodate all the features you plan to add to it. (See Chapter XX for more insight into this issue.) The advantage is that once you get the core framework working, each feature you add is like a small project in itself rather than part of a big project. Also, new features that are incorporated later in the development or maintenance phases can be added more easily. OOP supports incremental development because if your program is designed well, your increments will turn out to be discrete objects or groups of objects.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that by default – by definition, really – if you modify a class its super- and subclasses will still function. You need not fear modification; it won’t necessarily break the program, and any change in the outcome will be limited to subclasses and/or specific collaborators of the class you change.

You have to know when to stop iterating the design. Ideally, you achieve target functionality and are in the process of refinement and addition of new features when the deadline comes along and forces you to stop and ship that version. (Remember, software is a subscription business.)

Plans pay off

Of course you wouldn’t build a house without a lot of carefully-drawn plans. If you build a deck or a dog house, your plans won’t be so elaborate but you’ll still probably start with some kind of sketches to guide you on your way. Software development has gone to extremes. For a long time, people didn’t have much structure in their development, but then big projects began failing. In reaction, we ended up with methodologies that had an intimidating amount of structure and detail, primarily intended for those big projects. These methodologies were too scary to use – it looked like you’d spend all your time writing documents and no time programming. (This was often the case.) I hope that what I’ve shown you here suggests a middle path – a sliding scale. Use an approach that fits your needs (and your personality). No matter how minimal you choose to make it, some kind of plan will make a big improvement in your project as opposed to no plan at all. Remember that, by most estimates, over 50 percent of projects fail (some estimates go up to 70 percent!).

Why C++ succeeds

Part of the reason C++ has been so successful is that the goal was not just to turn C into an OOP language (although it started that way), but also to solve many other problems facing developers today, especially those who have large investments in C. Traditionally, OOP languages have suffered from the attitude that you should abandon everything you know and start from scratch with a new set of concepts and a new syntax, arguing that it’s better in the long run to lose all the old baggage that comes with procedural languages. This may be true, in the long run. But in the short run, a lot of that baggage was valuable. The most valuable elements may not be the existing code base (which, given adequate tools, could be translated), but instead the existing mind base. If you’re a functioning C programmer and must drop everything you know about C in order to adopt a new language, you immediately become nonproductive for many months, until your mind fits around the new paradigm. Whereas if you can leverage off of your existing C knowledge and expand upon it, you can continue to be productive with what you already know while moving into the world of object-oriented programming. As everyone has his or her own mental model of programming, this move is messy enough as it is without the added expense of starting with a new language model from square one. So the reason for the success of C++, in a nutshell, is economic: It still costs to move to OOP, but C++ may cost less.

The goal of C++ is improved productivity. This productivity comes in many ways, but the language is designed to aid you as much as possible, while hindering you as little as possible with arbitrary rules or any requirement that you use a particular set of features. C++ is designed to be practical; language design decisions were based on providing the maximum benefits to the programmer (at least, from the world view of C).

A better C

You get an instant win even if you continue to write C code because C++ has closed many holes in the C language and provides better type checking and compile-time analysis. You’re forced to declare functions so the compiler can check their use. The need for the preprocessor has virtually been eliminated for value substitution and macros, which removes a set of difficult-to-find bugs. C++ has a feature called references that allows more convenient handling of addresses for function arguments and return values. The handling of names is improved through a feature called function overloading, which allows you to use the same name for different functions. A feature called namespaces also improves the control of names. There are numerous other small features that improve the safety of C.

You’re already on the learning curve

The problem with learning a new language is productivity: No company can afford to suddenly lose a productive software engineer because he or she is learning a new language. C++ is an extension to C, not a complete new syntax and programming model. It allows you to continue creating useful code, applying the features gradually as you learn and understand them. This may be one of the most important reasons for the success of C++.

In addition, all your existing C code is still viable in C++, but because the C++ compiler is pickier, you’ll often find hidden errors when recompiling the code.

Efficiency

Sometimes it is appropriate to trade execution speed for programmer productivity. A financial model, for example, may be useful for only a short period of time, so it’s more important to create the model rapidly than to execute it rapidly. However, most applications require some degree of efficiency, so C++ always errs on the side of greater efficiency. Because C programmers tend to be very efficiency-conscious, this is also a way to ensure they won’t be able to argue that the language is too fat and slow. A number of features in C++ are intended to allow you to tune for performance when the generated code isn’t efficient enough.

Not only do you have the same low-level control as in C (and the ability to directly write assembly language within a C++ program), but anecdotal evidence suggests that the program speed for an object-oriented C++ program tends to be within ±10% of a program written in C, and often much closer. The design produced for an OOP program may actually be more efficient than the C counterpart.

Systems are easier
to express and understand

Classes designed to fit the problem tend to express it better. This means that when you write the code, you’re describing your solution in the terms of the problem space (“put the grommet in the bin”) rather than the terms of the computer, which is the solution space (“set the bit in the chip that means that the relay will close”). You deal with higher-level concepts and can do much more with a single line of code.

The other benefit of this ease of expression is maintenance, which (if reports can be believed) takes a huge portion of the cost over a program’s lifetime. If a program is easier to understand, then it’s easier to maintain. This can also reduce the cost of creating and maintaining the documentation.

Maximal leverage with libraries

The fastest way to create a program is to use code that’s already written: a library. A major goal in C++ is to make library use easier. This is accomplished by casting libraries into new data types (classes), so that bringing in a library means adding a new types to the language. Because the C++ compiler takes care of how the library is used – guaranteeing proper initialization and cleanup, and ensuring functions are called properly – you can focus on what you want the library to do, not how you have to do it.

Because names can be sequestered to portions of your program via C++ namespaces, you can use as many libraries as you want without the kinds of name clashes you’d run into with C.

Source-code reuse with templates

There is a significant class of types that require source-code modification in order to reuse them effectively. The template feature in C++ performs the source code modification automatically, making it an especially powerful tool for reusing library code. A type you design using templates will work effortlessly with many other types. Templates are especially nice because they hide the complexity of this type of code reuse from the client programmer.

Error handling

Error handling in C is a notorious problem, and one that is often ignored – finger-crossing is usually involved. If you’re building a large, complex program, there’s nothing worse than having an error buried somewhere with no clue of where it came from. C++ exception handling (the subject of Chapter XX) is a way to guarantee that an error is noticed and that something happens as a result.

Programming in the large

Many traditional languages have built-in limitations to program size and complexity. BASIC, for example, can be great for pulling together quick solutions for certain classes of problems, but if the program gets more than a few pages long or ventures out of the normal problem domain of that language, it’s like trying to run through an ever-more viscous fluid. C, too, has these limitations. For example, when a program gets beyond perhaps 50,000 lines of code, name collisions start to become a problem – effectively, you run out of function and variable names. Another particularly bad problem is the little holes in the C language – errors can get buried in a large program that are extremely difficult to find.

There’s no clear line that tells when your language is failing you, and even if there were, you’d ignore it. You don’t say, “My BASIC program just got too big; I’ll have to rewrite it in C!” Instead, you try to shoehorn a few more lines in to add that one extra feature. So the extra costs come creeping up on you.

C++ is designed to aid programming in the large, that is, to erase those creeping-complexity boundaries between a small program and a large one. You certainly don’t need to use OOP, templates, namespaces, and exception handling when you’re writing a hello-world style utility program, but those features are there when you need them. And the compiler is aggressive about ferreting out bug-producing errors for small and large programs alike.

Strategies for transition

If you buy into OOP, your next question is probably, “How can I get my manager/colleagues/department/peers to start using objects?” Think about how you – one independent programmer – would go about learning to use a new language and a new programming paradigm. You’ve done it before. First comes education and examples; then comes a trial project to give you a feel for the basics without doing anything too confusing; then try a “real world” project that actually does something useful. Throughout your first projects you continue your education by reading, asking questions of experts, and trading hints with friends. This is the approach many experienced programmers suggest for the switch from C to C++. Switching an entire company will of course introduce certain group dynamics, but it will help at each step to remember how one person would do it.

Guidelines

Here are some guidelines to consider when making the transition to OOP and C++:

1. Training

The first step is some form of education. Remember the company’s investment in plain C code, and try not to throw everything into disarray for 6 to 9 months while everyone puzzles over how multiple inheritance works. Pick a small group for indoctrination, preferably one composed of people who are curious, work well together, and can function as their own support network while they’re learning C++.

An alternative approach that is sometimes suggested is the education of all company levels at once, including overview courses for strategic managers as well as design and programming courses for project builders. This is especially good for smaller companies making fundamental shifts in the way they do things, or at the division level of larger companies. Because the cost is higher, however, some may choose to start with project-level training, do a pilot project (possibly with an outside mentor), and let the project team become the teachers for the rest of the company.

2. Low-risk project

Try a low-risk project first and allow for mistakes. Once you’ve gained some experience, you can either seed other projects from members of this first team or use the team members as an OOP technical support staff. This first project may not work right the first time, so it should not be mission-critical for the company. It should be simple, self-contained, and instructive; this means that it should involve creating classes that will be meaningful to the other programmers in the company when they get their turn to learn C++.

3. Model from success

Seek out examples of good object-oriented design before starting from scratch. There’s a good probability that someone has solved your problem already, and if they haven’t solved it exactly you can probably apply what you’ve learned about abstraction to modify an existing design to fit your needs. This is the general concept of design patterns, covered in Chapter XX.

4. Use existing class libraries

The primary economic motivation for switching to C++ is the easy use of existing code in the form of class libraries (in particular, the Standard C++ libraries, which are covered later in this book). The shortest application development cycle will result when you don’t have to write anything but main( ). However, some new programmers don’t understand this, are unaware of existing class libraries, or through fascination with the language desire to write classes that may already exist. Your success with OOP and C++ will be optimized if you make an effort to seek out and reuse other people’s code early in the transition process.

5. Don’t rewrite existing code in C++

Although compiling your C code in C++ usually produces (sometimes great) benefits by finding problems in the old code, it is not usually the best use of your time to take existing, functional code and rewrite it in C++ (if you must turn it into objects, you can “wrap” the C code in C++ classes). There are incremental benefits, especially if the code is slated for reuse. But chances are you aren’t going to see the dramatic increases in productivity that you hope for in your first few projects unless that project is a new one. C++ and OOP shine best when taking a project from concept to reality.

Management obstacles

If you’re a manager, your job is to acquire resources for your team, to overcome barriers to your team’s success, and in general to try to provide the most productive and enjoyable environment so your team is most likely to perform those miracles that are always being asked of you. Moving to C++ falls in all three of these categories, and it would be wonderful if it didn’t cost you anything as well. Although moving to C++ may be cheaper – depending on your constraints[13] – than the OOP alternatives for team of C programmers (and probably for programmers in other procedural languages), it isn’t free, and there are obstacles you should be aware of before trying to sell the move to C++ within your company and embarking on the move itself.

Startup costs

The cost of moving to C++ is more than just the acquisition of C++ compilers (the GNU C++ compiler, one of the very best, is free). Your medium- and long-term costs will be minimized if you invest in training (and possibly mentoring for your first project) and also if you identify and purchase class libraries that solve your problem rather than trying to build those libraries yourself. These are hard-money costs that must be factored into a realistic proposal. In addition, there are the hidden costs in loss of productivity while learning a new language and possibly a new programming environment. Training and mentoring can certainly minimize these but team members must overcome their own struggles to understand the issues. During this process they will make more mistakes (this is a feature, because acknowledged mistakes are the fastest path to learning) and be less productive. Even then, with some types of programming problems, the right classes, and the right development environment, it’s possible to be more productive while you’re learning C++ (even considering that you’re making more mistakes and writing fewer lines of code per day) than if you’d stayed with C.

Performance issues

A common question is, “Doesn’t OOP automatically make my programs a lot bigger and slower?” The answer is, “It depends.” Most traditional OOP languages were designed with experimentation and rapid prototyping in mind rather than lean-and-mean operation. Thus, they virtually guaranteed a significant increase in size and decrease in speed. C++, however, is designed with production programming in mind. When your focus is on rapid prototyping, you can throw together components as fast as possible while ignoring efficiency issues. If you’re using any third-party libraries, these are usually already optimized by their vendors; in any case it’s not an issue while you’re in rapid-development mode. When you have a system you like, if it’s small and fast enough, then you’re done. If not, you begin tuning with a profiling tool, looking first for speedups that can be done with simple applications of built-in C++ features. If that doesn’t help, you look for modifications that can be made in the underlying implementation so no code that uses a particular class needs to be changed. Only if nothing else solves the problem do you need to change the design. The fact that performance is so critical in that portion of the design is an indicator that it must be part of the primary design criteria. You have the benefit of finding this out early through rapid prototyping.

As mentioned earlier, the number that is most often given for the difference in size and speed between C and C++ is ±10%, and often much closer to par. You may actually get a significant improvement in size and speed when using C++ rather than C because the design you make for C++ could be quite different from the one you’d make for C.

The evidence for size and speed comparisons between C and C++ tends to be anecdotal and is likely to remain so. Regardless of the number of people who suggest that a company try the same project using C and C++, no company is likely to waste money that way unless it’s very big and interested in such research projects. Even then, it seems like the money could be better spent. Almost universally, programmers who have moved from C (or some other procedural language) to C++ have had the personal experience of a great acceleration in their programming productivity, and that’s the most compelling argument you can find.

Common design errors

When starting your team into OOP and C++, programmers will typically go through a series of common design errors. This often happens because of too little feedback from experts during the design and implementation of early projects, because no experts have been developed within the company. It’s easy to feel that you understand OOP too early in the cycle and go off on a bad tangent; something that’s obvious to someone experienced with the language may be a subject of great internal debate for a novice. Much of this trauma can be skipped by using an outside expert for training and mentoring.

On the other hand, the fact that it is easy to make these design errors points to C++’s main drawback: its backwards-compatibility with C (of course, that’s also its main strength). To accomplish the feat of being able to compile C code, the language had to make some compromises which have resulted in a number of “dark corners.” These are a reality, and comprise much of the learning curve for the language. In this book (and in others; see the “Recommended Reading” appendix) I try to reveal most of the pitfalls you are likely to encounter when working with C++, but you should always be aware that there are some holes in the safety net.

Summary

This chapter attempts to give you a feel for the broad issues of object-oriented programming and C++, including why OOP is different, and why C++ in particular is different, concepts of OOP methodologies, and finally the kinds of issues you will encounter when moving your own company to OOP and C++.

OOP and C++ may not be for everyone. It’s important to evaluate your own needs and decide whether C++ will optimally satisfy those needs, or if you might be better off with another programming system. If you know that your needs will be very specialized for the foreseeable future and if you have specific constraints that may not be satisfied by C++, then you owe it to yourself to investigate the alternatives. Even if you eventually choose C++ as your language, you’ll at least understand what the options were and have a clear vision of why you took that direction.

You know what a procedural program looks like: data definitions and function calls. To find the meaning of such a program you have to work a little, looking through the function calls and low-level concepts to create a model in your mind. This is the reason we need intermediate representations when designing procedural programs – by themselves, these programs tend to be confusing because the terms of expression are oriented more toward the computer than the problem you’re solving.

Because C++ adds many new concepts to the C language, your natural assumption may be that, of course, the main( ) in a C++ program will be far more complicated than the equivalent C program. Here, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: A well-written C++ program is generally far simpler and much easier to understand than the equivalent C program. What you’ll see are the definitions of the objects that represent concepts in your problem space (rather than the issues of the computer representation) and messages sent to those objects to represent the activities in that space. One of the delights of object-oriented programming is that, with a well-designed program, it’s very easy to understand the code by reading it. Usually there’s a lot less code, as well, because many of your problems will be solved by reusing existing library code.

2: Making & using objects

This chapter will introduce enough C++ syntax and program construction concepts to allow you to write and run some simple object-oriented programs. In the subsequent chapter we will cover the basic syntax of C and C++ in detail.

By seeing this chapter first, you’ll get the basic flavor of what it is like to program with objects in C++, and you’ll also discover some of the reasons for the enthusiasm surrounding this language. This should be enough to carry you through Chapter 3, which can be a bit exhausting since it contains most of the details of the C language.

The user-defined data type, or class, is what distinguishes C++ from traditional procedural languages. A class is a new data type that you or someone else creates to solve a particular kind of problem. Once a class is created, anyone can use it without knowing the specifics of how it works, or even how classes are built. This chapter treats classes as if they are just another built-in data type available for use in programs.

Classes that someone else has created are typically packaged into a library. This chapter uses several of the class libraries that come with all C++ implementations. An especially important standard library is iostreams, which (among other things) allows you to read from files and the keyboard, and to write to files and the display. You’ll also see the very handy string class, and the vector container from the Standard Template Library (STL). By the end of the chapter, you’ll see how easy it is to utilize a pre-defined library of classes.

In order to create your first program you must understand the tools used to build applications.

The process of language translation

All computer languages are translated from something that tends to be easy for a human to understand (source code) into something that is executed on a computer (machine instructions). Traditionally, translators fall into two classes: interpreters and compilers.

Interpreters

An interpreter translates source code into activities (which may comprise groups of machine instructions) and immediately executes those activities. BASIC, for example, has been a popular interpreted language. Traditional BASIC interpreters translate and execute one line at a time, and then forget that the line has been translated. This makes them slow, since they must re-translate any repeated code. BASIC has also been compiled, for speed. More modern interpreters, such as those for the Perl language, translate the entire program into an intermediate language which is then executed by a much faster interpreter[14].

Interpreters have many advantages. The transition from writing code to executing code is almost immediate, and the source code is always available so the interpreter can be much more specific when an error occurs. The benefits often cited for interpreters are ease of interaction and rapid development (but not necessarily execution) of programs.

Interpreted languages often have severe limitations when building large projects (Perl seems to be an exception to this). The interpreter (or a reduced version) must always be in memory to execute the code, and even the fastest interpreter may introduce unacceptable speed restrictions. Most interpreters require that the complete source code be brought into the interpreter all at once. Not only does this introduce a space limitation, it can also cause more difficult bugs if the language doesn’t provide facilities to localize the effect of different pieces of code.

Compilers

A compiler translates source code directly into assembly language or machine instructions. The eventual end product is a file or files containing machine code. This is an involved process, and usually takes several steps. The transition from writing code to executing code is significantly longer with a compiler.

Depending on the acumen of the compiler writer, programs generated by a compiler tend to require much less space to run, and they run much more quickly. Although size and speed are probably the most often cited reasons for using a compiler, in many situations they aren’t the most important reasons. Some languages (such as C) are designed to allow pieces of a program to be compiled independently. These pieces are eventually combined into a final executable program by a tool called the linker. This process is called separate compilation.

Separate compilation has many benefits. A program that, taken all at once, would exceed the limits of the compiler or the compiling environment can be compiled in pieces. Programs can be built and tested a piece at a time. Once a piece is working, it can be saved and treated as a building block. Collections of tested and working pieces can be combined into libraries for use by other programmers. As each piece is created, the complexity of the other pieces is hidden. All these features support the creation of large programs[15].

Compiler debugging features have improved significantly over time. Early compilers only generated machine code, and the programmer inserted print statements to see what was going on. This is not always effective. Modern compilers can insert information about the source code into the executable program. This information is used by powerful source-level debuggers to show exactly what is happening in a program by tracing its progress through the source code.

Some compilers tackle the compilation-speed problem by performing in-memory compilation. Most compilers work with files, reading and writing them in each step of the compilation process. In-memory compilers keep the program in RAM. For small programs, this can seem as responsive as an interpreter.

The compilation process

To program in C and C++, you need to understand the steps and tools in the compilation process. Some languages (C and C++, in particular) start compilation by running a preprocessor on the source code. The preprocessor is a simple program that replaces patterns in the source code with other patterns the programmer has defined (using preprocessor directives). Preprocessor directives are used to save typing and to increase the readability of the code (Later in the book, you’ll learn how the design of C++ is meant to discourage much of the use of the preprocessor, since it can cause subtle bugs). The pre-processed code is often written to an intermediate file.

Compilers usually do their work in two passes. The first pass parses the pre-processed code. The compiler breaks the source code into small units and organizes it into a structure called a tree. In the expression “A + B” the elements ‘A’, ‘+’ and ‘B’ are leaves on the parse tree.

A global optimizer is sometimes used between the first and second passes to produce smaller, faster code.

In the second pass, the code generator walks through the parse tree and generates either assembly language code or machine code for the nodes of the tree. If the code generator creates assembly code, the assembler must then be run. The end result in both cases is an object module (a file that typically has an extension of .o or .obj). A peephole optimizer is sometimes used in the second pass to look for pieces of code containing redundant assembly-language statements.

The use of the word “object” to describe chunks of machine code is an unfortunate artifact. The word came into use before object-oriented programming was in general use. “Object” is used in the same sense as “goal” when discussing compilation, while in object-oriented programming it means “a thing with boundaries.”

The linker combines a list of object modules into an executable program that can be loaded and run by the operating system. When a function in one object module makes a reference to a function or variable in another object module, the linker resolves these references – it makes sure that all the external functions and data you claimed existed during compilation actually do exist. The linker also adds a special object module to perform start-up activities.

The linker can search through special files called libraries in order to resolve all its references. A library contains a collection of object modules in a single file. A library is created and maintained by a program called a librarian.

Static type checking

The compiler performs type checking during the first pass. Type checking tests for the proper use of arguments in functions, and prevents many kinds of programming errors. Since type checking occurs during compilation rather than when the program is running, it is called static type checking.

Some object-oriented languages (notably Java) perform some type checking at runtime (dynamic type checking). If combined with static type checking, dynamic type checking is more powerful than static type checking alone. However, it also adds overhead to program execution.

C++ uses static type checking because the language cannot assume any particular runtime support for bad operations. Static type checking notifies the programmer about misuses of types during compilation, and thus maximizes execution speed. As you learn C++ you will see that most of the language design decisions favor the same kind of high-speed, production-oriented programming the C language is famous for.

You can disable static type checking in C++. You can also do your own dynamic type checking – you just need to write the code.

Tools for separate compilation

Separate compilation is particularly important when building large projects. In C and C++, a program can be created in small, manageable, independently tested pieces. The most fundamental tool for breaking a program up into pieces is the ability to create named subroutines or subprograms. In C and C++, a subprogram is called a function, and functions are the pieces of code that can be placed in different files, enabling separate compilation. Put another way, the function is the atomic unit of code, since you cannot have part of a function in one file and another part in a different file – the entire function must be placed in a single file (although files can and do contain more than one function).

When you call a function, you typically pass it some arguments, which are values you’d like the function to work with during its execution. When the function is finished, you typically get back a return value, a value that the function hands back to you as a result. It’s also possible to write functions that take no arguments and return no values.

To create a program with multiple files, functions in one file must access functions and data in other files. When compiling a file, the C or C++ compiler must know about the functions and data in the other files, in particular their names and proper usage. The compiler ensures that functions and data are used correctly. This process of “telling the compiler” the names of external functions and data and what they should look like is called declaration. Once you declare a function or variable, the compiler knows how to check to make sure it is used properly.

Declarations vs. definitions

It’s important to understand the difference between declarations and definitions because these terms will be used precisely throughout the book. Essentially all C and C++ programs require declarations. Before you can write your first program, you need to understand the proper way to write a declaration.

A declaration introduces a name – an identifier – to the compiler. It tells the compiler “this function or this variable exists somewhere, and here is what it should look like.” A definition, on the other hand, says: “make this variable here” or “make this function here.” It allocates storage for the name. This meaning works whether you’re talking about a variable or a function; in either case, at the point of definition the compiler allocates storage. For a variable, the compiler determines how big that variable is and causes space to be generated in memory to hold the data for that variable. For a function, the compiler generates code, which ends up occupying storage in memory.

You can declare a variable or a function in many different places, but there must only be one definition in C and C++ (this is sometimes called the ODR: one-definition rule). When the linker is uniting all the object modules, it will usually complain if it finds more than one definition for the same function or variable.

A definition can also be a declaration. If the compiler hasn’t seen the name x before and you define int x;, the compiler sees the name as a declaration and allocates storage for it all at once.

Function declaration syntax

A function declaration in C and C++ gives the function name, the argument types passed to the function, and the return value of the function. For example, here is a declaration for a function called func1( ) that takes two integer arguments (integers are denoted in C/C++ with the keyword int) and returns an integer:

int func1(int,int);

The first keyword you see is the return value, all by itself: int. The arguments are enclosed in parentheses after the function name, in the order they are used. The semicolon indicates the end of a statement; in this case, it tells the compiler “that’s all – there is no function definition here!”

C and C++ declarations attempt to mimic the form of the item’s use. For example, if a is another integer the above function might be used this way:

a = func1(2,3);

Since func1( ) returns an integer, the C or C++ compiler will check the use of func1( ) to make sure that a can accept the return value and that the arguments are appropriate.

Arguments in function declarations may have names. The compiler ignores the names but they can be helpful as mnemonic devices for the user. For example, we can declare func1( ) in a different fashion that has the same meaning:

int func1(int length, int width);

A gotcha

There is a significant difference between C and C++ for functions with empty argument lists. In C, the declaration:

int func2();

means “a function with any number and type of argument.” This prevents type-checking, so in C++ it means “a function with no arguments.”

Function definitions

Function definitions look like function declarations except they have bodies. A body is a collection of statements enclosed in braces. Braces denote the beginning and ending of a block of code. To give func1( ) a definition which is an empty body (a body containing no code), write this:

int func1(int length, int width) { }

Notice that in the function definition, the braces replace the semicolon. Since braces surround a statement or group of statements, you don’t need a semicolon. Notice also that the arguments in the function definition must have names if you want to use the arguments in the function body (since they are never used here, they are optional).

Variable declaration syntax

The meaning attributed to the phrase “variable declaration” has historically been confusing and contradictory, and it’s important that you understand the correct definition so you can read code properly. A variable declaration tells the compiler what a variable looks like. It says “I know you haven’t seen this name before, but I promise it exists someplace, and it’s a variable of X type.”

In a function declaration, you give a type (the return value), the function name, the argument list, and a semicolon. That’s enough for the compiler to figure out that it’s a declaration, and what the function should look like. By inference, a variable declaration might be a type followed by a name. For example:

int a;

could declare the variable a as an integer, using the above logic. Here’s the conflict: there is enough information in the above code for the compiler to create space for an integer called a, and that’s what happens. To resolve this dilemma, a keyword was necessary for C and C++ to say “this is only a declaration; it’s defined elsewhere.” The keyword is extern. It can mean the definition is external to the file, or that the definition occurs later in the file.

Declaring a variable without defining it means using the extern keyword before a description of the variable, like this:

extern int a;

extern can also apply to function declarations. For func1( ), it looks like this:

extern int func1(int length, int width);

This statement is equivalent to the previous func1( ) declarations. Since there is no function body, the compiler must treat it as a function declaration rather than a function definition. The extern keyword is thus superfluous and optional for function declarations. It is probably unfortunate that the designers of C did not require the use of extern for function declarations; it would have been more consistent and less confusing (but would have required more typing, which probably explains the decision).

Here are some more examples of declarations:

//: C03:Declare.cpp

// Declaration & definition examples

extern int i; // Declaration without definition

extern float f(float); // Function declaration

float b; // Declaration & definition

float f(float a) { // Definition

return a + 1.0;

}

int i; // Definition

int h(int x) { // Declaration & definition

return x + 1;

}

int main() {

b = 1.0;

i = 2;

f(b);

h(i);

} ///:~

In the function declarations, the argument identifiers are optional. In the definitions, they are required. This is true only in C, not C++.

Including headers

Most libraries contain significant numbers of functions and variables. To save work and ensure consistency when making the external declarations for these items, C and C++ use a device called the header file. A header file is a file containing the external declarations for a library; it conventionally has a file name extension of ‘h’, such as headerfile.h. (You may also see some older code using different extensions like .hxx or .hpp, but this is becoming very rare.)

The programmer who creates the library provides the header file. To declare the functions and external variables in the library, the user simply includes the header file. To include a header file, use the #include preprocessor directive. This tells the preprocessor to open the named header file and insert its contents where the include statement appears. Files may be named in an include statement in two ways: in angle brackets (< >) or in double quotes.

File names in angle brackets, such as:

#include <header>

causes the preprocessor to search for the file in a way that is particular to your implementation, but typically there’s some kind of “include search path” that you specify in your environment or on the compiler command line. The mechanism for setting the search path varies between machines, operating systems and C++ implementations, and may require some investigation on your part.

File names in double quotes, such as:

#include “local.h”

tell the preprocessor to search for the file in (according to the specification) an “implementation-defined way.” What this typically means is to search the current directory for the file. If the file is not found, then the include directive is reprocessed as if it had angle brackets instead of quotes.

To include the iostream header file, you say:

#include <iostream>

The preprocessor will find the iostream header file (often in a subdirectory called “include”) and insert it.

Standard C++ include format

As C++ evolved, different compiler vendors chose different extensions for file names. In addition, various operating systems have different restrictions on file names, in particular on name length. These issues caused source-code portability problems. To smooth over these rough edges, the standard uses a format that allows file names longer than the notorious eight characters and eliminates the extension. For example, instead of the old style of including iostream.h, which looks like this:

#include <iostream.h>

you can now say:

#include <iostream>

The translator can implement the include statements in a way to suit the needs of that particular compiler and operating system, if necessary truncating the name and adding an extension. Of course, you can also copy the headers given you by your compiler vendor to ones without extensions if you want to use this style before a vendor has provided support for it.

The libraries that have been inherited from C are still available with the traditional ‘.h’ extension. However, you can also use them with the more modern C++ include style by prepending a “c” before the name. Thus:

#include <stdio.h>

#include <stdlib.h>

Become:

#include <cstdio>

#include <cstdlib>

And so on, for all the Standard C headers. This provides a nice distinction to the reader indicating when you’re using C versus C++ libraries.

Linking

The linker collects object modules (which often use file name extensions like .o or .obj), generated by the compiler, into an executable program the operating system can load and run. It is the last phase of the compilation process.

Linker characteristics vary from system to system. Generally, you just tell the linker the names of the object modules and libraries you want linked together, and the name of the executable, and it goes to work. Some systems require you to invoke the linker yourself. With most C++ packages you invoke the linker through the C++ compiler. In many situations, the linker is invoked for you, invisibly.

Some older linkers won’t search object files and libraries more than once, and they search through the list you give them from left to right. This means that the order of object files and libraries can be important. If you have a mysterious problem that doesn’t show up until link time, one possibility is the order in which the files are given to the linker.

Using libraries

Now that you know the basic terminology, you can understand how to use a library. To use a library:

1. Include the library’s header file

2. Use the functions and variables in the library

3. Link the library into the executable program

These steps also apply when the object modules aren’t combined into a library. Including a header file and linking the object modules are the basic steps for separate compilation in both C and C++.

How the linker searches a library

When you make an external reference to a function or variable in C or C++, the linker, upon encountering this reference, can do one of two things. If it has not already encountered the definition for the function or variable, it adds the identifier to its list of “unresolved references.” If the linker has already encountered the definition, the reference is resolved.

If the linker cannot find the definition in the list of object modules, it searches the libraries. Libraries have some sort of indexing so the linker doesn’t need to look through all the object modules in the library – it just looks in the index. When the linker finds a definition in a library, the entire object module, not just the function definition, is linked into the executable program. Note that the whole library isn’t linked, just the object module in the library that contains the definition you want (otherwise programs would be unnecessarily large). If you want to minimize executable program size, you might consider putting a single function in each source code file when you build your own libraries. This requires more editing[16], but it can be helpful to the user.

Because the linker searches files in the order you give them, you can pre-empt the use of a library function by inserting a file with your own function, using the same function name, into the list before the library name appears. Since the linker will resolve any references to this function by using your function before it searches the library, your function is used instead of the library function.

Secret additions

When a C or C++ executable program is created, certain items are secretly linked in. One of these is the startup module, which contains initialization routines that must be run any time a C or C++ program begins to execute. These routines set up the stack and initialize certain variables in the program.

The linker always searches the standard library for the compiled versions of any “standard” functions called in the program. Because the standard library is always searched, you can use anything in that library by simply including the appropriate header file in your program – you don’t have tell it to search the standard library. The iostream functions, for example, are in the Standard C++ library. To use them, you just include the <iostream> header file.

If you are using an add-on library, you must explicitly add the library name to the list of files handed to the linker.

Using plain C libraries

Just because you are writing code in C++, you are not prevented from using C library functions. In fact, the entire C library is included by default into Standard C++. There has been a tremendous amount of work done for you in these functions, so they can save you a lot of time.

This book will use Standard C++ (and thus also Standard C) library functions when convenient, but only standard library functions will be used, to ensure the portability of programs. In the few cases where library functions must be used that are not in the C++ standard, all attempts will be made to use POSIX-compliant functions. POSIX is a standard based on a Unix standardization effort which includes functions that go beyond the scope of the C++ library. You can generally expect to find POSIX functions on Unix (in particular, Linux) platforms, and often under DOS/Windows.

Your first C++ program

You now know almost enough of the basics to create and compile a program. The program will use the Standard C++ iostream classes. These read from and write to files and “standard” input and output (which normally comes from and goes to the console, but may be redirected to files or devices). In this very simple program, a stream object will be used to print a message on the screen.

Using the iostreams class

To declare the functions and external data in the iostreams class, include the header file with the statement

#include <iostream>

The first program uses the concept of standard output, which means “a general-purpose place to send output.” You will see other examples using standard output in different ways, but here it will just go to the console. The iostream package automatically defines a variable (an object) called cout that accepts all data bound for standard output.

To send data to standard output, you use the operator <<. C programmers know this operator as the “bitwise left shift,” which will be described in the next chapter. Suffice it to say that a bitwise left shift has nothing to do with output. However, C++ allows operators to be overloaded. When you overload an operator, you give it a new meaning when that operator is used with an object of a particular type. With iostream objects, the operator << means “send to.” For example:

cout << “howdy!”;

sends the string “howdy!” to the object called cout (which is short for “console output”).

That’s enough operator overloading to get you started. Chapter XX covers operator overloading in detail.

Namespaces

As mentioned in the previous chapter, one of the problems encountered in the C language is that you “run out of names” for functions and identifiers when your programs reach a certain size. Of course, you don’t really run out of names – however, it becomes harder to think of new ones after awhile. More importantly, when a program reaches a certain size it’s typically broken up into pieces, each of which is built and maintained by a different person or group. Since C effectively has a single arena where all the identifier and function names live, this means that all the developers must be careful not to accidentally use the same names in situations where they can conflict. This rapidly becomes tedious, time-wasting and, ultimately, expensive.

Standard C++ has a mechanism to prevent this collison: the namespace keyword. Each set of C++ definitions in a library or program is “wrapped” in a namespace, and if some other definition has an identical name, but is in a different namespace, then there is no collision.

Namespaces are a convenient and helpful tool, but their presence means you must be aware of them before you can write any programs at all. If you simply include a header file and use some functions or objects from that header, you’ll probably get strange-sounding errors when you try to compile the program, to the effect that the compiler cannot find any of the declarations for the items that you just included in the header file! After you see this message a few times you’ll become familiar with its meaning (which is: “you included the header file but all the declarations are within a namespace and you didn’t tell the compiler that you wanted to use the declarations in that namespace”).

There’s a keyword that allows you to say “I want to use the declarations and/or definitions in this namespace.” This keyword, appropriately enough, is using. All of the Standard C++ libraries are wrapped in a single namespace, which is std (for “standard”). As this book uses the standard libraries almost exclusively, you’ll see the following using directive in almost every program:

using namespace std;

This means that you want to expose all the elements from the namespace called std. After this statement, you don’t have to worry that your particular library component is inside a namespace, since the using directive makes that namespace available throughout the file where the using directive was written.

Exposing all the elements from a namespace after someone has gone to the trouble to hide them may seem a bit counterproductive, and in fact you should be careful about thoughtlessly doing this (as you’ll learn later in the book). However, the using directive only exposes those names for the current file, so it is not quite so drastic as it first sounds (but think twice about doing it in a header file – that is reckless).

There’s a relationship between namespaces and the way header files are included. Before the current header file inclusion style of <iostream> (that is, no trailing ‘.h’) was standardized, the typical way to include a header file was with the ‘.h’, such as <iostream.h>. At that time, namespaces were not part of the language, either. So to provide backwards compatibility with existing code, if you say

#include <iostream.h>

It means

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

However, in this book the standard include format will be used (without the ‘.h’) and so the using directive must be explicit.

For now, that’s all you need to know about namespaces, but in Chapter XX the subject is covered much more thoroughly.

Fundamentals of program structure

A C or C++ program is a collection of variables, function definitions and function calls. When the program starts, it executes initialization code and calls a special function, “main( ).” You put the primary code for the program here.

As mentioned earlier, a function definition consists of a return type (which must be specified in C++), a function name, an argument list in parentheses, and the function code contained in braces. Here is a sample function definition:

int function() {

// Function code here (this is a comment)

}

The above function has an empty argument list, and a body that contains only a comment.

There can be many sets of braces within a function definition, but there must always be at least one set surrounding the function body. Since main( ) is a function, it must follow these rules. In C++, main( ) always has return type of int.

C and C++ are free form languages. With few exceptions, the compiler ignores newlines and white space, so it must have some way to determine the end of a statement. Statements are delimited by semicolons.

C comments start with /* and end with */. They can include newlines. C++ uses C-style comments and has an additional type of comment: //. The // starts a comment that terminates with a newline. It is more convenient than /* */ for one-line comments, and is used extensively in this book.

“Hello, world!”

And now, finally, the first program:

//: C02:Hello.cpp

// Saying Hello with C++

#include <iostream> // Stream declarations

using namespace std;

int main() {

cout << “Hello, World! I am ” << 8 << ” Today!” << endl;

} ///:~

The cout object is handed a series of arguments via the ‘<<’ operators. It prints out these arguments in left-to-right order. The special iostream function endl outputs the line and a newline. With iostreams, you can string together a series of arguments like this, which makes the class easy to use.

In C, text inside double quotes is traditionally called a “string.” However, the Standard C++ library has a powerful class called string for manipulating text, and so I shall use the more precise term character array for text inside double quotes.

The compiler creates storage for character arrays and stores the ASCII equivalent for each character in this storage. The compiler automatically terminates this array of characters with an extra piece of storage containing the value 0, to indicate the end of the character array.

Inside a character array, you can insert special characters by using escape sequences. These consist of a backslash (\) followed by a special code. For example \n means newline. Your compiler manual or local C guide gives a complete set of escape sequences; others include \t (tab), \\ (backslash) and \b (backspace).

Notice that the entire statement terminates with a semicolon.

Character array arguments and constant numbers are mixed together in the above cout statement. Because the operator << is overloaded with a variety of meanings when used with cout, you can send cout a variety of different arguments, and it will “figure out what to do with the message.”

Throughout this book you’ll notice that the first line of each file will be a comment that starts with the characters that start a comment (typically //), followed by a colon. This is a technique I use to allow easy extraction of information from code files (the program to do this is in the last chapter of the book). The first line also has the name and location of the file, so it can be referred to in text and in other files, and so you can easily locate it in the source code for this book (which is freely downloadable from http://www.BruceEckel.com, where you’ll find instructions on how to unpack it).

Running the compiler

After downloading and unpacking the book’s source code, find the program in the subdirectory CO2. Invoke the compiler with Hello.cpp as the argument. For simple, one-file programs like this one, most compilers will take you all the way through the process. For example, to use the Gnu C++ compiler (which is freely available on the Internet), you say:

g++ Hello.cpp

Other compilers will have a similar syntax; consult your compiler’s documenation for details.

More about iostreams

So far you have seen only the most rudimentary aspect of the iostreams class. The output formatting available with iostreams also includes features like number formatting in decimal, octal and hex. Here’s another example of the use of iostreams:

//: C02:Stream2.cpp

// More streams features

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

// Specifying formats with manipulators:

cout << “a number in decimal: ”

<< dec << 15 << endl;

cout << “in octal: ” << oct << 15 << endl;

cout << “in hex: ” << hex << 15 << endl;

cout << “a floating-point number: ”

<< 3.14159 << endl;

cout << “non-printing char (escape): ”

<< char(27) << endl;

} ///:~

This example shows the iostreams class printing numbers in decimal, octal and hexadecimal using iostream manipulators (which don’t print anything, but change the state of the output stream). The formatting of floating-point numbers is determined automatically, by the compiler. In addition, any character can be sent to a stream object using a cast to a char (a char is a data type which holds single characters). This cast looks like a function call: char( ), along with the character’s ASCII value. In the above program, the char(27) sends an “escape” to cout.

Character array concatenation

An important feature of the C preprocessor is character array concatenation. This feature is used in some of the examples in this book. If two quoted character arrays are adjacent, and no punctuation is between them, the compiler will paste the character arrays together into a single character array. This is particularly useful when code listings have width restrictions:

//: C02:Concat.cpp

// Character array Concatenation

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

cout << “This is far too long to put on a single ”

“line but it can be broken up with no ill effects\n”

“as long as there is no punctuation separating ”

“adjacent character arrays.\n”;

} ///:~

At first, the above code can look like an error because there’s no familiar semicolon at the end of each line. Remember that C and C++ are free-form languages, and although you’ll usually see a semicolon at the end of each line, the actual requirement is for a semicolon at the end of each statement, and it’s possible for a statement to continue over several lines.

Reading input

The iostreams classes provide the ability to read input. The object used for standard input is cin (for “console input”). cin normally expects input from the console, but this input can be redirected from other sources. An example of redirection is shown later in this chapter.

The iostreams operator used with cin is >>. This operator waits for the same kind of input as its argument. For example, if you give it an integer argument, it waits for an integer from the console. Here’s an example:

//: C02:Numconv.cpp

// Converts decimal to octal and hex

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int number;

cout << “Enter a decimal number: “;

cin >> number;

cout << “value in octal = 0” << oct << number << endl;

cout << “value in hex = 0x” << hex << number << endl;

} ///:~

This program converts a number typed in by the user into octal and hexadecimal representations.

Simple file manipulation

Standard I/O provides a very simple way to read and write files, called I/O redirection. If a program takes input from standard input (cin for iostreams) and sends its output to standard output (cout for iostreams), that input and output can be redirected. Input can be taken from a file, and output can be sent to a file. To re‑direct I/O on the command line of some operating systems (Unix/Linux & DOS, in particular), use the ‘<’ sign to redirect input and the ‘>’ sign to redirect output. For example, if we have a fictitious program called fiction that reads from standard input and writes to standard output, you can redirect standard input from the file stuff and redirect the output to the file such with the command:

fiction < stuff > such

Since the files are opened for you, the job is much easier (although you’ll see later that iostreams has a very simple mechanism for opening files).

As a useful example, suppose you want to record the number of times you perform an activity, but the program that records the incidents must be loaded and run many times, and the machine may be turned off, etc. To keep a permanent record of the incidents, you must store the data in a file. This file will be called incident.dat and will initially contain the character 0. For easy reading, it will always contain ASCII digits representing the number of incidents.

The program to increment the number is very simple:

//: C02:Incr.cpp

// Read a number, add one and write it

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int num;

cin >> num;

cout << num + 1;

} ///:~

To test the program, run it, type a number and press the “Enter” key. The program should print a number one larger than the one you type.

While the typical way to use a program that reads from standard input and writes to standard output is within a Unix shell script or DOS batch file, any program can be called from inside a C or C++ program using the Standard C system( ) function, which is declared in the header file <cstdlib>:

//: C02:Incident.cpp

// Records an incident using INCR

#include <cstdlib> // Declare “system()”

using namespace std;

int main() {

// Other code here…

system(“incr < incident.dat > incident.dat”);

} ///:~

To use the system( ) function, you give it a character array that you would normally type at the operating system command prompt. The command executes and control returns to the program[17].

Notice that the file incident.dat is read and written using I/O redirection. Since the single ‘>’ is used, the file is overwritten. Although it works fine here, reading and writing the same file isn’t always a safe thing to do – if you aren’t careful you can end up with garbage in the file.

If a double ‘>>’ is used instead of a single ‘>’, the output is appended to the file (and this program wouldn’t work correctly).

This program shows you how easy it is to use plain C library functions in C++: just include the header file and call the function. This upward compatibility from C to C++ is a big advantage if you are learning the language starting from a background in C.

Introducing strings

While a character array can be fairly useful, it is quite limited. It’s simply a group of characters in memory, but if you want to do anything with it you must manage all the little details. For example, the size of a quoted character array is fixed at compile time. If you have a character array and you want to add some more characters to it, you’ll need to understand quite a lot (inluding dynamic memory management, character array copying and concatenation) before you can get your wish. This is exactly the kind of thing we’d like to have an object do for us.

The Standard C++ string class is designed to take care of (and hide) all the low-level manipulations of character arrays that were previously required of the C++ programmer. These manipulations have been a constant source of time-wasting and errors since the inception of the C language. So, although an entire chapter is devoted to the string class later in the book, the string is so important and it makes life so much easier that it will be introduced here and used in much of the early part of the book.

To use strings you include the C++ header file <string>. The string class is in the namespace std so a using directive is necessary. Because of operator overloading, the syntax for using strings is quite intuitive:

//: C02:HelloStrings.cpp

// The basics of the Standard C++ string class

#include <string>

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

string s1, s2; // Empty strings

string s3 = “Hello, World.”; // Initialized

string s4(“I am”); // Also initialized

s2 = “Today”; // Assigning to a string

s1 = s3 + ” ” + s4; // Combining strings

s1 += ” 8 “; // Appending to a string

cout << s1 + s2 + “!” << endl;

} ///:~

The first two strings, s1 and s2, start out empty, while s3 and s4 show two equivalent ways to initialize string objects from character arrays (you can as easily initialize string objects from other string objects).

You can assign to any string object using ‘=’. This replaces the previous contents of the string with whatever is on the right-hand side, and you don’t have to worry about what happens to the previous contents – that’s handled automatically for you. To combine strings you simply use the ‘+’ operator, which also allows you to combine character arrays with strings. If you want to append either a string or a character array to another string, you can use the operator ‘+=’. Finally, note that iostreams already know what to do with strings, so you can just send a string (or an expression that produces a string, which happens with s1 + s2 + “!”) directly to cout in order to print it.

Reading and writing files

We could use IO redirection in order to read files and write files, as shown previously. In C, the process of opening and manipulating files requires a lot of language background to prepare you for the complexity of the operations. However, the C++ iostream library provides a very simple way to manipulate files, and so this functionality can be introduced much earlier than it would be in C.

To open files for reading and writing, you must include <fstream>. Although this will automatically include <iostream>, it’s generally prudent to explicitly include <iostream> if you’re planning to use cin, cout, etc.

To open a file for reading, you create an ifstream object, which then behaves like cin. To open a file for writing, you create an ofstream object, which then behaves like cout. Once you’ve opened the file, you can read from it or write to it just as you would with any other iostream object. It’s that simple (which is, of course, the whole point).

One of the most useful functions in the iostream library is getline( ), which allows you to read one line (terminated by a newline) into a string object[18]. The first argument is the ifstream object you’re reading from, and the second argument is the string object. When the function call is finished, the string object will contain the line.

Here’s a simple example, which copies the contents of one file into another:

//: C02:Scopy.cpp

// Copy one file to another, a line at a time

#include <string>

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

ifstream in(“Scopy.cpp”); // Open for reading

ofstream out(“Scopy2.cpp”); // Open for writing

string s;

while(getline(in, s)) // Discards newline char

out << s << “\n”; // … must add it back

} ///:~

To open the files, you just hand the ifstream and ofstream objects the file names you want to create, as seen above.

There is a new concept introduced here, which is the while loop. Although this will be explained in detail in the next chapter, the basic idea is that the expression in parentheses following the while controls the execution of the subsequent statement (which can also be multiple statements, wrapped inside curly braces). As long as the expression in parentheses (in this case, getline(in, s)) produces a “true” result, then the statement controlled by the while will continue to execute. It turns out that getline( ) will return a value that can be interpreted as “true” if another line has been successfully read, and “false” upon reaching the end of the input. Thus, the above while loop reads every line in the input file and sends each line to the output file.

getline( ) reads each line until it discovers a newline (the termination character can be changed, but that won’t be an issue until Chapter XX). However, it discards the newline and doesn’t store it in the resulting string object. Thus, if we want the copied file to look just like the source file, we must add the newline back in, as shown.

Another interesting example is to copy the entire file into a single string object:

//: C02:FillString.cpp

// Read an entire file into a single string

#include <string>

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

ifstream in(“FillString.cpp”);

string s, line;

while(getline(in, line))

s += line + “\n”;

cout << s;

} ///:~

Because of the dynamic nature of strings, you don’t have to worry about how much storage to allocate for a string – you can just keep adding things and the string will keep expanding to hold whatever you put into it.

One of the nice things about putting an entire file into a string is that the string class has many functions for searching and manipulation which would then allow you to modify the file as a single string. However, this has its limitations. For one thing, it is often convenient to treat a file as a collection of lines instead of just a big blob of text. For example, if you want to add line numbering it’s much easier if you have each line as a separate string object. To accomplish this, we’ll need another approach.

Introducing vector

With strings, we can fill up a string object without knowing how much storage we’re going to need. The problem with reading lines from a file into individual string objects is that you don’t know up front how many strings you’re going to need – you only know after you’ve read the entire file. To solve this problem, we need some sort of holder that will automatically expand to contain as many string objects as we care to put into it.

In fact, why limit ourselves to holding string objects? It turns out that this kind of problem – not knowing how many of something you have while you’re writing a program – happens a lot. And this “container” object sounds like it would be more useful if it would hold any kind of object at all! Fortunately, the Standard C++ library has a ready-made solution: the STL container classes. STL stands for “Standard Template Library,” and it’s one of the real powerhouses of Standard C++. Even though the implementation of the STL uses some advanced concepts, and the full coverage of the STL is given two large chapters later in this book, this library can also be very potent without knowing a lot about it. It’s so useful that the most basic of the STL containers, the vector, is introduced in this early chapter and used throughout the introductory part of the book. You’ll find that you can do a tremendous amount just by using the basics of vector and not worrying about the underlying implementation (again, an important goal of OOP). Since you’ll learn much more about this and the other containers when you reach the STL chapters, it seems forgiveable if the programs that use vector in the early portion of the book aren’t exactly what an experienced C++ programmer would do. You’ll find that in most cases, the usage shown here is adequate.

The vector class is a template, which means that it can be efficiently applied to different types. That is, we can create a vector of shapes, a vector of cats, a vector of strings, etc. Basically, with a template you can create a “class of anything.” To tell the compiler what it is that the class will work with (in this case, what the vector will hold), you put the name of the desired type in “angle brackets,” which means ‘less-than’ and ‘greater-than’ signs. So a vector of string would be denoted vector<string>. When you do this, you end up with a customized vector that will only hold string objects, and you’ll get an error message from the compiler if you try to put anything else into it.

Since vector expresses the concept of a “container,” there must be a way to put things into the container and get things back out of the container. To add a brand-new element on the end of a vector, you use a the member function push_back( ) (remember that, since it’s a member function, you use a ‘.’ to call it for a particular object). The reason the name of this member function might seem a bit verbose – push_back( ) instead of something simpler like “put” – is because there are other containers and other member functions for putting new elements into containers. For example, the there is an insert( ) member function to put something in the middle of a container. vector supports this but its use is more complicated and we won’t need to explore it until later in the book. There’s also a push_front( ) (not part of vector) to put things at the beginning. There are many more member functions in vector and many more containers in the STL, but you’ll be surprised at how much you can do just knowing about a few simple features.

So you can put new elements into a vector with push_back( ), but how do you get these elements back out again? This solution is more clever and elegant – operator overloading is used to make the vector look like an array. The array (which will be described more fully in the next chapter) is a data type which is available in virtually every programming language so you should already be somewhat familiar with it. Arrays are aggregates, which mean they consist of a number of elements clumped together. The distinguishing characteristic of an array is that these elements are the same size and are arranged to be one right after the other. Most importantly, these elements can be selected by “indexing,” which means you can say “I want element number n” and that element will be produced, usually very quickly. Although there are exceptions in programming languages, the indexing is normally achieved using square brackets, so if you have an array a and you want to produce element 5, you say a[5].

This very compact and powerful indexing notation is incorporated into the vector using operator overloading, just like ‘<<’ and ‘>>’ were incorporated into iostreams. Again, you don’t need to know how the overloading was implemented – that’s saved for a later chapter – but it’s helpful if you’re aware that there’s some magic going on under the covers in order to make the [ ] work with vector.

With that in mind, you can now see a program that uses vector. To use a vector, you include the header file <vector>:

//: C02:Fillvector.cpp

// Copy an entire file into a vector of string

#include <string>

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <vector>

using namespace std;

int main() {

vector<string> v;

ifstream in(“Fillvector.cpp”);

string line;

while(getline(in, line))

v.push_back(line); // Add the line to the end

// Add line numbers:

for(int i = 0; i < v.size(); i++)

cout << i << “: ” << v[i] << endl;

} ///:~

Much of this program is similar to the previous one: a file is opened and lines are read into string objects one at a time. However, these string objects are pushed onto the back of the vector v. Once the while loop completes, the entire file is resident in memory, inside v.

The next statement in the program is called a for loop. It is similar to a while loop except that it adds some extra control. After the for, there is a “control expression” inside of parentheses, just like the while loop. However, this control expression is in three parts: a part which initializes, one that tests to see if we should exit the loop, and one which changes something, typically to step through a sequence of items. This program shows the for loop in the way you’ll see it most commonly used: the initialization part int i = 0 creates an integer i to use as a loop counter and gives it an initial value of zero. The testing portion says that to stay in the loop, i should be less than the number of elements in the vector v (this is produced using the member function size( ) which I just sort of slipped in here, but you must admit it has a fairly obvious meaning). The final portion uses a shorthand for C and C++, the “auto-increment” operator, to add one to the value of i. Effectively, i++ says “get the value of i, add one to it, and put the result back into i. Thus, the total effect of the for loop is to take a variable i and march it through the values from zero to one less than the size of the vector. For each value of i, the cout statement is executed and this builds a line that consists of the value of i (magically converted to a character array by cout), a colon and a space, the line from the file, and a newline provided by endl. When you compile and run it you’ll see the effect is to add line numbers to the file.

Because of the way that the ‘>>’ operator works with iostreams, you can easily modify the above program so that it breaks up the input into whitespace-separated words instead of lines:

//: C02:GetWords.cpp

// Break a file into whitespace-separated words

#include <string>

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <vector>

using namespace std;

int main() {

vector<string> words;

ifstream in(“GetWords.cpp”);

string word;

while(in >> word)

words.push_back(word);

for(int i = 0; i < words.size(); i++)

cout << words[i] << endl;

} ///:~

The expression

while(in >> word)

is what gets the input one “word” at a time, and when this expression evaluates to false it means the end of the file has been reached. Of course, delimiting words by whitespace is quite crude, but it makes for a simple example. Later in the book you’ll see more sophisticated examples that let you break up input just about any way you’d like.

To demonstrate how easy it is to use a vector with any type, here’s an example that creates a vector<int>:

//: C02:Intvector.cpp

// Creating a vector that holds integers

#include <iostream>

#include <vector>

using namespace std;

int main() {

vector<int> v;

for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++)

v.push_back(i);

for(int i = 0; i < v.size(); i++)

cout << v[i] << “, “;

cout << endl;

for(int i = 0; i < v.size(); i++)

v[i] = v[i] * 10; // Assignment

for(int i = 0; i < v.size(); i++)

cout << v[i] << “, “;

cout << endl;

} ///:~

To create a vector that holds a different type, you just put that type in as the template argument (the argument in angle brackets). Templates and well-designed template libraries are intended to be exactly this easy to use.

This example goes on to demonstrate another essential feature of vector. In the expression

v[i] = v[i] * 10;

you can see that the vector is not limited to only putting things in and getting things out. You also have the ability to assign (and thus to change) to any element of a vector, also through the use of the square-brackets indexing operator. This means that vector is a very general-purpose, very flexible “scratchpad” for working with collections of objects, and we will definitely make use of it in coming chapters.

Summary

The intent of this chapter is to show you how easy object-oriented programming can be – if someone else has gone to the work of defining the objects for you. In that case, you include a header file, create the objects, and send messages to them. If the types you are using are very powerful and well-designed, then you won’t have to do very much work and your resulting program will also be powerful.

In the process of showing the ease of OOP when using library classes, this chapter also introduced some of the most basic and useful types in the Standard C++ library: the family of iostreams (in particular, those that read from and write to the console and files), the string class, and the vector template. You’ve seen how straightforward it is to use these and can now probably imagine many things you can accomplish with them, but there’s actually a lot more that they’re capable of[19]. Even though we’ll only be using a limited subset of the functionality of these tools in the early part of the book, they nonetheless provide a very large step up from the primitiveness of learning a low-level language like C – and while learning the low-level aspects of C is very educational, it’s also time consuming. In the end, you’ll be much more productive if you’ve got objects to manage the low-level issues. After all, the whole point of OOP is to hide the details so you can “paint with a bigger brush.”

However, as high-level as OOP tries to be, there are some fundamental aspects of C that you can’t avoid knowing, and these will be covered in the next chapter.

Exercises

1. Modify Hello.cpp so that it prints out your name and age (or shoe size, or your dog’s age, if that makes you feel better). Compile and run the program.

2. Starting with Stream2.cpp and Numconv.cpp, create a program that asks for the radius of a circle and prints the area of that circle. You can just use the ‘*’ operator to square the radius.

3. Create a program that opens a file and counts the whitespace-separated words in that file.

4. Create a program that counts the occurrence of a particular word in a file (use the string class’ operator ‘==’ to find the word).

5. Modify FillString.cpp so that it adds line numbers to each of the input lines as they are added to s.

6. Change Fillvector.cpp so it prints the lines (backwards) from last to first.

7. Change Fillvector.cpp so it concatenates all the elements in the vector into a single string before printing it out, but don’t try to add line numbering.

8. Display a file a line at a time, waiting for the user to press the “Enter” key after each line.

9. Create a vector<float> and put 25 floating-point numbers into it using a for loop. Display the vector.

10. Create three vector<float> objects and fill the first two as in the previous exercise. Write a for loop that adds each corresponding element in the first two vectors and puts the result in the corresponding element of the third vector. Display all three vectors.

11. Create a vector<float> and put 25 numbers into it as in the previous exercises. Now square each number and put the result back into the same location in the vector. Display the vector before and after the multiplication.

3: The C in C++

Since C++ is based on C, you must be familiar with the syntax of C in order to program in C++, just as you must be reasonably fluent in algebra in order to tackle calculus.

If you’ve never seen C before, this chapter will give you a decent background in the style of C used in C++. If you are familiar with the style of C described in the first edition of Kernighan & Ritchie (often called K&R C) you will find some new and different features in C++ as well as in Standard C. If you are familiar with Standard C, you should skim through this chapter looking for features that are particular to C++. Note that there are some fundamental C++ features introduced here, although they are basic ideas that are akin to the features in C. The more sophisticated C++ features will not be introduced until later chapters.

This chapter is a fairly fast coverage of C constructs, with the understanding that you’ve had some experience programming in another language. If after reading the chapter you still don’t feel comfortable with the fundamentals, you may want to consider purchasing Thinking in C: Foundations for Java & C++ by Chuck Allison (published by MindView, Inc., and available at http://www.MindView.net, where you’ll find the introductory lecture as a free demonstration). This is a seminar on a CD-ROM, much like the CD packaged with this book, and its goal is to take you carefully through the fundamentals of the C language, but focusing on the knowledge necessary for you to be able to move on to the C++ or Java languages rather than trying to make you an expert in all the dark corners of C (one of the reasons for using a higher-level language like C++ or Java is precisely so we can avoid many of these dark corners). It also contains excercises and guided solutions.

Creating functions

In old (pre-Standard) C, you could call a function with any number or type of arguments, and the compiler wouldn’t complain. Everything seemed fine until you ran the program. You got mysterious results (or worse, the program crashed) with no hints as to why. The lack of help with argument passing and the enigmatic bugs that resulted is probably one reason why C was dubbed a “high-level assembly language.” Pre-Standard C programmers just adapted to it.

Standard C and C++ use a feature called function prototyping. With function prototyping, you must use a description of the types of arguments when declaring and defining a function. This description is the “prototype.” When the function is called, the compiler uses the prototype to ensure the proper arguments are passed in, and that the return value is treated correctly. If the programmer makes a mistake when calling the function, the compiler catches the mistake.

Essentially, you learned about function prototyping (without naming it as such) in the previous chapter, since the form of function declaration in C++ requires proper prototyping. In a function prototype, the argument list contains the types of arguments that must be passed to the function and (optionally for the declaration) identifiers for the arguments. The order and type of the arguments must match in the declaration, definition and function call. Here’s an example of a function prototype in a declaration:

int translate(float x, float y, float z);

You do not use the same form when declaring variables in function prototypes as you do in ordinary variable definitions. That is, you cannot say: float x, y, z. You must indicate the type of each argument. In a function declaration, the following form is also acceptable:

int translate(float, float, float);

Since the compiler doesn’t do anything but check for types when the function is called, the identifiers are only included for clarity, when someone is reading the code.

In the function definition, names are required because the arguments are referenced inside the function:

int translate(float x, float y, float z) {

x = y = z;

// …

}

It turns out this rule only applies to C. In C++, an argument may be unnamed in the argument list of the function definition. Since it is unnamed, you cannot use it in the function body, of course. The reason unnamed arguments are allowed is to give the programmer a way to “reserve space in the argument list.” Whoever uses the function must still call the function with the proper arguments. However, the person creating the function can then use the argument in the future without forcing modification of code that calls the function. This option of ignoring an argument in the list is also possible if you leave the name in, but you will get an obnoxious warning message about the value being unused every time you compile the function. The warning is eliminated if you remove the name.

C and C++ have two other ways to declare an argument list. If you have an empty argument list you can declare it as func( ) in C++, which tells the compiler there are exactly zero arguments. You should be aware that this only means an empty argument list in C++. In C it means “an indeterminate number of arguments (which is a “hole” in C since it disables type checking in that case). In both C and C++, the declaration func(void); means an empty argument list. The void keyword means “nothing” in this case (it can also mean “no type” in the case of pointers, as you’ll see later in this chapter).

The other option for argument lists occurs when you don’t know how many arguments or what type of arguments you will have; this is called a variable argument list. This “uncertain argument list” is represented by ellipses (). Defining a function with a variable argument list is significantly more complicated than defining a regular function. You can use a variable argument list for a function that has a fixed set of arguments if (for some reason) you want to disable the error checks of function prototyping. Because of this, you should restrict your use of variable argument lists to C, and avoid them in C++ (where, as you’ll learn, there are much better alternatives). Handling variable argument lists is described in the library section of your local C guide.

Function return values

A C++ function prototype must specify the return value type of the function (in C, if you leave off the return value type it defaults to int). The return type specification precedes the function name. To specify that no value is returned, use the void keyword. This will generate an error if you try to return a value from the function. Here are some complete function prototypes:

int f1(void); // Returns an int, takes no arguments

int f2(); // Like f1() in C++ but not in Standard C!

float f3(float, int, char, double); // Returns a float

void f4(void); // Takes no arguments, returns nothing

To return a value from a function, you use the return statement. return exits the function, back to the point right after the function call. If return has an argument, that argument becomes the return value of the function. If a function says that it will return a particular type, then each return statement must return that type. You can have more than one return statement in a function definition:

//: C03:Return.cpp

// Use of “return”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

char cfunc(int i) {

if(i == 0)

return ‘a’;

if(i == 1)

return ‘g’;

if(i == 5)

return ‘z’;

return ‘c’;

}

int main() {

cout << “type an integer: “;

int val;

cin >> val;

cout << cfunc(val) << endl;

} ///:~

In cfunc( ), the first if that evaluates to true exits the function via the return statement. Notice that a function declaration is not necessary because the function definition appears before it is used in main( ), so the compiler knows about it from that function definition.

Using the C function library

All the functions in your local C function library are available while you are programming in C++. You should look hard at the function library before defining your own function – there’s a good chance that someone has already solved your problem for you, and probably given it a lot more thought and debugging.

A word of caution, though: many compilers include a lot of extra functions that make life even easier and are very tempting to use, but are not part of the Standard C library. If you are certain you will never want to move the application to another platform (and who is certain of that?), go ahead –use those functions and make your life easier. If you want your application to be portable, you should restrict yourself to Standard library functions. If you must perform platform-specific activities, try to isolate that code in one spot so it can easily be changed when porting to another platform. In C++, platform-specific activities are often encapsulated in a class, which is the ideal solution.

The formula for using a library function is as follows: first, find the function in your programming reference (many programming references will index the function by category as well as alphabetically). The description of the function should include a section that demonstrates the syntax of the code. The top of this section usually has at least one #include line, showing you the header file containing the function prototype. Duplicate this #include line in your file, so the function is properly declared. Now you can call the function in the same way it appears in the syntax section. If you make a mistake, the compiler will discover it by comparing your function call to the function prototype in the header, and tell you about your error. The linker searches the standard library by default, so that’s all you need to do: include the header file, and call the function.

Creating your own libraries with the librarian

You can collect your own functions together into a library. Most programming packages come with a librarian that manages groups of object modules. Each librarian has its own commands, but the general idea is this: if you want to create a library, make a header file containing the function prototypes for all the functions in your library. Put this header file somewhere in the preprocessor’s search path, either in the local directory (so it can be found by #include “header”) or in the include directory (so it can be found by #include <header>). Now take all the object modules and hand them to the librarian along with a name for the finished library (most librarians require a common extension, such as .lib or .a). Place the finished library where the other libraries reside, so the linker can find it. When you use your library, you will have to add something to the command line so the linker knows to search the library for the functions you call. You must find all the details in your local manual, since they vary from system to system.

Controlling execution

This section covers the execution control statements in C++. You must be familiar with these statements before you can read and write C or C++ code.

C++ uses all C’s execution control statements. These include if-else, while, do-while, for, and a selection statement called switch. C++ also allows the infamous goto, which will be avoided in this book.

True and false

All conditional statements use the truth or falsehood of a conditional expression to determine the execution path. An example of a conditional expression is A == B. This uses the conditional operator == to see if the variable A is equivalent to the variable B. The expression produces a boolean true or false (these are keywords only in C++; in C an expression is “true” if it evaluates to a nonzero value). Other conditional operators are >, <, >=, etc. Conditional statements are covered more fully later in this chapter.

if-else

The if-else statement can exist in two forms: with or without the else. The two forms are:

if(expression)
statement

or

if(expression)
statement
else
statement

The “expression” evaluates to true or false. The “statement” means either a simple statement terminated by a semicolon or compound statement, which is a group of simple statements enclosed in braces. Any time the word “statement” is used, it always implies that the statement is simple or compound. Note this statement can also be another if, so they can be strung together.

//: C03:Ifthen.cpp

// Demonstration of if and if-else conditionals

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int i;

cout << “type a number and ‘Enter'” << endl;

cin >> i;

if(i > 5)

cout << “It’s greater than 5” << endl;

else

if(i < 5)

cout << “It’s less than 5 ” << endl;

else

cout << “It’s equal to 5 ” << endl;

cout << “type a number and ‘Enter'” << endl;

cin >> i;

if(i < 10)

if(i > 5) // “if” is just another statement

cout << “5 < i < 10” << endl;

else

cout << “i <= 5” << endl;

else // Matches “if(i < 10)”

cout << “i >= 10” << endl;

} ///:~

It is conventional to indent the body of a control flow statement so the reader may easily determine where it begins and ends[20].

while

while, do-while and for control looping. A statement repeats until the controlling expression evaluates to false. The form of a while loop is

while(expression)
statement

The expression is evaluated once at the beginning of the loop, and again before each further iteration of the statement.

This example stays in the body of the while loop until you type the secret number or press control-C.

//: C03:Guess.cpp

// Guess a number (demonstrates “while”)

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int secret = 15;

int guess = 0;

// “!=” is the “not-equal” conditional:

while(guess != secret) { // Compound statement

cout << “guess the number: “;

cin >> guess;

}

cout << “You guessed it!” << endl;

} ///:~

The while’s conditional expression is not restricted to a simple test as in the above example; it can be as complicated as you like as long as it produces a true or false result. You will even see code where the loop has no body, just a bare semicolon:

while(/* Do a lot here */)

;

In these cases the programmer has written the conditional expression not only to perform the test but also to do the work.

do-while

The form of do-while is

do
statement
while
(expression);

The do-while is different from the while because the statement always executes at least once, even if the expression evaluates to false the first time. In a regular while, if the conditional is false the first time the statement never executes.

If a do-while is used in Guess.cpp, the variable guess does not need an initial dummy value, since it is initialized by the cin statement before it is tested:

//: C03:Guess2.cpp

// The guess program using do-while

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int secret = 15;

int guess; // No initialization needed here

do {

cout << “guess the number: “;

cin >> guess; // Initialization happens

} while(guess != secret);

cout << “You got it!” << endl;

} ///:~

For some reason, most programmers tend to avoid do-while and just work with while.

for

A for loop performs initialization before the first iteration. Then it performs conditional testing and, at the end of each iteration, some form of “stepping.” The form of the for loop is:

for(initialization; conditional; step)
statement

Any of the expressions initialization, conditional or step may be empty. The initialization code executes once at the very beginning. The conditional is tested before each iteration (if it evaluates to false at the beginning, the statement never executes). At the end of each loop, the step executes.

for loops are usually used for “counting” tasks:

//: C03:Charlist.cpp

// Display all the ASCII characters

// Demonstrates “for”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

for(int i = 0; i < 128; i = i + 1)

if (i != 26) // ANSI Terminal Clear screen

cout << ” value: ” << i <<

” character: ” <<

char(i) << endl; // Type conversion

} ///:~

You may notice that the variable i is defined at the point where it is used, instead of at the beginning of the block denoted by the open curly brace ‘{’. This is in contrast to traditional procedural languages (including C), which require that all variables be defined at the beginning of the block. This will be discussed later in this chapter.

The break and continue Keywords

Inside the body of any of the looping constructs while, do-while or for, you can control the flow of the loop using break and continue. break quits the loop without executing the rest of the statements in the loop. continue stops the execution of the current iteration and goes back to the beginning of the loop to begin a new iteration.

As an example of the use of break and continue, this program is a very simple menu system:

//: C03:Menu.cpp

// Simple menu program demonstrating

// the use of “break” and “continue”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

char c; // To hold response

while(true) {

cout << “MAIN MENU:” << endl;

cout << “l: left, r: right, q: quit -> “;

cin >> c;

if(c == ‘q’)

break; // Out of “while(1)”

if(c == ‘l’) {

cout << “LEFT MENU:” << endl;

cout << “select a or b: “;

cin >> c;

if(c == ‘a’) {

cout << “you chose ‘a'” << endl;

continue; // Back to main menu

}

if(c == ‘b’) {

cout << “you chose ‘b'” << endl;

continue; // Back to main menu

}

else {

cout << “you didn’t choose a or b!”

<< endl;

continue; // Back to main menu

}

}

if(c == ‘r’) {

cout << “RIGHT MENU:” << endl;

cout << “select c or d: “;

cin >> c;

if(c == ‘c’) {

cout << “you chose ‘c'” << endl;

continue; // Back to main menu

}

if(c == ‘d’) {

cout << “you chose ‘d'” << endl;

continue; // Back to main menu

}

else {

cout << “you didn’t choose c or d!”

<< endl;

continue; // Back to main menu

}

}

cout << “you must type l or r or q!” << endl;

}

cout << “quitting menu…” << endl;

} ///:~

If the user selects ‘q’ in the main menu, the break keyword is used to quit, otherwise the program just continues to execute indefinitely. After each of the sub-menu selections, the continue keyword is used to pop back up to the beginning of the while loop.

The while(true) statement is the equivalent of saying “do this loop forever.” The break statement allows you to break out of this infinite while loop when the user types a ‘q.’

switch

A switch statement selects from among pieces of code based on the value of an integral expression. Its form is:

switch(selector) {
case integral-value1 : statement; break;
case integral-value2 : statement; break;
case integral-value3 : statement; break;
case integral-value4 : statement; break;
case integral-value5 : statement; break;
(…)
default: statement;
}

Selector is an expression that produces an integral value. The switch compares the result of selector to each integral-value. If it finds a match, the corresponding statement (simple or compound) executes. If no match occurs, the default statement executes.

You will notice in the above definition that each case ends with a break, which causes execution to jump to the end of the switch body (the closing brace that completes the switch). This is the conventional way to build a switch statement, but the break is optional. If it is missing, your case “drops through” to the one after it. That is, the code for the following case statements execute until a break is encountered. Although you don’t usually want this kind of behavior, it can be useful to an experienced programmer.

The switch statement is a very clean way to implement multi-way selection (i.e., selecting from among a number of different execution paths), but it requires a selector that evaluates to an integral value at compile-time. If you want to use, for example, a string object as a selector, it won’t work in a switch statement. For a string selector, you must instead use a series of if statements and compare the string inside the conditional.

The menu example shown previously provides a particularly nice example of a switch:

//: C03:Menu2.cpp

// A menu using a switch statement

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

bool quit = false; // Flag for quitting

while(quit == false) {

cout << “Select a, b, c or q to quit: “;

char response;

cin >> response;

switch(response) {

case ‘a’ : cout << “you chose ‘a'” << endl;

break;

case ‘b’ : cout << “you chose ‘b'” << endl;

break;

case ‘c’ : cout << “you chose ‘c'” << endl;

break;

case ‘q’ : cout << “quitting menu” << endl;

quit = true;

break;

default : cout << “Please use a,b,c or q!”

<< endl;

}

}

} ///:~

The quit flag is a bool, short for “Boolean,” which is a type you’ll only find in C++. It can only have the keyword values true or false. Selecting ‘q’ sets the quit flag to true. The next time the selector is evaluated, quit == false returns false so the body of the while does not execute.

Recursion

Recursion is an interesting and sometimes useful programming technique whereby you call the function that you’re in. Of course, if this is all you do you’ll keep calling the function you’re in until you run out of memory, so there must be some way to “bottom out” the recursive call. In the following example, this “bottoming out” is accomplished by simply saying that the recursion will only go until the cat exceeds ‘Z’:[21]

//: C03:CatsInHats.cpp

// Simple demonstration of recursion

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void removeHat(char cat) {

for(char c = ‘A’; c < cat; c++)

cout << ” “;

if(cat <= ‘Z’) {

cout << “cat ” << cat << endl;

removeHat(cat + 1); // Recursive call

} else

cout << “VOOM!!!” << endl;

}

int main() {

removeHat(‘A’);

} ///:~

In removeHat( ), you can see that as long as cat is less than ‘Z’, removeHat( ) will be called from within removeHat( ), thus effecting the recursion. Each time removeHat( ) is called, its argument is one greater than the current cat so the argument keeps increasing.

Recursion is often used when evaluating some sort of arbitrarily complex problem, since you aren’t restricted to a particular “size” for the solution – the function can just keep recursing until it’s reached the end of the problem.

Introduction to operators

You can think of operators as a special type of function (you’ll learn that C++ operator overloading treats operators precisely that way). An operator takes one or more arguments and produces a new value. The arguments are in a different form than ordinary function calls, but the effect is the same.

From your previous programming experience, you should be reasonably comfortable with the operators that have been used so far. The concepts of addition (+), subtraction and unary minus (), multiplication (*), division (/) and assignment(=) all have essentialy the same meaning in any programming language. The full set of operators are enumerated later in this chapter.

Precedence

Operator precedence defines the order in which an expression evaluates when several different operators are present. C and C++ have specific rules to determine the order of evaluation. The easiest to remember is that multiplication and division happen before addition and subtraction. After that, if an expression isn’t transparent to you it probably won’t be for anyone reading the code, so you should use parentheses to make the order of evaluation explicit. For example:

A = X + Y – 2/2 + Z;

has a very different meaning from the same statement with a particular grouping of parentheses:

A = X + (Y – 2)/(2 + Z);

(Try evaluating the result with X = 1, Y = 2 and Z = 3.)

Auto increment and decrement

C, and therefore C++, is full of shortcuts. Shortcuts can make code much easier to type, and sometimes much harder to read. Perhaps the C language designers thought it would be easier to understand a tricky piece of code if your eyes didn’t have to scan as large an area of print.

One of the nicer shortcuts is the auto-increment and auto-decrement operators. You often use these to change loop variables, which control the number of times a loop executes.

The auto-decrement operator is and means “decrease by one unit.” The auto-increment operator is ++ and means “increase by one unit.” If A is an int, for example, the expression ++A is equivalent to (A = A + 1). Auto-increment and auto-decrement operators produce the value of the variable as a result. If the operator appears before the variable, (i.e., ++A), the operation is first performed and the resulting value is produced. If the operator appears after the variable (i.e. A++), the current value is produced, and then the operation is performed. For example:

//: C03:AutoIncrement.cpp

// Shows use of auto-increment

// and auto-decrement operators.

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int i = 0;

int j = 0;

cout << ++i << endl; // Pre-increment

cout << j++ << endl; // Post-increment

cout << –i << endl; // Pre-decrement

cout << j– << endl; // Post decrement

} ///:~

If you’ve been wondering about the name “C++,” now you understand. It implies “one step beyond C.”

Introduction to data types

Data types define the way you utilize storage (memory) in the programs that you write. By specifying a data type, you tell the compiler how to create a particular piece of storage, and also how to manipulate that storage.

Data types can be built-in or abstract. A built-in data type is one that the compiler intrinsically understands, one that is wired directly into the compiler. The types of built-in data are almost identical in C and C++. In contrast, a user-defined data type is one that you or another programmer create as a class. These are commonly referred to as abstract data types. The compiler knows how to handle built-in types when it starts up; it “learns” how to handle abstract data types by reading header files containing class declarations (you’ll learn about this in later chapters).

Basic built-in types

The Standard C specification for built-in types (which C++ inherits) doesn’t say how many bits each of the built-in types must contain. Instead, it stipulates the minimum and maximum values that the built-in type must be able to hold. When a machine is based on binary, this maximum value can be directly translated into a minimum number of bits necessary to hold that value. However, if a machine uses, for instance, binary-coded decimal (BCD) to represent numbers then the amount of space in the machine required to hold the maximum numbers for each data type will be different. The minimum and maximum values that can be stored in the various data types are defined in the system header files limits.h and float.h (in C++ you will generally #include <climits> and <cfloat> instead).

C and C++ have four basic built-in data types, described here for binary-based machines. A char is for character storage and uses a minimum of 8 bits (one byte) of storage. An int stores an integral number and uses a minimum of two bytes of storage. The float and double types store floating-point numbers, usually in IEEE floating-point format. float is for single-precision floating point and double is for double-precision floating point.

As previously mentioned, you can define variables anywhere in a scope, and you can define and initialize them at the same time. Here’s how to define variables using the four basic data types:

//: C03:Basic.cpp

// Defining the four basic data

// types in C and C++

int main() {

// Definition without initialization:

char protein;

int carbohydrates;

float fiber;

double fat;

// Simultaneous definition & initialization:

char pizza = ‘A’, pop = ‘Z’;

int dongdings = 100, twinkles = 150,

heehos = 200;

float chocolate = 3.14159;

// Exponential notation:

double fudge_ripple = 6e-4;

} ///:~

The first part of the program defines variables of the four basic data types without initializing them. If you don’t initialize a variable, the Standard says that its contents are undefined (usually, this means they contain garbage). The second part of the program defines and initializes variables at the same time (it’s always best, if possible, to provide an initialization value at the point of definition). Notice the use of exponential notation in the constant 6e-4, meaning: “6 times 10 to the minus fourth power.”

bool, true, & false

Before bool became part of Standard C++, everyone tended to use different techniques in order to produce Boolean-like behavior. These produced portability problems and could introduce subtle errors.

The Standard C++ bool type can have two states expressed by the built-in constants true (which converts to an integral one) and false (which converts to an integral zero). All three names are keywords. In addition, some language elements have been adapted:

Element

Usage with bool

&& || !

Take bool arguments and return bool.

< > <= >= == !=

Produce bool results

if, for,
while, do

Conditional expressions convert to bool values

? :

First operand converts to bool value

Because there’s a lot of existing code that uses an int to represent a flag, the compiler will implicitly convert from an int to a bool. Ideally, the compiler will give you a warning as a suggestion to correct the situation.

An idiom that falls under “poor programming style” is the use of ++ to set a flag to true. This is still allowed, but deprecated, which means that at some time in the future it will be made illegal. The problem is that you’re making an implicit type conversion from bool to int, incrementing the value (perhaps beyond the range of the normal bool values of zero and one), and then implicitly converting it back again.

Pointers (which will be introduced later in this chapter) will also be automatically converted to bool when necessary.

Specifiers

Specifiers modify the meanings of the basic built-in types, and expand the built-in types to a much larger set. There are four specifiers: long, short, signed and unsigned.

long and short modify the maximum and minimum values that a data type will hold. A plain int must be at least the size of a short. The size hierarchy for integral types is: short int, int, long int. All the sizes could conceivably be the same, as long as they satisfy the minimum/maximum value requirements. On a machine with a 64-bit word, for instance, all the data types might be 64 bits.

The size hierarchy for floating point numbers is: float, double, and long double. “Long float” is not a legal type. There are no short floating-point numbers.

The signed and unsigned specifiers tell the compiler how to use the sign bit with integral types and characters (floating-point numbers always contain a sign). An unsigned number does not keep track of the sign and thus has an extra bit available, so it can store positive numbers twice as large as the positive numbers that can be stored in a signed number. signed is the default and is only necessary with char; char may or may not default to signed. By specifying signed char, you force the sign bit to be used.

The following example shows the size of the data types in bytes by using the sizeof( ) operator, introduced later in this chapter:

//: C03:Specify.cpp

// Demonstrates the use of specifiers

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

char c;

unsigned char cu;

int i;

unsigned int iu;

short int is;

short iis; // Same as short int

unsigned short int isu;

unsigned short iisu;

long int il;

long iil; // Same as long int

unsigned long int ilu;

unsigned long iilu;

float f;

double d;

long double ld;

cout

<< “\n char= ” << sizeof(c)

<< “\n unsigned char = ” << sizeof(cu)

<< “\n int = ” << sizeof(i)

<< “\n unsigned int = ” << sizeof(iu)

<< “\n short = ” << sizeof(is)

<< “\n unsigned short = ” << sizeof(isu)

<< “\n long = ” << sizeof(il)

<< “\n unsigned long = ” << sizeof(ilu)

<< “\n float = ” << sizeof(f)

<< “\n double = ” << sizeof(d)

<< “\n long double = ” << sizeof(ld)

<< endl;

} ///:~

Be aware that the results you get by running this program will probably be different from one machine/operating system/compiler to the next, since (as previously mentioned) the only thing that must be consistent is that each different type hold the minimum and maximum values specified in the Standard.

When you are modifying an int with short or long, the keyword int is optional, as shown above.

Introduction to Pointers

Whenever you run a program, it is first loaded (typically from disk) into the computer’s memory. Thus, all elements of your program are located somewhere in memory. Memory is typically laid out as a sequential series of memory locations; we usually refer to these locations as eight-bit bytes but actually the size of each space depends on the architecture of that particular machine and is usually called that machine’s word size. Each space can be uniquely distinguished from all other spaces by its address. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll just say that all machines use bytes which have sequential addresses starting at zero and going up to however much memory you have in your computer.

Since your program lives in memory while it’s being run, every element of your program has an address. Suppose we start with a simple program:

//: C03:YourPets1.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int dog, cat, bird, fish;

void f(int pet) {

cout << “pet id number: ” << pet << endl;

}

int main() {

int i, j, k;

} ///:~

Each of the elements in this program has a location in storage when the program is running. You can visualize it like this:

clip_image027[4]

All the variables, and even the function, occupy storage. As you’ll see, it turns out that what an element is and the way you define it usually determines the area of memory where that element is placed.

There is an operator in C and C++ that will tell you the address of an element. This is the ‘&’ operator. All you do is precede the identifier name with ‘&’ and it will produce the address of that identifier. YourPets1.cpp can be modified to print out the addresses of all its elements, like this:

//: C03:YourPets2.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int dog, cat, bird, fish;

void f(int pet) {

cout << “pet id number: ” << pet << endl;

}

int main() {

int i, j, k;

cout << “f(): ” << (long)&f << endl;

cout << “dog: ” << (long)&dog << endl;

cout << “cat: ” << (long)&cat << endl;

cout << “bird: ” << (long)&bird << endl;

cout << “fish: ” << (long)&fish << endl;

cout << “i: ” << (long)&i << endl;

cout << “j: ” << (long)&j << endl;

cout << “k: ” << (long)&k << endl;

} ///:~

The (long) is a cast. It says “don’t treat this as it’s normal type, instead treat it as a long.” The cast isn’t essential, but if it wasn’t there the addresses would have been printed out in hexadecimal instead, so casting to a long makes things a little more readable.

The results of this program will vary depending on your computer, OS and all sorts of other factors, but it will still give you some interesting insights. For a single run on my computer, the results looked like this:

clip_image029[4]

You can see how the variables that are defined inside main( ) are in a different area than the variables defined outside of main( ); you’ll understand why as you learn more about the language. Also, f( ) appears to be in its own area; code is typically separated from data in memory.

Another interesting thing to note is that variables defined one right after the other appear to be placed contiguously in memory. They are separated by the number of bytes that are required by their data type. Here, the only data type used is int, and cat is four bytes away from dog, bird is four bytes away from cat, etc. So it would appear that, on this machine, an int is four bytes long.

Other than this interesting experiment showing how memory is mapped out, what can you do with an address? The most important thing you can do is store it inside another variable for later use. C and C++ have a special type of variable that holds an address. This variable is called a pointer.

The operator that defines a pointer is the same as the one used for multiplication: ‘*’. The compiler knows that it isn’t multiplication because of the context in which it is used, as you shall see.

When you define a pointer, you must specify the type of variable it points to. You start out by giving the type name, then instead of immediately giving an identifier for the variable, you say “wait, it’s a pointer” by inserting a star between the type and the identifier. So a pointer to an int looks like this:

int* ip; // ip points to an int variable

The association of the ‘*’ with the type looks sensible and reads easily, but it can actually be a bit deceiving. Your inclination might be to say “intpointer” as if it is a single discrete type. However, with an int or other basic data type, it’s possible to say:

int a, b, c;

whereas with a pointer, you’d like to say:

int* ipa, ipb, ipc;

C syntax (and by inheritance, C++ syntax) does not allow such sensible expressions. In the above definitions, only ipa is a pointer, but ipb and ipc are ordinary ints (you can say that “* binds more tightly to the identifer”). Consequently, the best results can be achieved by using only one definition per line: you still get the sensible syntax without the confusion:

int* ipa;

int* ipb;

int* ipc;

Since a general guideline for C++ programming is that you should always initialize a variable at the point of definition, this form actually works better. For example, the above variables are not initialized to any particular value; they hold garbage. It’s much better to say something like:

int a = 47;

int* ipa = &a;

Now both a and ipa have been initialized, and ipa holds the address of a.

Once you have an initialized pointer, the most basic thing you can do with it is to use it to modify the value it points to. To access a variable through a pointer, you dereference the pointer using the same operator that you used to define it, like this:

*ipa = 100;

Now a contains the value 100 instead of 47.

These are the basics of pointers: you can hold an address, and you can use that address to modify the original variable. But the question still remains: why do you want to modify one variable using another variable as a proxy?

For this introductory view of pointers, we can put the answer into two broad categories:

1. To change “outside objects” from within a function. This is perhaps the most basic use of pointers, and it will be examined here.

2. To achieve many other clever programming techniques, which you’ll learn about in portions of the rest of the book.

Modifying the outside object

Ordinarily, when you pass an argument to a function, a copy of that argument is made inside the function. This is referred to as pass-by-value. You can see the effect of pass-by-value in the following program:

//: C03:PassByValue.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void f(int a) {

cout << “a = ” << a << endl;

a = 5;

cout << “a = ” << a << endl;

}

int main() {

int x = 47;

cout << “x = ” << x << endl;

f(x);

cout << “x = ” << x << endl;

} ///:~

In f( ), a is a local variable, so it only exists for the duration of the function call to f( ). Because it’s a function argument, the value of a is initialized by the arguments that are passed when the function is called; in main( ) the argument is x which has a value of 47, so this value is copied into a when f( ) is called.

When you run this program you’ll see:

x = 47

a = 47

a = 5

x = 47

Initially, of course, x is 47. When f( ) is called, temporary space is created to hold the variable a for the duration of the function call, and a is initialized by copying the value of x, which is verified by printing it out. Of course, you can change the value of a and show that it is changed. But when f( ) is completed, the temporary space that was created for a disappears, and we see that the only connection that ever existed between a and x happened when the value of x was copied into a.

When you’re inside f( ), x is the outside object (my terminology), and changing the local variable does not affect the outside object, naturally enough, since they are two separate locations in storage. But what if you do want to modify the outside object? This is where pointers come in handy. In a sense, a pointer is an alias for another variable. So if we pass a pointer into a function instead of an ordinary value, we are actually passing an alias to the outside object, enabling the function to modify that outside object, like this:

//: C03:PassAddress.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void f(int* p) {

cout << “p = ” << p << endl;

cout << “*p = ” << *p << endl;

*p = 5;

cout << “p = ” << p << endl;

}

int main() {

int x = 47;

cout << “x = ” << x << endl;

cout << “&x = ” << &x << endl;

f(&x);

cout << “x = ” << x << endl;

} ///:~

Now f( ) takes a pointer as an argument, and dereferences the pointer during assignment, and this causes the outside object x to be modified. The output is:

x = 47

&x = 0065FE00

p = 0065FE00

*p = 47

p = 0065FE00

x = 5

Notice that the value contained in p is the same as address of x – the pointer p does indeed point to x. If that isn’t convincing enough, when p is dereferenced to assign the value 5, we see that the value of x is now changed to 5 as well.

Thus, passing a pointer into a function will allow that function to modify the outside object. You’ll see plenty of other uses for pointers later, but this is arguably the most basic and possibly the most common use.

Introduction to C++ references

Pointers work roughly the same in C and in C++, but C++ adds an additional way to pass an address into a function. This is pass-by-reference and it exists in several other programming languages so it was not a C++ invention.

Your initial perception of references may be that they are unnecessary – that you could write all your programs without references. In general, this is true, with the exception of a few important places which you’ll learn about later in the book. You’ll also learn more about references later in the book, but the basic idea is the same as the above demonstration of pointer use: you can pass the address of an argument using a reference. The difference between references and pointers is that calling a function that takes references is cleaner, syntactically, than calling a function that takes pointers (and it is exactly this syntactic difference that makes references essential in certain situations). If PassAddress.cpp is modified to use references, you can see the difference in the function call in main( ):

//: C03:PassReference.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void f(int& r) {

cout << “r = ” << r << endl;

cout << “&r = ” << &r << endl;

r = 5;

cout << “r = ” << r << endl;

}

int main() {

int x = 47;

cout << “x = ” << x << endl;

cout << “&x = ” << &x << endl;

f(x); // Looks like pass-by-value,

// is actually pass by reference

cout << “x = ” << x << endl;

} ///:~

In f( )’s argument list, instead of saying int* to pass a pointer, you say int& to pass a reference. Inside f( ), if you just say ‘r’ (which would produce the address if r were a pointer) you get the value in the variable that r references. If you assign to r, you actually assign to the variable that r references. In fact, the only way to get the address that’s held inside r is with the ‘&’ operator.

In main( ), you can see the key effect of references in the syntax of the call to f( ), which is just f(x). Even though this looks like an ordinary pass-by-value, the effect of the reference is that it actually takes the address and passes it in, rather than making a copy of the value. The output is:

x = 47

&x = 0065FE00

r = 47

&r = 0065FE00

r = 5

x = 5

So you can see that pass-by-reference allows a function to modify the outside object, just like passing a pointer does (you can also observe that the reference obscures the fact that an address is being passed – this will be examined later in the book). Thus, for this simple introduction you can assume that references are just a syntactically different way (sometimes referred to as “syntactic sugar”) to accomplish the same thing that pointers do: allow functions to change outside objects.

Pointers and references as modifiers

So far, you’ve seen the basic data types char, int, float and double, along with the specifiers signed, unsigned, short and long, which can be used with the basic data types in almost any combination. Now we’ve added pointers and references which are orthogonal to the basic data types and specifiers, so the possible combinations have just tripled:

//: C03:AllDefinitions.cpp

// All possible combinations of basic data types,

// specifiers, pointers and references

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void f1(char c, int i, float f, double d);

void f2(short int si, long int li, long double ld);

void f3(unsigned char uc, unsigned int ui,

unsigned short int usi, unsigned long int uli);

void f4(char* cp, int* ip, float* fp, double* dp);

void f5(short int* sip, long int* lip,

long double* ldp);

void f6(unsigned char* ucp, unsigned int* uip,

unsigned short int* usip,

unsigned long int* ulip);

void f7(char& cr, int& ir, float& fr, double& dr);

void f8(short int& sir, long int& lir,

long double& ldr);

void f9(unsigned char& ucr, unsigned int& uir,

unsigned short int& usir,

unsigned long int& ulir);

int main() {} ///:~

Pointers and references also work when passing objects into and out of functions; you’ll learn about this in a later chapter.

There’s one other type that works with pointers: void. If you state that a pointer is a void*, it means that any type of address at all can be assigned to that pointer (whereas if you have an int*, you can only assign the address of an int variable to that pointer). For example:

//: C03:VoidPointer.cpp

int main() {

void* vp;

char c;

int i;

float f;

double d;

// The address of ANY type can be

// assigned to a void pointer:

vp = &c;

vp = &i;

vp = &f;

vp = &d;

} ///:~

Once you assign to a void* you lose any information about what type it is. This means that before you can use the pointer, you must cast it to the correct type:

//: C03:CastFromVoidPointer.cpp

int main() {

int i = 99;

void* vp = &i;

// Can’t dereference a void pointer:

// *vp = 3; // Compile-time error

// Must cast back to int before dereferencing:

*((int*)vp) = 3;

} ///:~

The cast (int*)vp takes the void* and tells the compiler to treat it as an int*, and thus it can be successfully dereferenced. You might observe that this syntax is ugly, and it is, but it’s worse than that – the void* introduces a hole in the language’s type system. That is, it allows, or even promotes the treatment of one type as another type. In the above example, I treat an int as an int by casting vp to an int*, but there’s nothing that says I can’t cast it to a char* or double*, which would modify a different amount of storage that had been allocated for the int, possibly crashing your program. In general, void pointers should be avoided, and only used in rare special cases, the likes of which you won’t be ready to consider until significantly later in the book.

You cannot have a void reference, for reasons that will be explained in a future chapter.

Scoping

Scoping rules tell you where a variable is valid, where it is created and where it gets destroyed (i.e., goes out of scope). The scope of a variable extends from the point where it is defined to the first closing brace that matches the closest opening brace before the variable was defined. To illustrate:

//: C03:Scope.cpp

// How variables are scoped

int main() {

int scp1;

// scp1 visible here

{

// scp1 still visible here

//…..

int scp2;

// scp2 visible here

//…..

{

// scp1 & scp2 still visible here

//..

int scp3;

// scp1, scp2 & scp3 visible here

// …

} // <– scp3 destroyed here

// scp3 not available here

// scp1 & scp2 still visible here

// …

} // <– scp2 destroyed here

// scp3 & scp2 not available here

// scp1 still visible here

//..

} // <– scp1 destroyed here

///:~

The above example shows when variables are visible, and when they are unavailable (that is, when they go out of scope). A variable can only be used when inside its scope. Scopes can be nested, indicated by matched pairs of braces inside other matched pairs of braces. Nesting means that you can access a variable in a scope that encloses the scope you are in. In the above example, the variable scp1 is available inside all of the other scopes, while scp3 is only available in the innermost scope.

Defining variables on the fly

As noted earlier in this chapter, there is a significant difference between C and C++ when defining variables. Both languages require that variables be defined before they are used, but C (and many other traditional procedural languages) forces you to define all the variables at the beginning of a scope, so that when the compiler creates a block it can allocate space for those variables.

While reading C code, a block of variable definitions is usually the first thing you see when entering a scope. Declaring all variables at the beginning of the block requires the programmer to write in a particular way because of the implementation details of the language. Most people don’t know all the variables they are going to use before they write the code, so they must keep jumping back to the beginning of the block to insert new variables, which is awkward and causes errors. These variable definitions don’t usually mean much to the reader, and actually tend to be confusing because they appear apart from the context in which they are used.

C++ (not C) allows you to define variables anywhere in a scope, so you can define a variable right before you use it. In addition, you can initialize the variable at the point you define it, which prevents a certain class of errors. Defining variables this way makes the code much easier to write and reduces the errors you get from being forced to jump back and forth within a scope. It makes the code easier to understand because you see a variable defined in the context of its use. This is especially important when you are defining and initializing a variable at the same time – you can see the meaning of the initialization value by the way the variable is used.

You can also define variables inside the control expressions of for loops and while loops, inside the conditional of an if statement, and inside the selector statement of a switch. Here’s an example showing on-the-fly variable definitions:

//: C03:OnTheFly.cpp

// On-the-fly variable definitions

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

//..

{ // Begin a new scope

int q = 0; // C requires definitions here

//..

// Define at point of use:

for(int i = 0; i < 100; i++) {

q++; // q comes from a larger scope

// Definition at the end of the scope:

int p = 12;

}

int p = 1; // A different p

} // End scope containing q & outer p

cout << “Type characters:” << endl;

while(char c = cin.get() != ‘q’) {

cout << c << ” wasn’t it” << endl;

if(char x = c == ‘a’ || c == ‘b’)

cout << “You typed a or b” << endl;

else

cout << “You typed ” << x << endl;

}

cout << “Type A, B, or C” << endl;

switch(int i = cin.get()) {

case ‘A’: cout << “Snap” << endl; break;

case ‘B’: cout << “Crackle” << endl; break;

case ‘C’: cout << “Pop” << endl; break;

default: cout << “Not A, B or C!” << endl;

}

} ///:~

In the innermost scope, p is defined right before the scope ends, so it is really a useless gesture (but it shows you can define a variable anywhere). The p in the outer scope is in the same situation.

The definition of i in the control expression of the for loop is an example of being able to define a variable exactly at the point you need it (you can only do this in C++). The scope of i is the scope of the expression controlled by the for loop, so you can turn around and re-use i in the next for loop. This is a convenient and commonly-used idiom in C++; i is the classic name for a loop counter and you don’t have to keep inventing new names.

Although the example also shows variables defined within while, if and switch statements, this kind of definition is much less common than those in for expressions, possibly because the syntax is so constrained. For example, you cannot have any parentheses. That is, you cannot say:

while((char c = cin.get()) != ‘q’)

The addition of the extra parentheses would seem like a very innocent and useful thing to do, and because you cannot use them, the results are not what you might like. The problem occurs because ‘!=’ has a higher precedence than ‘=’, so the char c ends up containing a bool converted to char. When that’s printed, on many terminals you’ll see a smiley-face character.

In general, you can consider the ability to define variables within while, if and switch statements as being there for completeness, but the only place you’re likely to use this kind of variable definition is in a for loop (where you’ll use it quite often).

Specifying storage allocation

When creating a variable, you have a number of options to specify the lifetime of the variable, how the storage is allocated for that variable, and how the variable is treated by the compiler.

Global variables

Global variables are defined outside all function bodies and are available to all parts of the program (even code in other files). Global variables are unaffected by scopes and are always available (i.e., the lifetime of a global variable lasts until the program ends). If the existence of a global variable in one file is declared using the extern keyword in another file, the data is available for use by the second file. Here’s an example of the use of global variables:

//: C03:Global.cpp

//{L} Global2

// Demonstration of global variables

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int globe;

void func();

int main() {

globe = 12;

cout << globe << endl;

func(); // Modifies globe

cout << globe << endl;

} ///:~

Here’s a file that accesses globe as an extern:

//: C03:Global2.cpp {O}

// Accessing external global variables

extern int globe;

// (The linker resolves the reference)

void func() {

globe = 47;

} ///:~

Storage for the variable globe is created by the definition in Global.cpp, and that same variable is accessed by the code in Global2.cpp. Since the code in Global2.cpp is compiled separately from the code in Global.cpp, the compiler must be informed that the variable exists elsewhere by the declaration

extern int globe;

When you run the program, you’ll see that the call to func( ) does indeed affect the single global instance of globe.

In Global.cpp, you can see the special comment tag (which is my own design):

//{L} Global2

This says that to create the final program, the object file with the name Global2 must be linked in (there is no extension because the extension names of object files differ from one system to the next). In Global2.cpp, the first line has another special comment tag {O} which says “don’t try to create an executable out of this file, it’s being compiled so that it can be linked into some other executable.” The ExtractCode.cpp program at the end of this book reads these tags and creates the appropriate makefile so everything compiles properly (you’ll learn about makefiles at the end of this chapter).

Local variables

Local variables occur within a scope; they are “local” to a function. They are often called automatic variables because they automatically come into being when the scope is entered, and automatically go away when the scope closes. The keyword auto makes this explicit, but local variables default to auto so it is never necessary to declare something as an auto.

Register variables

A register variable is a type of local variable. The register keyword tells the compiler “make accesses to this variable as fast as possible.” Increasing the access speed is implementation dependent but, as the name suggests, it is often done by placing the variable in a register. There is no guarantee that the variable will be placed in a register or even that the access speed will increase. It is a hint to the compiler.

There are restrictions to the use of register variables. You cannot take or compute the address of a register variable. A register variable can only be declared within a block (you cannot have global or static register variables). You can, however, use a register variable as a formal argument in a function (i.e., in the argument list).

Generally, you shouldn’t try to second-guess the compiler’s optimizer, since it will probably do a better job than you can. Thus, the register keyword is best avoided.

static

The static keyword has several distinct meanings. Normally, variables defined local to a function disappear at the end of the function scope. When you call the function again, storage for the variables is created anew and the values are re-initialized. If you want a value to be extant throughout the life of a program, you can define a function’s local variable to be static and give it an initial value. The initialization is only performed the first time the function is called, and the data retains its value between function calls. This way, a function can “remember” some piece of information between function calls.

You may wonder why a global variable isn’t used instead. The beauty of a static variable is that it is unavailable outside the scope of the function, so it can’t be inadvertently changed. This localizes errors.

Here’s an example of the use of static variables:

//: C03:Static.cpp

// Using a static variable in a function

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void func() {

static int i = 0;

cout << “i = ” << ++i << endl;

}

int main() {

for(int x = 0; x < 10; x++)

func();

} ///:~

Each time func( ) is called in the for loop, it prints a different value. If the keyword static is not used, the value printed will always be ‘1’.

The second meaning of static is related to the first in the “unavailable outside a certain scope” sense. When static is applied to a function name or to a variable that is outside of all functions, it means “this name is unavailable outside of this file.” The function name or variable is local to the file; we say it has file scope. As a demonstration, compiling and linking the following two files will cause a linker error:

//: C03:FileStatic.cpp

// File scope demonstration. Compiling and

// linking this file with FileStatic2.cpp

// will cause a linker error

// File scope means only available in this file:

static int fs;

int main() {

fs = 1;

} ///:~

Even though the variable fs is claimed to exist as an extern in the following file, the linker won’t find it because it has been declared static in FileStatic.cpp.

//: C03:FileStatic2.cpp {O}

// Trying to reference fs

extern int fs;

void func() {

fs = 100;

} ///:~

The static specifier may also be used inside a class. This explanation will be delayed until you learn to create classes, later in the book.

extern

The extern keyword has already been briefly described and demonstrated. It tells the compiler that a variable or a function exists, even if the compiler hasn’t yet seen it in the file currently being compiled. This variable or function may be defined in another file or further down in the current file. As an example of the latter:

//: C03:Forward.cpp

// Forward function & data declarations

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

// This is not actually external, but the

// compiler must be told it exists somewhere:

extern int i;

extern void func();

int main() {

i = 0;

func();

}

int i; // The data definition

void func() {

i++;

cout << i;

} ///:~

When the compiler encounters the declaration ‘extern int i’ it knows that the definition for i must exist somewhere as a global variable. When the compiler reaches the definition of i, no other declaration is visible so it knows it has found the same i declared earlier in the file. If you were to define i as static, you would be telling the compiler that i is defined globally (via the extern), but it also has file scope (via the static), so the compiler will generate an error.

Linkage

To understand the behavior of C and C++ programs, you need to know about linkage. In an executing program, an identifier is represented by storage in memory that holds a variable or a compiled function body. Linkage describes this storage it is seen by the linker. There are two types of linkage: internal linkage and external linkage.

Internal linkage means that storage is created to represent the identifier only for the file being compiled. Other files may use the same identifier name with internal linkage, or for a global variable, and no conflicts will be found by the linker – separate storage is created for each identifier. Internal linkage is specified by the keyword static in C and C++.

External linkage means that a single piece of storage is created to represent the identifier for all files being compiled. The storage is created once, and the linker must resolve all other references to that storage. Global variables and function names have external linkage. These are accessed from other files by declaring them with the keyword extern. Variables defined outside all functions (with the exception of const in C++) and function definitions default to external linkage. You can specifically force them to have internal linkage using the static keyword. You can explicitly state that an identifier has external linkage by defining it with the extern keyword. Defining a variable or function with extern is not necessary in C, but it is sometimes necessary for const in C++.

Automatic (local) variables exist only temporarily, on the stack, while a function is being called. The linker doesn’t know about automatic variables, and they have no linkage.

Constants

In old (pre-Standard) C, if you wanted to make a constant, you had to use the preprocessor:

#define PI 3.14159

Everywhere you used PI, the value 3.14159 was substituted by the preprocessor (you can still use this method in C and C++).

When you use the preprocessor to create constants, you place control of those constants outside the scope of the compiler. No type checking is performed on the name PI and you can’t take the address of PI (so you can’t pass a pointer or a reference to PI). PI cannot be a variable of a user-defined type. The meaning of PI lasts from the point it is defined to the end of the file; the preprocessor doesn’t recognize scoping.

C++ introduces the concept of a named constant that is just like a variable, except its value cannot be changed. The modifier const tells the compiler that a name represents a constant. Any data type, built-in or user-defined, may be defined as const. If you define something as const and then attempt to modify it, the compiler will generate an error.

You must specify the type of a const, like this:

const int x = 10;

In Standard C and C++, you can use a named constant in an argument list, even if the argument it fills is a pointer or a reference (i.e., you can take the address of a const). A const has a scope, just like a regular variable, so you can “hide” a const inside a function and be sure that the name will not affect the rest of the program.

The const was taken from C++ and incorporated into Standard C, albeit quite differently. In C, the compiler treats a const just like a variable that has a special tag attached that says “don’t change me.” When you define a const in C, the compiler creates storage for it, so if you define more than one const with the same name in two different files (or put the definition in a header file), the linker will generate error messages about conflicts. The intended use of const in C is quite different from its intended use in C++ (in short, it’s nicer in C++).

Constant values

In C++, a const must always have an initialization value (in C, this is not true). Constant values for built-in types are expressed as decimal, octal, hexadecimal, or floating-point numbers (sadly, binary numbers were not considered important), or as characters.

In the absence of any other clues, the compiler assumes a constant value is a decimal number. The numbers 47, 0 and 1101 are all treated as decimal numbers.

A constant value with a leading 0 is treated as an octal number (base 8). Base 8 numbers can only contain digits 0-7; the compiler flags other digits as an error. A legitimate octal number is 017 (15 in base 10).

A constant value with a leading 0x is treated as a hexadecimal number (base 16). Base 16 numbers contain the digits 0-9 and a-f or A-F. A legitimate hexadecimal number is 0x1fe (510 in base 10).

Floating point numbers can contain decimal points and exponential powers (represented by e, which means “10 to the power”). Both the decimal point and the e are optional. If you assign a constant to a floating-point variable, the compiler will take the constant value and convert it to a floating-point number (this process is one form of what’s called implicit type conversion). However, it is a good idea to use either a decimal point or an e to remind the reader you are using a floating-point number; some older compilers also need the hint.

Legitimate floating-point constant values are: 1e4, 1.0001, 47.0, 0.0 and -1.159e-77. You can add suffixes to force the type of floating-point number: f or F forces a float, L or l forces a long double, otherwise the number will be a double.

Character constants are characters surrounded by single quotes, as: ‘A’, ‘0’, ‘ ‘. Notice there is a big difference between the character ‘0’ (ASCII 96) and the value 0. Special characters are represented with the “backslash escape”: ‘\n’ (newline), ‘\t’ (tab), ‘\\’ (backslash), ‘\r’ (carriage return), ‘\”’ (double quotes), ‘\’’ (single quote), etc. You can also express char constants in octal: ‘\17’ or hexadecimal: ‘\xff’.

volatile

Whereas the qualifier const tells the compiler “this never changes” (which allows the compiler to perform extra optimizations) the qualifier volatile tells the compiler “you never know when this will change,” and prevents the compiler from performing any optimizations. Use this keyword when you read some value outside the control of your code, such as a register in a piece of communication hardware. A volatile variable is always read whenever its value is required, even if it was just read the line before.

A special case of some storage being “outside the control of your code” is in a multithreaded program. If you’re watching a particular flag that is modified by another thread or process, that flag should be volatile so the compiler doesn’t make the assumption that it can optimize away multiple reads of the flag.

Note that volatile may have no effect when a compiler is not optimizing, but may prevent critical bugs when you start optimizing the code (which is when the compiler will begin looking for reduntant reads).

The const and volatile keywords will be further illuminated in a later chapter.

Operators and their use

This section covers all the operators in C and C++.

All operators produce a value from their operands. This value is produced without modifying the operands, except with the assignment, increment and decrement operators. Modifying an operand is called a side effect. The most common use for operators that modify their operands is to generate the side effect, but you should keep in mind that the value produced is available for your use just as in operators without side effects.

Assignment

Assignment is performed with the operator =. It means “take the right-hand side (often called the rvalue) and copy it into the left-hand side (often called the lvalue). An rvalue is any constant, variable, or expression that can produce a value, but an lvalue must be a distinct, named variable (that is, there must be a physical space in which to store data). For instance, you can assign a constant value to a variable (A = 4;), but you cannot assign anything to constant value – it cannot be an lvalue (you can’t say 4 = A;).

Mathematical operators

The basic mathematical operators are the same as the ones available in most programming languages: addition (+), subtraction (), division (/), multiplication (*) and modulus (%, this produces the remainder from integer division). Integer division truncates the result (it doesn’t round). The modulus operator cannot be used with floating-point numbers.

C & C++ also use a shorthand notation to perform an operation and an assignment at the same time. This is denoted by an operator followed by an equal sign, and is consistent with all the operators in the language (whenever it makes sense). For example, to add 4 to the variable x and assign x to the result, you say: x += 4;.

This example shows the use of the mathematical operators:

//: C03:Mathops.cpp

// Mathematical operators

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

// A macro to display a string and a value.

#define PRINT(STR, VAR) \

cout << STR ” = ” << VAR << endl

int main() {

int i, j, k;

float u,v,w; // Applies to doubles, too

cout << “enter an integer: “;

cin >> j;

cout << “enter another integer: “;

cin >> k;

PRINT(“j”,j); PRINT(“k”,k);

i = j + k; PRINT(“j + k”,i);

i = j – k; PRINT(“j – k”,i);

i = k / j; PRINT(“k / j”,i);

i = k * j; PRINT(“k * j”,i);

i = k % j; PRINT(“k % j”,i);

// The following only works with integers:

j %= k; PRINT(“j %= k”, j);

cout << “Enter a floating-point number: “;

cin >> v;

cout << “Enter another floating-point number:”;

cin >> w;

PRINT(“v”,v); PRINT(“w”,w);

u = v + w; PRINT(“v + w”, u);

u = v – w; PRINT(“v – w”, u);

u = v * w; PRINT(“v * w”, u);

u = v / w; PRINT(“v / w”, u);

// The following works for ints, chars,

// and doubles too:

u += v; PRINT(“u += v”, u);

u -= v; PRINT(“u -= v”, u);

u *= v; PRINT(“u *= v”, u);

u /= v; PRINT(“u /= v”, u);

} ///:~

The rvalues of all the assignments can, of course, be much more complex.

Introduction to preprocessor macros

Notice the use of the macro PRINT( ) to save typing (and typing errors!). Preprocessor macros are traditionally named with all uppercase letters, so they stand out – you’ll learn later that macros can quickly become dangerous (and they can also be very useful).

The arguments in the parenthesized list following the macro name are substituted in all the code following the closing parenthesis. The preprocessor removes the name PRINT and substitutes the code wherever the macro is called, so the compiler cannot generate any error messages using the macro name, and it doesn’t do any type checking on the arguments (the latter can be beneficial, as shown in the debugging macros at the end of the chapter).

Relational operators

Relational operators establish a relationship between the values of the operands. They produce a Boolean (specified with the bool keyword in C++) true if the relationship is true, and false if the relationship is false. The relational operators are: less than (<), greater than (>), less than or equal to (<=), greater than or equal to (>=), equivalent (==) and not equivalent (!=). They may be used with all built-in data types in C and C++. They may be given special definitions for user-defined data types in C++ (you’ll learn about this in Chapter XX, on operator overloading).

Logical operators

The logical operators and (&&) and or (||) produce a true or false based on the logical relationship of its arguments. Remember that in C and C++, a statement is true if it has a non-zero value, and false if it has a value of zero. If you print a bool, you’ll typically see a ‘1’ for true and ‘0’ for false.

This example uses the relational and logical operators:

//: C03:Boolean.cpp

// Relational and logical operators.

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int i,j;

cout << “enter an integer: “;

cin >> i;

cout << “enter another integer: “;

cin >> j;

cout << “i > j is ” << (i > j) << endl;

cout << “i < j is ” << (i < j) << endl;

cout << “i >= j is ” << (i >= j) << endl;

cout << “i <= j is ” << (i <= j) << endl;

cout << “i == j is ” << (i == j) << endl;

cout << “i != j is ” << (i != j) << endl;

cout << “i && j is ” << (i && j) << endl;

cout << “i || j is ” << (i || j) << endl;

cout << ” (i < 10) && (j < 10) is ”

<< ((i < 10) && (j < 10)) << endl;

} ///:~

You can replace the definition for int with float or double in the above program. Be aware, however, that the comparison of a floating-point number with the value of zero is very strict: a number that is the tiniest fraction different from another number is still “not equal.” A floating-point number that is the tiniest bit above zero is still true.

Bitwise operators

The bitwise operators allow you to manipulate individual bits in a number (since floating point values use a special internal format, the bitwise operators only work with integral numbers). Bitwise operators perform boolean algebra on the corresponding bits in the arguments to produce the result.

The bitwise and operator (&) produces a one in the output bit if both input bits are one; otherwise it produces a zero. The bitwise or operator (|) produces a one in the output bit if either input bit is a one and only produces a zero if both input bits are zero. The bitwise exclusive or, or xor (^) produces a one in the output bit if one or the other input bit is a one, but not both. The bitwise not (~, also called the ones complement operator) is a unary operator – it only takes one argument (all other bitwise operators are binary operators). Bitwise not produces the opposite of the input bit – a one if the input bit is zero, a zero if the input bit is one.

Bitwise operators can be combined with the = sign to unite the operation and assignment: &=, |= and ^= are all legitimate operations (since ~ is a unary operator it cannot be combined with the = sign).

Shift operators

The shift operators also manipulate bits. The left-shift operator (<<) produces the operand to the left of the operator shifted to the left by the number of bits specified after the operator. The right-shift operator (>>) produces the operand to the left of the operator shifted to the right by the number of bits specified after the operator. If the value after the shift operator is greater than the number of bits in the left-hand operand, the result is undefined. If the left-hand operand is unsigned, the right shift is a logical shift so the upper bits will be filled with zeros. If the left-hand operand is signed, the right shift may or may not be a logical shift (that is, the behavior is undefined).

Shifts can be combined with the equal sign (<<= and >>=). The lvalue is replaced by the lvalue shifted by the rvalue.

Here’s an example that demonstrates the use of all the operators involving bits:

//: C03:Bitwise.cpp

// Demonstration of bit manipulation

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

// Display a byte in binary:

void printBinary(const unsigned char val) {

for(int i = 7; i >= 0; i–)

if(val & (1 << i))

cout << “1”;

else

cout << “0”;

}

// A macro to save typing:

#define PR(STR, EXPR) \

cout << STR; printBinary(EXPR); cout << endl;

int main() {

unsigned int getval;

unsigned char a, b;

cout << “Enter a number between 0 and 255: “;

cin >> getval; a = getval;

PR(“a in binary: “, a);

cout << “Enter a number between 0 and 255: “;

cin >> getval; b = getval;

PR(“b in binary: “, b);

PR(“a | b = “, a | b);

PR(“a & b = “, a & b);

PR(“a ^ b = “, a ^ b);

PR(“~a = “, ~a);

PR(“~b = “, ~b);

// An interesting bit pattern:

unsigned char c = 0x5A;

PR(“c in binary: “, c);

a |= c;

PR(“a |= c; a = “, a);

b &= c;

PR(“b &= c; b = “, b);

b ^= a;

PR(“b ^= a; b = “, b);

} ///:~

The printBinary( ) function takes a single byte and displays it bit-by-bit. The expression (1 << i) produces a one in each successive bit position; in binary: 00000001, 00000010, etc. If this bit is bitwise anded with val and the result is nonzero, it means there was a one in that position in val.

Once again, a preprocessor macro is used to save typing. It prints the string of your choice, then the binary representation of an expression, then a newline.

In main( ), the variables are unsigned. This is because, generally, you don’t want signs when you are working with bytes. An int must be used instead of a char for getval because the “cin >>” statement will otherwise treat the first digit as a character. By assigning getval to a and b, the value is converted to a single byte (by truncating it).

The << and >> provide bit-shifting behavior, but when they shift bits off the end of the number, those bits are lost (it’s commonly said that they fall into the mythical bit bucket, a place where discarded bits end up, presumably so they can be reused…). When manipulating bits you can also perform rotation, which means that the bits that fall off one end are inserted back at the other end, as if they’re being rotated around a loop. Even though most computer processors provide a machine-level rotate command (so you’ll see it in the assembly language for that processor), there is no direct support for “rotate” in C or C++. Presumably the designers of C felt justified in leaving “rotate” off (aiming, as they said, for a minimal language) because you can build your own rotate command. For example, here are functions to perform left and right rotations:

//: C03:Rotation.cpp {O}

// Perform left and right rotations

unsigned char rol(unsigned char val) {

int highbit;

if(val & 0x80) // 0x80 is the high bit only

highbit = 1;

else

highbit = 0;

// Left shift (bottom bit becomes 0):

val <<= 1;

// Rotate the high bit onto the bottom:

val |= highbit;

return val;

}

unsigned char ror(unsigned char val) {

int lowbit;

if(val & 1) // Check the low bit

lowbit = 1;

else

lowbit = 0;

val >>= 1; // Right shift by one position

// Rotate the low bit onto the top:

val |= (lowbit << 7);

return val;

} ///:~

Try using these functions in Bitwise.cpp. Notice the definitions (or at least declarations) of rol( ) and ror( ) must be seen by the compiler in Bitwise.cpp before the functions are used.

The bitwise functions are generally extremely efficient to use because they translate directly into assembly language statements. Sometimes a single C or C++ statement will generate a single line of assembly code.

Unary operators

Bitwise not isn’t the only operator that takes a single argument. Its companion, the logical not (!), will take a true value and produce a false value. The unary minus () and unary plus (+) are the same operators as binary minus and plus – the compiler figures out which usage is intended by the way you write the expression. For instance, the statement

x = -a;

has an obvious meaning. The compiler can figure out:

x = a * -b;

but the reader might get confused, so it is safer to say:

x = a * (-b);

The unary minus produces the negative of the value. Unary plus provides symmetry with unary minus, although it doesn’t actually do anything.

The increment and decrement operators (++ and ) were introduced earlier in this chapter. These are the only operators other than those involving assignment that have side effects. These operators increase or decrease the variable by one unit, although “unit” can have different meanings according to the data type – this is especially true with pointers.

The last unary operators are the address-of (&), dereference (* and ->) and cast operators in C and C++, and new and delete in C++. Address-of and dereference are used with pointers, described in this chapter. Casting is described later in this chapter, and new and delete are described in Chapter XX.

The ternary operator

The ternary if-else is unusual because it has 3 operands. It is truly an operator because it produces a value, unlike the ordinary if-else statement. It consists of three expressions: if the first expression (followed by a ?) evaluates to true, the expression following the ? is evaluated and its result becomes the value produced by the operator. If the first expression is false, the third expression (following a :) is executed and its result becomes the value produced by the operator.

The conditional operator can be used for its side effects or for the value it produces. Here’s a code fragment that demonstrates both:

A = –B ? B : (B = -99);

Here, the conditional produces the rvalue. A is assigned to the value of B if the result of decrementing B is nonzero. If B became zero, A and B are both assigned to -99. B is always decremented, but it is only assigned to -99 if the decrement causes B to become 0. A similar statement can be used without the “A =” just for its side effects:

–B ? B : (B = -99);

Here the second B is superfluous, since the value produced by the operator is unused. An expression is required between the ? and :. In this case the expression could simply be a constant that might make the code run a bit faster.

The comma operator

The comma is not restricted to separating variable names in multiple definitions such as

int i, j, k;

Of course, it’s also used in function argument lists. However, it can also be used as an operator to separate expressions – in this case it produces only the value of the last expression. All the rest of the expressions in the comma-separated list are only evaluated for their side effects. This code fragment increments a list of variables and uses the last one as the rvalue:

A = (B++,C++,D++,E++);

The parentheses are critical here. Without them, the statement will evaluate to:

(A = B++), C++, D++, E++;

In general, it’s best to avoid using the comma as anything other than a separator, since people are not used to seeing it as an operator.

Common pitfalls when using operators

As illustrated above, one of the pitfalls when using operators is trying to get away without parentheses when you are even the least bit uncertain about how an expression will evaluate (consult your local C manual for the order of expression evaluation).

Another extremely common error looks like this:

//: C03:Pitfall.cpp

// Operator mistakes

int main() {

int a = 1, b = 1;

while(a = b) {

// ….

}

} ///:~

The statement a = b will always evaluate to true when b is non-zero. The variable a is assigned to the value of b, and the value of b is also produced by the operator =. Generally you want to use the equivalence operator == inside a conditional statement, not assignment. This one bites a lot of programmers (however, some compilers will point out the problem to you, which is very helpful).

A similar problem is using bitwise and and or instead of their logical counterparts. Bitwise and and or use one of the characters (& or |) while logical and and or use two (&& and ||). Just as with = and ==, it’s easy to just type one character instead of two. A useful mnemonic device is to observe that “bits are smaller, so they don’t need as many characters in their operators.”

Casting operators

The word cast is used in the sense of “casting into a mold.” The compiler will automatically change one type of data into another if it makes sense. For instance, if you assign an integral value to a floating-point variable, the compiler will secretly call a function (or more probably, insert code) to convert the int to a float. Casting allows you to make this type conversion explicit, or to force it when it wouldn’t normally happen.

To perform a cast, put the desired data type (including all modifiers) inside parentheses to the left of the value. This value can be a variable, a constant, the value produced by an expression or the return value of a function. Here’s an example:

int b = 200;

a = (unsigned long int)b;

Casting is very powerful, but it can cause headaches because in some situations it forces the compiler to treat data as if it were (for instance) larger than it really is, so it will occupy more space in memory – this can trample over other data. This usually occurs when casting pointers, not when making simple casts like the one shown above.

C++ has an additional kind of casting syntax, which follows the function call syntax. This syntax puts the parentheses around the argument, like a function call, rather than around the data type:

float a = float(200);

This is equivalent to:

float a = (float)200;

Of course in the above case you wouldn’t really need a cast; you could just say 200f (and that’s typically what the compiler will do for the above expression, in effect). Casts are generally used instead with variables, rather than constants.

sizeof – an operator by itself

The sizeof( ) operator stands alone because it satisfies an unusual need. sizeof( ) gives you information about the amount of memory allocated for data items. As described earlier in this chapter, sizeof( ) tells you the number of bytes used by any particular variable. It can also give the size of a data type (with no variable name):

cout << “sizeof(double) = ” << sizeof(double);

sizeof( ) can also give you the sizes of user-defined data types. This is used later in the book.

The asm keyword

This is an escape mechanism that allows you to write assembly code for your hardware within a C++ program. Often you’re able to reference C++ variables within the assembly code, which means you can easily communicate with your C++ code and limit the assembly code to that necessary for efficiency tuning or to utilize special processor instructions. The exact syntax of the assembly language is compiler-dependent and can be discovered in your compiler’s documentation.

Explicit operators

These are keywords for bitwise and logical operators. Non-U.S. programmers without keyboard characters like &, |, ^, and so on, were forced to use C’s horrible trigraphs, which were not only annoying to type, but obscure when reading. This is repaired in C++ with additional keywords:

Keyword

Meaning

and

&& (logical and)

or

|| (logical or)

not

! (logical NOT)

not_eq

!= (logical not-equivalent)

bitand

& (bitwise and)

and_eq

&= (bitwise and-assignment)

bitor

| (bitwise or)

or_eq

|= (bitwise or-assignment)

xor

^ (bitwise exclusive-or)

xor_eq

^= (bitwise exclusive-or-assignment)

compl

~ (ones complement)

If your compiler complies with Standard C++, it will support these keywords.

Composite type creation

The fundamental data types and their variations are essential, but rather primitive. C and C++ provide tools that allow you to compose more sophisticated data types from the fundamental data types. As you’ll see, the most important of these is struct, which is the foundation for class in C++. However, the simplest way to create more sophisticated types is simply to alias a name to another name via typedef.

Aliasing names with typedef

This keyword promises more than it delivers: typedef suggests “type definition” when “alias” would probably have been a more accurate description, since that’s all it really does. The syntax is:

typedef existing-type-description alias-name

People often use typedef when data types get slightly complicated, just to prevent extra keystrokes. Here is a commonly-used typedef:

typedef unsigned long ulong;

Now if you say ulong the compiler knows that you mean unsigned long. You might think that this could as easily be accomplished using preprocessor substitution, but there are key situations where the compiler must be aware that you’re treating a name as if it were a type, so typedef is essential.

You can argue that it’s more explicit and therefore more readable to avoid typedefs for primitive types, and indeed programs rapidly become difficult to read when many typedefs are used. However, typedefs become especially important in C when used with struct.

Combining variables with struct

A struct is a way to collect a group of variables into a structure. Once you create a struct, then you can make many instances of this “new” type of variable you’ve invented. For example:

//: C03:SimpleStruct.cpp

struct Structure1 {

char c;

int i;

float f;

double d;

};

int main() {

struct Structure1 s1, s2;

s1.c = ‘a’; // Select an element using a ‘.’

s1.i = 1;

s1.f = 3.14;

s1.d = 0.00093;

s2.c = ‘a’;

s2.i = 1;

s2.f = 3.14;

s2.d = 0.00093;

} ///:~

The struct declaration must end with a semicolon. In main( ), two instances of Structure1 are created: s1 and s2. Each of these have their own separate versions of c, i, f and d. So s1 and s2 represent clumps of completely independent variables. To select one of the elements within s1 or s2, you use a ‘.’, syntax you’ve seen in the previous chapter when using C++ class objects – since classes evolved from structs, this is where that syntax arose.

One thing you’ll notice is the awkwardness of the use of Structure1. You can’t just say Structure1 when you’re defining variables, you must say struct Structure1. This is where typedef becomes especially handy:

//: C03:SimpleStruct2.cpp

// Using typedef with struct

typedef struct {

char c;

int i;

float f;

double d;

} Structure2;

int main() {

Structure2 s1, s2;

s1.c = ‘a’;

s1.i = 1;

s1.f = 3.14;

s1.d = 0.00093;

s2.c = ‘a’;

s2.i = 1;

s2.f = 3.14;

s2.d = 0.00093;

} ///:~

By using typedef in this way, you can pretend that Structure2 is a built-in type, like int or float, when you define s1 and s2 (but notice it only has data – characteristics – and does not include behavior, which is what we get with real objects in C++). You’ll notice that the struct name has been left off at the beginning, because the goal is to create the typedef. However, there are times when you might need to refer to the struct during its definition. In those cases, you can actually repeat the name of the struct as the struct name and as the typedef:

//: C03:SelfReferential.cpp

// Allowing a struct to refer to itself

typedef struct SelfReferential {

int i;

SelfReferential* sr; // Head spinning yet?

} SelfReferential;

int main() {

SelfReferential sr1, sr2;

sr1.sr = &sr2;

sr2.sr = &sr1;

sr1.i = 47;

sr2.i = 1024;

} ///:~

If you look at this for awhile, you’ll see that sr1 and sr2 point to each other, as well as each holding a piece of data.

Actually, the struct name does not have to be the same as the typedef name, but it is usually done this way as it tends to keep things simpler.

Pointers and structs

In the above examples, all the structs are manipulated as objects. However, like any piece of storage you can take the address of a struct object (as seen in SelfReferential.cpp above). To select the elements of a particular struct object, you use a ‘.’, as seen above. However, if you have a pointer to a struct object, you must select an element of that object using a different operator: the ‘->’. Here’s an example:

//: C03:SimpleStruct3.cpp

// Using pointers to structs

typedef struct Structure3 {

char c;

int i;

float f;

double d;

} Structure3;

int main() {

Structure3 s1, s2;

Structure3* sp = &s1;

sp->c = ‘a’;

sp->i = 1;

sp->f = 3.14;

sp->d = 0.00093;

sp = &s2; // Point to a different struct object

sp->c = ‘a’;

sp->i = 1;

sp->f = 3.14;

sp->d = 0.00093;

} ///:~

In main( ), the struct pointer sp is initially pointing to s1, and the members of s1 are initialized by selecting them with the ‘->’ (and you use this same operator in order to read those members). But then sp is pointed to s2, and those variables are initialized the same way. So you can see that another benefit of pointers is that they can be dynamically redirected to point to different objects; this provides more flexibility in your programming, as you shall learn.

For now, that’s all you need to know about structs, but you’ll become much more comfortable with structs (and especially their more potent successors, classes) as the book progresses.

Clarifying programs with enum

An enumerated data type is a way of attaching names to numbers, thereby giving more meaning to anyone reading the code. The enum keyword (from C) automatically enumerates any list of words you give it by assigning them values of 0, 1, 2, etc. You can declare enum variables (which are always ints). The declaration of an enum looks similar to a struct declaration.

An enumerated data type is very useful when you want to keep track of some sort of feature:

//: C03:Enum.cpp

// Keeping track of shapes.

enum ShapeType {

circle,

square,

rectangle

}; // Must end with a semicolon like a struct

int main() {

ShapeType shape = circle;

// Activities here….

// Now do something based on what the shape is:

switch(shape) {

case circle: /* circle stuff */ break;

case square: /* square stuff */ break;

case rectangle: /* rectangle stuff */ break;

}

} ///:~

shape is a variable of the ShapeType enumerated data type, and its value is compared with the value in the enumeration. Since shape is really just an int, however, it can be any value an int can hold (including a negative number). You can also compare an int variable with a value in the enumeration.

If you don’t like the way the compiler assigns values, you can do it yourself, like this:

enum ShapeType {

circle = 10, square = 20, rectangle = 50

};

If you give values to some names and not to others, the compiler will use the next integral value. For example,

enum snap { crackle = 25, pop };

The compiler gives pop the value 26.

You can see how much more readable the code is when you use enumerated data types. However, to some degree this is still an attempt (in C) to accomplish the things that we can do with a class in C++, so you’ll see enum used less in C++.

Type checking for enumerations

C’s enumerations are fairly primitive, simply associating integral values with names, but they provide no type checking. In C++, as you may have come to expect by now, the concept of type is fundamental, and this is true with enumerations. When you create a named enumeration, you effectively create a new type just as you do with a class: The name of your enumeration becomes a reserved word for the duration of that translation unit.

In addition, there’s stricter type checking for enumerations in C++ than in C. You’ll notice this in particular if you have an instance of an enumeration color called a. In C you can say a++ but in C++ you can’t. This is because incrementing an enumeration is performing two type conversions, one of them legal in C++ and one of them illegal. First, the value of the enumeration is implicitly cast from a color to an int, then the value is incremented, then the int is cast back into a color. In C++ this isn’t allowed, because color is a distinct type and not equivalent to an int. This makes sense, because how do you know the increment of blue will even be in the list of colors? If you want to increment a color, then it should be a class (with an increment operation) and not an enum, because the class can be made to be much safer. Any time you write code that assumes an implicit conversion to an enum type, the compiler will flag this inherently dangerous activity.

Unions (described next) have similar additional type checking in C++.

Saving memory with union

Sometimes a program will handle different types of data using the same variable. In this situation, you have two choices: you can create a struct containing all the possible different types you might need to store, or you can use a union. A union piles all the data into a single space; it figures out the amount of space necessary for the largest item you’ve put in the union, and makes that the size of the union. Use a union to save memory.

Anytime you place a value in a union, the value always starts in the same place at the beginning of the union, but only uses as much space as is necessary. Thus, you create a “super-variable,” capable of holding any of the union variables. All the addresses of the union variables are the same (in a class or struct, the addresses are different).

Here’s a simple use of a union. Try removing various elements and see what effect it has on the size of the union. Notice that it makes no sense to declare more than one instance of a single data type in a union (unless you’re just doing it to use a different name).

//: C03:Union.cpp

// The size and simple use of a union

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

union packed { // Declaration similar to a class

char i;

short j;

int k;

long l;

float f;

double d;

// The union will be the size of a

// double, since that’s the largest element

}; // Semicolon ends a union, like a struct

int main() {

cout << “sizeof(packed) = ”

<< sizeof(packed) << endl;

packed x;

x.i = ‘c’;

cout << x.i << endl;

x.d = 3.14159;

cout << x.d << endl;

} ///:~

The compiler performs the proper assignment according to the union member you select.

Once you perform an assignment, the compiler doesn’t care what you do with the union. In the above example, you could assign a floating-point value to x:

x.f = 2.222;

and then send it to the output as if it were an int:

cout << x.i;

This would produce garbage.

Arrays

Arrays are a kind of composite type because they allow you to clump a lot of variables together, one right after the other, under a single identifier name. If you say:

int a[10];

You create storage for 10 int variables stacked on top of each other, but without unique identifier names for each variable. Instead, they are all lumped under the name a.

To access one of these array elements, you use the same square-bracket syntax that you use to define an array:

a[5] = 47;

However, you must remember that even though the size of a is 10, you select array elements starting at zero (this is sometimes called zero indexing), so you can only select the array elements 0-9, like this:

//: C03:Arrays.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int a[10];

for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++) {

a[i] = i * 10;

cout << “a[” << i << “] = ” << a[i] << endl;

}

} ///:~

Array access is extremely fast. However, if you index past the end of the array, there is no safety net – you’ll step on other variables. The other drawback is the fact that you must define the size of the array at compile time; if you want to change the size at runtime you can’t do it with the above syntax (C does have a way to create an array dynamically, but it’s significantly messier). The C++ vector, introduced in the previous chapter, provides an array-like object that automatically resizes itself, so it is usually a much better solution if your array size cannot be known at compile time.

You can make an array of any type, even of structs:

//: C03:StructArray.cpp

// An array of struct

typedef struct {

int i, j, k;

} ThreeDpoint;

int main() {

ThreeDpoint p[10];

for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++) {

p[i].i = i + 1;

p[i].j = i + 2;

p[i].k = i + 3;

}

} ///:~

Notice how the struct identifier i is independent of the for loop’s i.

To see that each element of an array is contiguous with the next, you can print out the addresses like this:

//: C03:ArrayAddresses.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int a[10];

cout << “sizeof(int) = ” << sizeof(int) <<endl;

for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++)

cout << “&a[” << i << “] = ”

<< (long)&a[i] << endl;

} ///:~

When you run this program, you’ll see that each element is one int size away from the previous one. That is, they are stacked one on top of the other.

Pointers and arrays

The identifier of an array is unlike the identifiers for ordinary variables. For one thing, an array identifier is not an lvalue – you cannot assign to it. It’s really just a hook into the square-bracket syntax, and when you give the name of an array, without square brackets, what you get is the starting address of the array:

//: C03:ArrayIdentifier.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int a[10];

cout << “a = ” << a << endl;

cout << “&a[0] =” << &a[0] << endl;

} ///:~

When you run this program you’ll see that the two addresses (which will be printed in hexadecimal, since there is no cast to long) are the same.

So one way to look at the array identifier is as a read-only pointer to the beginning of an array. And although we can’t change the array identifier to point somewhere else, we can create another pointer and use that to move around in the array. In fact, the square-bracket syntax works with regular pointers, as well:

//: C03:PointersAndBrackets.cpp

int main() {

int a[10];

int* ip = a;

for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++)

ip[i] = i * 10;

} ///:~

The fact that naming an array produces its starting address turns out to be quite important when you want to pass an array to a function. If you declare an array as a function argument, what you’re really declaring is a pointer. So in the following example, func1( ) and func2( ) effectively have the same argument lists:

//: C03:ArrayArguments.cpp

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

void func1(int a[], int size) {

for(int i = 0; i < size; i++)

a[i] = i * i – i;

}

void func2(int* a, int size) {

for(int i = 0; i < size; i++)

a[i] = i * i + i;

}

void print(int a[], string name, int size) {

for(int i = 0; i < size; i++)

cout << name << “[” << i << “] = ”

<< a[i] << endl;

}

int main() {

int a[5], b[5];

// Probably garbage values:

print(a, “a”, 5);

print(b, “b”, 5);

// Initialize the arrays:

func1(a, 5);

func1(b, 5);

print(a, “a”, 5);

print(b, “b”, 5);

// Notice the arrays are always modified:

func2(a, 5);

func2(b, 5);

print(a, “a”, 5);

print(b, “b”, 5);

} ///:~

Even though func1( ) and func2( ) declare their arguments differently, the usage is the same inside the function. There are some other issues that this example reveals: arrays cannot be passed by value[22], that is, you never automatically get a local copy of the array that you pass into a function. Thus, when you modify an array, you’re always modifying the outside object. This can be a bit confusing at first, if you’re expecting the pass-by-value provided with ordinary arguments.

You’ll notice that print( ) uses the square-bracket syntax for array arguments. Even though the pointer syntax and the square-bracket syntax are effectively the same when passing arrays as arguments, the square-bracket syntax makes it clearer to the reader that you mean for this argument to be an array.

Also note that the size argument is passed in each case. Just passing the address of an array isn’t enough information; you must always be able to know how big the array is inside your function, so you don’t run off the end of that array.

Arrays can be of any type, including arrays of pointers. In fact, when you want to pass command-line arguments into your program, C & C++ have a special argument list for main( ) which looks like this:

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) { // …

The first argument is the number of elements in the array which is the second argument. The second argument is always an array of char*, because the arguments are passed from the command line as character arrays (and remember, an array can only be passed as a pointer). Each whitespace-delimited cluster of characters on the command line is turned into a separate array argument. The following program prints out all its command-line arguments by stepping through the array:

//: C03:CommandLineArgs.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

cout << “argc = ” << argc << endl;

for(int i = 0; i < argc; i++)

cout << “argv[” << i << “] = ”

<< argv[i] << endl;

} ///:~

You’ll notice that argv[0] is the path and name of the program itself. This allows the program to discover information about itself. It also adds one more to the array of program arguments, so a common error when fetching command-line arguments is to grab argv[0] when you want argv[1].

You are not forced to use argc and argv as identifiers in main( ); those identifiers are only conventions (but it will confuse people if you don’t use them). Also, there are alternate ways to declare argv:

int main(int argc, char** argv) { // …

int main(int argc, char argv[][]) { // …

All three forms are equivalent, but I find the form used in this book to be the most intuitive when reading the code, since it says, directly, “this is an array of character pointers.”

All you get from the command-line is character arrays; if you want to treat an argument as some other type, you are responsible for converting it, inside your program. To facilitate the conversion to numbers, there are some helper functions in the Standard C library, declared in <cstdlib>. The simplest ones to use are atoi( ), atol( ) and atof( ), to convert an ASCII character array to an int, long and double floating-point value, respectively. Here’s an example using atoi( ) (the other two functions are called the same way):

//: C03:ArgsToInts.cpp

// Converting command-line arguments to ints

#include <iostream>

#include <cstdlib>

using namespace std;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

for(int i = 1; i < argc; i++)

cout << atoi(argv[i]) << endl;

} ///:~

In this program, you can put any number of arguments on the command line. You’ll notice that the for loop starts at the value 1 to skip over the program name at argv[0]. Also, if you put a floating-point number containing a decimal point on the command line, atoi( ) only takes the digits up to the decimal point. If you put non-numbers on the command line, these come back from atoi( ) as zero

Pointer arithmetic

If all you could do with a pointer that points at an array is treat it as if it were an alias for that array, pointers into arrays wouldn’t be very interesting. However, pointers are more flexible than this, since they can be moved around (and remember, the array identifier cannot be moved).

Pointer arithmetic refers to the application of some of the arithmetic operators to pointers. The reason pointer arithmetic is a separate subject from ordinary arithmetic is that pointers must conform to special constraints in order to make them behave properly. For example, a common operator to use with pointers is ++, which “adds one to the pointer.” What this actually means is that the pointer is changed to move to “the next value,” whatever that means. Here’s an example:

//: C03:PointerIncrement.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

int i[10];

double d[10];

int* ip = i;

double* dp = d;

cout << “ip = ” << (long)ip << endl;

ip++;

cout << “ip = ” << (long)ip << endl;

cout << “dp = ” << (long)dp << endl;

dp++;

cout << “dp = ” << (long)dp << endl;

} ///:~

For one run on my machine, the output is:

ip = 6684124

ip = 6684128

dp = 6684044

dp = 6684052

What’s interesting here is that even though the operation ++ appears to be the same operation for both the int* and the double*, you can see that the pointer has been changed only 4 bytes for the int* but 8 bytes for the double*. Not coincidently, these are the sizes of int and double on my machine. And that’s the trick of pointer arithmetic: the compiler figures out the right amount to change the pointer so that it’s pointing to the next element in the array (pointer arithmetic is only meaningful within arrays). This even works with arrays of structs:

//: C03:PointerIncrement2.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

typedef struct {

char c;

short s;

int i;

long l;

float f;

double d;

long double ld;

} Primitives;

int main() {

Primitives p[10];

Primitives* pp = p;

cout << “sizeof(Primitives) = ”

<< sizeof(Primitives) << endl;

cout << “pp = ” << (long)pp << endl;

pp++;

cout << “pp = ” << (long)pp << endl;

} ///:~

The output for one run on my machine was:

sizeof(Primitives) = 40

pp = 6683764

pp = 6683804

So you can see the compiler also does the right thing for pointers to structs (and classes and unions).

Pointer arithmetic also works with the operators , + and , but the latter two operators are limited: you cannot add or subtract two pointers. Instead, you must add or subtract an integral value. Here’s an example demonstrating the use of pointer arithmetic:

//: C03:PointerArithmetic.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

#define P(EXP) \

cout << #EXP << “: ” << EXP << endl;

int main() {

int a[10];

for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++)

a[i] = i; // Give it index values

int* ip = a;

P(*ip);

P(*++ip);

P(*(ip + 5));

int* ip2 = ip + 5;

P(*ip2);

P(*(ip2 – 4));

P(*–ip2);

} ///:~

It begins with another macro, but this one uses a preprocessor feature called stringizing (implemented with the ‘#’ sign before an expression) which takes any expression and turns it into a character array. This is quite convenient, since it allows the expression to be printed, followed by a colon, followed by the value of the expression. In main( ) you can see the useful shorthand that is produced.

Although pre- and postfix versions of ++ and are valid with pointers, only the prefix versions are used in this example because they are applied before the pointers are dereferenced in the above expressions, so they allow us to see the effects of the operations. Note that only integral values are being added and subtracted; if two pointers were combined this way the compiler would not allow it.

Here is the output of the above program:

*ip: 0

*++ip: 1

*(ip + 5): 6

*ip2: 6

*(ip2 – 4): 2

*–ip2: 5

In all cases, the pointer arithmetic results in the pointer being adjusted to point to the “right place,” based on the size of the elements being pointed to.

If pointer arithmetic seems a bit overwhelming at first, don’t worry. Most of the time you’ll only need to create arrays and index into them with [ ], and the most sophisticated pointer arithmetic you’ll usually need is ++ and . Pointer arithmetic is generally reserved for more clever and complex programs, and many of the containers in the Standard C++ library hide most of these clever details so you don’t have to worry about them.

Debugging hints

In an ideal environment, you have an excellent debugger available that easily makes the behavior of your program transparent so you can quickly discover errors. However, most debuggers have blind spots, and these will require you to embed code snippets in your program to help you understand what’s going on. In addition, you may be developing in an environment (such as an embedded system, which is where I spent my formative years) that has no debugger available, and perhaps very limited feedback (i.e. a one-line LED display). In these cases you become creative in the ways you discover and display information about the execution of your program. This section suggests some techniques for doing this.

Debugging flags

If you hard-wire your debugging code into a program, you can run into problems. You start to get too much information, which makes the bugs difficult to isolate. When you think you’ve found the bug you start tearing out debugging code, only to find you need to put it back in again. You can solve these problems with two types of flags: preprocessor debugging flags and runtime debugging flags.

Preprocessor debugging flags

By using the preprocessor to #define one or more debugging flags (preferably in a header file), you can test a flag using an #ifdef statement and conditionally include debugging code. When you think your debugging is finished, you can simply #undef the flag(s) and the code will automatically be removed (and you’ll reduce the size and runtime overhead of your executable file).

It is best to decide on names for debugging flags before you begin building your project so the names will be consistent. Preprocessor flags are traditionally distinguished from variables by writing them in all upper case. A common flag name is simply DEBUG (but be careful you don’t use NDEBUG, which is reserved in C). The sequence of statements might be:

#define DEBUG // Probably in a header file

//…

#ifdef DEBUG // Check to see if flag is defined

/* debugging code here */

#endif // DEBUG

Most C and C++ implementations will also let you #define and #undef flags from the compiler command line, so you can re-compile code and insert debugging information with a single command (preferably via the makefile, a tool that will be described next). Check your local documentation for details.

Runtime debugging flags

In some situations it is more convenient to turn debugging flags on and off during program execution, especially by setting them when the program starts up using the command line. Large programs are tedious to recompile just to insert debugging code.

To turn the debugger on and off dynamically, create bool flags:

//: C03:DynamicDebugFlags.cpp

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

// Debug flags aren’t necessarily global:

bool debug = false;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

for(int i = 0; i < argc; i++)

if(string(argv[i]) == “–debug=on”)

debug = true;

bool go = true;

while(go) {

if(debug) {

// Debugging code here

cout << “Debugger is now on!” << endl;

} else {

cout << “Debugger is now off.” << endl;

}

cout << “Turn debugger [on/off/quit]: “;

string reply;

cin >> reply;

if(reply == “on”) debug = true; // Turn it on

if(reply == “off”) debug = false; // Off

if(reply == “quit”) break; // Out of ‘while’

}

} ///:~

This program continues to allow you to turn the debugging flag on and off until you type “quit” to tell it you want to exit. Notice that it requires that full words be typed in, not just letters (you can shorten it to letter if you wish). Also, a command-line argument can optionally be used to turn debugging on a startup – this argument can appear anyplace in the command line, since the startup code in main( ) looks at all the arguments. The testing is quite simple because of the expression:

string(argv[i])

This takes the argv[i] character array and creates a string, which then can be easily compared to the right-hand side of the ==. The above program searches for the entire string –debug=on. You can also look for –debug= and then see what’s after that, to provide more options. The chapter on the string class later in the book will show you how to do that.

Although a debugging flag is one of the relatively few areas where it makes a lot of sense to use a global variable, there’s nothing that says it must be that way. Notice that the variable is in lower case letters to remind the reader it isn’t a preprocessor flag.

Turning variables and expressions into strings

When writing debugging code, it is tedious to write print expressions consisting of a character array containing the variable name, followed by the variable. Fortunately, Standard C includes the stringize operator ‘#’, which was used earlier in this chapter. When you put a # before an argument in a preprocessor macro, the preprocessor turns that argument into a character array. This, combined with the fact that character arrays with no intervening punctuation are concatenated into a single character array, allows you to make a very convenient macro for printing the values of variables during debugging:

#define PR(x) cout << #x ” = ” << x << “\n”;

If you print the variable a by calling the macro PR(a), it will have the same effect as the code:

cout << “a = ” << a << “\n”;

This same process works with entire expressions. The following program uses a macro to create a shorthand that prints the stringized expression and then evaluates the expression and prints the result:

//: C03:StringizingExpressions.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

#define P(A) cout << #A << “: ” << (A) << endl;

int main() {

int a = 1, b = 2, c = 3;

P(a); P(b); P(c);

P(a + b);

P((c – a)/b);

} ///:~

You can see how a technique like this can quickly become indispensible, especially if you have no debugger (or must use multiple development environments). You can also insert an #ifdef to cause P(A) to be defined as “nothing” when you want to strip out debugging.

The C assert( ) macro

In the standard header file <cassert> you’ll find assert( ), which is a convenient debugging macro. When you use assert( ), you give it an argument that is an expression you are “asserting to be true.” The preprocessor generates code that will test the assertion. If the assertion isn’t true, the program will stop after issuing an error message telling you what the assertion was and that it failed. Here’s a trivial example:

//: C03:Assert.cpp

// Use of the assert() debugging macro

#include <cassert> // Contains the macro

using namespace std;

int main() {

int i = 100;

assert(i != 100);

} ///:~

The macro originated in Standard C, so it’s also available in the header file assert.h.

When you are finished debugging, you can remove the code generated by the macro by placing the line:

#define NDEBUG

in the program before the inclusion of <cassert>, or by defining NDEBUG on the compiler command line. NDEBUG is a flag used in <cassert> to change the way code is generated by the macros.

Later in this book, you’ll see some more sophisticated alternatives to assert( ).

Make: an essential tool for separate compilation

When using separate compilation (breaking code into a number of translation units), you need some way to automatically compile each file and to tell the linker to build all the pieces – along with the appropriate libraries and startup code – into an executable file. Most compilers allow you to do this with a single command-line statement. For the Gnu C++ compiler, for example, you might say

g++ SourceFile1.cpp SourceFile2.cpp

The problem with this approach is that the compiler will first compile each individual file, regardless of whether that file needs to be rebuilt or not. With many files in a project, it can become prohibitive to recompile everything if you’ve only changed a single file.

The solution to this problem, developed on Unix but available everywhere in some form, is a program called make. The make utility manages all the individual files in a project by following the instructions in a text file called a makefile. When you edit some of the files in a project and type make, the make program follows the guidelines in the makefile to compare the dates on the source code files to the dates on the corresponding target files, and if a source code file date is more recent than its target file, make invokes the compiler on the source code file. make only recompiles the source code files that were changed, and any other source-code files that are affected by the modified files. By using make, you don’t have to re-compile all the files in your project every time you make a change, nor do you have to check to see that everything was built properly. The makefile contains all the commands to put your project together. Learning to use make will save you a lot of time and frustration. You’ll also discover that make is the typical way that you install new software on a Linux/Unix machine (although those makefiles tend to be far more complicated than the ones presented in this book, and you’ll often automatically generate a makefile for your particular machine as part of the installation process).

Because make is available in some form for virtually all C++ compilers (and even if it isn’t, you can use freely-available makes with any compiler), it will be the tool used throughout this book. However, compiler vendors have also created their own project building tools. These tools ask you which files are in your project, and determine all the relationships themselves. These tools use something similar to a makefile, generally called a project file, but the programming environment maintains this file so you don’t have to worry about it. The configuration and use of project files varies from one development environment to another, so you must find the appropriate documentation on how to use them (although project file tools provided by compiler vendors are usually so simple to use that you can learn them by playing around – my favorite form of education).

The makefiles used within this book should work even if you are also using a specific vendor’s project-building tool.

Make activities

When you type make (or whatever the name of your “make” program happens to be), the make program looks in the current directory for a file named makefile, which you’ve created if it’s your project. This file lists dependencies between source code files. make looks at the dates on files. If a dependent file has an older date than a file it depends on, make executes the rule given after the dependency.

All comments in makefiles start with a # and continue to the end of the line.

As a simple example, the makefile for a program called “hello” might contain:

# A comment

hello.exe: hello.cpp

mycompiler hello.cpp

This says that hello.exe (the target) depends on hello.cpp. When hello.cpp has a newer date than hello.exe, make executes the “rule” mycompiler hello.cpp. There may be multiple dependencies and multiple rules. Many make programs require that all the rules begin with a tab. Other than that, whitespace is generally ignored so you can format for readability.

The rules are not restricted to being calls to the compiler; you can call any program you’d like from within make. By creating groups of interdependent dependency-rule sets, you can modify your source code files, type make and be certain that all the affected files will be rebuilt correctly.

Macros

A makefile may contain macros (note that these are completely different from C/C++ preprocessor macros). Macros allow convenient string replacement. The makefiles in this book use a macro to invoke the C++ compiler. For example,

CPP = mycompiler

hello.exe: hello.cpp

$(CPP) hello.cpp

The = is used to identify CPP as a macro, and the $ and parentheses expand the macro. In this case, the expansion means that the macro call $(CPP) will be replaced with the string mycompiler. With the above macro, if you want to change to a different compiler called cpp, you just change the macro to:

CPP = cpp

You can also add compiler flags, etc., to the macro, or use separate macros to add compiler flags.

Suffix Rules

It becomes tedious to tell make how to invoke the compiler for every single cpp file in your project, when you know it’s the same basic process each time. Since make is designed to be a time-saver, it also has a way to abbreviate actions, as long as they depend on file name suffixes. These abbreviations are called suffix rules. A suffix rule is the way to teach make how to convert a file with one type of extension (.cpp, for example) into a file with another type of extension (.obj or .exe). Once you teach make the rules for producing one kind of file from another, all you have to do is tell make which files depend on which other files. When make finds a file with a date earlier than the file it depends on, it uses the rule to create a new file.

The suffix rule tells make that it doesn’t need explicit rules to build everything, but instead it can figure out how to build things based on their file extension. In this case it says: “to build a file that ends in exe from one that ends in cpp, invoke the following command.” Here’s what it looks like for the above example:

CPP = mycompiler

.SUFFIXES: .exe .cpp

.cpp.exe:

$(CPP) $<

The .SUFFIXES directive tells make that it should watch out for any of the following file-name extensions because they have special meaning. Next you see the suffix rule .cpp.exe which says: “here’s how to convert any file with an extension of cpp to one with an extension of exe” (when the cpp file is more recent than the exe file). As before, the $(CPP) macro is used, but then you see something new: $<. Because this begins with a ‘$’ it’s a macro, but this is one of make’s special built-in macros. The $< can only be used in suffix rules, and it means “whatever prerequisite triggered the rule” (sometimes called the dependent), which in this case translates to: “the cpp file that needs to be compiled.”

Once the suffix rules have been set up, you can simply say, for example, “make Union.exe,” and the suffix rule will kick in, even though there’s no mention of “Union” anywhere in the makefile.

Default targets

After the macros and suffix rules, make looks for the first “target” in a file, and builds that, unless you specify differently. So for the following makefile:

CPP = mycompiler

.SUFFIXES: .exe .cpp

.cpp.exe:

$(CPP) $<

target1.exe:

target2.exe:

If you just type ‘make’, target1.exe will be built (using the default suffix rule) because that’s the first target that make encounters. To build target2.exe you’d have to explicitly say ‘make target2.exe’. This becomes tedious, so you normally create a default “dummy” target which depends on all the rest of the targets, like this:

CPP = mycompiler

.SUFFIXES: .exe .cpp

.cpp.exe:

$(CPP) $<

all: target1.exe target2.exe

Here, ‘all’ does not exist, and there’s no file called ‘all’, so every time you type make, the program sees ‘all’ as the first target in the list (and thus the default target), then it sees that ‘all’ does not exist so it had better make it by checking all the dependencies. So it looks at target1.exe and (using the suffix rule) sees whether (1) target1.exe exists and (2) whether target1.cpp is more recent than target1.exe, and if so runs the suffix rule (if you provide an explicit rule for a particular target, that rule is used instead). Then it moves on to the next file in the default target list. Thus, by creating a default target list (typically called ‘all’ by convention, but you can call it anything) you can cause every executable in your project to be made simply by typing ‘make’. In addition, you can have other non-default target lists that do other things – for example, you could set it up so that typing ‘make debug’ rebuilds all your files with debugging wired in.

Makefiles in this book

Using the program ExtractCode.cpp which is shown in Chapter XX, all the code listings in this book are automatically extracted from the ASCII text version of this book and placed in subdirectories according to their chapters. In addition, ExtractCode.cpp creates several makefiles in each subdirectory (with different names) so that you can simply move into that subdirectory and type make -f mycompiler.makefile (substituting the name of your compiler for ‘mycompiler’, the ‘-f’ flag says “use what follows as the makefile”). Finally, ExtractCode.cpp creates a “master” makefile in the root directory where the book’s files have been expanded, and this makefile descends into each subdirectory and calls make with the appropriate makefile. This way you can compile all the code in the book by invoking a single make command, and the process will stop whenever your compiler is unable to handle a particular file (note that a Standard C++ conforming compiler should be able to compile all the files in this book). Because implementations of make vary from system to system, only the most basic, common features are used in the generated makefiles.

An example makefile

As mentioned, the code-extraction tool ExtractCode.cpp automatically generates makefiles for each chapter. Because of this, the makefiles for each chapter will not be placed in the book (all the makefiles are packaged with the source code, which is freely available at http://www.BruceEckel.com). However, it’s useful to see an example of a makefile. What follows is a very shortened version of the one that was automatically generated for this chapter by the book’s extraction tool. You’ll find more than one makefile in each subdirectory (they have different names – you invoke a specific one with ‘make -f’). This one is for Gnu C++:

CPP = g++

OFLAG = -o

.SUFFIXES : .o .cpp .c

.cpp.o :

$(CPP) $(CPPFLAGS) -c $<

.c.o :

$(CPP) $(CPPFLAGS) -c $<

all: \

Return \

Declare \

Ifthen \

Guess \

Guess2

# Rest of the files for this chapter not shown

Return: Return.o

$(CPP) $(OFLAG)Return Return.o

Declare: Declare.o

$(CPP) $(OFLAG)Declare Declare.o

Ifthen: Ifthen.o

$(CPP) $(OFLAG)Ifthen Ifthen.o

Guess: Guess.o

$(CPP) $(OFLAG)Guess Guess.o

Guess2: Guess2.o

$(CPP) $(OFLAG)Guess2 Guess2.o

Return.o: Return.cpp

Declare.o: Declare.cpp

Ifthen.o: Ifthen.cpp

Guess.o: Guess.cpp

Guess2.o: Guess2.cpp

The macro CPP is set to the name of the compiler. To use a different compiler, you can either edit the makefile or change the value of the macro on the command line, like this:

make CPP=cpp

Note, however, that ExtractCode.cpp has an automatic scheme to automatically build makefiles for additional compilers.

The second macro OFLAG is the flag that’s used to indicate the name of the output file. Although many compilers automatically assume the output file has the same base name as the input file, others don’t (such as Linux/Unix compilers, which default to creating a file called a.out).

You can see there are two suffix rules here, one for cpp files and one for .c files (in case any C source code needs to be compiled). The default target is all, and each line for this target is “continued” by using the backslash, up until Guess2, which is the last one in the list and thus has no backslash. There are many more files in this chapter, but only these are shown here for the sake of brevity.

The suffix rules take care of creating object files (with a .o extension) from cpp files, but in general you need to explicitly state rules for creating the executable, because normally an executable is created by linking many different object files and make cannot guess what those are. Also, in this case (Linux/Unix) there is no standard extension for executables so a suffix rule won’t work for these simple situation. Thus, you see all the rules for building the final executables explicitly stated.

This makefile takes the absolute safest route of using as few make features as possible – it only uses the basic make concepts of targets and dependencies, as well as macros. This way it is virtually assured of working with as many make programs as possible. It tends to produce a larger makefile, but that’s not so bad since it’s automatically generated by ExtractCode.cpp.

There are lots of other make features that this book will not use, as well as newer and cleverer versions and variations of make with advanced shortcuts that can save a lot of time. Your local documentation may describe the further features of your particular make, and you can learn more about make from Managing Projects with Make by Oram & Talbott (O’Reilly, 1993). Also, if your compiler vendor does not supply a make or they use a non-standard make, you can find Gnu make for virtually any platform in existence by searching the Internet for Gnu archives (of which there are many).

Summary

This chapter was a fairly intense tour through all the fundamental features of C++ syntax, most of which are inherited from and in common with C (and result in C++’s vaunted backwards compatibility with C). Although some C++ features were introduced here, this tour is primarily intended for people who are conversant in programming, and simply need to be given an introduction to the syntax basics of C and C++. If you’re already a C programmer, you may have even seen one or two things about C here that were unfamiliar, aside from the C++ features that were most likely new to you. However, if this chapter has still seemed a bit overwhelming, you may want to consider going through the CD-ROM course Thinking in C: Foundations for C++ & Java (which contains lectures, excercises and guided solutions) available at http://www.MindView.net.

Exercises

1. Create a header file (with an extension of ‘.h’). In this file, declare a group of functions by varying the argument lists and return values from among the following: void, char, int, and float. Now create a .cpp file which includes your header file and creates definitions for all these functions. Each definition should simply print out the function name, argument list and return type so you know it’s been called. Create a second .cpp file which includes your header file and defines int main( ), containing calls to all your functions. Compile and run your program.

2. Write a program that uses two nested for loops and the modulus operator (%) to detect and print prime numbers (integral numbers that are not evenly divisible by any other numbers except for themselves and 1).

3. Write a program that uses a while loop to read words from standard input (cin) into a string. This is an “infinite” while loop, which you break out of (and exit the program) using a break statement. For each word that is read, evaluate it by first using a sequence of if statements to “map” an integral value to the word, and then use a switch statement that uses that integral value as its selector (this sequence of events is not meant to be good programming style; it’s just supposed to give you exercise with control flow). Inside each case, print something meaningful. You must decide what the “interesting” words are and what the meaning is. You must also decide what word will signal the end of the program. Test the program by redirecting a file into the program’s standard input (if you want to save typing, this file can be your program’s source file).

4. Modify Menu.cpp to use switch statements instead of if statements.

5. Write a program that evaluates the two expressions in the section labeled “precedence.”

6. Modify YourPets2.cpp so that it uses various different data types (char, int, float, double and their variants). Run the program and create a map of the resulting memory layout. If you have access to more than one kind of machine or operating system or compiler, try this experiment with as many variations as you can manage.

7. Create two functions, one that takes a string* and one that takes a string&. Each of these functions should modify the outside string object in their own unique way. In main( ), create and initialize a string object, print it, then pass it to each of the two functions, printing the results.

8. Compile and run Static.cpp. Remove the static keyword from the code, compile and run it again and explain what happens.

9. Try to compile and link FileStatic.cpp with FileStatic2.cpp. What does the resulting error message mean?

10. Modify Boolean.cpp so that it works with double values instead of ints.

11. Modify Boolean.cpp and Bitwise.cpp so they use the explicit operators (if your compiler is conformant to the C++ Standard it will support these).

12. Modify Bitwise.cpp to use the functions from Rotation.cpp. Make sure you display the results in such a way that it’s clear what’s happening during rotations.

13. Modify Ifthen.cpp to use the ternary if-else operator (?:).

14. Create a struct that holds two string objects and one int. Use a typedef for the struct name. Create an instance of the struct, initialize all three values in your instance, and print them out. Take the address of your instance and assign it to a pointer to your struct type. Change the three values in your instance and print them out, all using the pointer.

15. Create a program that uses an enumeration of colors. Create a variable of this enum type and print out all the numbers that correspond with the color names, using a for loop.

16. Experiment with Union.cpp by removing various union elements to see the effects on the size of the resulting union. Try assigning to one element (thus one type) of the union and printing out a via a different element (thus a different type) to see what happens.

17. Create a program that defines two int arrays, one right after the other. Index off the end of the first array into the second, and make an assignment. Print out the second array to see the changes cause by this. Now try defining a char variable between the first array definition and the second, and repeat the experiment. You may want to create an array printing function to simplify your coding.

18. Modify ArrayAddresses.cpp to work with the data types char, long int, float and double.

19. Apply the technique in ArrayAddresses.cpp to print out the size of the struct and the addresses of the array elements in StructArray.cpp.

20. Create an array of string objects and assign a string to each element. Print out the array using a for loop.

21. Create two new programs starting from ArgsToInts.cpp so they use atol( ) and atof( ), respectively.

22. Modify PointerIncrement2.cpp so it uses a union instead of a struct.

23. Modify PointerArithmetic.cpp to work with long and long double.

24. Define a float variable. Take its address, cast that address to an unsigned char, and assign it to an unsigned char pointer. Using this pointer and [ ], index into the float variable and use the printBinary( ) function defined in this chapter to print out a map of the float (go from 0 to sizeof(float)). Change the value of the float and see if you can figure out what’s going on (the float contains encoded data).

25. Create a makefile that not only compiles YourPets1.cpp and YourPets2.cpp (for your particular compiler) but also executes both programs as part of the default target behavior. Make sure you use suffix rules.

26. Modify StringizingExpressions.cpp so that P(A) is conditionally #ifdefed to allow the debugging code to be automatically stripped out by setting a command-line flag. You will need to consult your compiler’s documentation to see how to define and undefine preprocessor values on the compiler command line.

27. Create a makefile for the previous exercise that allows you to type make for a production build of the program, and make debug for a build of the program including debugging information.

4: Data abstraction

C++ is a productivity enhancement tool. Why else would you make the effort (and it is an effort, regardless of how easy we attempt to make the transition)

to switch from some language that you already know and are productive with to a new language where you’re going to be less productive for a while, until you get the hang of it? It’s because you’ve become convinced that you’re going to get big gains by using this new tool.

Productivity, in computer programming terms, means that fewer people can make much more complex and impressive programs in less time. There are certainly other issues when it comes to choosing a language, like efficiency (does the nature of the language cause slowdown and code bloat?), safety (does the language help you ensure that your program will always do what you plan, and handle errors gracefully?), and maintenance (does the language help you create code that is easy to understand, modify and extend?). These are certainly important factors that will be examined in this book.

But raw productivity means a program that formerly took three of you a week to write now takes one of you a day or two. This touches several levels of economics. You’re happy because you get the rush of power that comes from building something, your client (or boss) is happy because products are produced faster and with fewer people, and the customers are happy because they get products more cheaply. The only way to get massive increases in productivity is to leverage off other people’s code. That is, to use libraries.

A library is simply a bunch of code that someone else has written and packaged together. Often, the most minimal package is a file with an extension like lib and one or more header files to tell your compiler what’s in the library. The linker knows how to search through the library file and extract the appropriate compiled code. But that’s only one way to deliver a library. On platforms that span many architectures, like Linux/Unix, often the only sensible way to deliver a library is with source code, so it can be reconfigured and recompiled on the new target.

Thus, libraries are probably the most important way to improve productivity, and one of the primary design goals of C++ is to make library use easier. This implies that there’s something hard about using libraries in C. Understanding this factor will give you a first insight into the design of C++, and thus insight into how to use it.

A tiny C-like library

A library usually starts out as a collection of functions, but if you have used third-party C libraries you know there’s usually more to it than that because there’s more to life than behavior, actions and functions. There are also characteristics (blue, pounds, texture, luminance), which are represented by data. And when you start to deal with a set of characteristics in C, it is very convenient to clump them together into a struct, especially if you want to represent more than one similar thing in your problem space. Then you can make a variable of this struct for each thing.

Thus, most C libraries have a set of structs and a set of functions that act on those structs. As an example of what such a system looks like, consider a programming tool that acts like an array, but whose size can be established at runtime, when it is created. I’ll call it a CStash. Although it’s written in C++, it has the style of what you’d write in C:

//: C04:CLib.h

// Header file for a C-like library

// An array-like entity created at runtime

typedef struct CStashTag {

int size; // Size of each space

int quantity; // Number of storage spaces

int next; // Next empty space

// Dynamically allocated array of bytes:

unsigned char* storage;

} CStash;

void initialize(CStash* s, int size);

void cleanup(CStash* s);

int add(CStash* s, const void* element);

void* fetch(CStash* s, int index);

int count(CStash* s);

void inflate(CStash* s, int increase);

///:~

A tag name like CStashTag is generally used for a struct in case you need to reference the struct inside itself. For example, when creating a linked list (each element in your list contains a pointer to the next element), you need a pointer to the next struct variable, so you need a way to identify the type of that pointer within the struct body. Also, you’ll almost universally see the typedef as shown above for every struct in a C library. This is done so you can treat the struct as if it were a new type and define variables of that struct like this:

CStash A, B, C;

The storage pointer is an unsigned char*. An unsigned char is the smallest piece of storage a C compiler supports, although on some machines it can be the same size as the largest. It’s implementation dependent, but is often one byte long. You might think that because the CStash is designed to hold any type of variable, a void* would be more appropriate here. However, the purpose is not to treat this storage as a block of some unknown type, but rather as a block of contiguous bytes.

The source code for the implementation file (which you may not get if you buy a library commercially – you might get only a compiled obj or lib or dll, etc.) looks like this:

//: C04:CLib.cpp {O}

// Implementation of example C-like library

// Declare structure and functions:

#include “CLib.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <cassert>

using namespace std;

// Quantity of elements to add

// when increasing storage:

const int increment = 100;

void initialize(CStash* s, int sz) {

s->size = sz;

s->quantity = 0;

s->storage = 0;

s->next = 0;

}

int add(CStash* s, const void* element) {

if(s->next >= s->quantity) //Enough space left?

inflate(s, increment);

// Copy element into storage,

// starting at next empty space:

int startBytes = s->next * s->size;

unsigned char* e = (unsigned char*)element;

for(int i = 0; i < s->size; i++)

s->storage[startBytes + i] = e[i];

s->next++;

return(s->next – 1); // Index number

}

void* fetch(CStash* s, int index) {

// Check index boundaries:

assert(0 <= index && index < s->next);

// Produce pointer to desired element:

return &(s->storage[index * s->size]);

}

int count(CStash* s) {

return s->next; // Elements in CStash

}

void inflate(CStash* s, int increase) {

assert(increase > 0);

int newQuantity = s->quantity + increase;

int newBytes = newQuantity * s->size;

int oldBytes = s->quantity * s->size;

unsigned char* b = new unsigned char[newBytes];

for(int i = 0; i < oldBytes; i++)

b[i] = s->storage[i]; // Copy old to new

delete [](s->storage); // Old storage

s->storage = b; // Point to new memory

s->quantity = newQuantity;

}

void cleanup(CStash* s) {

if(s->storage != 0) {

cout << “freeing storage” << endl;

delete []s->storage;

}

} ///:~

initialize( ) performs the necessary setup for struct CStash by setting the internal variables to appropriate values. Initially, the storage pointer is set to zero, and the size indicator is also zero – no initial storage is allocated.

The add( ) function inserts an element into the CStash at the next available location. First, it checks to see if there is any available space left. If not, it expands the storage using the inflate( ) function, described later.

Because the compiler doesn’t know the specific type of the variable being stored (all the function gets is a void*), you can’t just do an assignment, which would certainly be the convenient thing. Instead, you must copy the variable byte-by-byte. The most straightforward way to perform the copying is with array indexing. Typically, there are already data bytes in storage, and this is indicated by the value of next. To start with the right byte offset, next is multiplied by the size of each element (in bytes) to produce startBytes. Then the argument element is cast to an unsigned char* so that it can be addressed byte-by-byte and copied into the available storage space. next is incremented so that it indicates the next available piece of storage, and the “index number” where the value was stored so that value can be retrieved using this index number with fetch( ).

fetch( ) checks to see that the index isn’t out of bounds and then returns the address of the desired variable, calculated using the index argument. Since index indicates the number of elements to offset into the Cstash, it must be multiplied by the number of bytes occupied by each piece to produce the numerical offset in bytes. When this offset is used to index into storage using array indexing, you don’t get the address, but instead the byte at the address. To produce the address, you must use the address-of operator &.

count( ) may look a bit strange at first to a seasoned C programmer. It seems like a lot of trouble to go through to do something that would probably be a lot easier to do by hand. If you have a struct CStash called intStash, for example, it would seem much more straightforward to find out how many elements it has by saying intStash.next instead of making a function call (which has overhead) like count(&intStash). However, if you wanted to change the internal representation of CStash and thus the way the count was calculated, the function call interface allows the necessary flexibility. But alas, most programmers won’t bother to find out about your “better” design for the library. They’ll look at the struct and grab the next value directly, and possibly even change next without your permission. If only there were some way for the library designer to have better control over things like this! (Yes, that’s foreshadowing.)

Dynamic storage allocation

You never know the maximum amount of storage you might need for a CStash, so the memory pointed to by storage is allocated from the heap. The heap is a big block of memory used for allocating smaller pieces at runtime. You use the heap when you don’t know the size of the memory you’ll need while you’re writing a program. That is, only at runtime will you find out that you need space to hold 200 Airplane variables instead of 20. In Standard C, dynamic-memory allocation functions are part of and include malloc( ), calloc( ), realloc( ), and free( ). Instead of library calls, however, C++ has a more sophisticated (albeit simpler to use) approach to dynamic memory which is integrated into the language via the keywords new and delete.

The inflate( ) function uses new to get a bigger chunk of space for the CStash. In this situation, we will only expand memory and not shrink it, and the assert( ) will guarantee that a negative number is not passed to inflate( ) as the increase value. The new number of elements that can be held (after inflate( ) completes) is calculated as newQuantity, and this is multiplied by the number of bytes per element to produce newBytes, which will be the number of bytes in the allocation. So that we know how many bytes to copy over from the old location, oldBytes is calculated using the old quantity.

The actual storage allocation occurs in the new-expression, which is the expression involving the new keyword:

new unsigned char[newBytes];

The general form of the new-expression is:

new Type;

where Type describes the type of variable you want allocated on the heap. In this case, we want an array of unsigned char that is newBytes long, so that is what appears as the Type. You can also allocate something as simple as an int by saying:

new int;

and although this is rarely done, you can see that the form is consistent.

A new-expression returns a pointer to an object of the exact type that you asked for. So if you say new Type, you get back a pointer to a Type. If you say new int, you get back a pointer to an int. If you want a new unsigned char array, you get back a pointer to the first element of that array. The compiler will ensure that you assign the return value of the new-expression to a pointer of the correct type.

Of course, any time you request memory it’s possible for the request to fail, if there is no more memory. As you will learn, C++ has mechanisms that come into play if the memory-allocation operation is unsuccessful.

Once the new storage is allocated, the data in the old storage must be copied to the new storage – this is again accomplished with array indexing, copying one byte at a time in a loop. After the data is copied, the old storage must be released so that it can be used by other parts of the program if they need new storage. The delete keyword is the complement of new, and must be applied to release any storage that is allocated with new (if you forget to use delete, that storage remains unavailable, and if this so-called memory leak happens enough, you’ll run out of memory). In addition, there’s a special syntax when you’re deleting an array. It’s as if you must remind the compiler that this pointer is not just pointing to one object, but to an array of objects: you put a set of empty square brackets in front of the pointer to be deleted:

delete []myArray;

Once the old storage has been deleted, the pointer to the new storage can be assigned to the storage pointer, the quantity is adjusted, and inflate( ) has completed its job.

Note that the heap manager is fairly primitive. It gives you chunks of memory and takes them back when you delete them. There’s no inherent facility for heap compaction, which compresses the heap to provide bigger free chunks. If a program allocates and frees heap storage for a while, you can end up with a fragmented heap that has lots of memory free, but without any pieces that are big enough to allocate the size you’re looking for at the moment. A heap compactor complicates a program because it moves memory chunks around, so your pointers won’t retain their proper values. Some operating environments have heap compaction built in, but they require you to use special memory handles (which can be temporarily converted to pointers, after locking the memory so the heap compactor can’t move it) instead of pointers. You can also build your own heap-compaction scheme, but this is not a task to be undertaken lightly.

When you create a variable on the stack at compile-time, the storage for that variable is automatically created and freed by the compiler. The compiler knows exactly how much storage is needed, and it knows the lifetime of the variables because of scoping. With dynamic memory allocation, however, the compiler doesn’t know how much storage you’re going to need, and it doesn’t know the lifetime of that storage. That is, the storage doesn’t get cleaned up automatically. Therefore, you’re responsible for releasing the storage using delete, which tells the heap manager that storage can be used by the next call to new. The logical place for this to happen in the library is in the cleanup( ) function because that is where all the closing-up housekeeping is done.

To test the library, two CStashes are created. The first holds ints and the second holds arrays of 80 chars:

//: C04:CLibTest.cpp

//{L} CLib

// Test the C-like library

#include “CLib.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

#include <cassert>

using namespace std;

int main() {

// Define variables at the beginning

// of the block, as in C:

CStash intStash, stringStash;

int i;

char* cp;

ifstream in;

string line;

const int bufsize = 80;

// Now remember to initialize the variables:

initialize(&intStash, sizeof(int));

for(i = 0; i < 100; i++)

add(&intStash, &i);

for(i = 0; i < count(&intStash); i++)

cout << “fetch(&intStash, ” << i << “) = ”

<< *(int*)fetch(&intStash, i)

<< endl;

// Holds 80-character strings:

initialize(&stringStash, sizeof(char)*bufsize);

in.open(“CLibTest.cpp”);

assert(in);

while(getline(in, line))

add(&stringStash, line.c_str());

while((cp = (char*)fetch(&stringStash,i++))!=0)

cout << “fetch(&stringStash, ” << i << “) = ”

<< cp << endl;

cleanup(&intStash);

cleanup(&stringStash);

} ///:~

Following the form required by C, all the variables are created at the beginning of the scope of main( ). Of course, you must remember to initialize the CStash variables later in the block, by calling initialize( ). One of the problems with C libraries is that you must carefully convey to the user the importance of the initialization and cleanup functions. If these functions aren’t called, there will be a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, the user doesn’t always wonder if initialization and cleanup are mandatory. They know what they want to accomplish, and they’re not as concerned about you jumping up and down saying, “Hey, wait, you have to do this first!” Some users have even been known to initialize the elements of a structure themselves. There’s certainly no mechanism in C to prevent it (more foreshadowing).

The intStash is filled up with integers, and the stringStash is filled with character arrays. These character arrays are produced by opening the source code file, CLibTest.cpp, and reading the lines from it into a string called line, and then producing a pointer to the character representation of line using the member function c_str( ).

After each Stash is loaded, it is displayed. The intStash is printed using a for loop, which uses count( ) to establish its limit. The stringStash is printed with a while, which breaks out when fetch( ) returns zero to indicate it is out of bounds.

Bad guesses

There is one more important issue you should understand before we look at the general problems in creating a C library. Note that the CLib.h header file must be included in any file that refers to CStash because the compiler can’t even guess at what that structure looks like. However, it can guess at what a function looks like – this sounds like a feature but it turns out to be a major C pitfall.

Although you should always declare functions by including a header file, function declarations aren’t essential in C. It’s possible in C (but not in C++) to call a function that you haven’t declared. A good compiler will warn you that you probably ought to declare a function first, but it isn’t enforced by the C language standard. This is a dangerous practice, because the C compiler can assume that a function that you call with an int argument has an argument list containing int, even if it may actually contain a float. This can produce bugs that are very difficult to find, as you will see.

Each separate C file is a translation unit. That is, the compiler is run separately on each translation unit, and when it is running it is aware of only that unit. Thus, any information you provide by including header files is quite important because it provides the compiler’s understanding of the rest of your program. Declarations in header files are particularly important, because everywhere the header is included, the compiler will know exactly what to do. If, for example, you have a declaration in a header file that says void func(float), the compiler knows that if you call that function with an integer argument, it should convert the int to a float as it passes the argument (this is called promotion). Without the declaration, the C compiler would simply assume that a function func(int) existed, it wouldn’t do the promotion, and the wrong data would quietly be passed into func( ).

For each translation unit, the compiler creates an object file, with an extension of o or obj or something similar. These object files, along with the necessary start-up code, must be collected by the linker into the executable program. During linking, all the external references must be resolved. For example, in CLibTest.cpp, functions like initialize( ) and fetch( ) are declared (that is, the compiler is told what they look like) and used, but not defined. They are defined elsewhere, in CLib.cpp. Thus, the calls in CLib.cpp are external references. The linker must, when it puts all the object files together, take the unresolved external references and find the addresses they actually refer to. Those addresses are put into the executable program to replace the external references.

It’s important to realize that in C, the external references that the linker searches for are simply function names, generally with an underscore in front of them. So all the linker has to do is match up the function name where it is called and the function body in the object file, and it’s done. If you accidentally made a call that the compiler interpreted as func(int) and there’s a function body for func(float) in some other object file, the linker will see _func in one place and ­_func in another, and it will think everything’s OK. The func( ) at the calling location will push an int onto the stack, and the func( ) function body will expect a float to be on the stack. If the function only reads the value and doesn’t write to it, it won’t blow up the stack. In fact, the float value it reads off the stack might even make some kind of sense. That’s worse because it’s harder to find the bug.

What’s wrong?

We are remarkably adaptable, even in situations where perhaps we shouldn’t adapt. The style of the CStash library has been a staple for C programmers, but if you look at it for a while, you might notice that it’s rather . . . awkward. When you use it, you have to pass the address of the structure to every single function in the library. When reading the code, the mechanism of the library gets mixed with the meaning of the function calls, which is confusing when you’re trying to understand what’s going on.

One of the biggest obstacles, however, to using libraries in C is the problem of name clashes. C has a single name space for functions; that is, when the linker looks for a function name, it looks in a single master list. In addition, when the compiler is working on a translation unit, it can only work with a single function with a given name.

Now suppose you decide to buy two libraries from two different vendors, and each library has a structure that must be initialized and cleaned up. Both vendors decided that initialize( ) and cleanup( ) are good names. If you include both their header files in a single translation unit, what does the C compiler do? Fortunately, C gives you an error, telling you there’s a type mismatch in the two different argument lists of the declared functions. But even if you don’t include them in the same translation unit, the linker will still have problems. A good linker will detect that there’s a name clash, but some linkers take the first function name they find, by searching through the list of object files in the order you give them in the link list. (Indeed, this can be thought of as a feature because it allows you to replace a library function with your own version.)

In either event, you can’t use two C libraries that contain a function with the identical name. To solve this problem, C library vendors will often prepend a sequence of unique characters to the beginning of all their function names. So initialize( ) and cleanup( ) might become CStash_initialize( ) and CStash_cleanup( ). This is a logical thing to do because it “decorates” the name of the struct the function works on with the name of the function.

Now it’s time to take the first step toward creating classes in C++. Variable names inside a struct do not clash with global variable names. So why not take advantage of this for function names, when those functions operate on a particular struct? That is, why not make functions members of structs?

The basic object

Step one is exactly that. C++ functions can be placed inside structs as “member functions.” Here’s what it looks like after converting the C version of CStash to the C++ Stash:

//: C04:CppLib.h

// C-like library converted to C++

struct Stash {

int size; // Size of each space

int quantity; // Number of storage spaces

int next; // Next empty space

// Dynamically allocated array of bytes:

unsigned char* storage;

// Functions!

void initialize(int size);

void cleanup();

int add(const void* element);

void* fetch(int index);

int count();

void inflate(int increase);

}; ///:~

First, notice there is no typedef. Instead of requiring you to create a typedef, the C++ compiler turns the name of the structure into a new type name for the program (just as int, char, float and double are type names).

All the data members are exactly the same as before, but now the functions are inside the body of the struct. In addition, notice that the first argument from the C version of the library has been removed. In C++, instead of forcing you to pass the address of the structure as the first argument to all the functions that operate on that structure, the compiler secretly does this for you. Now the only arguments for the functions are concerned with what the function does, not the mechanism of the function’s operation.

It’s important to realize that the function code is effectively the same as it was with the C version of the library. The number of arguments are the same (even though you don’t see the structure address being passed in, it’s still there), and there’s only one function body for each function. That is, just because you say

Stash A, B, C;

doesn’t mean you get a different add( ) function for each variable.

So the code that’s generated is almost identical to what you would have written for the C version of the library. Interestingly enough, this includes the “name decoration” you probably would have done to produce Stash_initialize( ), Stash_cleanup( ), and so on. When the function name is inside the struct, the compiler effectively does the same thing. Therefore, initialize( ) inside the structure Stash will not collide with a function named initialize( ) inside any other structure, or even a global function named initialize( ). Most of the time you don’t have to worry about the function name decoration – you use the undecorated name. But sometimes you do need to be able to specify that this initialize( ) belongs to the struct Stash, and not to any other struct. In particular, when you’re defining the function you need to fully specify which one it is. To accomplish this full specification, C++ has an operator (::) called the scope resolution operator (named so because names can now be in different scopes: at global scope, or within the scope of a struct). For example, if you want to specify initialize( ) which belongs to Stash, you say Stash::initialize(int size). You can see how the scope resolution operator is used in the function definitions:

//: C04:CppLib.cpp {O}

// C library converted to C++

// Declare structure and functions:

#include “CppLib.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <cassert>

using namespace std;

// Quantity of elements to add

// when increasing storage:

const int increment = 100;

void Stash::initialize(int sz) {

size = sz;

quantity = 0;

storage = 0;

next = 0;

}

int Stash::add(const void* element) {

if(next >= quantity) // Enough space left?

inflate(increment);

// Copy element into storage,

// starting at next empty space:

int startBytes = next * size;

unsigned char* e = (unsigned char*)element;

for(int i = 0; i < size; i++)

storage[startBytes + i] = e[i];

next++;

return(next – 1); // Index number

}

void* Stash::fetch(int index) {

// Check index boundaries:

assert(0 <= index && index < next);

// Produce pointer to desired element:

return &(storage[index * size]);

}

int Stash::count() {

return next; // Number of elements in CStash

}

void Stash::inflate(int increase) {

assert(increase > 0);

int newQuantity = quantity + increase;

int newBytes = newQuantity * size;

int oldBytes = quantity * size;

unsigned char* b = new unsigned char[newBytes];

for(int i = 0; i < oldBytes; i++)

b[i] = storage[i]; // Copy old to new

delete []storage; // Old storage

storage = b; // Point to new memory

quantity = newQuantity;

}

void Stash::cleanup() {

if(storage != 0) {

cout << “freeing storage” << endl;

delete []storage;

}

} ///:~

There are several other things that are different between C and C++. First, the declarations in the header files are required by the compiler. In C++ you cannot call a function without declaring it first. The compiler will issue an error message otherwise. This is an important way to ensure that function calls are consistent between the point where they are called and the point where they are defined. By forcing you to declare the function before you call it, the C++ compiler virtually ensures you will perform this declaration by including the header file. If you also include the same header file in the place where the functions are defined, then the compiler checks to make sure that the declaration in the header and the function definition match up. This means that the header file becomes a validated repository for function declarations and ensures that functions are used consistently throughout all translation units in the project.

Of course, global functions can still be declared by hand every place where they are defined and used. (This is so tedious that it becomes very unlikely.) However, structures must always be declared before they are defined or used, and the most convenient place to put a structure definition is in a header file, except for those you intentionally hide in a file.

You can see that all the member functions look almost the same as when they were C functions, except for the scope resolution and the fact that the first argument from the C version of the library is no longer explicit. It’s still there, of course, because the function has to be able to work on a particular struct variable. But notice, inside the member function, that the member selection is also gone! Thus, instead of saying s–>size = sz; you say size = sz; and eliminate the tedious s–>, which didn’t really add anything to the meaning of what you were doing anyway. The C++ compiler is apparently doing this for you. Indeed, it is taking the “secret” first argument (the address of the structure that we were previously passing in by hand) and applying the member selector whenever you refer to one of the data members of a struct. This means that whenever you are inside the member function of another struct, you can refer to any member (including another member function) by simply giving its name. The compiler will search through the local structure’s names before looking for a global version of that name. You’ll find that this feature means that not only is your code easier to write, it’s a lot easier to read.

But what if, for some reason, you want to be able to get your hands on the address of the structure? In the C version of the library it was easy because each function’s first argument was a CStash* called s. In C++, things are even more consistent. There’s a special keyword, called this, which produces the address of the struct. It’s the equivalent of the ‘s’ in the C version of the library. So we can revert to the C style of things by saying

this->size = Size;

The code generated by the compiler is exactly the same, so you don’t need to use this in such a fashion – occasionally, you’ll see code where people explicitly use this-> everywhere but it doesn’t add anything to the meaning of the code and often indicates an inexperienced programmer. Usually, you don’t use this very often, but when you need it, it’s there (some of the examples later in the book will use this).

There’s one last item to mention. In C, you could assign a void* to any other pointer like this:

int i = 10;

void* vp = &i; // OK in both C and C++

int* ip = vp; // Only acceptable in C

and there was no complaint from the compiler. But in C++, this statement is not allowed. Why? Because C is not so particular about type information, so it allows you to assign a pointer with an unspecified type to a pointer with a specified type. Not so with C++. Type is critical in C++, and the compiler stamps its foot when there are any violations of type information. This has always been important, but it is especially important in C++ because you have member functions in structs. If you could pass pointers to structs around with impunity in C++, then you could end up calling a member function for a struct that doesn’t even logically exist for that struct! A real recipe for disaster. Therefore, while C++ allows the assignment of any type of pointer to a void* (this was the original intent of void*, which is required to be large enough to hold a pointer to any type), it will not allow you to assign a void pointer to any other type of pointer. A cast is always required, to tell the reader and the compiler that you really do want to treat it as the destination type.

This brings up an interesting issue. One of the important goals for C++ is to compile as much existing C code as possible to allow for an easy transition to the new language. However, this doesn’t mean any code that C allows will automatically be allowed in C++. There are a number of things the C compiler lets you get away with that are dangerous and error-prone. (We’ll look at them as the book progresses.) The C++ compiler generates warnings and errors for these situations. This is often much more of an advantage than a hindrance. In fact, there are many situations where you are trying to run down an error in C and just can’t find it, but as soon as you recompile the program in C++, the compiler points out the problem! In C, you’ll often find that you can get the program to compile, but then you have to get it to work. In C++, when the program compiles correctly, it often works, too! This is because the language is a lot stricter about type.

You can see a number of new things in the way the C++ version of Stash is used, in the following test program:

//: C04:CppLibTest.cpp

//{L} CppLib

// Test of C++ library

#include “CppLib.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main() {

Stash intStash;

intStash.initialize(sizeof(int));

for(int i = 0; i < 100; i++)

intStash.add(&i);

for(int j = 0; j < intStash.count(); j++)

cout << “intStash.fetch(” << j << “) = ”

<< *(int*)intStash.fetch(j)

<< endl;

// Holds 80-character strings:

Stash stringStash;

const int bufsize = 80;

stringStash.initialize(sizeof(char) * bufsize);

ifstream in(“CppLibTest.cpp”);

assure(in, “CppLibTest.cpp”);

string line;

while(getline(in, line))

stringStash.add(line.c_str());

int k = 0;

char* cp;

while((cp =(char*)stringStash.fetch(k++)) != 0)

cout << “stringStash.fetch(” << k << “) = ”

<< cp << endl;

intStash.cleanup();

stringStash.cleanup();

} ///:~

One thing you’ll notice is that the variables are all defined “on the fly” (as introduced in the previous chapter). That is, they are defined at any point in the scope, rather than being restricted – as in C – to the beginning of the scope.

The code is quite similar to CLibTest.cpp, but when a member function is called, the call occurs using the member selection operator ‘.’ preceded by the name of the variable. This is a convenient syntax because it mimics the selection of a data member of the structure. The difference is that this is a function member, so it has an argument list.

Of course, the call that the compiler actually generates looks much more like the original C library function. Thus, considering name decoration and the passing of this, the C++ function call intStash.initialize(sizeof(int), 100) becomes something like Stash_initialize(&intStash, sizeof(int), 100). If you ever wonder what’s going on underneath the covers, remember that the original C++ compiler cfront from AT&T produced C code as its output, which was then compiled by the underlying C compiler. This approach meant that cfront could be quickly ported to any machine that had a C compiler, and it helped to rapidly disseminate C++ compiler technology. But because the C++ compiler had to generate C, you know that there must be some way to represent C++ syntax in C.

You’ll also notice an additional cast in

while(cp = (char*)stringStash.fetch(k++))

This is due again to the stricter type checking in C++.

There’s one other change from ClibTest.cpp, which is the introduction of the require.h header file. This is a header file which I created for this book to perform more sophisticated error checking than that provided by assert( ). It contains several functions, including the one used here called assure( ) which is used for files. This function checks to see if the file has successfully been opened, and if not it reports to standard error that the file could not be opened (thus it needs the name of the file as the second argument) and exits the program. The require.h functions will be used throughout the book, in particular to ensure that there are the right number of command-line arguments and that files are opened properly. The require.h functions replace repetetive and distracting error-checking code, and yet they provide essentially useful error messages. These functions will be fully explained later in the book.

What’s an object?

Now that you’ve seen an initial example, it’s time to step back and take a look at some terminology. The act of bringing functions inside structures is the root of what C++ adds to C, and it introduces a new way of thinking about structures: as concepts. In C, a structure is an agglomeration of data, a way to package data so you can treat it in a clump. But it’s hard to think about it as anything but a programming convenience. The functions that operate on those structures are elsewhere. However, with functions in the package, the structure becomes a new creature, capable of describing both characteristics (like a C struct does) and behaviors. The concept of an object, a free-standing, bounded entity that can remember and act, suggests itself.

In C++, an object is just a variable, and the purest definition is “a region of storage” (this is a more specific way of saying “an object must have a unique identifier,” which in the case of C++ is a unique memory address). It’s a place where you can store data, and it’s implied that there are also operations that can be performed on this data.

Unfortunately there’s not complete consistency across languages when it comes to these terms, although they are fairly well-accepted. You will also sometimes encounter disagreement about what an object-oriented language is, although that seems to be reasonably well sorted out by now. There are languages that are object-based, which means they have objects like the C++ structures-with-functions that you’ve seen so far. This, however, is only part of the picture when it comes to an object-oriented language, and languages that stop at packaging functions inside data structures are object-based, not object-oriented.

Abstract data typing

The ability to package data with functions allows you to create a new data type. This is often called encapsulation[23]. An existing data type may have several pieces of data packaged together. For example a float has an exponent, a mantissa, and a sign bit. You can tell it to do things: add to another float or to an int, and so on. It has characteristics and behavior.

The definition of Stash creates a new data type. You can add( ) and fetch( ) and inflate( ). You create one by saying Stash s, just as you create a float by saying float f. A Stash also has characteristics and behavior. Even though it acts like a real, built-in data type, we refer to it as an abstract data type, perhaps because it allows us to abstract a concept from the problem space into the solution space. In addition, the C++ compiler treats it like a new data type, and if you say a function expects a Stash, the compiler makes sure you pass a Stash to that function. So the same level of type checking happens with abstract data types (sometimes called user-defined types) as with built-in types.

You can immediately see a difference, however, in the way you perform operations on objects. You say object.memberFunction(arglist). This is “calling a member function for an object.” But in object-oriented parlance, this is also referred to as “sending a message to an object.” So for a Stash s, the statement s.add(&i) “sends a message to s” saying “add( ) this to yourself.” In fact, object-oriented programming can be summed up in a single phrase: sending messages to objects. Really, that’s all you do – create a bunch of objects and send messages to them. The trick, of course, is figuring out what your objects and messages are, but once you accomplish this the implementation in C++ is surprisingly straightforward.

Object details

A question that comes up a lot in seminars is “How big is an object, and what does it look like?” The answer is “about what you expect from a C struct.” In fact, the code the C compiler produces for a C struct (with no C++ adornments) will usually look exactly the same as the code produced by a C++ compiler. This is reassuring to those C programmers who depend on the details of size and layout in their code, and for some reason directly access structure bytes instead of using identifiers (relying on a particular size and layout for a structure is a nonportable activity).

The size of a struct is the combined size of all its members. Sometimes when the compiler lays out a struct, it adds extra bytes to make the boundaries come out neatly – this may increase execution efficiency. In Chapters XX and XX, you’ll see how in some cases “secret” pointers are added to the structure, but you don’t need to worry about that right now.

You can determine the size of a struct using the sizeof operator. Here’s a small example:

//: C04:Sizeof.cpp

// Sizes of structs

#include “CLib.h”

#include “CppLib.h”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

struct A {

int i[100];

};

struct B {

void f();

};

void B::f() {}

int main() {

cout << “sizeof struct A = ” << sizeof(A)

<< ” bytes” << endl;

cout << “sizeof struct B = ” << sizeof(B)

<< ” bytes” << endl;

cout << “sizeof CStash in C = ”

<< sizeof(CStash) << ” bytes” << endl;

cout << “sizeof Stash in C++ = ”

<< sizeof(Stash) << ” bytes” << endl;

} ///:~

On my machine (your results may vary) the first print statement produces 200 because each int occupies two bytes. struct B is something of an anomaly because it is a struct with no data members. In C, this is illegal, but in C++ we need the option of creating a struct whose sole task is to scope function names, so it is allowed. Still, the result produced by the second print statement is a somewhat surprising nonzero value. In early versions of the language, the size was zero, but an awkward situation arises when you create such objects: They have the same address as the object created directly after them, and so are not distinct. One of the fundamental rules of objects is that each object must have a unique address, so structures with no data members will always have some minimum nonzero size.

The last two sizeof statements show you that the size of the structure in C++ is the same as the size of the equivalent version in C. C++ tries not to add any unnecessary overhead.

Header file etiquette

When you create a struct containing member functions, you are creating a new data type. Generally, you want this type to be easily accessible to yourself and others. In addition, you want to separate the interface (the declaration) from the implementation (the definition of the member functions) so the implementation can be changed without forcing a re-compile of the entire system. You achieve this end by putting the declaration for your new type in a header file.

When I first learned to program in C, the header file was a mystery to me. Many C books don’t seem to emphasize it, and the compiler didn’t enforce function declarations, so it seemed optional most of the time, except when structures were declared. In C++ the use of header files becomes crystal clear. They are almost mandatory for easy program development, and you put very specific information in them: declarations. The header file tells the compiler what is available in your library. You can use the library even if you only posess the header file along with the object file or library file – you don’t need the source code for the cpp file. The header file is where the interface specification is stored.

Although it is not enforced by the compiler, the best approach to building large projects in C is to use libraries: collect associated functions into the same object module or library, and use a header file to hold all the declarations for the functions. It is de rigueur in C++: you could throw any function into a C library, but the C++ abstract data type determines the functions that are associated by dint of their common access to the data in a struct. Any member function must be declared in the struct declaration; you cannot put it elsewhere. The use of function libraries was encouraged in C and institutionalized in C++.

Importance of header files

When using a function from a library, C allows you the option of ignoring the header file and simply declaring the function by hand. In the past, people would sometimes do this to speed up the compiler just a bit by avoiding the task of opening and including the file (this is usually not an issue with modern compilers). For example, here’s an extremely lazy declaration of the C function printf( ) (from <stdio.h>):

printf(…);

The ellipses specify a variable argument list[24], which says: printf( ) has some arguments, each of which has a type, but ignore that. Just take whatever arguments you see and accept them. By using this kind of declaration, you suspend all error checking on the arguments.

This practice can cause subtle problems. If you declare functions by hand, in one file you may make a mistake. Since the compiler only sees your hand-declaration in that file, it may be able to adapt to your mistake. The program will then link correctly, but the use of the function in that one file will be faulty. This is a tough error to find, and is easily avoided by using a header file.

If you place all your function declarations in a header file, and include that header everywhere you use the function and where you define the function, you ensure a consistent declaration across the whole system. You also ensure that the declaration and the definition match by including the header in the definition file.

If a struct is declared in a header file in C++, you must include the header file everywhere a struct is used and where struct member functions are defined. The C++ compiler will give an error message if you try to call a regular function, or call or define a member function, without declaring it first. By enforcing the proper use of header files, the language ensures consistency in libraries, and reduces bugs by forcing the same interface to be used everywhere.

The header is a contract between you and the user of your library. The contract describes your data structures, and states the arguments and return values for the function calls. It says, “Here’s what my library does.” The user needs some of this information to develop the application and the compiler needs all of it to generate proper code. The user of the struct simply includes the header file, creates objects (instances) of that struct, and links in the object module or library (i.e.: the compiled code).

The compiler enforces the contract by requiring you to declare all structures and functions before they are used and, in the case of member functions, before they are defined. Thus, you’re forced to put the declarations in the header and to include the header in the file where the member functions are defined and the file(s) where they are used. Because a single header file describing your library is included throughout the system, the compiler can ensure consistency and prevent errors.

There are certain issues that you must be aware of in order to organize your code properly and write effective header files. The first issue concerns what you can put into header files. The basic rule is “only declarations,” that is, only information to the compiler but nothing that allocates storage by generating code or creating variables. This is because the header file will typically be included in several translation units in a project, and if storage for one identifier is allocated in more than one place, the linker will come up with a multiple definition error (this is C++’s one definition rule: you can declare things as many times as you want, but there can be only one actual definition for each thing).

This rule isn’t completely hard and fast. If you define a variable that is “file static” (has visibility only within a file) inside a header file, there will be multiple instances of that data across the project, but the linker won’t have a collision[25]. Basically, you don’t want to do anything in the header file that will cause an ambiguity at link time.

The multiple‑declaration problem

The second header-file issue is this: when you put a struct declaration in a header file, it is possible for the file to be included more than once in a complicated program. Iostreams are a good example. Any time a struct does I/O it may include one of the iostream headers. If the cpp file you are working on uses more than one kind of struct (typically including a header file for each one), you run the risk of including the istreams header more than once and re-declaring streams.

The compiler considers the redeclaration of a structure (this includes both structs and classes) to be an error, since it would otherwise allow you to use the same name for different types. To prevent this error when multiple header files are included, you need to build some intelligence into your header files using the preprocessor (Standard C++ header files like <iostream> already have this “intelligence”).

Both C and C++ allow you to redeclare a function, as long as the two declarations match, but neither will allow the redeclaration of a structure. In C++ this rule is especially important because if the compiler allowed you to redeclare a structure and the two declarations differed, which one would it use?

The problem of redeclaration comes up quite a bit in C++ because each data type (structure with functions) generally has its own header file, and you have to include one header in another if you want to create another data type that uses the first one. In any cpp file in your project, it’s very likely that you’ll include several files that include the same header file. During a single compilation, the compiler can see the same header file several times. Unless you do something about it, the compiler will see the redeclaration of your structure and report a compile-time error. To solve the problem, you need to know a bit more about the preprocessor.

The preprocessor directives
#define, #ifdef and #endif

The preprocessor directive #define can be used to create compile-time flags. You have two choices: you can simply tell the preprocessor that the flag is defined, without specifying a value:

#define FLAG

or you can give it a value (which is the typical C way to define a constant):

#define PI 3.14159

In either case, the label can now be tested by the preprocessor to see if it has been defined:

#ifdef FLAG

will yield a true result, and the code following the #ifdef will be included in the package sent to the compiler. This inclusion stops when the preprocessor encounters the statement

#endif

or

#endif // FLAG

Any non-comment after the #endif on the same line is illegal, even though some compilers may accept it. The #ifdef/#endif pairs may be nested within each other.

The complement of #define is #undef (short for “un-define”), which will make an #ifdef statement using the same variable yield a false result. #undef will also cause the preprocessor to stop using a macro. The complement of #ifdef is #ifndef, which will yield a true if the label has not been defined (this is the one we will use in header files).

There are other useful features in the C preprocessor. You should check your local documentation for the full set.

A standard for header files

In each header file that contains a structure, you should first check to see if this header has already been included in this particular cpp file. You do this by testing a preprocessor flag. If the flag isn’t set, the file wasn’t included and you should set the flag (so the structure can’t get re-declared) and declare the structure. If the flag was set then that type has already been declared so you should just ignore the code that declares it. Here’s how the header file should look:

#ifndef HEADER_FLAG

#define HEADER_FLAG

// Type declaration here…

#endif // HEADER_FLAG

As you can see, the first time the header file is included, the contents of the header file (including your type declaration) will be included by the preprocessor. All the subsequent times it is included – in a single compilation unit – the type declaration will be ignored. The name HEADER_FLAG can be any unique name, but a reliable standard to follow is to capitalize the name of the header file and replace periods with underscores (leading underscores are reserved for system names). Here’s an example:

//: C04:Simple.h

// Simple header that prevents re-definition

#ifndef SIMPLE_H

#define SIMPLE_H

struct Simple {

int i,j,k;

initialize() { i = j = k = 0; }

};

#endif // SIMPLE_H ///:~

Although the SIMPLE_H after the #endif is commented out and thus ignored by the preprocessor, it is useful for documentation.

These preprocessor statements that prevent multiple inclusion are often referred to as include guards.

Namespaces in headers

You’ll notice that using directives are present in nearly all the cpp files in this book, usually in the form:

using namespace std;

Since std is the namespace that surrounds the entire Standard C++ library, this particular using directive allows the names in the Standard C++ library to be used without qualification. However, you’ll virtually never see a using directive in a header file (at least, not outside of a scope). The reason is that the using directive eliminates the protection of that particular namespace, and the effect lasts until the end of the current compilation unit. If you put a using directive (outside of a scope) in a header file, it means that this loss of “namespace protection” will occur with any file that includes this header, which often means other header files. Thus, if you start putting using directives in header files, it’s very easy to end up “turning off” namespaces practically everywhere, and thereby neutralizing the beneficial effects of namespaces.

In short: don’t do it.

Using headers in projects

When building a project in C++, you’ll usually create it by bringing together a lot of different types (data structures with associated functions). You’ll usually put the declaration for each type or group of associated types in a separate header file, then define the functions for that type in a translation unit. When you use that type, you must include the header file to perform the declarations properly.

Sometimes that pattern will be followed in this book, but more often the examples will be very small, so everything – the structure declarations, function definitions, and the main( ) function – may appear in a single file. However, keep in mind that you’ll want to use separate files and header files in practice.

Nested structures

The convenience of taking data and function names out of the global name space extends to structures. You can nest a structure within another structure, and therefore keep associated elements together. The declaration syntax is what you would expect, as you can see in the following structure, which implements a push-down stack as a very simple linked list so it “never” runs out of memory:

//: C04:Stack.h

// Nested struct in linked list

#ifndef STACK_H

#define STACK_H

struct Stack {

struct Link {

void* data;

Link* next;

void initialize(void* dat, Link* nxt);

}* head;

void initialize();

void push(void* dat);

void* peek();

void* pop();

void cleanup();

};

#endif // STACK_H ///:~

The nested struct is called Link, and it contains a pointer to the next Link in the list and a pointer to the data stored in the Link. If the next pointer is zero, it means you’re at the end of the list.

Notice that the head pointer is defined right after the declaration for struct Link, instead of a separate definition Link* head. This is a syntax that came from C, but it emphasizes the importance of the semicolon after the structure declaration – the semicolon indicates the end of the list of definitions of that structure type. (Usually the list is empty.)

The nested structure has its own initialize( ) function, like all the structures presented so far, to ensure proper initialization. Stack has both an initialize( ) and cleanup( ) function, as well as push( ), which takes a pointer to the data you wish to store (it assumes this has been allocated on the heap), and pop( ), which returns the data pointer from the top of the Stack and removes the top element. (If you pop( ) an element, then you are responsible for destroying the object pointed to by the data.) The peek( ) function also returns the data pointer from the top element, but it leaves the top element on the Stack.

cleanup( ) goes through the Stack and removes each element and frees the data pointer (thus the data objects must be on the heap). Notice there’s something you have to keep track of, a bit: if you pop( ) the element, you must call delete, but if you don’t, then cleanup( ) will call delete. The subject of “who’s responsible for the memory” is not even that simple, as we’ll see in later chapters.

Here are the definitions for the member functions:

//: C04:Nested.cpp {O}

// Linked list with nesting

#include “Stack.h”

#include “../require.h”

using namespace std;

void

Stack::Link::initialize(void* dat, Link* nxt) {

data = dat;

next = nxt;

}

void Stack::initialize() { head = 0; }

void Stack::push(void* dat) {

Link* newLink = new Link();

newLink->initialize(dat, head);

head = newLink;

}

void* Stack::peek() { return head->data; }

void* Stack::pop() {

if(head == 0) return 0;

void* result = head->data;

Link* oldHead = head;

head = head->next;

delete oldHead;

return result;

}

void Stack::cleanup() {

Link* cursor = head;

while(head) {

cursor = cursor->next;

delete head->data; // Assumes a ‘new’!

delete head;

head = cursor;

}

head = 0; // Officially empty

} ///:~

The first definition is particularly interesting because it shows you how to define a member of a nested structure. You simply use an additional level of scope resolution, to specify the name of the enclosing struct. Stack::Link::initialize( ) takes the arguments and assigns them to its members.

Stack::initialize( ) sets head to zero, so the object knows it has an empty list.

Stack::push( ) takes the argument, which is a pointer to the variable you want to keep track of, and pushes it on the Stack. First, it uses new to allocate storage for the Link it will insert at the top. Then it calls Link’s initialize( ) function to assign the appropriate values to the members of the Link. Notice that the next pointer is assigned to the current head; then head is assigned to the new Link pointer. This effectively pushes the Link in at the top of the list.

Stack::pop( ) captures the data pointer at the current top of the Stack; then it moves the head pointer down and deletes the old top of the Stack, finally returning the captured pointer.

Stack::cleanup( ) creates a cursor to move through the Stack and delete both the data in each link and the link itself. After it’s finished destroying all the links, head is set to zero. This not only indicates that the Stack is empty, but if cleanup( ) is called a second time it will not wander off and try to delete inappropriate storage (which would be a run-time error, and might cause difficult-to-find bugs).

Here’s an example to test the Stack:

//: C04:StackTest.cpp

//{L} Nested

//{T} NestTest.cpp

// Test of nested linked list

#include “Stack.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

requireArgs(argc, 1); // File name is argument

ifstream in(argv[1]);

assure(in, argv[1]);

Stack textlines;

textlines.initialize();

string line;

// Read file and store lines in the Stack:

while(getline(in, line))

textlines.push(new string(line));

// Pop the lines from the Stack and print them:

string* s;

while((s = (string*)textlines.pop()) != 0) {

cout << *s << endl;

delete s;

}

textlines.cleanup();

} ///:~

This is very similar to the earlier example, but it pushes lines from a file (as string pointers) on the Stack and then pops them off, which results in the file being printed out in reverse order. Note that the pop( ) member function returns a void* and this must be cast back to a string* before it can be used. To print the string, the pointer is dereferenced.

As textlines is being filled, the contents of line is “cloned” for each push( ) by making a new string(line). The value returned from the new-expression is a pointer to the new string that was created and that copied the information from line. If you had simply passed the address of line to push( ), you would end up with a Stack filled with identical addresses, all pointing to line. You’ll learn more about this “cloning” process later in the book.

The file name is taken from the command line. To guarantee that there are enough arguments on the command line, you see a second function used from the require.h header file: requireArgs( ), which compares argc to the desired number of arguments and prints an appropriate error message and exits the program if there aren’t enough arguments.

Global scope resolution

The scope resolution operator gets you out of situations where the name the compiler chooses by default (the “nearest” name) isn’t what you want. For example, suppose you have a structure with a local identifier a, and you want to select a global identifier a from inside a member function. The compiler would default to choosing the local one, so you must tell it to do otherwise. When you want to specify a global name using scope resolution, you use the operator with nothing in front of it. Here’s an example that shows global scope resolution for both a variable and a function:

//: C04:Scoperes.cpp

// Global scope resolution

int a;

void f() {}

struct S {

int a;

void f();

};

void S::f() {

::f(); // Would be recursive otherwise!

::a++; // Select the global a

a–; // The a at struct scope

}

int main() { S s; f(); } ///:~

Without scope resolution in S::f( ), the compiler would default to selecting the member versions of f( ) and A.

Summary

In this chapter, you’ve learned the fundamental “twist” of C++: that you can place functions inside of structures. This new type of structure is called an abstract data type, and variables you create using this structure are called objects, or instances, of that type. Calling a member function for an object is called sending a message to that object. The primary action in object-oriented programming is sending messages to objects.

Although packaging data and functions together is a significant benefit for code organization and makes library use easier because it prevents name clashes by hiding the names, there’s a lot more you can do to make programming safer in C++. In the next chapter, you’ll learn how to protect some members of a struct so that only you can manipulate them. This establishes a clear boundary between what the user of the structure can change and what only the programmer may change.

Exercises

1. In the Standard C library, the function puts( ) prints a char array to the console (so you can say puts(“hello”)). Write a C program that uses puts( ) but does not include <stdio.h> or otherwise declare the function. Compile this program with your C compiler (Some C++ compilers are not distinct from their C compilers; in this case you may need to discover a command-line flag that forces a C compilation). Now compile it with the C++ compiler and note the difference.

2. Create a struct declaration with a single member function; then create a definition for that member function. Create an object of your new data type, and call the member function.

3. Change your solution to the previous exercise so the struct is declared in a properly “guarded” header file, the definition is in one cpp file and your main( ) is in another.

4. Create a struct with a single int data member, and two global functions, each of which takes a pointer to that struct. The first function has a second int argument and sets the struct’s int to the argument value, the second displays the int from the struct. Test the functions.

5. Repeat the previous exercise but move the functions so they are member functions of the struct, and test again.

6. Write and compile a piece of code that performs data member selection and a function call using the this keyword (which refers to the address of the current object).

7. Make a Stash that holds doubles. Fill it with 25 double values, then print them out to the console.

8. Repeat the previous exercise with Stack.

9. Create a file containing a function f( ) which takes an int argument and prints it to the console using the printf( ) function in <stdio.h> by saying: printf(“%d\n”, i) where i is the int you wish to print. Create a separate file containing main( ), and in this file declare f( ) to take a float argument. Call f( ) from inside main( ). Try to compile and link your program with the C++ compiler and see what happens. Now compile and link the program using the C compiler, and see what happens when it runs. Explain the behavior.

10. Find out how to produce assembly language from your C and C++ compilers. Write a function in C, and a struct with a single member function in C++, and produce assembly language from each and find the function names that are produced by your C function and your C++ member function, so you can see what sort of name decoration occurs inside the compiler.

11. Write a program with conditionally-compiled code in main( ), so that when a preprocessor value is defined one message is printed, but when it is not defined another message is printed. Compile this code experimenting with a #define within the program, then discover the way your compiler takes preprocessor definitions on the command line and experiment with that.

12. Write a program that uses assert( ) with an argument that is always true (nonzero) to see what happens when you run it. Now compile it with #define NDEBUG and run it again to see the difference.

13. Create an abstract data type that represents a video tape in a video rental store. Try to consider all the data and operations that may be necessary for the Video type to work well within the video rental management system. Include a print( ) member function that displays information about the Video.

14. Create a Stack object to hold the Video objects from the previous exercise. Create several Video objects, store them in the Stack, then display them using Video::print( ).

15. Write a program that prints out all the sizes for the fundamental data types on your computer, using sizeof( ).

16. Modify Stash to use a vector<char> as its underlying data structure.

17. Dynamically create pieces of storage of the following types, using new: int, long, an array of 100 chars, an array of 100 floats. Print the addresses of these and then free the storage using delete.

18. Write a function that takes a char* argument. Using new, dynamically allocate an array of char which is the size of the char array that’s passed to the function. Using array indexing, copy the characters from the argument to the dynamically allocated array (don’t forget the null terminator) and return the pointer to the copy. In your main( ), test the function by passing a static quoted character array, then take the result of that and pass it back into the function. Print both strings and both pointers so you can see they are different storage. Using delete, clean up all the dynamic storage.

19. Show an example of a structure declared within another structure (a nested structure). Declare data members in both structs, and declare and define member functions in both structs. Write a main( ) that tests your new types.

20. How big is a structure? Write a piece of code that prints the size of various structures. Create structures that have data members only and ones that have data members and function members. Then create a structure that has no members at all. Print out the sizes of all these. Explain the reason for the result of the structure with no data members at all.

21. C++ automatically creates the equivalent of a typedef for structs, as you’ve seen in this chapter. It also does this for enumerations and unions. Write a small program that demonstrates this.[BE1]

22. Create a Stack that holds Stashes. Each Stash will hold 5 lines from an input file. Create the Stashes using new. Read a file into your Stack, then reprint it in its original form by extracting it from the Stack.

23. Modify the previous exercise so that you create a struct that encapsulates the Stack of Stashes. The user should only add and get lines via member functions, but under the covers the struct happens to use a Stack of Stashes.

24. Create a struct that holds an int and a pointer to another instance of the same struct. Write a function that takes the address of one of these structs and an int indicating the length of the list you want created. This function will make makes a whole chain of these structs (a linked list), starting from the argument (the head of the list), with each one pointing to the next. Make the new structs using new, and put the count (which object number this is) in the int. In the last struct in the list, put a zero value in the pointer to indicate that it’s the end. Write a second function that takes the head of your list and moves through to the end, printing out both the pointer value and the int value for each one.

25. Repeat the previous exercise, but put the functions inside a struct instead of using “raw” structs and functions.

26. Write a function which takes two int arguments, rows and columns. This function returns a pointer to a dynamically-allocated two-dimensional array of float. As a hint, the first call to new is:
new float[rows][]. This must be followed by multiple calls to new in order to create all the storage for the rows. Write a second function that takes this “matrix” and frees the storage using delete. Now convert the code into a struct called matrix.

5: Hiding the implementation

A typical C library contains a struct and some associated functions to act on that struct. So far, you’ve seen how C++ takes functions that are conceptually associated and makes them literally associated, by

putting the function declarations inside the scope of the struct, changing the way functions are called for the struct, eliminating the passing of the structure address as the first argument, and adding a new type name to the program (so you don’t have to create a typedef for the struct tag).

These are all convenient – they help you organize your code and make it easier to write and read. However, there are other important issues when making libraries easier in C++, especially the issues of safety and control. This chapter looks at the subject of boundaries in structures.

Setting limits

In any relationship it’s important to have boundaries that are respected by all parties involved. When you create a library, you establish a relationship with the client programmer who uses that library to build an application or another library.

In a C struct, as with most things in C, there are no rules. Client programmers can do anything they want with that struct, and there’s no way to force any particular behaviors. For example, even though you saw in the last chapter the importance of the functions named initialize( ) and cleanup( ), the client programmer has the option not to call those functions. (We’ll look at a better approach in the next chapter.) And even though you would really prefer that the client programmer not directly manipulate some of the members of your struct, in C there’s no way to prevent it. Everything’s naked to the world.

There are two reasons for controlling access to members. The first is to keep the client programmer’s hands off tools they shouldn’t touch, tools that are necessary for the internal machinations of the data type, but not part of the interface the client programmer needs to solve their particular problems. This is actually a service to client programmers because they can easily see what’s important to them and what they can ignore.

The second reason for access control is to allow the library designer to change the internal workings of the structure without worrying about how it will affect the client programmer. In the Stack example in the last chapter, you might want to allocate the storage in big chunks, for speed, rather than creating new storage each time an element is added. If the interface and implementation are clearly separated and protected, you can accomplish this and require only a relink by the client programmer.

C++ access control

C++ introduces three new keywords to set the boundaries in a structure: public, private, and protected. Their use and meaning are remarkably straightforward. These access specifiers are used only in a structure declaration, and they change the boundary for all the declarations that follow them. Whenever you use an access specifier, it must be followed by a colon.

public means all member declarations that follow are available to everyone. public members are like struct members. For example, the following struct declarations are identical:

//: C05:Public.cpp

// Public is just like C’s struct

struct A {

int i;

char j;

float f;

void func();

};

void A::func() {}

struct B {

public:

int i;

char j;

float f;

void func();

};

void B::func() {}

int main() {

A a; B b;

a.i = b.i = 1;

a.j = b.j = ‘c’;

a.f = b.f = 3.14159;

a.func();

b.func();

} ///:~

The private keyword, on the other hand, means that no one can access that member except you, the creator of the type, inside function members of that type. private is a brick wall between you and the client programmer; if someone tries to access a private member, they’ll get a compile-time error. In struct B in the above example, you may want to make portions of the representation (that is, the data members) hidden, accessible only to you:

//: C05:Private.cpp

// Setting the boundary

struct B {

private:

char j;

float f;

public:

int i;

void func();

};

void B::func() {

i = 0;

j = ‘0’;

f = 0.0;

};

int main() {

B b;

b.i = 1; // OK, public

//! b.j = ‘1’; // Illegal, private

//! b.f = 1.0; // Illegal, private

} ///:~

Although func( ) can access any member of B (because func( ) is itself a member of B, thus automatically granting it permission), an ordinary global function like main( ) cannot. Of course, neither can member functions of other structures. Only the functions that are clearly stated in the structure declaration (the “contract”) can have access to private members.

There is no required order for access specifiers, and they may appear more than once. They affect all the members declared after them and before the next access specifier.

protected

The last access specifier is protected. protected acts just like private, with one exception that we can’t really talk about right now: “Inherited” structures (which cannot access private members) are granted access to protected members. But inheritance won’t be introduced until Chapter XX, so this doesn’t have any meaning to you. For the current purposes, consider protected to be just like private; it will be clarified when inheritance is introduced.

Friends

What if you want to explicitly grant access to a function that isn’t a member of the current structure? This is accomplished by declaring that function a friend inside the structure declaration. It’s important that the friend declaration occurs inside the structure declaration because you (and the compiler) must be able to read the structure declaration and see every rule about the size and behavior of that data type. And a very important rule in any relationship is “who can access my private implementation?”

The class controls which code has access to its members. There’s no magic way to “break in” from the outside if you aren’t a friend; you can’t declare a new class and say “hi, I’m a friend of Bob!” and expect to see the private and protected members of Bob.

You can declare a global function as a friend, and you can also declare a member function of another structure, or even an entire structure, as a friend. Here’s an example :

//: C05:Friend.cpp

// Friend allows special access

// Declaration (incomplete type specification):

struct X;

struct Y {

void f(X*);

};

struct X { // Definition

private:

int i;

public:

void initialize();

friend void g(X*, int); // Global friend

friend void Y::f(X*); // Struct member friend

friend struct Z; // Entire struct is a friend

friend void h();

};

void X::initialize() {

i = 0;

}

void g(X* x, int i) {

x->i = i;

}

void Y::f(X* x) {

x->i = 47;

}

struct Z {

private:

int j;

public:

void initialize();

void g(X* x);

};

void Z::initialize() {

j = 99;

}

void Z::g(X* x) {

x->i += j;

}

void h() {

X x;

x.i = 100; // Direct data manipulation

}

int main() {

X x;

Z z;

z.g(&x);

} ///:~

struct Y has a member function f( ) that will modify an object of type X. This is a bit of a conundrum because the C++ compiler requires you to declare everything before you can refer to it, so struct Y must be declared before its member Y::f(X*) can be declared as a friend in struct X. But for Y::f(X*) to be declared, struct X must be declared first!

Here’s the solution. Notice that Y::f(X*) takes the address of an X object. This is critical because the compiler always knows how to pass an address, which is of a fixed size regardless of the object being passed, even if it doesn’t have full information about the size of the type. If you try to pass the whole object, however, the compiler must see the entire structure definition of X, to know the size and how to pass it, before it allows you to declare a function such as Y::g(X).

By passing the address of an X, the compiler allows you to make an incomplete type specification of X prior to declaring Y::f(X*). This is accomplished in the declaration

struct X;

The declaration simply tells the compiler there’s a struct by that name, so it’s OK to refer to it as long as you don’t require any more knowledge than the name.

Now, in struct X, the function Y::f(X*) can be declared as a friend with no problem. If you tried to declare it before the compiler had seen the full specification for Y, it would have given you an error. This is a safety feature to ensure consistency and eliminate bugs.

Notice the two other friend functions. The first declares an ordinary global function g( ) as a friend. But g( ) has not been previously declared at the global scope! It turns out that friend can be used this way to simultaneously declare the function and give it friend status. This extends to entire structures:

friend struct Z;

is an incomplete type specification for Z, and it gives the entire structure friend status.

Nested friends

Making a structure nested doesn’t automatically give it access to private members. To accomplish this you must follow a particular form: first define the nested structure, then declare it as a friend using full scoping. The structure definition must be separate from the friend declaration, otherwise it would be seen by the compiler as a nonmember. Here’s an example:

//: C05:NestFriend.cpp

// Nested friends

#include <iostream>

#include <cstring> // memset()

using namespace std;

const int sz = 20;

struct Holder {

private:

int a[sz];

public:

void initialize();

struct Pointer {

private:

Holder* h;

int* p;

public:

void initialize(Holder* h);

// Move around in the array:

void next();

void previous();

void top();

void end();

// Access values:

int read();

void set(int i);

};

friend Holder::Pointer;

};

void Holder::initialize() {

memset(a, 0, sz * sizeof(int));

}

void Holder::Pointer::initialize(Holder* h) {

h = h;

p = h->a;

}

void Holder::Pointer::next() {

if(p < &(h->a[sz – 1])) p++;

}

void Holder::Pointer::previous() {

if(p > &(h->a[0])) p–;

}

void Holder::Pointer::top() {

p = &(h->a[0]);

}

void Holder::Pointer::end() {

p = &(h->a[sz – 1]);

}

int Holder::Pointer::read() {

return *p;

}

void Holder::Pointer::set(int i) {

*p = i;

}

int main() {

Holder h;

Holder::Pointer hp, hp2;

int i;

h.initialize();

hp.initialize(&h);

hp2.initialize(&h);

for(i = 0; i < sz; i++) {

hp.set(i);

hp.next();

}

hp.top();

hp2.end();

for(i = 0; i < sz; i++) {

cout << “hp = ” << hp.read()

<< “, hp2 = ” << hp2.read() << endl;

hp.next();

hp2.previous();

}

} ///:~

The struct Holder contains an array of ints and the Pointer allows you to access them. Because Pointer is strongly associated with Holder, it’s sensible to make it a member structure of Holder. Once Pointer is defined, it is granted access to the private members of Holder by saying:

friend Holder::Pointer;

Notice that the struct keyword is not necessary because the compiler already knows what Pointer is.

Because Pointer is a separate class from Holder, you can make more than one of them in main( ) and use them to select different parts of the array. Because Pointer is a class instead of a raw C pointer, you can guarantee that it will always safely point inside the Holder.

The Standard C library function memset( ) (in <cstring>) is used for convenience in the above program. It sets all memory starting at a particular address (the first argument) to a particular value (the second argument) for n bytes past the starting address (n is the third argument). Of course, you could have simply used a loop to iterate through all the memory, but memset( ) is available, well-tested (so it’s less likely you’ll introduce an error) and probably more efficient than if you coded it by hand.

Is it pure?

The class definition gives you an audit trail, so you can see from looking at the class which functions have permission to modify the private parts of the class. If a function is a friend, it means that it isn’t a member, but you want to give permission to modify private data anyway, and it must be listed in the class definition so everyone can see that it’s one of the privileged functions.

C++ is a hybrid object-oriented language, not a pure one, and friend was added to get around practical problems that crop up. It’s fine to point out that this makes the language less “pure,” because C++ is designed to be pragmatic, not to aspire to an abstract ideal.

Object layout

Chapter XX stated that a struct written for a C compiler and later compiled with C++ would be unchanged. This referred primarily to the object layout of the struct, that is, where the storage for the individual variables is positioned in the memory allocated for the object. If the C++ compiler changed the layout of C structs, then any C code you wrote that inadvisably took advantage of knowledge of the positions of variables in the struct would break.

When you start using access specifiers, however, you’ve moved completely into the C++ realm, and things change a bit. Within a particular “access block” (a group of declarations delimited by access specifiers), the variables are guaranteed to be laid out contiguously, as in C. However, the access blocks themselves may not appear in the object in the order that you declare them. Although the compiler will usually lay the blocks out exactly as you see them, there is no rule about it, because a particular machine architecture and/or operating environment may have explicit support for private and protected that might require those blocks to be placed in special memory locations. The language specification doesn’t want to restrict this kind of advantage.

Access specifiers are part of the structure and don’t affect the objects created from the structure. All of the access specification information disappears before the program is run; generally this happens during compilation. In a running program, objects become “regions of storage” and nothing more. If you really want to, you can break all the rules and access the memory directly, as you can in C. C++ is not designed to prevent you from doing unwise things. It just provides you with a much easier, highly desirable alternative.

In general, it’s not a good idea to depend on anything that’s implementation-specific when you’re writing a program. When you must, those specifics should be encapsulated inside a structure, so any porting changes are focused in one place.

The class

Access control is often referred to as implementation hiding. Including functions within structures (encapsulation) produces a data type with characteristics and behaviors, but access control puts boundaries within that data type, for two important reasons. The first is to establish what the client programmers can and can’t use. You can build your internal mechanisms into the structure without worrying that client programmers will think it’s part of the interface they should be using.

This feeds directly into the second reason, which is to separate the interface from the implementation. If the structure is used in a set of programs, but the client programmers can’t do anything but send messages to the public interface, then you can change anything that’s private without requiring modifications to their code.

Encapsulation and implementation hiding, taken together, invent something more than a C struct. We’re now in the world of object-oriented programming, where a structure is describing a class of objects, as you would describe a class of fishes or a class of birds: Any object belonging to this class will share these characteristics and behaviors. That’s what the structure declaration has become, a description of the way all objects of this type will look and act.

In the original OOP language, Simula-67, the keyword class was used to describe a new data type. This apparently inspired Stroustrup to choose the same keyword for C++, to emphasize that this was the focal point of the whole language: the creation of new data types that are more than just C structs with functions. This certainly seems like adequate justification for a new keyword.

However, the use of class in C++ comes close to being an unnecessary keyword. It’s identical to the struct keyword in absolutely every way except one: class defaults to private, whereas struct defaults to public. Here are two structures that produce the same result:

//: C05:Class.cpp

// Similarity of struct and class

struct A {

private:

int i, j, k;

public:

int f();

void g();

};

int A::f() {

return i + j + k;

}

void A::g() {

i = j = k = 0;

}

// Identical results are produced with:

class B {

int i, j, k;

public:

int f();

void g();

};

int B::f() {

return i + j + k;

}

void B::g() {

i = j = k = 0;

}

int main() {

A a;

B b;

a.f(); a.g();

b.f(); b.g();

} ///:~

The class is the fundamental OOP concept in C++. It is one of the keywords that will not be set in bold in this book – it becomes annoying with a word repeated as often as “class.” The shift to classes is so important that I suspect Stroustrup’s preference would have been to throw struct out altogether, but the need for backwards compatibility with C wouldn’t allow that.

Many people prefer a style of creating classes that is more struct-like than class-like, because you override the “default-to-private” behavior of the class by starting out with public elements:

class X {

public:

void interface_function();

private:

void private_function();

int internal_representation;

};

The logic behind this is that it makes more sense for the reader to see the members of interest first, then they can ignore anything that says private. Indeed, the only reasons all the other members must be declared in the class at all are so the compiler knows how big the objects are and can allocate them properly, and so it can guarantee consistency.

The examples in this book, however, will put the private members first, like this:

class X {

void private_function();

int internal_representation;

public:

void interface_function();

};

Some people even go to the trouble of decorating their own private names:

class Y {

public:

void f();

private:

int mX; // “Self-decorated” name

};

Because mX is already hidden in the scope of Y, the m is unnecessary. However, in projects with many global variables (something you should strive to avoid, but which is sometimes inevitable in existing projects) it is helpful to be able to distinguish, inside a member function definition, which data is global and which is a member.

Modifying Stash to use access control

It makes sense to take the examples from the previous chapter and modify them to use classes and access control. Notice how the client programmer portion of the interface is now clearly distinguished, so there’s no possibility of client programmers accidentally manipulating a part of the class that they shouldn’t.

//: C05:Stash.h

// Converted to use access control

#ifndef STASH_H

#define STASH_H

class Stash {

int size; // Size of each space

int quantity; // Number of storage spaces

int next; // Next empty space

// Dynamically allocated array of bytes:

unsigned char* storage;

void inflate(int increase);

public:

void initialize(int size);

void cleanup();

int add(void* element);

void* fetch(int index);

int count();

};

#endif // STASH_H ///:~

The inflate( ) function has been made private because it is used only by the add( ) function and is thus part of the underlying implementation, not the interface. This means that, sometime later, you can change the underlying implementation to use a different system for memory management.

Other than the name of the include file, the above header is the only thing that’s been changed for this example. The implementation file and test file are the same.

Modifying Stack to use
access control

As a second example, here’s the Stack turned into a class. Now the nested data structure is private, which is nice because it ensures that the client programmer will neither have to look at it nor be able to depend on the internal representation of the Stack:

//: C05:Stack2.h

// Nested structs via linked list

#ifndef STACK2_H

#define STACK2_H

class Stack {

struct Link {

void* data;

Link* next;

void initialize(void* dat, Link* nxt);

}* head;

public:

void initialize();

void push(void* dat);

void* peek();

void* pop();

void cleanup();

};

#endif // STACK2_H ///:~

As before, the implementation doesn’t change and so is not repeated here. The test, too, is identical. The only thing that’s been changed is the robustness of the class interface. The real value of access control is during development, to prevent you from crossing boundaries. In fact, the compiler is the only thing that knows about the protection level of class members. There is no access control information mangled into the member name that carries through to the linker. All the protection checking is done by the compiler; it has vanished by runtime.

Notice that the interface presented to the client programmer is now truly that of a push-down stack. It happens to be implemented as a linked list, but you can change that without affecting what the client programmer interacts with, or (more importantly) a single line of client code.

Handle classes

Access control in C++ allows you to separate interface from implementation, but the implementation hiding is only partial. The compiler must still see the declarations for all parts of an object in order to create and manipulate it properly. You could imagine a programming language that requires only the public interface of an object and allows the private implementation to be hidden, but C++ performs type checking statically (at compile time) as much as possible. This means that you’ll learn as early as possible if there’s an error. It also means your program is more efficient. However, including the private implementation has two effects: The implementation is visible even if you can’t easily access it, and it can cause needless recompilation.

Hiding the implementation

Some projects cannot afford to have their implementation visible to the client programmer. It may show strategic information in a library header file that the company doesn’t want available to competitors. You may be working on a system where security is an issue – an encryption algorithm, for example – and you don’t want to expose any clues in a header file that might help people to crack the code. Or you may be putting your library in a “hostile” environment, where the programmers will directly access the private components anyway, using pointers and casting. In all these situations, it’s valuable to have the actual structure compiled inside an implementation file rather than exposed in a header file.

Reducing recompilation

The project manager in your programming environment will cause a recompilation of a file if that file is touched (that is, modified) or if another file it’s dependent upon – that is, an included header file – is touched. This means that any time you make a change to a class, whether it’s to the public interface or the private member declarations, you’ll force a recompilation of anything that includes that header file. For a large project in its early stages this can be very unwieldy because the underlying implementation may change often; if the project is very big, the time for compiles can prohibit rapid turnaround.

The technique to solve this is sometimes called handle classes or the “Cheshire Cat”[26] – everything about the implementation disappears except for a single pointer, the “smile.” The pointer refers to a structure whose definition is in the implementation file along with all the member function definitions. Thus, as long as the interface is unchanged, the header file is untouched. The implementation can change at will, and only the implementation file needs to be recompiled and relinked with the project.

Here’s a simple example demonstrating the technique. The header file contains only the public interface and a single pointer of an incompletely specified class:

//: C05:Handle.h

// Handle classes

#ifndef HANDLE_H

#define HANDLE_H

class Handle {

struct Cheshire; // Class declaration only

Cheshire* smile;

public:

void initialize();

void cleanup();

int read();

void change(int);

};

#endif // HANDLE_H ///:~

This is all the client programmer is able to see. The line

struct Cheshire;

is an incomplete type specification or a class declaration (A class definition includes the body of the class.) It tells the compiler that Cheshire is a structure name, but it doesn’t give any details about the struct. This is only enough information to create a pointer to the struct; you can’t create an object until the structure body has been provided. In this technique, that structure body is hidden away in the implementation file:

//: C05:Handle.cpp {O}

// Handle implementation

#include “Handle.h”

#include “../require.h”

// Define Handle’s implementation:

struct Handle::Cheshire {

int i;

};

void Handle::initialize() {

smile = new Cheshire();

require(smile != 0);

smile->i = 0;

}

void Handle::cleanup() {

delete smile;

}

int Handle::read() {

return smile->i;

}

void Handle::change(int x) {

smile->i = x;

} ///:~

Cheshire is a nested structure, so it must be defined with scope resolution:

struct Handle::Cheshire {

In Handle::initialize( ), storage is allocated for a Cheshire structure, and in Handle::cleanup( ) this storage is released. This storage is used in lieu of all the data elements you’d normally put into the private section of the class. When you compile Handle.cpp, this structure definition is hidden away in the object file where no one can see it. If you change the elements of Cheshire, the only file that must be recompiled is Handle.cpp because the header file is untouched.

The use of Handle is like the use of any class: include the header, create objects, and send messages.

//: C05:UseHandle.cpp

//{L} Handle

// Use the Handle class

#include “Handle.h”

int main() {

Handle u;

u.initialize();

u.read();

u.change(1);

u.cleanup();

} ///:~

The only thing the client programmer can access is the public interface, so as long as the implementation is the only thing that changes, the above file never needs recompilation. Thus, although this isn’t perfect implementation hiding, it’s a big improvement.

Summary

Access control in C++ gives valuable control to the creator of a class. The users of the class can clearly see exactly what they can use and what to ignore. More important, though, is the ability to ensure that no client programmer becomes dependent on any part of the underlying implementation of a class. If you know this as the creator of the class, you can change the underlying implementation with the knowledge that no client programmer will be affected by the changes because they can’t access that part of the class.

When you have the ability to change the underlying implementation, you can not only improve your design at some later time, but you also have the freedom to make mistakes. No matter how carefully you plan and design, you’ll make mistakes. Knowing that it’s relatively safe to make these mistakes means you’ll be more experimental, you’ll learn faster, and you’ll finish your project sooner.

The public interface to a class is what the client programmer does see, so that is the most important part of the class to get “right” during analysis and design. But even that allows you some leeway for change. If you don’t get the interface right the first time, you can add more functions, as long as you don’t remove any that client programmers have already used in their code.

Exercises

1. Create a class with public, private, and protected data members and function members. Create an object of this class and see what kind of compiler messages you get when you try to access all the class members.

2. Write a struct called Lib which contains three string objects a, b and c. In main( ) create a Lib object called x and assign to x.a, x.b, and x.c. Print out the values. Now replace a, b and c with an array of string s[3]. Show that your code in main( ) breaks as a result of the change. Now create a class called Libc, with private string objects a, b and c, and member functions seta( ), geta( ), setb( ), getb( ), setc( ), getc( ) to set and get the values. Write main( ) as before. Now change the private string objects a, b and c to a private array of string s[3]. Show that the code in main( ) does not break as a result of the change.

3. Create a class and a global friend function that manipulates the private data in the class.

4. Write two classes, each of which has a member function that takes a pointer to an object of the other class. Create instances of both objects in main( ) and call the aforementioned member function in each class.

5. Create three classes. The first class contains private data, and grants friendship to the entire second class and to a member function of the third class. In main( ), demonstrate that all these work correctly.

6. Create a Hen class. Inside this, nest a Nest class. Inside Nest, place an Egg class. Each class should have a display( ) member function. In main( ), create an instance of each class and call the display( ) function for each one.

7. Modify the above example so that Nest and Egg each contain private data. Grant friendship to allow the enclosing classes access to this private data.

8. Create a class with data members distributed among numerous public, private and protected sections. Add a member function showMap( ) which prints the names of each of these data members and their addresses. If possible, compile and run this program on more than one compiler and/or computer and/or operating system to see if there are layout differences in the object.

9. Copy the implementation and test files for Stash in the previous chapter so you can compile and test Stash.h in this chapter.

10. Place objects of the Hen class from the earlier exercise in a Stash. Fetch them out and print them (if you have not already done so, you will need to add Hen::print( )).

11. Copy the implementation and test files for Stack in the previous chapter so you can compile and test Stack2.h in this chapter.

12. Place objects of the Hen class from the earlier exercise in a Stack. Fetch them out and print them (if you have not already done so, you will need to add Hen::print( )).

13. Modify Cheshire in Handle.cpp, and verify that your project manager recompiles and relinks only this file, but doesn’t recompile UseHandle.cpp.[BE2]

14. Create a class using the “Cheshire cat” technique which represents an encryption algorithm that you want to hide as much as possible. The pointer that’s in the handle class should point to an object that contains a member function which is the encryption algorithm, so that function should take a string object and produce an “encrypted” string. Use a trivial encryption algorithm, such as adding one to each letter.

6: Initialization
& cleanup

Chapter 4 made a significant improvement in library use by taking all the scattered components of a typical C library and encapsulating them into a structure (an abstract data type, called a class from now on).

This not only provides a single unified point of entry into a library component, but it also hides the names of the functions within the class name. In Chapter 5, access control (implementation hiding) was introduced. This gives the class designer a way to establish clear boundaries for determining what the client programmer is allowed to manipulate and what is off limits. It means the internal mechanisms of a data type’s operation are under the control and discretion of the class designer, and it’s clear to client programmers what members they can and should pay attention to.

Together, encapsulation and implementation hiding make a significant step in improving the ease of library use. The concept of “new data type” they provide is better in some ways than the existing built-in data types from C. The C++ compiler can now provide type-checking guarantees for that data type and thus ensure a level of safety when that data type is being used.

When it comes to safety, however, there’s a lot more the compiler can do for us than C provides. In this and future chapters, you’ll see additional features that have been engineered into C++ that make the bugs in your program almost leap out and grab you, sometimes before you even compile the program, but usually in the form of compiler warnings and errors. For this reason, you will soon get used to the unlikely-sounding scenario that a C++ program that compiles usually runs right the first time.

Two of these safety issues are initialization and cleanup. A large segment of C bugs occur when the programmer forgets to initialize or clean up a variable. This is especially true with C libraries, when client programmers don’t know how to initialize a struct, or even that they must. (Libraries often do not include an initialization function, so the client programmer is forced to initialize the struct by hand.) Cleanup is a special problem because C programmers are comfortable with forgetting about variables once they are finished, so any cleaning up that may be necessary for a library’s struct is often missed.

In C++ the concept of initialization and cleanup is essential for easy library use and to eliminate the many subtle bugs that occur when the client programmer forgets to perform these activities. This chapter examines the features in C++ that help guarantee proper initialization and cleanup.

Guaranteed initialization with the constructor

Both the Stash and Stack classes have a function called initialize( ), which hints by its name that it should be called before using the object in any other way. Unfortunately, this means the client programmer must ensure proper initialization. Client programmers are prone to miss details like initialization in their headlong rush to make your amazing library solve their problem. In C++, initialization is too important to leave to the client programmer. The class designer can guarantee initialization of every object by providing a special function called the constructor. If a class has a constructor, the compiler automatically calls that constructor at the point an object is created, before client programmers can get their hands on the object. The constructor call isn’t even an option for the client programmer; it is performed by the compiler at the point the object is defined.

The next challenge is what to name this function. There are two issues. The first is that any name you use is something that can potentially clash with a name you might like to use as a member in the class. The second is that because the compiler is responsible for calling the constructor, it must always know which function to call. The solution Stroustrup chose seems the easiest and most logical: The name of the constructor is the same as the name of the class. It makes sense that such a function will be called automatically on initialization.

Here’s a simple class with a constructor:

class X {

int i;

public:

X(); // Constructor

};

Now, when an object is defined,

void f() {

X a;

// …

}

the same thing happens as if a were an int: Storage is allocated for the object. But when the program reaches the sequence point (point of execution) where a is defined, the constructor is called automatically. That is, the compiler quietly inserts the call to X::X( ) for the object a at the point of definition. Like any member function, the first (secret) argument to the constructor is the this pointer – the address of the object for which it is being called. In the case of the constructor, however, this is pointing to an un-initialized block of memory, and it’s the job of the constructor to initialize this memory properly.

Like any function, the constructor can have arguments to allow you to specify how an object is created, give it initialization values, and so on. Constructor arguments provide you with a way to guarantee that all parts of your object are initialized to appropriate values. For example, if the class Tree has a constructor that takes a single integer argument denoting the height of the tree, then you must create a tree object like this:

Tree t(12); // 12-foot tree

If tree(int) is your only constructor, the compiler won’t let you create an object any other way. (We’ll look at multiple constructors and different ways to call constructors in the next chapter.)

That’s really all there is to a constructor: It’s a specially named function that is called automatically by the compiler for every object, at the point of that object’s creation. Despite it’s simplicity, it is exceptionally valuable because it eliminates a large class of problems and makes the code easier to write and read. In the preceding code fragment, for example, you don’t see an explicit function call to some initialize( ) function that is conceptually separate from definition. In C++, definition and initialization are unified concepts – you can’t have one without the other.

Both the constructor and destructor are very unusual types of functions: They have no return value. This is distinctly different from a void return value, where the function returns nothing but you still have the option to make it something else. Constructors and destructors return nothing and you don’t have an option. The acts of bringing an object into and out of the program are special, like birth and death, and the compiler always makes the function calls itself, to make sure they happen. If there were a return value, and if you could select your own, the compiler would somehow have to know what to do with the return value, or the client programmer would have to explicitly call constructors and destructors, which would eliminate their safety.

Guaranteed cleanup with the destructor

As a C programmer, you often think about the importance of initialization, but it’s rarer to think about cleanup. After all, what do you need to do to clean up an int? Just forget about it. However, with libraries, just “letting go” of an object once you’re done with it is not so safe. What if it modifies some piece of hardware, or puts something on the screen, or allocates storage on the heap? If you just forget about it, your object never achieves closure upon its exit from this world. In C++, cleanup is as important as initialization and is therefore guaranteed with the destructor.

The syntax for the destructor is similar to that for the constructor: The class name is used for the name of the function. However, the destructor is distinguished from the constructor by a leading tilde (~). In addition, the destructor never has any arguments because destruction never needs any options. Here’s the declaration for a destructor:

class Y {

public:

~Y();

};

The destructor is called automatically by the compiler when the object goes out of scope. You can see where the constructor gets called by the point of definition of the object, but the only evidence for a destructor call is the closing brace of the scope that surrounds the object. Yet the destructor is still called, even when you use goto to jump out of a scope. (goto still exists in C++, for backward compatibility with C and for the times when it comes in handy.) You should note that a nonlocal goto, implemented by the Standard C library functions setjmp( ) and longjmp( ), doesn’t cause destructors to be called. (This is the specification, even if your compiler doesn’t implement it that way. Relying on a feature that isn’t in the specification means your code is nonportable.)

Here’s an example demonstrating the features of constructors and destructors you’ve seen so far:

//: C06:Constructor1.cpp

// Constructors & destructors

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Tree {

int height;

public:

Tree(int initialHeight); // Constructor

~Tree(); // Destructor

void grow(int years);

void printsize();

};

Tree::Tree(int initialHeight) {

height = initialHeight;

}

Tree::~Tree() {

cout << “inside Tree destructor” << endl;

printsize();

}

void Tree::grow(int years) {

height += years;

}

void Tree::printsize() {

cout << “Tree height is ” << height << endl;

}

int main() {

cout << “before opening brace” << endl;

{

Tree t(12);

cout << “after Tree creation” << endl;

t.printsize();

t.grow(4);

cout << “before closing brace” << endl;

}

cout << “after closing brace” << endl;

} ///:~

Here’s the output of the above program:

before opening brace

after Tree creation

Tree height is 12

before closing brace

inside Tree destructor

Tree height is 16

after closing brace

You can see that the destructor is automatically called at the closing brace of the scope that encloses it.

Elimination of the definition block

In C, you must always define all the variables at the beginning of a block, after the opening brace. This is not an uncommon requirement in programming languages, and the reason given has often been that it’s “good programming style.” On this point, I have my suspicions. It has always seemed inconvenient to me, as a programmer, to pop back to the beginning of a block every time I need a new variable. I also find code more readable when the variable definition is close to its point of use.

Perhaps these arguments are stylistic. In C++, however, there’s a significant problem in being forced to define all objects at the beginning of a scope. If a constructor exists, it must be called when the object is created. However, if the constructor takes one or more initialization arguments, how do you know you will have that initialization information at the beginning of a scope? In the general programming situation, you won’t. Because C has no concept of private, this separation of definition and initialization is no problem. However, C++ guarantees that when an object is created, it is simultaneously initialized. This ensures you will have no uninitialized objects running around in your system. C doesn’t care; in fact, C encourages this practice by requiring you to define variables at the beginning of a block before you necessarily have the initialization information.

Generally C++ will not allow you to create an object before you have the initialization information for the constructor. As a result, you can’t be forced to define variables at the beginning of a scope. In fact, the style of the language would seem to encourage the definition of an object as close to its point of use as possible. In C++, any rule that applies to an “object” automatically refers to an object of a built-in type, as well. This means that any class object or variable of a built-in type can also be defined at any point in a scope. It also means that you can wait until you have the information for a variable before defining it, so you can always define and initialize at the same time:

//: C06:DefineInitialize.cpp

// Defining variables anywhere

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

class G {

int i;

public:

G(int ii);

};

G::G(int ii) { i = ii; }

int main() {

cout << “initialization value? “;

int retval = 0;

cin >> retval;

require(retval != 0);

int y = retval + 3;

G g(y);

} ///:~

You can see that some code is executed, then retval is defined, initialized and used to capture user input, then y and g are defined. C, on the other hand, would never allow a variable to be defined anywhere except at the beginning of the scope.

Generally, you should define variables as close to their point of use as possible, and always initialize them when they are defined. (This is a stylistic suggestion for built-in types, where initialization is optional.) This is a safety issue. By reducing the duration of the variable’s availability within the scope, you are reducing the chance it will be misused in some other part of the scope. In addition, readability is improved because the reader doesn’t have to jump back and forth to the beginning of the scope to know the type of a variable.

for loops

In C++, you will often see a for loop counter defined right inside the for expression:

for(int j = 0; j < 100; j++) {

cout << “j = ” << j << endl;

}

for(int i = 0; i < 100; i++)

cout << “i = ” << i << endl;

The above statements are important special cases, which cause confusion to new C++ programmers.

The variables i and j are defined directly inside the for expression (which you cannot do in C). They are then available for use in the for loop. It’s a very convenient syntax because the context removes all question about the purpose of i and j, so you don’t need to use such ungainly names as i_loop_counter for clarity.

However, some confusion may result if you expect lifetime of the variables i and j to extend beyond the scope of the for loop – they do not[27].

Chapter 3 points out that while and switch statements also allow the definition of objects in their control expressions, although this usage seems far less important than with the for loop.

Watch out for local variables that hide variables in the enclosing scope. In general, using the same name for a nested variable as a varable global to that scope is confusing and error prone[28].

I find small scopes an indicator of good design. If you have several pages for a single function, perhaps you’re trying to do too much with that function. More granular functions are not only more useful, but it’s also easier to find bugs.

Storage allocation

A variable can now be defined at any point in a scope, so it might seem that the storage for a variable may not be defined until its point of definition. It’s actually more likely that the compiler will follow the practice in C of allocating all the storage for a scope at the opening brace of that scope. It doesn’t matter because, as a programmer, you can’t access the storage (a.k.a. the object) until it has been defined[29]. Although the storage is allocated at the beginning of the block, the constructor call doesn’t happen until the sequence point where the object is defined because the identifier isn’t available until then. The compiler even checks to make sure you don’t put the object definition (and thus the constructor call) where the sequence point only conditionally passes through it, such as in a switch statement or somewhere a goto can jump past it. Uncommenting the statements in the following code will generate a warning or an error:

//: C06:Nojump.cpp

// Can’t jump past constructors

class X {

public:

X();

};

X::X() {}

void f(int i) {

if(i < 10) {

//! goto jump1; // Error: goto bypasses init

}

X x1; // Constructor called here

jump1:

switch(i) {

case 1 :

X x2; // Constructor called here

break;

//! case 2 : // Error: case bypasses init

X x3; // Constructor called here

break;

}

}

int main() {

f(9);

f(11);

}///:~

In the above code, both the goto and the switch can potentially jump past the sequence point where a constructor is called. That object will then be in scope even if the constructor hasn’t been called, so the compiler gives an error message. This once again guarantees that an object cannot be created unless it is also initialized.

All the storage allocation discussed here happens, of course, on the stack. The storage is allocated by the compiler by moving the stack pointer “down” (a relative term, which may indicate an increase or decrease of the actual stack pointer value, depending on your machine). Objects can also be allocated on the heap using new, which is something we’ll explore further in Chapter XX.

Stash with constructors and destructors

The examples from previous chapters have obvious functions that map to constructors and destructors: initialize( ) and cleanup( ). Here’s the Stash header using constructors and destructors:

//: C06:Stash2.h

// With constructors & destructors

#ifndef STASH2_H

#define STASH2_H

class Stash {

int size; // Size of each space

int quantity; // Number of storage spaces

int next; // Next empty space

// Dynamically allocated array of bytes:

unsigned char* storage;

void inflate(int increase);

public:

Stash(int size);

~Stash();

int add(void* element);

void* fetch(int index);

int count();

};

#endif // STASH2_H ///:~

The only member function definitions that are changed are initialize( ) and cleanup( ), which have been replaced with a constructor and destructor:

//: C06:Stash2.cpp {O}

// Constructors & destructors

#include “Stash2.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <cassert>

using namespace std;

const int increment = 100;

Stash::Stash(int sz) {

size = sz;

quantity = 0;

storage = 0;

next = 0;

}

int Stash::add(void* element) {

if(next >= quantity) // Enough space left?

inflate(increment);

// Copy element into storage,

// starting at next empty space:

int startBytes = next * size;

unsigned char* e = (unsigned char*)element;

for(int i = 0; i < size; i++)

storage[startBytes + i] = e[i];

next++;

return(next – 1); // Index number

}

void* Stash::fetch(int index) {

assert(0 <= index && index < next);

// Produce pointer to desired element:

return &(storage[index * size]);

}

int Stash::count() {

return next; // Number of elements in CStash

}

void Stash::inflate(int increase) {

assert(increase > 0);

int newQuantity = quantity + increase;

int newBytes = newQuantity * size;

int oldBytes = quantity * size;

unsigned char* b = new unsigned char[newBytes];

for(int i = 0; i < oldBytes; i++)

b[i] = storage[i]; // Copy old to new

delete [](storage); // Old storage

storage = b; // Point to new memory

quantity = newQuantity;

}

Stash::~Stash() {

if(storage != 0) {

cout << “freeing storage” << endl;

delete []storage;

}

} ///:~

Looking at inflate( ), you might ask why the “primitive” assert( ) is still being used after the require.h functions have already been introduced. The distinction is important: in this book, assert( ) will be used to watch for programmer errors. This makes sense because the output of a failed assert( ) is not particularly end-user friendly and should only be seen by programmers, while the require.h functions (which will be shown later in the book) are specifically designed to be reasonably useful for end-users.

Because inflate( ) is private, the only way an assert( ) could occur is if one of the other member functions accidentally passed an incorrect value to inflate( ). If you are certain this can’t happen, you could consider removing the assert( ), but you might keep in mind that until the class is stable, there’s always the possibility that new code might be added to the class which could cause errors. The cost of the assert( ) is low (and can be removed by defining NDEBUG) and the value of code robustness is high.

Notice, in the following test program, how the definitions for Stash objects appear right before they are needed, and how the initialization appears as part of the definition, in the constructor argument list:

//: C06:Stash2Test.cpp

//{L} Stash2

// Constructors & destructors

#include “Stash2.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main() {

Stash intStash(sizeof(int));

for(int i = 0; i < 100; i++)

intStash.add(&i);

for(int j = 0; j < intStash.count(); j++)

cout << “intStash.fetch(” << j << “) = ”

<< *(int*)intStash.fetch(j)

<< endl;

const int bufsize = 80;

Stash stringStash(sizeof(char) * bufsize);

ifstream in(“Stash2Test.cpp”);

assure(in, ” Stash2Test.cpp”);

string line;

while(getline(in, line))

stringStash.add((char*)line.c_str());

int k = 0;

char* cp;

while((cp = (char*)stringStash.fetch(k++))!=0)

cout << “stringStash.fetch(” << k << “) = ”

<< cp << endl;

} ///:~

Also notice how the cleanup( ) calls have been eliminated, but the destructors are still automatically called when intStash and stringStash go out of scope.

Stack with constructors & destructors

Reimplementing the linked list (inside Stack) with constructors and destructors shows up a significant problem. Here’s the modified header file:

//: C06:Stack3.h

// With constructors/destructors

#ifndef STACK3_H

#define STACK3_H

class Stack {

struct Link {

void* data;

Link* next;

Link(void* dat, Link* nxt);

~Link();

}* head;

public:

Stack();

~Stack();

void push(void* dat);

void* peek();

void* pop();

};

#endif // STACK3_H ///:~

Not only does Stack have a constructor and destructor, but so does the nested class Link:

//: C06:Stack3.cpp {O}

// Constructors/destructors

#include “Stack3.h”

#include “../require.h”

using namespace std;

Stack::Link::Link(void* dat, Link* nxt) {

data = dat;

next = nxt;

}

Stack::Link::~Link() {

delete data;

}

Stack::Stack() { head = 0; }

void Stack::push(void* dat) {

head = new Link(dat,head);

}

void* Stack::peek() { return head->data; }

void* Stack::pop() {

if(head == 0) return 0;

void* result = head->data;

Link* oldHead = head;

head = head->next;

delete oldHead;

return result;

}

Stack::~Stack() {

Link* cursor = head;

while(head) {

cursor = cursor->next;

delete head;

head = cursor;

}

head = 0; // Officially empty

} ///:~

The Link::Link( ) constructor simply initializes the data and next pointers, so in Stack::push( ) the line

head = new Link(dat,head);

not only allocates a new link (using dynamic object creation with the keyword new, introduced earlier in the book), but it also neatly initializes the pointers for that link.

Because the allocation and cleanup are hidden within Stack – it’s part of the underlying implementation – you don’t see the effect in the test program:

//: C06:Stack3Test.cpp

//{L} Stack3

// Constructors/destructors

#include “Stack3.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

requireArgs(argc, 1); // File name is argument

ifstream in(argv[1]);

assure(in, argv[1]);

Stack textlines;

string line;

// Read file and store lines in the stack:

while(getline(in, line))

textlines.push(new string(line));

// Pop the lines from the stack and print them:

string* s;

while((s = (string*)textlines.pop()) != 0) {

cout << s << endl;

delete s;

}

} ///:~

The constructor and destructor for textlines are called automatically, so the user of the class can focus on what to do with the object and not worry about whether or not it will be properly initialized and cleaned up.

Aggregate initialization

An aggregate is just what it sounds like: a bunch of things clumped together. This definition includes aggregates of mixed types, like structs and classes. An array is an aggregate of a single type.

Initializing aggregates can be error-prone and tedious. C++ aggregate initialization makes it much safer. When you create an object that’s an aggregate, all you must do is make an assignment, and the initialization will be taken care of by the compiler. This assignment comes in several flavors, depending on the type of aggregate you’re dealing with, but in all cases the elements in the assignment must be surrounded by curly braces. For an array of built-in types this is quite simple:

int a[5] = { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 };

If you try to give more initializers than there are array elements, the compiler gives an error message. But what happens if you give fewer initializers, such as

int b[6] = {0};

Here, the compiler will use the first initializer for the first array element, and then use zero for all the elements without initializers. Notice this initialization behavior doesn’t occur if you define an array without a list of initializers. So the above expression is a very succinct way to initialize an array to zero, without using a for loop, and without any possibility of an off-by-one error (Depending on the compiler, it may also be more efficient than the for loop.)

A second shorthand for arrays is automatic counting, where you let the compiler determine the size of the array based on the number of initializers:

int c[] = { 1, 2, 3, 4 };

Now if you decide to add another element to the array, you simply add another initializer. If you can set your code up so it needs to be changed in only one spot, you reduce the chance of errors during modification. But how do you determine the size of the array? The expression sizeof c / sizeof *c (size of the entire array divided by the size of the first element) does the trick in a way that doesn’t need to be changed if the array size changes[30]:

for(int i = 0; i < sizeof c / sizeof *c; i++)

c[i]++;

Because structures are also aggregates, they can be initialized in a similar fashion. Because a C-style struct has all its members public, they can be assigned directly:

struct X {

int i;

float f;

char c;

};

X x1 = { 1, 2.2, ‘c’ };

If you have an array of such objects, you can initialize them by using a nested set of curly braces for each object:

X x2[3] = { {1, 1.1, ‘a’}, {2, 2.2, ‘b’} };

Here, the third object is initialized to zero.

If any of the data members are private (which is typically the case for a well-designed class in C++), or even if everything’s public but there’s a constructor, things are different. In the above examples, the initializers are assigned directly to the elements of the aggregate, but constructors are a way of forcing initialization to occur through a formal interface. Here, the constructors must be called to perform the initialization. So if you have a struct that looks like this,

struct Y {

float f;

int i;

Y(int a);

};

You must indicate constructor calls. The best approach is the explicit one as follows:

Y y2[] = { Y(1), Y(2), Y(3) };

You get three objects and three constructor calls. Any time you have a constructor, whether it’s a struct with all members public or a class with private data members, all the initialization must go through the constructor, even if you’re using aggregate initialization.

Here’s a second example showing multiple constructor arguments:

//: C06:Multiarg.cpp

// Multiple constructor arguments

// with aggregate initialization

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Z {

int i, j;

public:

Z(int ii, int jj);

void print();

};

Z::Z(int ii, int jj) {

i = ii;

j = jj;

}

void Z::print() {

cout << “i = ” << i << “, j = ” << j << endl;

}

int main() {

Z zz[] = { Z(1,2), Z(3,4), Z(5,6), Z(7,8) };

for(int i = 0; i < sizeof zz / sizeof *zz; i++)

zz[i].print();

} ///:~

Notice that it looks like an explicit constructor is called for each object in the array.

Default constructors

A default constructor is one that can be called with no arguments. A default constructor is used to create a “vanilla object,” but it’s also very important when the compiler is told to create an object but isn’t given any details. For example, if you take the class Y defined previously and use it in a definition like this,

Y y4[2] = { Y(1) };

the compiler will complain that it cannot find a default constructor. The second object in the array wants to be created with no arguments, and that’s where the compiler looks for a default constructor. In fact, if you simply define an array of Y objects,

Y y5[7];

or an individual object,

Y y;

the compiler will complain because it must have a default constructor to initialize every object in the array. (Remember, if you have a constructor the compiler ensures it is always called, regardless of the situation.)

The default constructor is so important that if (and only if) there are no constructors for a structure (struct or class), the compiler will automatically create one for you. So this works:

//: C06:AutoDefaultConstructor.cpp

// Automatically-generated default constructor

class V {

int i; // private

}; // No constructor

int main() {

V v, v2[10];

} ///:~

If any constructors are defined, however, and there’s no default constructor, the above object definitions will generate compile-time errors.

You might think that the default constructor should do some intelligent initialization, like setting all the memory for the object to zero. But it doesn’t – that would add extra overhead but be out of the programmer’s control. If you want the memory to be initialized to zero, you must do it yourself.

Although the compiler will create a default constructor for you, the behavior of the automatically-generated constructor is rarely what you want. You should treat this feature as a safety net, but use it sparingly – in general, you should define your constructors explicitly and not allow the compiler to do it for you.

Summary

The seemingly elaborate mechanisms provided by C++ should give you a strong hint about the critical importance placed on initialization and cleanup in the language. As Stroustrup was designing C++, one of the first observations he made about productivity in C was that a significant portion of programming problems are caused by improper initialization of variables. These kinds of bugs are very hard to find, and similar issues apply to improper cleanup. Because constructors and destructors allow you to guarantee proper initialization and cleanup (the compiler will not allow an object to be created and destroyed without the proper constructor and destructor calls), you get complete control and safety.

Aggregate initialization is included in a similar vein – it prevents you from making typical initialization mistakes with aggregates of built-in types and makes your code more succinct.

Safety during coding is a big issue in C++. Initialization and cleanup are an important part of this, but you’ll also see other safety issues as the book progresses.

Exercises

1. Write a simple class called Simple with a constructor that prints something to tell you that it’s been called. In main( ) make an object of your class.

2. Add a destructor to the previous example that prints out a message to tell you that it’s been called.

3. Modify the previous example so that the class contains an int member. Modify the constructor so that it takes an int argument which it stores in the class member. Both the constructor and destructor should print out the int value as part of their message, so you can see the objects as they are created and destroyed.

4. Demonstrate that destructors are still called even when goto is used to jump out of a loop.

5. Write two for loops that print out values from zero to 10. In the first, define the loop counter before the for loop, and in the second define the loop counter in the control expression of the for loop. For the second part of this exercise, modify the identifier in the second for loop so that it as the same name as the loop counter for the first and see what your compiler does.

6. Modify the Handle.h, Handle.cpp, and UseHandle.cpp files at the end of Chapter 5 to use constructors and destructors.

7. Use aggregate initialization to create an array of double where you specify the size of the array but do not provide enough elements. Print out this array using sizeof to determine the size of the array. Now create an array of double using aggregate intialization and automatic counting. Print out the array.

8. Use aggregate initialization to create an array of string objects. Create a Stack to hold these strings and step through your array, pushing each string on your Stack. Finally, pop the strings off your Stack and print each one.

9. Demonstrate automatic counting and aggregate initialization with an array of objects of the class you created in Exercise 3. Add a member function to that class that prints a message. Calculate the size of the array and move through it, calling your new member function.

10. Create a class without any constructors, and show that you can create objects with the default constructor. Now create a nondefault constructor (one with an argument) for the class, and try compiling again. Explain what happened.[BE3]

7: Function overloading & default arguments

One of the important features in any programming language is the convenient use of names.

When you create an object (a variable), you give a name to a region of storage. A function is a name for an action. By making up names to describe the system at hand, you create a program that is easier for people to understand and change. It’s a lot like writing prose ­­– the goal is to communicate with your readers.

A problem arises when mapping the concept of nuance in human language onto a programming language. Often, the same word expresses a number of different meanings, depending on context. That is, a single word has multiple meanings – it’s overloaded. This is very useful, especially when it comes to trivial differences. You say “wash the shirt, wash the car.” It would be silly to be forced to say, “shirt_wash the shirt, car_wash the car” just so the hearer doesn’t have to make any distinction about the action performed. Most human languages are redundant, so even if you miss a few words, you can still determine the meaning. We don’t need unique identifiers – we can deduce meaning from context.

Most programming languages, however, require that you have a unique identifier for each function. If you have three different types of data that you want to print: int, char, and float, you generally have to create three different function names, for example, print_int( ), print_char( ), and print_float( ). This loads extra work on you as you write the program, and on readers as they try to understand it.

In C++, another factor forces the overloading of function names: the constructor. Because the constructor’s name is predetermined by the name of the class, it would seem that there can be only one constructor. But what if you want to create an object in more than one way? For example, suppose you build a class that can initialize itself in a standard way and also by reading information from a file. You need two constructors, one that takes no arguments (the default constructor) and one that takes a string as an argument, which is the name of the file to initialize the object. Both are constructors, so they must have the same name: the name of the class. Thus function overloading is essential to allow the same function name – the constructor in this case – to be used with different argument types.

Although function overloading is a must for constructors, it’s a general convenience and can be used with any function, not just class member functions. In addition, function overloading means that if you have two libraries that contain functions of the same name, they won’t conflict as long as the argument lists are different. We’ll look at all these factors in detail throughout this chapter.

The theme of this chapter is convenient use of function names. Function overloading allows you to use the same name for different functions, but there’s a second way to make calling a function more convenient. What if you’d like to call the same function in different ways? When functions have long argument lists, it can become tedious to write (and confusing to read) the function calls when most of the arguments are the same for all the calls. A very commonly used feature in C++ is called default arguments. A default argument is one the compiler inserts if it isn’t specified in the function call. Thus the calls f(“hello”), f(“hi”, 1) and f(“howdy”, 2, ‘c’) can all be calls to the same function. They could also be calls to three overloaded functions, but when the argument lists are this similar, you’ll usually want similar behavior, which calls for a single function.

Function overloading and default arguments really aren’t very complicated. By the time you reach the end of this chapter, you’ll understand when to use them and the underlying mechanisms that implement them during compiling and linking.

More name decoration

In Chapter 4 the concept of name decoration was introduced. In the code

void f();

class X { void f(); };

the function f( ) inside the scope of class X does not clash with the global version of f( ). The compiler performs this scoping by manufacturing different internal names for the global version of f( ) and X::f( ). In Chapter 4 it was suggested that the names are simply the class name “decorated” together with the function name, so the internal names the compiler uses might be _f and _X_f. However, it turns out that function name decoration involves more than the class name.

Here’s why. Suppose you want to overload two function names

void print(char);

void print(float);

It doesn’t matter whether they are both inside a class or at the global scope. The compiler can’t generate unique internal identifiers if it uses only the scope of the function names. You’d end up with _print in both cases. The idea of an overloaded function is that you use the same function name, but different argument lists. Thus, for overloading to work the compiler must decorate the function name with the names of the argument types. The above functions, defined at global scope, produce internal names that might look something like _print_char and _print_float. It’s worth noting there is no standard for the way names must be decorated by the compiler, so you will see very different results from one compiler to another. (You can see what it looks like by telling the compiler to generate assembly-language output.) This, of course, causes problems if you want to buy compiled libraries for a particular compiler and linker – but even if name decoration were standardized, there would be other roadblocks because of the way different compilers generate code.

That’s really all there is to function overloading: You can use the same function name for different functions, as long as the argument lists are different. The compiler decorates the name, the scope, and the argument lists to produce internal names for it and the linker to use.

Overloading on return values

It’s common to wonder “why just scopes and argument lists? Why not return values?” It seems at first that it would make sense to also decorate the return value with the internal function name. Then you could overload on return values, as well:

void f();

int f();

This works fine when the compiler can unequivocally determine the meaning from the context, as in int x = f( );. However, in C you’ve always been able to call a function and ignore the return value. How can the compiler distinguish which call is meant in this case? Possibly worse is the difficulty the reader has in knowing which function call is meant. Overloading solely on return value is a bit too subtle, and thus isn’t allowed in C++.

Type-safe linkage

There is an added benefit to all this name decoration. A particularly sticky problem in C occurs when the client programmer misdeclares a function, or, worse, a function is called without declaring it first, and the compiler infers the function declaration from the way it is called. Sometimes this function declaration is correct, but when it isn’t, it can be a very difficult bug to find.

Because all functions must be declared before they are used in C++, the opportunity for this problem to pop up is greatly diminished. The C++ compiler refuses to declare a function automatically for you, so it’s likely you will include the appropriate header file. However, if for some reason you still manage to misdeclare a function, either by declaring by hand or including the wrong header file (perhaps one that is out of date), the name decoration provides a safety net that is often referred to as type-safe linkage.

Consider the following scenario. In one file is the definition for a function:

//: C07:Def.cpp {O}

// Function definition

void f(int) {}

///:~

In the second file, the function is misdeclared and then called:

//: C07:Use.cpp

//{L} Def

// Function misdeclaration

void f(char);

int main() {

//! f(1); // Causes a linker error

} ///:~

Even though you can see that the function is actually f(int), the compiler doesn’t know this because it was told – through an explicit declaration – that the function is f(char). Thus, the compilation is successful. In C, the linker would also be successful, but not in C++. Because the compiler decorates the names, the definition becomes something like f_int, whereas the use of the function is f_char. When the linker tries to resolve the reference to f_char, it can only find f_int, and it gives you an error message. This is type-safe linkage. Although the problem doesn’t occur all that often, when it does it can be incredibly difficult to find, especially in a large project. This is one of the cases where you can easily find a difficult error in a C program simply by running it through the C++ compiler.

Overloading example

We can now modify earlier examples to use function overloading. As stated before, an immediately useful place for overloading is in constructors. You can see this in the following version of the Stash class:

//: C07:Stash3.h

// Function overloading

#ifndef STASH3_H

#define STASH3_H

class Stash {

int size; // Size of each space

int quantity; // Number of storage spaces

int next; // Next empty space

// Dynamically allocated array of bytes:

unsigned char* storage;

void inflate(int increase);

public:

Stash(int size); // Zero quantity

Stash(int size, int initQuant);

~Stash();

int add(void* element);

void* fetch(int index);

int count();

};

#endif // STASH3_H ///:~

The first Stash( ) constructor is the same as before, but the second one has a Quantity argument to indicate the initial number of storage places to be allocated. In the definition, you can see that the internal value of quantity is set to zero, along with the storage pointer. In the second constructor, the call to inflate(initQuant) increases quantity to the allocated size:

//: C07:Stash3.cpp {O}

// Function overloading

#include “Stash3.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <cassert>

using namespace std;

const int increment = 100;

Stash::Stash(int sz) {

size = sz;

quantity = 0;

next = 0;

storage = 0;

}

Stash::Stash(int sz, int initQuant) {

size = sz;

quantity = 0;

next = 0;

storage = 0;

inflate(initQuant);

}

Stash::~Stash() {

if(storage != 0) {

cout << “freeing storage” << endl;

delete []storage;

}

}

int Stash::add(void* element) {

if(next >= quantity) // Enough space left?

inflate(increment);

// Copy element into storage,

// starting at next empty space:

int startBytes = next * size;

unsigned char* e = (unsigned char*)element;

for(int i = 0; i < size; i++)

storage[startBytes + i] = e[i];

next++;

return(next – 1); // Index number

}

void* Stash::fetch(int index) {

assert(0 <= index && index < next);

// Produce pointer to desired element:

return &(storage[index * size]);

}

int Stash::count() {

return next; // Number of elements in CStash

}

void Stash::inflate(int increase) {

assert(increase > 0);

int newQuantity = quantity + increase;

int newBytes = newQuantity * size;

int oldBytes = quantity * size;

unsigned char* b = new unsigned char[newBytes];

for(int i = 0; i < oldBytes; i++)

b[i] = storage[i]; // Copy old to new

delete [](storage); // Release old storage

storage = b; // Point to new memory

quantity = newQuantity; // Adjust the size

} ///:~

When you use the first constructor no memory is allocated for storage. The allocation happens the first time you try to add( ) an object and any time the current block of memory is exceeded inside add( ).

Both constructors are exercised in the test program:

//: C07:Stash3Test.cpp

//{L} Stash3

// Function overloading

#include “Stash3.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <iostream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main() {

Stash intStash(sizeof(int));

for(int i = 0; i < 100; i++)

intStash.add(&i);

for(int j = 0; j < intStash.count(); j++)

cout << “intStash.fetch(” << j << “) = ”

<< *(int*)intStash.fetch(j)

<< endl;

const int bufsize = 80;

Stash stringStash(sizeof(char) * bufsize, 100);

ifstream in(“Stash3Test.cpp”);

assure(in, “Stash3Test.cpp”);

string line;

while(getline(in, line))

stringStash.add((char*)line.c_str());

int k = 0;

char* cp;

while((cp = (char*)stringStash.fetch(k++))!=0)

cout << “stringStash.fetch(” << k << “) = ”

<< cp << endl;

} ///:~

The constructor call for stringStash uses a second argument; presumably you know something special about the specific problem you’re solving that allows you to choose an initial size for the Stash.

unions

As you’ve seen, the only difference between struct and class in C++ is that struct defaults to public and class defaults to private. A struct can also have constructors and destructors, as you might expect. But it turns out that a union can also have a constructor, destructor, member functions and even access control. You can again see the use and benefit of overloading in the following example:

//: C07:UnionClass.cpp

// Unions with constructors and member functions

#include<iostream>

using namespace std;

union U {

private: // Access control too!

int i;

float f;

public:

U(int a);

U(float b);

~U();

int read_int();

float read_float();

};

U::U(int a) { i = a; }

U::U(float b) { f = b;}

U::~U() { cout << “U::~U()\n”; }

int U::read_int() { return i; }

float U::read_float() { return f; }

int main() {

U X(12), Y(1.9F);

cout << X.read_int() << endl;

cout << Y.read_float() << endl;

} ///:~

You might think from the above code that the only difference between a union and a class is the way the data is stored (that is, the int and float are overlaid on the same piece of storage). However, a union cannot be used as a base class during inheritance, which is quite limiting from an object-oriented design standpoint (you’ll learn about inheritance in Chapter XX).

Although the member functions civilize access to the union somewhat, there is still no way to prevent the client programmer from selecting the wrong element type once the union is initialized. In the above example, you could say X.read_float( ) even though it is inappropriate. However, a “safe” union can be encapsulated in a class. In the following example, notice how the enum clarifies the code, and how overloading comes in handy with the constructors:

//: C07:SuperVar.cpp

// A super-variable

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class SuperVar {

enum {

character,

integer,

floating_point

} vartype; // Define one

union { // Anonymous union

char c;

int i;

float f;

};

public:

SuperVar(char ch);

SuperVar(int ii);

SuperVar(float ff);

void print();

};

SuperVar:: SuperVar(char ch) {

vartype = character;

c = ch;

}

SuperVar:: SuperVar(int ii) {

vartype = integer;

i = ii;

}

SuperVar:: SuperVar(float ff) {

vartype = floating_point;

f = ff;

}

void SuperVar::print() {

switch (vartype) {

case character:

cout << “character: ” << c << endl;

break;

case integer:

cout << “integer: ” << i << endl;

break;

case floating_point:

cout << “float: ” << f << endl;

break;

}

}

int main() {

SuperVar A(‘c’), B(12), C(1.44F);

A.print();

B.print();

C.print();

} ///:~

In the above code, the enum has no type name (it is an untagged enumeration). This is acceptable if you are going to immediately define instances of the enum, as is done here. There is no need to refer to the enum’s type name in the future, so the type name is optional.

The union has no type name and no variable name. This is called an anonymous union, and creates space for the union but doesn’t require accessing the union elements with a variable name and the dot operator. For instance, if your anonymous union is:

union { int i, float f };

you access members by saying:

i = 12;

f = 1.22;

just like other variables. The only difference is that both variables occupy the same space. If the anonymous union is at file scope (outside all functions and classes) then it must be declared static so it has internal linkage.

Although SuperVar is now safe, its usefulness is a bit dubious because the reason for using a union in the first place is to save space, and the addition of vartype takes up quite a bit of space relative to the data in the union, so the savings are effectively eliminated. There are a couple of alternatives to make this scheme workable: if the vartype was controlling more than one union instance – if they were all the same type – then you’d only need one for the group and it wouldn’t take up more space. A more useful approach is to have #ifdefs around all the vartype code which can then guarantee things are being used correctly during development and testing. For shipping code, the extra space and time overhead can be eliminated.

Default arguments

Examine the two constructors for Stash( ). They don’t seem all that different, do they? In fact, the first constructor seems to be a special case of the second one with the initial size set to zero. It’s a bit of a waste of effort to create and maintain two different versions of a similar function.

C++ provides a remedy with default arguments. A default argument is a value given in the declaration that the compiler automatically inserts if you don’t provide a value in the function call. In the Stash example, we can replace the two functions:

Stash(int size); // Zero quantity

Stash(int size, int quantity);

with the single function:

Stash(int size, int quantity = 0);

The Stash(int) definition is simply removed – all that is necessary is the single Stash(int, int) definition.

Now, the two object definitions

Stash A(100), B(100, 0);

will produce exactly the same results. The identical constructor is called in both cases, but for A, the second argument is automatically substituted by the compiler when it sees the first argument is an int and that there is no second argument. The compiler has seen the default argument, so it knows it can still make the function call if it substitutes this second argument, which is what you’ve told it to do by making it a default.

Default arguments are a convenience, as function overloading is a convenience. Both features allow you to use a single function name in different situations. The difference is that with default arguments the compiler is substituting arguments when you don’t want to put them in yourself. The preceding example is a good place to use default arguments instead of function overloading; otherwise you end up with two or more functions that have similar signatures and similar behaviors. If the functions have very different behaviors, it doesn’t usually make sense to use default arguments (for that matter, you might want to question whether two functions with very different behaviors should have the same name).

There are two rules you must be aware of when using default arguments. First, only trailing arguments may be defaulted. That is, you can’t have a default argument followed by a nondefault argument. Second, once you start using default arguments in a particular function call, all the subsequent arguments in that function’s argument list must be defaulted (this follows from the first rule).

Default arguments are only placed in the declaration of a function (typically placed in a header file). The compiler must see the default value before it can use it. Sometimes people will place the commented values of the default arguments in the function definition, for documentation purposes

void fn(int x /* = 0 */) { // …

Placeholder arguments

Arguments in a function declaration can be declared without identifiers. When these are used with default arguments, it can look a bit funny. You can end up with

void f(int x, int = 0, float = 1.1);

In C++ you don’t need identifiers in the function definition, either:

void f(int x, int, float flt) { /* … */ }

In the function body, x and flt can be referenced, but not the middle argument, because it has no name. Function calls must still provide a value for the placeholder, though: f(1) or f(1,2,3.0). This syntax allows you to put the argument in as a placeholder without using it. The idea is that you might want to change the function definition to use the placeholder later, without changing all the code where the function is called. Of course, you can accomplish the same thing by using a named argument, but if you define the argument for the function body without using it, most compilers will give you a warning message, assuming you’ve made a logical error. By intentionally leaving the argument name out, you suppress this warning.

More important, if you start out using a function argument and later decide that you don’t need it, you can effectively remove it without generating warnings, and yet not disturb any client code that was calling the previous version of the function.

Choosing overloading vs. default arguments

Both function overloading and default arguments provide a convenience for calling function names. However, it can seem confusing at times to know which technique to use. For example, consider the following tool which is designed to automatically manage blocks of memory for you:

//: C07:Mem.h

#ifndef MEM_H

#define MEM_H

typedef unsigned char byte;

class Mem {

byte* mem;

int size;

void ensureMinSize(int minSize);

public:

Mem();

Mem(int sz);

~Mem();

int msize();

byte* pointer();

byte* pointer(int minSize);

};

#endif // MEM_H ///:~

A Mem object holds a block of bytes, and makes sure that you have enough storage. The default constructor doesn’t allocate any storage, and the second constructor ensures that there is sz storage in the Mem object. The destructor releases the storage, msize( ) tells you how many bytes there are currently in the Mem object, and pointer( ) produces a pointer to the starting address of the storage (Mem is a fairly low-level tool). There’s an overloaded version of pointer( ) where the client programmer can say that they want a pointer to a block of bytes that is at least minSize large, and the member function ensures this.

Both the constructor and the pointer( ) member function use the private ensureMinSize( ) member function to increase the size of the memory block (notice that it’s not safe to hold the result of pointer( ) if the memory is resized).

Here’s the implementation of the class:

//: C07:Mem.cpp {O}

#include “Mem.h”

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

Mem::Mem() { mem = 0; size = 0; }

Mem::Mem(int sz) {

mem = 0;

size = 0;

ensureMinSize(sz);

}

Mem::~Mem() { delete []mem; }

int Mem::msize() { return size; }

void Mem::ensureMinSize(int minSize) {

if(size < minSize) {

byte* newmem = new byte[minSize];

memset(newmem + size, 0, minSize – size);

memcpy(newmem, mem, size);

delete []mem;

mem = newmem;

size = minSize;

}

}

byte* Mem::pointer() { return mem; }

byte* Mem::pointer(int minSize) {

ensureMinSize(minSize);

return mem;

} ///:~

You can see that ensureMinSize( ) is the only function responsible for allocating memory, and that it is used from the second constructor and the second overloaded form of pointer( ). Inside ensureMinSize( ), nothing needs to be done if the size is large enough. If new storage must be allocated in order to make the block bigger (which is also the case when the block is of size zero, after default construction), the new “extra” portion is set to zero using the Standard C library function memset( ), which was introduced earlier in the book. The subsequent function call is to the Standard C library function memcpy( ), which in this case copies the existing bytes from mem to newmem (typically in a very efficient fashion). Finally, the old memory is deleted and the new memory and sizes are assigned to the appropriate members.

The Mem class is designed to be used as a tool within other classes, to simplify their memory management (it could also be used to hide a more sophisticated memory-management system provided, for example, by the operating system). Appropriately, it is tested here by creating a very simple “string” class:

//: C07:MemTest.cpp

// Testing the Mem class

//{L} Mem

#include “Mem.h”

#include <cstring>

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class myString {

Mem* buf;

public:

myString();

myString(char* str);

~myString();

void concat(char* str);

void print(ostream& os);

};

myString::myString() { buf = 0; }

myString::myString(char* str) {

buf = new Mem(strlen(str) + 1);

strcpy((char*)buf->pointer(), str);

}

void myString::concat(char* str) {

if(!buf) buf = new Mem();

strcat((char*)buf->pointer(

buf->msize() + strlen(str) + 1), str);

}

void myString::print(ostream& os) {

if(!buf) return;

os << buf->pointer() << endl;

}

myString::~myString() { delete buf; }

int main() {

myString s(“My test string”);

s.print(cout);

s.concat(” some additional stuff”);

s.print(cout);

myString s2;

s2.concat(“Using default constructor”);

s2.print(cout);

} ///:~

All you can do with this class is to create a myString, concatenate text, and print to an ostream. The class only contains a pointer to a Mem, but note the distinction between the default constructor, which sets the pointer to zero, and the second constructor, which creates a Mem and copies data into it. The advantage of the default constructor is that you can create, for example, a large array of empty myString objects very cheaply, since the size of each object is only one pointer and the only overhead of the default constructor is that of assigning to zero. The cost of a myString only begins to accrue when you concatenate data; at that point the Mem object is created if it hasn’t been already. However, if you use the default constructor and never concatenate any data, the destructor call is still safe because calling delete for zero is defined such that it does not try to release storage or otherwise cause problems.

If you look at these two constructors it might at first seem like this is a prime candidate for default arguments. However, if you drop the default constructor and write the remaining constructor with a default argument:

myString(char* str = “”);

everything will work correctly, but you’ll lose the previous efficiency benefit since a Mem object will always be created. To get the efficiency back, you must modify the constructor:

myString::myString(char* str) {

if(!*str) { // Pointing at an empty string

buf = 0;

return;

}

buf = new Mem(strlen(str) + 1);

strcpy((char*)buf->pointer(), str);

}

This means, in effect, that the default value becomes a flag that causes a separate piece of code to be executed than if a non-default value is used. Although it seems innocent enough with a small constructor like this one, in general this practice can cause problems. If you have to look for the default rather than treating it as an ordinary value, that should be a clue that you will end up with effectively two different functions inside a single function body: one version for the normal case, and one for the default. You might as well split it up into two distinct function bodies and let the compiler do the selection. This results in a slight (but usually invisible) increase in efficiency, because the extra argument isn’t passed and the extra code for the conditional isn’t executed. More importantly, you are keeping the code for two separate functions in two separate functions rather than combining them into one using default arguments, which will result in easier maintainability, especially if the functions are large.

On the other hand, consider the Mem class. If you look at the definitions of the two constructors and the two pointer( ) functions, you can see that using default arguments in both cases will not cause the member function definitions to to change at all. Thus the class could easily be:

//: C07:Mem2.h

#ifndef MEM2_H

#define MEM2_H

typedef unsigned char byte;

class Mem {

byte* mem;

int size;

void ensureMinSize(int minSize);

public:

Mem(int sz = 0);

~Mem();

int msize();

byte* pointer(int minSize = 0);

};

#endif // MEM2_H ///:~

Notice that a call to ensureMinSize(0) will always be quite efficient.

Although in both of these cases I based some of the decision-making process on the issue of efficiency, you must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking only about efficiency (fascinating as it is). The most important issue in class design is the interface of the class (its public members, which are available to the client programmer). If these produce a class that is easy to use and reuse, then you have a success; you can always tune for efficiency if necessary but the effect of a class that is designed badly because the programmer is over-focused on efficiency issues can be dire. Your primary concern should be that the interface makes sense to those who use it and who read the resulting code. Notice that in MemTest.cpp the usage of myString does not change regardless of whether a default constructor is used or whether the efficiency is high or low.

Summary

As a guideline, you shouldn’t use a default argument as a flag upon which to conditionally execute code. You should instead break the function into two or more overloaded functions if you can. A default argument should be a value you would ordinarily put in that position. It’s a value that is more likely to occur than all the rest, so client programmers can generally ignore it or use it only if they want to change it from the default value.

The default argument is included to make function calls easier, especially when those functions have many arguments with typical values. Not only is it much easier to write the calls, it’s easier to read them, especially if the class creator can order the arguments so the least-modified defaults appear latest in the list.

An especially important use of default arguments is when you start out with a function with a set of arguments, and after it’s been used for a while you discover you need to add arguments. By defaulting all the new arguments, you ensure that all client code using the previous interface is not disturbed.

Exercises

1. Create a Text class that contains a string object to hold the text of a file. Give it two constructors: a default constructor and a constructor that takes a string argument which is the name of the file to open. When the second constructor is used, open the file and read the contents into the string member object. Add a member function contents( ) to return the string so (for example) it can be printed. In main( ), open a file using Text and print the contents.

2. Create a Message class with a constructor that takes a single string with a default value. Create a private member string, and in the constructor simply assign the argument string to your internal string. Create two overloaded member functions called print( ): one that takes no arguments and simply prints the message stored in the object, and one that takes a string argument, which it prints in addition to the internal message. Does it make sense to use this approach rather than the one used for the constructor?

3. Determine how to generate assembly output with your compiler, and run experiments to deduce the name-decoration scheme.

4. Create a class that contains four member functions, with 0, 1, 2, and 3 int arguments, respectively. Create a main( ) that makes an object of your class and calls each of the member functions. Now modify the class so it has instead a single member function with all the arguments defaulted. Does this change your main( )?

5. Create a function with two arguments and call it from main( ). Now make one of the arguments a “placeholder” (no identifier) and see if your call in main( ) changes

6. Modify Stash3.h and Stash3.cpp to use default arguments in the constructor. Test the constructor by making two different versions of a Stash object.

7. Create a new version of the Stack class (from the previous chapter) which contains the default constructor as before, and a second constructor which takes as its arguments an array of pointers to objects and the size of that array. This constructor should move through the array and push each pointer onto the Stack. Test your class with an array of string.

8. Modify SuperVar so there are #ifdefs around all the vartype code as described in the section on enum. [BE4] Make vartype a regular and public enumeration (with no instance) and modify print( ) so it requires a vartype argument to tell it what to do.

9. Implement Mem2.h and make sure that the modified class still works with MemTest.cpp.

10. Use class Mem to implement Stash. Note that, because the implementation is private and thus hidden from the client programmer, the test code does not need to be modified.

11. In class Mem, add a bool moved( ) member function that takes the result of a call to pointer( ) and tells you whether the pointer has moved (due to reallocation). Write a main( ) that tests your moved( ) member function. Does it make more sense to use something like moved( ) or to simply call pointer( ) every time you need to access the memory in Mem?

8: Constants

The concept of constant (expressed by the const keyword) was created to allow the programmer to draw a line between what changes and what doesn’t.

This provides safety and control in a C++ programming project. Since its origin, const has taken on a number of different purposes. In the meantime it trickled back into the C language where its meaning was changed. All this can seem a bit confusing at first, and in this chapter you’ll learn when, why, and how to use the const keyword. At the end there’s a discussion of volatile, which is a near cousin to const (because they both concern change) and has identical syntax.

The first motivation for const seems to have been to eliminate the use of preprocessor #defines for value substitution. It has since been put to use for pointers, function arguments, return types, class objects and member functions. All of these have slightly different but conceptually compatible meanings and will be looked at in separate sections in this chapter.

Value substitution

When programming in C, the preprocessor is liberally used to create macros and to substitute values. Because the preprocessor simply does text replacement and has no concept nor facility for type checking, preprocessor value substitution introduces subtle problems that can be avoided in C++ by using const values.

The typical use of the preprocessor to substitute values for names in C looks like this:

#define BUFSIZE 100

BUFSIZE is a name that only exists during preprocessing, therefore it doesn’t occupy storage and can be placed in a header file to provide a single value for all translation units that use it. It’s very important for code maintenance to use value substitution instead of so-called “magic numbers.” If you use magic numbers in your code, not only does the reader have no idea where the numbers come from or what they represent, but if you decide to change a value, you must perform hand editing, and you have no trail to follow to ensure you don’t miss one of your values (or accidentally change one you shouldn’t).

Most of the time, BUFSIZE will behave like an ordinary variable, but not all the time. In addition, there’s no type information. This can hide bugs that are very difficult to find. C++ uses const to eliminate these problems by bringing value substitution into the domain of the compiler. Now you can say

const int bufsize = 100;

You can use bufsize anyplace where the compiler must know the value at compile time. The compiler can use bufsize to perform constant folding, which means the compiler will reduce a complicated constant expression to a simple one by performing the necessary calculations at compile time. This is especially important in array definitions:

char buf[bufsize];

You can use const for all the built-in types (char, int, float, and double) and their variants (as well as class objects, as you’ll see later in this chapter). Because of subtle bugs introduced by the preprocessor, you should always use const instead of #define value substitution.

const in header files

To use const instead of #define, you must be able to place const definitions inside header files as you can with #define. This way, you can place the definition for a const in a single place and distribute it to translation units by including the header file. A const in C++ defaults to internal linkage; that is, it is visible only within the file where it is defined and cannot be seen at link time by other translation units. You must always assign a value to a const when you define it, except when you make an explicit declaration using extern:

extern const bufsize;

Normally, the C++ compiler avoids creating storage for a const, but instead holds the definition in its symbol table. When you use extern with const, however, you force storage to be allocated (this is also true for certain other cases, such as taking the address of a const). Storage must be allocated because extern says “use external linkage” and that means that several translation units must be able to refer to the item, which requires it to have storage.

In the ordinary case, when extern is not part of the definition, no storage is allocated. When the const is used, it is simply folded in at compile time.

The goal of never allocating storage for a const also fails with complicated structures. Whenever the compiler must allocate storage, constant folding is prevented (since there’s no way for the compiler to know for sure what the value of that storage is – if it could know that, it wouldn’t need to allocate the storage).

Because the compiler cannot always avoid allocating storage for a const, const definitions must default to internal linkage, that is, linkage only within that particular translation unit. Otherwise, linker errors would occur with complicated consts because they cause storage to be allocated in multiple cpp files. The linker would then see the same definition in multiple object files, and complain. Because a const defaults to internal linkage, the linker doesn’t try to link those definitions across translation units, and there are no collisions. With built-in types, which are used in the majority of cases involving constant expressions, the compiler can always perform constant folding.

Safety consts

The use of const is not limited to replacing #defines in constant expressions. If you initialize a variable with a value that is produced at runtime and you know it will not change for the lifetime of that variable, it is good programming practice to make it a const so the compiler will give you an error message if you accidentally try to change it. Here’s an example:

//: C08:Safecons.cpp

// Using const for safety

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

const int i = 100; // Typical constant

const int j = i + 10; // Value from const expr

long address = (long)&j; // Forces storage

char buf[j + 10]; // Still a const expression

int main() {

cout << “type a character & CR:”;

const char c = cin.get(); // Can’t change

const char c2 = c + ‘a’;

cout << c2;

// …

} ///:~

You can see that i is a compile-time const, but j is calculated from i. However, because i is a const, the calculated value for j still comes from a constant expression and is itself a compile-time constant. The very next line requires the address of j and therefore forces the compiler to allocate storage for j. Yet this doesn’t prevent the use of j in the determination of the size of buf because the compiler knows j is const and that the value is valid even if storage was allocated to hold that value at some point in the program.

In main( ), you see a different kind of const in the identifier c because the value cannot be known at compile time. This means storage is required, and the compiler doesn’t attempt to keep anything in its symbol table (the same behavior as in C). The initialization must still happen at the point of definition, and once the initialization occurs, the value cannot be changed. You can see that c2 is calculated from c and also that scoping works for consts as it does for any other type – yet another improvement over the use of #define.

As a matter of practice, if you think a value shouldn’t change, you should make it a const. This not only provides insurance against inadvertent changes, it also allows the compiler to generate more efficient code by eliminating storage and memory reads.

Aggregates

It’s possible to use const for aggregates, but you’re virtually assured that the compiler will not be sophisticated enough to keep an aggregate in its symbol table, so storage will be allocated. In these situations, const means “a piece of storage that cannot be changed.” However, the value cannot be used at compile time because the compiler is not required to know the contents of the storage at compile time. In the following code, you can see the statements that are illegal:

//: C08:Constag.cpp

// Constants and aggregates

const int i[] = { 1, 2, 3, 4 };

//! float f[i[3]]; // Illegal

struct S { int i, j; };

const S s[] = { { 1, 2 }, { 3, 4 } };

//! double d[s[1].j]; // Illegal

int main() {} ///:~

In an array definition, the compiler must be able to generate code that moves the stack pointer to accommodate the array. In both of the illegal definitions above, the compiler complains because it cannot find a constant expression in the array definition.

Differences with C

Constants were introduced in early versions of C++ while the Standard C specification was still being finished. Although the C committee then decided to include const in C, somehow it came to mean for them “an ordinary variable that cannot be changed.” In C, a const always occupies storage and its name is global. The C compiler cannot treat a const as a compile-time constant. In C, if you say

const bufsize = 100;

char buf[bufsize];

you will get an error, even though it seems like a rational thing to do. Because bufsize occupies storage somewhere, the C compiler cannot know the value at compile time. You can optionally say

const bufsize;

in C, but not in C++, and the C compiler accepts it as a declaration indicating there is storage allocated elsewhere. Because C defaults to external linkage for consts, this makes sense. C++ defaults to internal linkage for consts so if you want to accomplish the same thing in C++, you must explicitly change the linkage to external using extern:

extern const bufsize; // Declaration only

This line also works in C.

In C++, a const doesn’t necessarily create storage. In C a const always creates storage. Whether or not storage is reserved for a const in C++ depends on how it is used. In general, if a const is used simply to replace a name with a value (just as you would use a #define), then storage doesn’t have to be created for the const. If no storage is created (this depends on the complexity of the data type and the sophistication of the compiler), the values may be folded into the code for greater efficiency after type checking, not before, as with #define. If, however, you take an address of a const (even unknowingly, by passing it to a function that takes a reference argument) or you define it as extern, then storage is created for the const.

In C++, a const that is outside all functions has file scope (i.e., it is invisible outside the file). That is, it defaults to internal linkage. This is very different from all other identifiers in C++ (and from const in C!) that default to external linkage. Thus, if you declare a const of the same name in two different files and you don’t take the address or define that name as extern, the ideal C++ compiler won’t allocate storage for the const, but simply fold it into the code. Because const has implied file scope, you can put it in C++ header files with no conflicts at link time.

Since a const in C++ defaults to internal linkage, you can’t just define a const in one file and reference it as an extern in another file. To give a const external linkage so it can be referenced from another file, you must explicitly define it as extern, like this:

extern const int x = 1;

Notice that by giving it an initializer and saying it is extern, you force storage to be created for the const (although the compiler still has the option of doing constant folding here). The initialization establishes this as a definition, not a declaration. The declaration:

extern const int x;

in C++ means that the definition exists elsewhere (again, this is not necessarily true in C). You can now see why C++ requires a const definition to have an initializer: the initializer distinguishes a declaration from a definition (in C it’s always a definition, so no initializer is necessary). With an extern const declaration, the compiler cannot do constant folding because it doesn’t know the value.

The C approach to const is not very useful, and if you want to use a named value inside a constant expression (one that must be evaluated at compile time), C almost forces you to use #define in the preprocessor.

Pointers

Pointers can be made const. The compiler will still endeavor to prevent storage allocation and do constant folding when dealing with const pointers, but these features seem less useful in this case. More importantly, the compiler will tell you if you attempt to change a const pointer, which adds a great deal of safety.

When using const with pointers, you have two options: const can be applied to what the pointer is pointing to, or the const can be applied to the address stored in the pointer itself. The syntax for these is a little confusing at first but becomes comfortable with practice.

Pointer to const

The trick with a pointer definition, as with any complicated definition, is to read it starting at the identifier and work your way out. The const specifier binds to the thing it is “closest to.” So if you want to prevent any changes to the element you are pointing to, you write a definition like this:

const int* u;

Starting from the identifier, we read “u is a pointer, which points to a const int.” Here, no initialization is required because you’re saying that u can point to anything (that is, it is not const), but the thing it points to cannot be changed.

Here’s the mildly confusing part. You might think that to make the pointer itself unchangeable, that is, to prevent any change to the address contained inside u, you would simply move the const to the other side of the int like this:

int const* v;

It’s not all that crazy to think that this should read “v is a const pointer to an int.” However, the way it actually reads is “v is an ordinary pointer to an int that happens to be const.” That is, the const has bound itself to the int again, and the effect is the same as the previous definition. The fact that these two definitions are the same is the confusing point; to prevent this confusion on the part of your reader, you should probably stick to the first form.

const pointer

To make the pointer itself a const, you must place the const specifier to the right of the *, like this:

int d = 1;

int* const w = &d;

Now it reads: “w is a pointer which is const, that points to an int.” Because the pointer itself is now the const, the compiler requires that it be given an initial value that will be unchanged for the life of that pointer. It’s OK, however, to change what that value points to by saying

*w = 2;

You can also make a const pointer to a const object using either of two legal forms:

int d = 1;

const int* const x = &d; // (1)

int const* const x2 = &d; // (2)

Now neither the pointer nor the object can be changed.

Some people argue that the second form is more consistent because the const is always placed to the right of what it modifies. You’ll have to decide which is clearer for your particular coding style.

Here are the above lines in a compileable file:

//: C08:ConstPointers.cpp

const int* u;

int const* v;

int d = 1;

int* const w = &d;

const int* const x = &d; // (1)

int const* const x2 = &d; // (2)

int main() {} ///:~

Formatting

This book makes a point of only putting one pointer definition on a line, and initializing each pointer at the point of definition whenever possible. Because of this, the formatting style of “attaching” the ‘*’ to the data type is possible:

int* u = &i;

as if int* were a discrete type unto itself. This makes the code easier to understand, but unfortunately that’s not actually the way things work. The ‘*’ in fact binds to the identifier, not the type. It can be placed anywhere between the type name and the identifier. So you could do this:

int *u = &i, v = 0;

which creates an int* u, as before, and a nonpointer int v. Because readers often find this confusing, it is best to follow the form shown in this book.

Assignment and type checking

C++ is very particular about type checking, and this extends to pointer assignments. You can assign the address of a non-const object to a const pointer because you’re simply promising not to change something that is OK to change. However, you can’t assign the address of a const object to a non-const pointer because then you’re saying you might change the object via the pointer. Of course, you can always use a cast to force such an assignment, but this is bad programming practice because you are then breaking the constness of the object, along with any safety promised by the const. For example:

//: C08:PointerAssignment.cpp

int d = 1;

const int e = 2;

int* u = &d; // OK — d not const

//! int* v = &e; // Illegal — e const

int* w = (int*)&e; // Legal but bad practice

int main() {} ///:~

Although C++ helps prevent errors it does not protect you from yourself if you want to break the safety mechanisms.

Character array literals

The place where strict constness is not enforced is with character array literals. You can say

char* cp = “howdy”;

and the compiler will accept it without complaint. This is technically an error because a character array literal (“howdy” in this case) is created by the compiler as a constant character array, and the result of the quoted character array is its starting address in memory.

So character array literals are actually constant character arrays. Of course, the compiler lets you get away with treating them as non-const because there’s so much existing C code that relies on this. However, if you try to change the values in a character array literal, the behavior is undefined, although it will probably work on many machines.

Function arguments
& return values

The use of const to specify function arguments and return values is another place where the concept of constants can be confusing. If you are passing objects by value, specifying const has no meaning to the client (it means that the passed argument cannot be modified inside the function). If you are returning an object of a user-defined type by value as a const, it means the returned value cannot be modified. If you are passing and returning addresses, const is a promise that the destination of the address will not be changed.

Passing by const value

You can specify that function arguments are const when passing them by value, such as

void f1(const int i) {

i++; // Illegal — compile-time error

}

but what does this mean? You’re making a promise that the original value of the variable will not be changed by the function f1( ). However, because the argument is passed by value, you immediately make a copy of the original variable, so the promise to the client is implicitly kept.

Inside the function, the const takes on meaning: the argument cannot be changed. So it’s really a tool for the creator of the function, and not the caller.

To avoid confusion to the caller, you can make the argument a const inside the function, rather than in the argument list. You could do this with a pointer, but a nicer syntax is achieved with the reference, a subject that will be fully developed in Chapter XX. Briefly, a reference is like a constant pointer that is automatically dereferenced, so it has the effect of being an alias to an object. To create a reference, you use the & in the definition. So the non-confusing function definition looks like this:

void f2(int ic) {

const int& i = ic;

i++; // Illegal — compile-time error

}

Again, you’ll get an error message, but this time the constness of the local object is not part of the function signature; it only has meaning to the implementation of the function and therefore it’s hidden from the client.

Returning by const value

A similar truth holds for the return value. If you say that a function’s return value is const:

const int g();

you are promising that the original variable (inside the function frame) will not be modified. And again, because you’re returning it by value, it’s copied so the original value could never be modified via the return value.

At first, this can make the specification of const seem meaningless. You can see the apparent lack of effect of returning consts by value in this example:

//: C08:Constval.cpp

// Returning consts by value

// has no meaning for built-in types

int f3() { return 1; }

const int f4() { return 1; }

int main() {

const int j = f3(); // Works fine

int k = f4(); // But this works fine too!

} ///:~

For built-in types, it doesn’t matter whether you return by value as a const, so you should avoid confusing the client programmer by leaving off the const when returning a built-in type by value.

Returning by value as a const becomes important when you’re dealing with user-defined types. If a function returns a class object by value as a const, the return value of that function cannot be an lvalue (that is, it cannot be assigned to or otherwise modified). For example:

//: C08:ConstReturnValues.cpp

// Constant return by value

// Result cannot be used as an lvalue

class X {

int i;

public:

X(int ii = 0);

void modify();

};

X::X(int ii) { i = ii; }

void X::modify() { i++; }

X f5() {

return X();

}

const X f6() {

return X();

}

void f7(X& x) { // Pass by non-const reference

x.modify();

}

int main() {

f5() = X(1); // OK — non-const return value

f5().modify(); // OK

// Causes compile-time errors:

//! f7(f5());

//! f6() = X(1);

//! f6().modify();

//! f7(f6());

} ///:~

f5( ) returns a non-const X object, while f6( ) returns a const X object. Only the non-const return value can be used as an lvalue. Thus, it’s important to use const when returning an object by value if you want to prevent its use as an lvalue.

The reason const has no meaning when you’re returning a built-in type by value is that the compiler already prevents it from being an lvalue (because it’s always a value, and not a variable). Only when you’re returning objects of user-defined types by value does it become an issue.

The function f7( ) takes its argument as a non-const reference (an additional way of handling addresses in C++ which is the subject of Chapter XX). This is effectively the same as taking a non-const pointer; it’s just that the syntax is different. The reason this won’t compile in C++ is because of the creation of a temporary.

Temporaries

Sometimes, during the evaluation of an expression, the compiler must create temporary objects. These are objects like any other: they require storage and they must be constructed and destroyed. The difference is that you never see them – the compiler is responsible for deciding that they’re needed and the details of their existence. But there is one thing about temporaries: they’re automatically const. Because you usually won’t be able to get your hands on a temporary object, telling it to do something that will change that temporary is almost certainly a mistake because you won’t be able to use that information. By making all temporaries automatically const, the compiler informs you when you make that mistake.

In the above example, f5( ) returns a non-const X object. But in the expression:

f7(f5());

the compiler must manufacture a temporary object to hold the return value of f5( ) so it can be passed to f7( ). This would be fine if f7( ) took it’s argument by value; then the temporary would be copied into f7( ) and it wouldn’t matter what happened to the temporary X. However, f7( ) takes its argument by reference, which means in this example takes the address of the temporary X. Since f7( ) doesn’t take it’s argument by const reference, it has permission to modify the temporary object. But the compiler knows that the temporary will vanish as soon as the expression evaluation is complete, and thus any modifications you make to the temporary X will be lost. By making all temporary objects automatically const, this situation causes a compile-time error so you don’t get caught by what would be a very difficult bug to find.

However, notice the expressions that are legal:

f5() = X(1);

f5().modify();

Although these pass muster for the compiler, they are actually problematic. f5( ) returns an X object, and for the compiler to satisfy the above expressions it must create a temporary to hold that return value. So in both expressions the temporary object is being modified, and as soon as the expression is over the temporary is cleaned up. As a result, the modifications are lost so this code is probably a bug – but the compiler doesn’t tell you anything about it. Expressions like these are simple enough for you to detect the problem, but when things get more complex it’s possible for a bug to slip through these cracks.

The way the constness of class objects is preserved is shown later in the chapter.

Passing and returning addresses

If you pass or return an address (either a pointer or a reference), it’s possible for the client programmer to take it and modify the original value. If you make the pointer or reference a const, you prevent this from happening, which may save you some grief. In fact, whenever you’re passing an address into a function, you should make it a const if at all possible. If you don’t, you’re excluding the possibility of using that function with anything that is a const.

The choice of whether to return a pointer or reference to a const depends on what you want to allow your client programmer to do with it. Here’s an example that demonstrates the use of const pointers as function arguments and return values:

//: C08:ConstPointer.cpp

// Constant pointer arg/return

void t(int*) {}

void u(const int* cip) {

//! *cip = 2; // Illegal — modifies value

int i = *cip; // OK — copies value

//! int* ip2 = cip; // Illegal: non-const

}

const char* v() {

// Returns address of static character array:

return “result of function v()”;

}

const int* const w() {

static int i;

return &i;

}

int main() {

int x = 0;

int* ip = &x;

const int* cip = &x;

t(ip); // OK

//! t(cip); // Not OK

u(ip); // OK

u(cip); // Also OK

//! char* cp = v(); // Not OK

const char* ccp = v(); // OK

//! int* ip2 = w(); // Not OK

const int* const ccip = w(); // OK

const int* cip2 = w(); // OK

//! *w() = 1; // Not OK

} ///:~

The function t( ) takes an ordinary non-const pointer as an argument, and u( ) takes a const pointer. Inside u( ) you can see that attempting to modify the destination of the const pointer is illegal, but you can of course copy the information out into a non-const variable. The compiler also prevents you from creating a non-const pointer using the address stored inside a const pointer.

The functions v( ) and w( ) test return value semantics. v( ) returns a const char* that is created from a character array literal. This statement actually produces the address of the character array literal, after the compiler creates it and stores it in the static storage area. As mentioned earlier, this character array is technically a constant, which is properly expressed by the return value of v( ).

The return value of w( ) requires that both the pointer and what it points to must be const. As with v( ), the value returned by w( ) is valid after the function returns only because it is static. You never want to return pointers to local stack variables because they will be invalid after the function returns and the stack is cleaned up. (Another common pointer you might return is the address of storage allocated on the heap, which is still valid after the function returns.)

In main( ), the functions are tested with various arguments. You can see that t( ) will accept a non-const pointer argument, but if you try to pass it a pointer to a const, there’s no promise that t( ) will leave the pointer’s destination alone, so the compiler gives you an error message. u( ) takes a const pointer, so it will accept both types of arguments. Thus, a function that takes a const pointer is more general than one that does not.

As expected, the return value of v( ) can be assigned only to a const pointer. You would also expect that the compiler refuses to assign the return value of w( ) to a non-const pointer, and accepts a const int* const, but it might be a bit surprising to see that it also accepts a const int*, which is not an exact match to the return type. Once again, because the value (which is the address contained in the pointer) is being copied, the promise that the original variable is untouched is automatically kept. Thus, the second const in const int* const is only meaningful when you try to use it as an lvalue, in which case the compiler prevents you.

Standard argument passing

In C it’s very common to pass by value, and when you want to pass an address your only choice is to use a pointer[31]. However, neither of these approaches is preferred in C++. Instead, your first choice when passing an argument is to pass by reference, and by const reference at that. To the client programmer, the syntax is identical to that of passing by value, so there’s no confusion about pointers – they don’t even have to think about pointers. For the creator of the function, passing an address is virtually always more efficient than passing an entire class object, and if you pass by const reference it means your function will not change the destination of that address, so the effect from the client programmer’s point of view is exactly the same as pass-by-value (only more efficient).

Because of the syntax of references (it looks like pass-by-value to the caller) it’s possible to pass a temporary object to a function that takes a const reference, whereas you can never pass a temporary object to a function that takes a pointer – with a pointer, the address must be explicitly taken. So passing by reference produces a new situation that never occurs in C: a temporary, which is always const, can have its address passed to a function. This is why, to allow temporaries to be passed to functions by reference, the argument must be a const reference. The following example demonstrates this:

//: C08:ConstTemporary.cpp

// Temporaries are const

class X {};

X f() { return X(); } // Return by value

void g1(X&) {} // Pass by non-const reference

void g2(const X&) {} // Pass by const reference

int main() {

// Error: const temporary created by f():

//! g1(f());

// OK: g2 takes a const reference:

g2(f());

} ///:~

f( ) returns an object of class X by value. That means when you immediately take the return value of f( ) and pass it to another function as in the calls to g1( ) and g2( ), a temporary is created and that temporary is const. Thus, the call in g1( ) is an error because g1( ) doesn’t take a const reference, but the call to g2( ) is OK.

Classes

This section shows the ways you can use const with classes. You may want to create a local const in a class to use inside constant expressions that will be evaluated at compile time. However, the meaning of const is different inside classes, so you must understand the options in order to create const data members of a class.

You can also make an entire object const (and as you’ve just seen, the compiler always makes temporary objects const). But preserving the constness of an object is more complex. The compiler can ensure the constness of a built-in type but it cannot monitor the intricacies of a class. To guarantee the constness of a class object, the const member function is introduced: only a const member function may be called for a const object.

const in classes

One of the places you’d like to use a const for constant expressions is inside classes. The typical example is when you’re creating an array inside a class and you want to use a const instead of a #define to establish the array size and to use in calculations involving the array. The array size is something you’d like to keep hidden inside the class, so if you used a name like size, for example, you could use that name in another class without a clash. The preprocessor treats all #defines as global from the point they are defined, so this will not achieve the desired effect.

You might assume that the logical choice is to place a const inside the class. This doesn’t produce the desired result. Inside a class, const partially reverts to its meaning in C. It allocates storage within each object and represents a value that is initialized once and then cannot change. The use of const inside a class means “This is constant for the lifetime of the object.” However, each different object may contain a different value for that constant.

Thus, when you create an ordinary (non-static) const inside a class, you cannot give it an initial value. This initialization must occur in the constructor, of course, but in a special place in the constructor. Because a const must be initialized at the point it is created, inside the main body of the constructor the const must already be initialized. Otherwise you’re left with the choice of waiting until some point later in the constructor body, which means the const would be un-initialized for a while. Also, there would be nothing to keep you from changing the value of the const at various places in the constructor body.

The constructor initializer list

The special initialization point is called the constructor initializer list, and it was originally developed for use in inheritance (an object-oriented subject of a later chapter). The constructor initializer list – which, as the name implies, occurs only in the definition of the constructor – is a list of “constructor calls” that occur after the function argument list and a colon, but before the opening brace of the constructor body. This is to remind you that the initialization in the list occurs before any of the main constructor code is executed. This is the place to put all const initializations. The proper form for const inside a class is shown here:

//: C08:ConstInitialization.cpp

// Initializing const in classes

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Fred {

const int size;

public:

Fred(int sz);

void print();

};

Fred::Fred(int sz) : size(sz) {}

void Fred::print() { cout << size << endl; }

int main() {

Fred a(1), b(2), c(3);

a.print(), b.print(), c.print();

} ///:~

The form of the constructor initializer list shown above is confusing at first because you’re not used to seeing a built-in type treated as if it has a constructor.

“Constructors” for built-in types

As the language developed and more effort was put into making user-defined types look like built-in types, it became apparent that there were times when it was helpful to make built-in types look like user-defined types. In the constructor initializer list, you can treat a built-in type as if it has a constructor, like this:

//: C08:BuiltInTypeConstructors.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class B {

int i;

public:

B(int ii);

void print();

};

B::B(int ii) : i(ii) {}

void B::print() { cout << i << endl; }

int main() {

B a(1), b(2);

float pi(3.14159);

a.print(); b.print();

cout << pi << endl;

} ///:~

This is especially critical when initializing const data members because they must be initialized before the function body is entered.

It made sense to extend this “constructor” for built-in types (which simply means assignment) to the general case, which is why the float pi(3.14159) definition works in the above code.

It’s often useful to encapsulate a built-in type inside a class to guarantee initialization with the constructor. For example, here’s an Integer class:

//: C08:EncapsulatingTypes.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Integer {

int i;

public:

Integer(int ii = 0);

void print();

};

Integer::Integer(int ii) : i(ii) {}

void Integer::print() { cout << i << ‘ ‘; }

int main() {

Integer i[100];

for(int j = 0; j < 100; j++)

i[j].print();

} ///:~

The array of Integers in main( ) are all automatically initialized to zero. This initialization isn’t necessarily more costly than a for loop or memset( ). Many compilers easily optimize this to a very fast process.

Compile-time constants in classes

The above use of const is interesting and probably useful in cases, but it does not solve the original problem which is: “how do you make a compile-time constant inside a class?” The answer requires the use of an additional keyword which will not be fully introduced until Chapter XX: static. The static keyword, in this situation, means “there’s only one instance, regardless of how many objects of the class are created,” which is precisely what we need here: a member of a class which is constant, and which cannot change from one object of the class to another. Thus, a static const of a built-in type can be treated as a compile-time constant.

There is one feature of static const when used inside classes which is a bit unusual: you must provide the initializer at the point of definition of the static const. This is something that only occurs with the static const; as much as you might like to use it in other situations it won’t work because all other data members must be initialized in the constructor or in other member functions.

Here’s an example that shows the creation and use of a static const called size inside a class that represents a stack of string pointers:

//: C08:StringStack.cpp

// Using static const to create a compile-time

// constant inside a class

#include <string>

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class StringStack {

static const int size = 100;

const string* stack[size];

int index;

public:

StringStack();

void push(const string* s);

const string* pop();

};

StringStack::StringStack() : index(0) {

memset(stack, 0, size * sizeof(string*));

}

void StringStack::push(const string* s) {

if(index < size)

stack[index++] = s;

}

const string* StringStack::pop() {

if(index > 0) {

const string* rv = stack[–index];

stack[index] = 0;

return rv;

}

return 0;

}

string iceCream[] = {

“pralines & cream”,

“fudge ripple”,

“jamocha almond fudge”,

“wild mountain blackberry”,

“raspberry sorbet”,

“lemon swirl”,

“rocky road”,

“deep chocolate fudge”

};

const int iCsz =

sizeof iceCream / sizeof *iceCream;

int main() {

StringStack ss;

for(int i = 0; i < iCsz; i++)

ss.push(&iceCream[i]);

const string* cp;

while((cp = ss.pop()) != 0)

cout << *cp << endl;

} ///:~

Since size is used to determine the size of the array stack, it is indeed a compile-time constant, but one that is hidden inside the class.

Notice that push( ) takes a const string* as an argument, pop( ) returns a const string*, and StringStack holds const string*. If this were not true, you couldn’t use a StringStack to hold the pointers in iceCream. However, it also prevents you from doing anything that will change the objects contained by StringStack. Of course, not all containers are designed with this restriction.

The “enum hack” in old code

In older versions of C++, static const was not supported inside classes. This meant that const was useless for constant expressions inside classes. However, people still wanted to do this so a common solution (typically referred to as the “enum hack”) was to use an untagged enum with no instances. An enumeration must have all its values established at compile time, it’s local to the class, and its values are available for constant expressions. Thus, you will commonly see (in older code[32]):

//: C08:EnumHack.cpp

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Bunch {

enum { size = 1000 };

int i[size];

};

int main() {

cout << “sizeof(Bunch) = ” << sizeof(Bunch) <<

“, sizeof(i[1000]) = ” << sizeof(int[1000])

<< endl;

} ///:~

The use of enum here is guaranteed to occupy no storage in the object, and the enumerators are all evaluated at compile time. You can also explicitly establish the values of the enumerators:

enum { one = 1, two = 2, three };

With integral enum types, the compiler will continue counting from the last value, so the enumerator three will get the value 3.

In the StringStack.cpp example above, the line:

static const int size = 100;

would be instead:

enum { size = 100 };

Although you’ll often see the enum technique in legacy code, the static const feature was added to the language to solve just this problem and it produces a more flexible compile-time constant inside a class.

const objects & member functions

Class member functions can be made const. What does this mean? To understand, you must first grasp the concept of const objects.

A const object is defined the same for a user-defined type as a built-in type. For example:

const int i = 1;

const blob b(2);

Here, b is a const object of type blob. Its constructor is called with an argument of two. For the compiler to enforce constness, it must ensure that no data members of the object are changed during the object’s lifetime. It can easily ensure that no public data is modified, but how is it to know which member functions will change the data and which ones are “safe” for a const object?

If you declare a member function const, you tell the compiler the function can be called for a const object. A member function that is not specifically declared const is treated as one that will modify data members in an object, and the compiler will not allow you to call it for a const object.

It doesn’t stop there, however. Just claiming a member function is const doesn’t guarantee it will act that way, so the compiler forces you to reiterate the const specification when defining the function. (The const becomes part of the function signature, so both the compiler and linker check for constness.) Then it enforces constness during the function definition by issuing an error message if you try to change any members of the object or call a non-const member function. Thus, any member function you declare const is guaranteed to behave that way in the definition.

To understand the syntax for declaring const member functions, first notice that preceding the function declaration with const means the return value is const, so that doesn’t produce the desired results. Instead, you must place the const specifier after the argument list. For example,

//: C08:ConstMember.cpp

class X {

int i;

public:

X(int ii);

int f() const;

};

X::X(int ii) : i(ii) {}

int X::f() const { return i; }

int main() {

X x1(10);

const X x2(20);

x1.f();

x2.f();

} ///:~

Note that the const keyword must be repeated in the definition or the compiler sees it as a different function. Since f( ) is a const member function, if it attempts to change i in any way or to call another member function that is not const, the compiler flags it as an error.

You can see that a const member function is safe to call with both const and non-const objects. Thus, you could think of it as the most general form of a member function (and because of this, it is unfortunate that member functions do not automatically default to const). Any function that doesn’t modify member data should be declared as const, so it can be used with const objects.

Here’s an example that contrasts a const and non-const member function:

//: C08:Quoter.cpp

// Random quote selection

#include <iostream>

#include <cstdlib> // Random number generator

#include <ctime> // To seed random generator

using namespace std;

class Quoter {

int lastquote;

public:

Quoter();

int lastQuote() const;

const char* quote();

};

Quoter::Quoter(){

lastquote = -1;

srand(time(0)); // Seed random number generator

}

int Quoter::lastQuote() const {

return lastquote;

}

const char* Quoter::quote() {

static const char* quotes[] = {

“Are we having fun yet?”,

“Doctors always know best”,

“Is it … Atomic?”,

“Fear is obscene”,

“There is no scientific evidence ”

“to support the idea ”

“that life is serious”,

“Things that make us happy, make us wise”,

};

const int qsize = sizeof quotes/sizeof *quotes;

int qnum = rand() % qsize;

while(lastquote >= 0 && qnum == lastquote)

qnum = rand() % qsize;

return quotes[lastquote = qnum];

}

int main() {

Quoter q;

const Quoter cq;

cq.lastQuote(); // OK

//! cq.quote(); // Not OK; non const function

for(int i = 0; i < 20; i++)

cout << q.quote() << endl;

} ///:~

Neither constructors nor destructors can be const member functions because they virtually always perform some modification on the object during initialization and cleanup. The quote( ) member function also cannot be const because it modifies the data member lastquote (see the return statement). However, lastQuote( ) makes no modifications, and so it can be const and can be safely called for the const object cq.

mutable: bitwise vs. memberwise const

What if you want to create a const member function, but you’d still like to change some of the data in the object? This is sometimes referred to as the difference between bitwise const and memberwise const. Bitwise const means that every bit in the object is permanent, so a bit image of the object will never change. Memberwise const means that, although the entire object is conceptually constant, there may be changes on a member-by-member basis. However, if the compiler is told that an object is const, it will jealously guard that object to ensure bitwise constness. To effect memberwise constness, there are two ways to change a data member from within a const member function.

The first approach is the historical one and is called casting away constness. It is performed in a rather odd fashion. You take this (the keyword that produces the address of the current object) and cast it to a pointer to an object of the current type. It would seem that this is already such a pointer. However, inside a const member function it’s actually a const pointer, so by casting it to an ordinary pointer, you remove the constness for that operation. Here’s an example:

//: C08:Castaway.cpp

// “Casting away” constness

class Y {

int i;

public:

Y();

void f() const;

};

Y:: Y() { i = 0; }

void Y::f() const {

//! i++; // Error — const member function

((Y*)this)->i++; // OK: cast away const-ness

}

int main() {

const Y yy;

yy.f(); // Actually changes it!

} ///:~

This approach works and you’ll see it used in legacy code, but it is not the preferred technique. The problem is that this lack of constness is hidden away in a member function definition, and you have no clue from the class interface that the data of the object is actually being modified unless you have access to the source code (and you must suspect that constness is being cast away, and look for the cast). To put everything out in the open, you should use the mutable keyword in the class declaration to specify that a particular data member may be changed inside a const object:

//: C08:Mutable.cpp

// The “mutable” keyword

class Z {

int i;

mutable int j;

public:

Z();

void f() const;

};

Z::Z() { i = j = 0; }

void Z::f() const {

//! i++; // Error — const member function

j++; // OK: mutable

}

int main() {

const Z zz;

zz.f(); // Actually changes it!

} ///:~

This way, the user of the class can see from the declaration which members are likely to be modified in a const member function.

ROMability

If an object is defined as const, it is a candidate to be placed in read-only memory (ROM), which is often an important consideration in embedded systems programming. Simply making an object const, however, is not enough – the requirements for ROMability are much more strict. Of course, the object must be bitwise-const, rather than memberwise-const. This is easy to see if memberwise constness is implemented only through the mutable keyword, but probably not detectable by the compiler if constness is cast away inside a const member function. In addition,

1. The class or struct must have no user-defined constructors or destructor.

2. There can be no base classes (covered in the future chapter on inheritance) or member objects with user-defined constructors or destructors.

The effect of a write operation on any part of a const object of a ROMable type is undefined. Although a suitably formed object may be placed in ROM, no objects are ever required to be placed in ROM.

volatile

The syntax of volatile is identical to that for const, but volatile means “This data may change outside the knowledge of the compiler.” Somehow, the environment is changing the data (possibly through multitasking, multithreading or interrupts), and volatile tells the compiler not to make any assumptions about that data, especially during optimization.

If the compiler says, “I read this data into a register earlier, and I haven’t touched that register,” normally it wouldn’t need to read the data again. But if the data is volatile, the compiler cannot make such an assumption because the data may have been changed by another process, and it must reread that data rather than optimizing the code to remove what would normally be a redundant read.

You create volatile objects using the same syntax that you use to create const objects. You can also create const volatile objects, which can’t be changed by the client programmer but instead change through some outside agency. Here is an example that might represent a class associated with some piece of communication hardware:

//: C08:Volatile.cpp

// The volatile keyword

class Comm {

const volatile unsigned char byte;

volatile unsigned char flag;

static const int bufsize = 100;

unsigned char buf[bufsize];

int index;

public:

Comm();

void isr() volatile;

char read(int index) const;

};

Comm::Comm() : index(0), byte(0), flag(0) {}

// Only a demo; won’t actually work

// as an interrupt service routine:

void Comm::isr() volatile {

if(flag) flag = 0;

buf[index++] = byte;

// Wrap to beginning of buffer:

if(index >= bufsize) index = 0;

}

char Comm::read(int index) const {

if(index < 0 || index >= bufsize)

return 0;

return buf[index];

}

int main() {

volatile Comm Port;

Port.isr(); // OK

//! Port.read(0); // Error, read() not volatile

} ///:~

As with const, you can use volatile for data members, member functions, and objects themselves. You can only call volatile member functions for volatile objects.

The reason that isr( ) can’t actually be used as an interrupt service routine is that in a member function, the address of the current object (this) must be secretly passed, and an ISR generally wants no arguments at all. To solve this problem, you can make isr( ) a static member function, a subject covered in a future chapter.

The syntax of volatile is identical to const, so discussions of the two are often treated together. The two are referred to in combination as the c‑v qualifier.

Summary

The const keyword gives you the ability to define objects, function arguments, return values and member functions as constants, and to eliminate the preprocessor for value substitution without losing any preprocessor benefits. All this provides a significant additional form of type checking and safety in your programming. The use of so-called const correctness (the use of const anywhere you possibly can) can be a lifesaver for projects.

Although you can ignore const and continue to use old C coding practices, it’s there to help you. Chapters XX & XX begin using references heavily, and there you’ll see even more about how critical it is to use const with function arguments.

Exercises

1. Create three const int values, then add them together to produce a value that determines the size of an array in an array definition. Try to compile the same code in C and see what happens (you can generally force your C++ compiler to run as a C compiler by using a command-line flag).

2. Prove to yourself that the C and C++ compilers really do treat constants differently. Create a global const and use it in a constant expression; then compile it under both C and C++.

3. Create example const definitions for all the built-in types and their variants. Use these in expressions with other consts to make new const definitions. Make sure they compile successfully.

4. Create a const definition in a header file, include that header file in two .cpp files, then compile those files and link them. You should not get any errors. Now try the same experiment with C.

5. Create a const whose value is determined at run time by reading the time when the program starts (you’ll have to use the <ctime> standard header). Later in the program, try to read a second value of the time into your const and see what happens.

6. Create a const array of char, then try to change one of the chars.

7. Create an extern const declaration in one file, and put a main( ) in that file that prints the value of the extern const. Provide an extern const definition in a second file, then compile and link the two files together.

8. Write two pointers to const long using both forms of the declaration. Point one of them to an array of long. Demonstrate that you can increment or decrement the pointer, but you can’t change what it points to.

9. Write a const pointer to a double, and point it at an array of double. Show that you can change what the pointer points to, but you can’t increment or decrement the pointer.

10. Write a const pointer to a const object. Show that you can only read the value that the pointer points to, but you can’t change the pointer or what it points to.

11. Remove the comment on the error-generating line of code in PointerAssignment.cpp to see the error that your compiler generates.

12. Create a character array literal with a pointer that points to the beginning of the array. Now use the pointer to modify elements in the array. Does your compiler report this as an error? Should it? If it doesn’t, why do you think that is?

13. Create a function that takes an argument by value as a const; then try to change that argument in the function body.

14. Create a a function that takes a float by value. Inside the function, bind a const float& to the argument, and only use the reference from then on to ensure that the argument is not changed.

15. Modify ConstReturnValues.cpp removing comments on the error-causing lines one at a time, to see what error messages your compiler generates.

16. Modify ConstPointer.cpp removing comments on the error-causing lines one at a time, to see what error messages your compiler generates.

17. Make a new version of ConstPointer.cpp called ConstReference.cpp which demonstrates references instead of pointers (you may need to look forward to Chapter XX).

18. Modify ConstTemporary.cpp removing the comment on the error-causing line to see what error messages your compiler generates.

19. Create a class containing both a const and a non-const float. Initialize these using the constructor initializer list.

20. Create a class called MyString which contains a string and has a constructor that initializes the string, and a print( ) function. Modify StringStack.cpp so that the container holds MyString objects, and main( ) so it prints them.

21. Create a class containing a const member that you initialize in the constructor initializer list and an untagged enumeration that you use to determine an array size.

22. In ConstMember.cpp, remove the const specifier on the member function definition, but leave it on the declaration, to see what kind of compiler error message you get.

23. Create a class with both const and non-const member functions. Create const and non-const objects of this class, and try calling the different types of member functions for the different types of objects.

24. Create a class with both const and non-const member functions. Try to call a non-const member function from a const member function to see what kind of compiler error message you get.

25. In Mutable.cpp, remove the comment on the error-causing line to see what sort of error message your compiler produces.

26. Modify Quoter.cpp by making quote( ) a const member function and lastquote mutable.

27. Create a class with a volatile data member. Create both volatile and non-volatile member functions that modify the volatile data member, and see what the compiler says. Create both volatile and non-volatile objects of your class and try calling both the volatile and non-volatile member functions to see what is successful and what kind of error messages the compiler produces.

28. Create a class called bird that can fly( ) and a class rock that can’t. Create a rock object, take its address, and assign that to a void*. Now take the void*, assign it to a bird* (you’ll have to use a cast), and call fly( ) through that pointer. Is it clear why C’s permission to openly assign via a void* (without a cast) is a “hole” in the language, which couldn’t be propagated into C++?

9: Inline functions

One of the important features C++ inherits from C is efficiency. If the efficiency of C++ were dramatically less than C, there would be a significant contingent of programmers who couldn’t justify its use.

In C, one of the ways to preserve efficiency is through the use of macros, which allow you to make what looks like a function call without the normal overhead of the function call. The macro is implemented with the preprocessor rather than the compiler proper, and the preprocessor replaces all macro calls directly with the macro code, so there’s no cost involved from pushing arguments, making an assembly-language CALL, returning arguments, and performing an assembly-language RETURN. All the work is performed by the preprocessor, so you have the convenience and readability of a function call but it doesn’t cost you anything.

There are two problems with the use of preprocessor macros in C++. The first is also true with C: A macro looks like a function call, but doesn’t always act like one. This can bury difficult-to-find bugs. The second problem is specific to C++: The preprocessor has no permission to access private data. This means preprocessor macros are virtually useless as class member functions.

To retain the efficiency of the preprocessor macro, but to add the safety and class scoping of true functions, C++ has the inline function. In this chapter, we’ll look at the problems of preprocessor macros in C++, how these problems are solved with inline functions, and guidelines and insights on the way inlines work.

Preprocessor pitfalls

The key to the problems of preprocessor macros is that you can be fooled into thinking that the behavior of the preprocessor is the same as the behavior of the compiler. Of course, it was intended that a macro look and act like a function call, so it’s quite easy to fall into this fiction. The difficulties begin when the subtle differences appear.

As a simple example, consider the following:

#define F (x) (x + 1)

Now, if a call is made to F like this

F(1)

the preprocessor expands it, somewhat unexpectedly, to the following:

(x) (x + 1)(1)

The problem occurs because of the gap between F and its opening parenthesis in the macro definition. When this gap is removed, you can actually call the macro with the gap

F (1)

and it will still expand properly, to

(1 + 1)

The above example is fairly trivial and the problem will make itself evident right away. The real difficulties occur when using expressions as arguments in macro calls.

There are two problems. The first is that expressions may expand inside the macro so that their evaluation precedence is different from what you expect. For example,

#define FLOOR(x,b) x>=b?0:1

Now, if expressions are used for the arguments

if(FLOOR(a&0x0f,0x07)) // …

the macro will expand to

if(a&0x0f>=0x07?0:1)

The precedence of & is lower than that of >=, so the macro evaluation will surprise you. Once you discover the problem (and as a general practice when creating preprocessor macros) you can solve it by putting parentheses around everything in the macro definition. Thus,

#define FLOOR(x,b) ((x)>=(b)?0:1)

Discovering the problem may be difficult, however, and you may not find it until after you’ve taken the proper macro behavior for granted. In the unparenthesized version of the preceding example, most expressions will work correctly, because the precedence of >= is lower than most of the operators like +, /, – –, and even the bitwise shift operators. So you can easily begin to think that it works with all expressions, including those using bitwise logical operators.

The preceding problem can be solved with careful programming practice: Parenthesize everything in a macro. The second difficulty is more subtle. Unlike a normal function, every time you use an argument in a macro, that argument is evaluated. As long as the macro is called only with ordinary variables, this evaluation is benign, but if the evaluation of an argument has side effects, then the results can be surprising and will definitely not mimic function behavior.

For example, this macro determines whether its argument falls within a certain range:

#define BAND(X) (((X)>5 && (X)<10) ? (X) : 0)

As long as you use an “ordinary” argument, the macro works very much like a real function. But as soon as you relax and start believing it is a real function, the problems start. Thus,

//: C09:Macro.cpp

// Side effects with macros

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

#define BAND(X) (((X)>5 && (X)<10) ? (X) : 0)

int main() {

ofstream out(“macro.out”);

assure(out, “macro.out”);

for(int i = 4; i < 11; i++) {

int a = i;

out << “a = ” << a << endl << ‘\t’;

out << “BAND(++a)=” << BAND(++a) << endl;

out << “\t a = ” << a << endl;

}

} ///:~

Here’s the output produced by the program, which is not at all what you would have expected from a true function:

a = 4

BAND(++a)=0

a = 5

a = 5

BAND(++a)=8

a = 8

a = 6

BAND(++a)=9

a = 9

a = 7

BAND(++a)=10

a = 10

a = 8

BAND(++a)=0

a = 10

a = 9

BAND(++a)=0

a = 11

a = 10

BAND(++a)=0

a = 12

When a is four, only the first part of the conditional occurs, so the expression is evaluated only once, and the side effect of the macro call is that a becomes five, which is what you would expect from a normal function call in the same situation. However, when the number is within the band, both conditionals are tested, which results in two increments. The result is produced by evaluating the argument again, which results in a third increment. Once the number gets out of the band, both conditionals are still tested so you get two increments. The side effects are different, depending on the argument.

This is clearly not the kind of behavior you want from a macro that looks like a function call. In this case, the obvious solution is to make it a true function, which of course adds the extra overhead and may reduce efficiency if you call that function a lot. Unfortunately, the problem may not always be so obvious, and you can unknowingly get a library that contains functions and macros mixed together, so a problem like this can hide some very difficult-to-find bugs. For example, the putc( ) macro in cstdio may evaluate its second argument twice. This is specified in Standard C. Also, careless implementations of toupper( ) as a macro may evaluate the argument more than once, which will give you unexpected results with toupper(*p++).[33]

Macros and access

Of course, careful coding and use of preprocessor macros are required with C, and we could certainly get away with the same thing in C++ if it weren’t for one problem: A macro has no concept of the scoping required with member functions. The preprocessor simply performs text substitution, so you cannot say something like

class X {

int i;

public:

#define VAL (X::i) // Error

or anything even close. In addition, there would be no indication of which object you were referring to. There is simply no way to express class scope in a macro. Without some alternative to preprocessor macros, programmers will be tempted to make some data members public for the sake of efficiency, thus exposing the underlying implementation and preventing changes in that implementation.

Inline functions

In solving the C++ problem of a macro with access to private class members, all the problems associated with preprocessor macros were eliminated. This was done by bringing macros under the control of the compiler, where they belong. In C++, the concept of a macro is implemented as an inline function, which is a true function in every sense. Any behavior you expect from an ordinary function, you get from an inline function. The only difference is that an inline function is expanded in place, like a preprocessor macro, so the overhead of the function call is eliminated. Thus, you should (almost) never use macros, only inline functions.

Any function defined within a class body is automatically inline, but you can also make a nonclass function inline by preceding it with the inline keyword. However, for it to have any effect, you must include the function body with the declaration; otherwise the compiler will treat it as an ordinary function declaration. Thus,

inline int plusOne(int x);

has no effect at all other than declaring the function (which may or may not get an inline definition sometime later). The successful approach is

inline int plusOne(int x) { return ++x; }

Notice that the compiler will check (as it always does) for the proper use of the function argument list and return value (performing any necessary conversions), something the preprocessor is incapable of. Also, if you try to write the above as a preprocessor macro, you get an unwanted side effect.

You’ll almost always want to put inline definitions in a header file. When the compiler sees such a definition, it puts the function type (signature + return value) and the function body in its symbol table. When you use the function, the compiler checks to ensure the call is correct and the return value is being used correctly, and then substitutes the function body for the function call, thus eliminating the overhead. The inline code does occupy space, but if the function is small, this can actually take less space than the code generated to do an ordinary function call (pushing arguments on the stack and doing the CALL).

An inline function in a header file defaults to internal linkage – that is, it is static and can only be seen in translation units where it is included. Thus, as long as they aren’t declared in the same translation unit, there will be no clash at link time between an inline function and a global function with the same signature. (Remember the return value is not included in the resolution of function overloading.

Inlines inside classes

To define an inline function, you must ordinarily precede the function definition with the inline keyword. However, this is not necessary inside a class definition. Any function you define inside a class definition is automatically an inline. Thus,

//: C09:Inline.cpp

// Inlines inside classes

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Point {

int i, j, k;

public:

Point() { i = j = k = 0; }

Point(int ii, int jj, int kk) {

i = ii;

j = jj;

k = kk;

}

void print(const char* msg = “”) const {

if(*msg) cout << msg << endl;

cout << “i = ” << i << “, ”

<< “j = ” << j << “, ”

<< “k = ” << k << endl;

}

};

int main() {

Point p, q(1,2,3);

p.print(“value of p”);

q.print(“value of q”);

} ///:~

Of course, the temptation is to use inlines everywhere inside class declarations because they save you the extra step of making the external member function definition. Keep in mind, however, that the idea of an inline is to reduce the overhead of a function call. If the function body is large, chances are you’ll spend a much larger percentage of your time inside the body versus going in and out of the function, so the gains will be small. But inlining a big function will cause that code to be duplicated everywhere the function is called, producing code bloat with little or no speed benefit.

Access functions

One of the most important uses of inlines inside classes is the access function. This is a small function that allows you to read or change part of the state of an object – that is, an internal variable or variables. The reason inlines are so important with access functions can be seen in the following example:

//: C09:Access.cpp

// Inline access functions

class Access {

int i;

public:

int read() const { return i; }

void set(int ii) { i = ii; }

};

int main() {

Access A;

A.set(100);

int x = A.read();

} ///:~

Here, the class user never has direct contact with the state variables inside the class, and they can be kept private, under the control of the class designer. All the access to the private data members can be controlled through the member function interface. In addition, access is remarkably efficient. Consider the read( ), for example. Without inlines, the code generated for the call to read( ) would include pushing this on the stack and making an assembly language CALL. With most machines, the size of this code would be larger than the code created by the inline, and the execution time would certainly be longer.

Without inline functions, an efficiency-conscious class designer will be tempted to simply make i a public member, eliminating the overhead by allowing the user to directly access i. From a design standpoint, this is disastrous because i then becomes part of the public interface, which means the class designer can never change it. You’re stuck with an int called i. This is a problem because you may learn sometime later that it would be much more useful to represent the state information as a float rather than an int, but because int i is part of the public interface, you can’t change it. If, on the other hand, you’ve always used member functions to read and change the state information of an object, you can modify the underlying representation of the object to your heart’s content (and permanently remove from your mind the idea that you are going to perfect your design before you code it and try it out).

Accessors and mutators

Some people further divide the concept of access functions into accessors (to read state information from an object) and mutators (to change the state of an object). In addition, function overloading may be used to provide the same function name for both the accessor and mutator; how you call the function determines whether you’re reading or modifying state information. Thus,

//: C09:Rectangle.cpp

// Accessors & mutators

class Rectangle {

int _width, _height;

public:

Rectangle(int w = 0, int h = 0)

: _width(w), _height(h) {}

int width() const { return _width; } // Read

void width(int w) { _width = w; } // Set

int height() const { return _height; } // Read

void height(int h) { _height = h; } // Set

};

int main() {

Rectangle r(19, 47);

// Change width & height:

r.height(2 * r.width());

r.width(2 * r.height());

} ///:~

The constructor uses the constructor initializer list (briefly introduced in Chapter XX and covered fully in Chapter XX) to initialize the values of _width and _height (using the pseudoconstructor-call form for built-in types).

Since you cannot have member function names using the same identifiers as data members, the data members are distinguished with a leading underscore (this way, the coding standard described in Appendix A can be followed, whereby all variables and functions begin with lowercase letters). Because this is a bit awkward, and because overloading this way might seem confusing, you may choose instead to use “get” and “set” to indicate accessors and mutators:

//: C09:Rectangle2.cpp

// Accessors & mutators with “get” and “set”

class Rectangle {

int width, height;

public:

Rectangle(int w = 0, int h = 0)

: width(w), height(h) {}

int getWidth() const { return width; }

void setWidth(int w) { width = w; }

int getHeight() const { return height; }

void setHeight(int h) { height = h; }

};

int main() {

Rectangle r(19, 47);

// Change width & height:

r.setHeight(2 * r.getWidth());

r.setWidth(2 * r.getHeight());

} ///:~

Of course, accessors and mutators don’t have to be simple pipelines to an internal variable. Sometimes they can perform some sort of calculation. The following example uses the Standard C library time functions to produce a simple Time class:

//: C09:Cpptime.h

// A simple time class

#ifndef CPPTIME_H

#define CPPTIME_H

#include <ctime>

#include <cstring>

class Time {

std::time_t t;

std::tm local;

char asciiRep[26];

unsigned char lflag, aflag;

void updateLocal() {

if(!lflag) {

local = *std::localtime(&t);

lflag++;

}

}

void updateAscii() {

if(!aflag) {

updateLocal();

std::strcpy(asciiRep,std::asctime(&local));

aflag++;

}

}

public:

Time() { mark(); }

void mark() {

lflag = aflag = 0;

std::time(&t);

}

const char* ascii() {

updateAscii();

return asciiRep;

}

// Difference in seconds:

int delta(Time* dt) const {

return std::difftime(t, dt->t);

}

int daylightSavings() {

updateLocal();

return local.tm_isdst;

}

int dayOfYear() { // Since January 1

updateLocal();

return local.tm_yday;

}

int dayOfWeek() { // Since Sunday

updateLocal();

return local.tm_wday;

}

int since1900() { // Years since 1900

updateLocal();

return local.tm_year;

}

int month() { // Since January

updateLocal();

return local.tm_mon;

}

int dayOfMonth() {

updateLocal();

return local.tm_mday;

}

int hour() { // Since midnight, 24-hour clock

updateLocal();

return local.tm_hour;

}

int minute() {

updateLocal();

return local.tm_min;

}

int second() {

updateLocal();

return local.tm_sec;

}

};

#endif // CPPTIME_H ///:~

The Standard C library functions have multiple representations for time, and these are all part of the Time class. However, it isn’t necessary to update all of them all the time, so instead the time_t t is used as the base representation, and the tm local and ASCII character representation asciiRep each have flags to indicate if they’ve been updated to the current time_t. The two private functions updateLocal( ) and updateAscii( ) check the flags and conditionally perform the update.

The constructor calls the mark( ) function (which the user can also call to force the object to represent the current time), and this clears the two flags to indicate that the local time and ASCII representation are now invalid. The ascii( ) function calls updateAscii( ), which copies the result of the Standard C library function asctime( ) into a local buffer because asctime( ) uses a static data area that is overwritten if the function is called elsewhere. The return value is the address of this local buffer.

In the functions starting with DaylightSavings( ), all use the updateLocal( ) function, which causes the composite inline to be fairly large. This doesn’t seem worthwhile, especially considering you probably won’t call the functions very much. However, this doesn’t mean all the functions should be made out of line. If you leave updateLocal( ) as an inline, its code will be duplicated in all the out-of-line functions, eliminating the extra overhead.

Here’s a small test program:

//: C09:Cpptime.cpp

// Testing a simple time class

#include “Cpptime.h”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main() {

Time start;

for(int i = 1; i < 1000; i++) {

cout << i << ‘ ‘;

if(i%10 == 0) cout << endl;

}

Time end;

cout << endl;

cout << “start = ” << start.ascii();

cout << “end = ” << end.ascii();

cout << “delta = ” << end.delta(&start);

} ///:~

A Time object is created, then some time-consuming activity is performed, then a second Time object is created to mark the ending time. These are used to show starting, ending, and elapsed times.

Stash & Stack with inlines

Inlines & the compiler

To understand when inlining is effective, it’s helpful to understand what the compiler does when it encounters an inline. As with any function, the compiler holds the function type (that is, the function prototype including the name and argument types, in combination with the function return value) in its symbol table. In addition, when the compiler sees the inline function body and the function body parses without error, the code for the function body is also brought into the symbol table. Whether the code is stored in source form or as compiled assembly instructions is up to the compiler.

When you make a call to an inline function, the compiler first ensures that the call can be correctly made; that is, all the argument types must be the proper types, or the compiler must be able to make a type conversion to the proper types, and the return value must be the correct type (or convertible to the correct type) in the destination expression. This, of course, is exactly what the compiler does for any function and is markedly different from what the preprocessor does because the preprocessor cannot check types or make conversions.

If all the function type information fits the context of the call, then the inline code is substituted directly for the function call, eliminating the call overhead. Also, if the inline is a member function, the address of the object (this) is put in the appropriate place(s), which of course is another thing the preprocessor is unable to perform.

Limitations

There are two situations when the compiler cannot perform inlining. In these cases, it simply reverts to the ordinary form of a function by taking the inline definition and creating storage for the function just as it does for a non-inline. If it must do this in multiple translation units (which would normally cause a multiple definition error), the linker is told to ignore the multiple definitions.

The compiler cannot perform inlining if the function is too complicated. This depends upon the particular compiler, but at the point most compilers give up, the inline probably wouldn’t gain you any efficiency. Generally, any sort of looping is considered too complicated to expand as an inline, and if you think about it, looping probably entails much more time inside the function than embodied in the calling overhead. If the function is just a collection of simple statements, the compiler probably won’t have any trouble inlining it, but if there are a lot of statements, the overhead of the function call will be much less than the cost of executing the body. And remember, every time you call a big inline function, the entire function body is inserted in place of each call, so you can easily get code bloat without any noticeable performance improvement. Some of the examples in this book may exceed reasonable inline sizes in favor of conserving screen real estate.

The compiler also cannot perform inlining if the address of the function is taken, implicitly or explicitly. If the compiler must produce an address, then it will allocate storage for the function code and use the resulting address. However, where an address is not required, the compiler will probably still inline the code.

It is important to understand that an inline is just a suggestion to the compiler; the compiler is not forced to inline anything at all. A good compiler will inline small, simple functions while intelligently ignoring inlines that are too complicated. This will give you the results you want – the true semantics of a function call with the efficiency of a macro.

Order of evaluation

If you’re imagining what the compiler is doing to implement inlines, you can confuse yourself into thinking there are more limitations than actually exist. In particular, if an inline makes a forward reference to a function that hasn’t yet been declared in the class, it can seem like the compiler won’t be able to handle it:

//: C09:Evorder.cpp

// Inline evaluation order

class Forward {

int i;

public:

Forward() : i(0) {}

// Call to undeclared function:

int f() const { return g() + 1; }

int g() const { return i; }

};

int main() {

Forward F;

F.f();

} ///:~

In f( ), a call is made to g( ), although g( ) has not yet been declared. This works because the language definition states that no inline functions in a class shall be evaluated until the closing brace of the class declaration.

Of course, if g( ) in turn called f( ), you’d end up with a set of recursive calls, which are too complicated for the compiler to inline. (Also, you’d have to perform some test in f( ) or g( ) to force one of them to “bottom out,” or the recursion would be infinite.)

Hidden activities in constructors & destructors

Constructors and destructors are two places where you can be fooled into thinking that an inline is more efficient than it actually is. Both constructors and destructors may have hidden activities, because the class can contain subobjects whose constructors and destructors must be called. These sub-objects may be member objects, or they may exist because of inheritance (which hasn’t been introduced yet). As an example of a class with member objects

//: C09:Hidden.cpp

// Hidden activities in inlines

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Member {

int i, j, k;

public:

Member(int x = 0) { i = j = k = x; }

~Member() { cout << “~Member” << endl; }

};

class WithMembers {

Member q, r, s; // Have constructors

int i;

public:

WithMembers(int ii) : i(ii) {} // Trivial?

~WithMembers() {

cout << “~WithMembers” << endl;

}

};

int main() {

WithMembers wm(1);

} ///:~

In class WithMembers, the inline constructor and destructor look straightforward and simple enough, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. The constructors and destructors for the member objects q, r, and s are being called automatically, and those constructors and destructors are also inline, so the difference is significant from normal member functions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should always make constructor and destructor definitions out-of-line. When you’re making an initial “sketch” of a program by quickly writing code, it’s often more convenient to use inlines. However, if you’re concerned about efficiency, it’s a place to look.

Forward referencing

Although they are convenient, inline functions exacerbate a complication that already exists without them: forward referencing. The problem is this:

Reducing clutter

In a book like this, the simplicity and terseness of putting inline definitions inside classes is very useful because more fits on a page or screen (in a seminar). However, Dan Saks[34] has pointed out that in a real project this has the effect of needlessly cluttering the class interface and thereby making the class harder to use. He refers to member functions defined within classes using the Latin in situ (in place) and maintains that all definitions should be placed outside the class to keep the interface clean. Optimization, he argues, is a separate issue. If you want to optimize, use the inline keyword. Using this approach, the earlier Rectangle.cpp example becomes

//: C09:Noinsitu.cpp

// Removing in situ functions

class Rectangle {

int width, height;

public:

Rectangle(int w = 0, int h = 0);

int getWidth() const;

void setWidth(int w);

int getHeight() const;

void setHeight(int h);

};

inline Rectangle::Rectangle(int w, int h)

: width(w), height(h) {

}

inline int Rectangle::getWidth() const {

return width;

}

inline void Rectangle::setWidth(int w) {

width = w;

}

inline int Rectangle::getHeight() const {

return height;

}

inline void Rectangle::setHeight(int h) {

height = h;

}

int main() {

Rectangle r(19, 47);

// Transpose width & height:

int iHeight = r.getHeight();

r.setHeight(r.getWidth());

r.setWidth(iHeight);

} ///:~

Now if you want to compare the effect of inlining with out-of-line functions, you can simply remove the inline keyword. (Inline functions should normally be put in header files, however, while non-inline functions must reside in their own translation unit.) If you want to put the functions into documentation, it’s a simple cut-and-paste operation. In situ functions require more work and have greater potential for errors. Another argument for this approach is that you can always produce a consistent formatting style for function definitions, something that doesn’t always occur with in situ functions.

More preprocessor features

Earlier, I said you almost always want to use inline functions instead of preprocessor macros. The exceptions are when you need to use three special features in the C preprocessor (which is, by inheritance, the C++ preprocessor): stringizing, string concatenation, and token pasting. Stringizing, performed with the # directive, allows you to take an identifier and turn it into a string, whereas string concatenation takes place when two adjacent strings have no intervening punctuation, in which case the strings are combined. These two features are exceptionally useful when writing debug code. Thus,

#define DEBUG(X) cout << #X ” = ” << X << endl

This prints the value of any variable. You can also get a trace that prints out the statements as they execute:

#define TRACE(S) cout << #S << endl; S

The #S stringizes the statement for output, and the second S reiterates the statement so it is executed. Of course, this kind of thing can cause problems, especially in one-line for loops:

for(int i = 0; i < 100; i++)

TRACE(f(i));

Because there are actually two statements in the TRACE( ) macro, the one-line for loop executes only the first one. The solution is to replace the semicolon with a comma in the macro.

Token pasting

Token pasting is very useful when you are manufacturing code. It allows you to take two identifiers and paste them together to automatically create a new identifier. For example,

#define FIELD(A) char* A##_string; int A##_size

class Record {

FIELD(one);

FIELD(two);

FIELD(three);

// …

};

Each call to the FIELD( ) macro creates an identifier to hold a string and another to hold the length of that string. Not only is it easier to read, it can eliminate coding errors and make maintenance easier. Notice, however, the use of all upper-case characters in the name of the macro. This is a helpful practice because it tells the reader this is a macro and not a function, so if there are problems, it acts as a little reminder.

Improved error checking

The require.h macros have been used up to this point without defining them (although assert( ) has also been used to help detect programmer errors, where it’s appropriate). Now it’s time to define this header file. Inline functions are convenient here because they allow everything to be placed in a header file, which simplifies the process of using the package. You just include the header file and you don’t need to worry about linking.

You should note that exceptions (presented in detail in Chapter XX) provide a much more effective way of handling many kinds of errors – especially those that you’d like to recover from, instead of just halting the program. The conditions that require.h handles, however, are ones which prevent the continuation of the program, such as if the user doesn’t provide enough command-line arguments or a file cannot be opened.

The following header file will be placed in the book’s root directory so it’s easily accessed from all chapters.

//: :require.h

// Test for error conditions in programs

// Local “using namespace std” for old compilers

#ifndef REQUIRE_H

#define REQUIRE_H

#include <cstdio>

#include <cstdlib>

#include <fstream>

inline void require(bool requirement,

const char* msg = “Requirement failed”) {

using namespace std;

if (!requirement) {

fprintf(stderr, “%s”, msg);

exit(1);

}

}

inline void requireArgs(int argc, int args,

const char* msg = “Must use %d arguments”) {

using namespace std;

if (argc != args + 1) {

fprintf(stderr, msg, args);

exit(1);

}

}

inline void requireMinArgs(int argc, int minArgs,

const char* msg =

“Must use at least %d arguments”) {

using namespace std;

if(argc < minArgs + 1) {

fprintf(stderr, msg, minArgs);

exit(1);

}

}

inline void assure(std::ifstream& in,

const char* filename = “”) {

using namespace std;

if(!in) {

fprintf(stderr,

“Could not open file %s”, filename);

exit(1);

}

}

inline void assure(std::ofstream& in,

const char* filename = “”) {

using namespace std;

if(!in) {

fprintf(stderr,

“Could not open file %s”, filename);

exit(1);

}

}

#endif // REQUIRE_H ///:~

The default values provide reasonable messages that can be changed if necessary.

In the definitions for requireArgs( ) and requireMinArgs( ), one is added to the number of arguments you need on the command line because argc always includes the name of the program being executed as the zeroth argument, and so always has a value that is one more than the number of actual arguments on the command line.

Note the use of local “using namespace std” declarations within each function. This is because some compilers at the time of this writing incorrectly did not include the C standard library functions in namespace std, so explicit qualification would cause a compile-time error. The local declaration allows require.h to work with both correct and incorrect libraries.

Here’s a simple program to test require.h:

//: C09:ErrTest.cpp

// Testing require.h

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

int i = 1;

require(i, “value must be nonzero”);

requireArgs(argc, 1);

requireMinArgs(argc, 1);

ifstream in(argv[1]);

assure(in, argv[1]); // Use the file name

ifstream nofile(“nofile.xxx”);

assure(nofile); // The default argument

ofstream out(“tmp.txt”);

assure(out);

} ///:~

You might be tempted to go one step further for opening files and add a macro to require.h:

#define IFOPEN(VAR, NAME) \

ifstream VAR(NAME); \

assure(VAR, NAME);

Which could then be used like this:

IFOPEN(in, argv[1])

At first, this might seem appealing since it means there’s less to type. It’s not terribly unsafe, but it’s a road best avoided. Note that, once again, a macro looks like a function but behaves differently: it’s actually creating an object (in) whose scope persists beyond the macro. You may understand this, but for new programmers and code maintainers it’s just one more thing they have to puzzle out. C++ is complicated enough without adding to the confusion, so try to talk yourself out of using macros whenever you can.

Summary

It’s critical that you be able to hide the underlying implementation of a class because you may want to change that implementation sometime later. You’ll do this for efficiency, or because you get a better understanding of the problem, or because some new class becomes available that you want to use in the implementation. Anything that jeopardizes the privacy of the underlying implementation reduces the flexibility of the language. Thus, the inline function is very important because it virtually eliminates the need for preprocessor macros and their attendant problems. With inlines, member functions can be as efficient as preprocessor macros.

The inline function can be overused in class definitions, of course. The programmer is tempted to do so because it’s easier, so it will happen. However, it’s not that big an issue because later, when looking for size reductions, you can always move the functions out of line with no effect on their functionality. The development guideline should be “First make it work, then optimize it.”

Exercises

1. Take Exercise 2 from Chapter 6, and add an inline constructor, and an inline member function called print( ) to print out all the values in the array.

2. Take the NestFriend.cpp example from Chapter XX and replace all the member functions with inlines. Make them non-in situ inline functions. Also change the initialize( ) functions to constructors.

3. Take the nl.cpp example from Chapter XX and turn nl into an inline function in its own header file.

4. Create a class A with a default constructor that announces itself. Now make a new class B and put an object of A as a member of B, and give B an inline constructor. Create an array of B objects and see what happens.

5. Create a large quantity of the objects from Exercise 4, and use the Time class to time the difference between a non-inline constructor and an inline constructor. (If you have a profiler, also try using that.)

10: Name control

Creating names is a fundamental activity in programming, and when a project gets large the number of names can easily be overwhelming. C++ allows you a great deal of control over both the creation and visibility of names, where storage for those names is placed, and linkage for names.

The static keyword was overloaded in C before people knew what the term “overload” meant, and C++ has added yet another meaning. The underlying concept with all uses of static seems to be “something that holds its position” (like static electricity), whether that means a physical location in memory or visibility within a file.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how static controls storage and visibility, and an improved way to control access to names via C++’s namespace feature. You’ll also find out how to use functions that were written and compiled in C.

Static elements from C

In both C and C++ the keyword static has two basic meanings, which unfortunately often step on each other’s toes:

1. Allocated once at a fixed address; that is, the object is created in a special static data area rather than on the stack each time a function is called. This is the concept of static storage.

2. Local to a particular translation unit (and class scope in C++, as you will see later). Here, static controls the visibility of a name, so that name cannot be seen outside the translation unit or class. This also describes the concept of linkage, which determines what names the linker will see.

This section will look at the above meanings of static as they were inherited from C.

static variables inside functions

Normally, when you create a variable inside a function, the compiler allocates storage for that variable each time the function is called by moving the stack pointer down an appropriate amount. If there is an initializer for the variable, the initialization is performed each time that sequence point is passed.

Sometimes, however, you want to retain a value between function calls. You could accomplish this by making a global variable, but that variable would not be under the sole control of the function. C and C++ allow you to create a static object inside a function; the storage for this object is not on the stack but instead in the program’s static storage area. This object is initialized once the first time the function is called and then retains its value between function invocations. For example, the following function returns the next character in the string each time the function is called:

//: C10:Statfun.cpp

// Static vars inside functions

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

char onechar(const char* string = 0) {

static const char* s;

if(string) {

s = string;

return *s;

}

else

require(s, “un-initialized s”);

if(*s == ”)

return 0;

return *s++;

}

char* a = “abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz”;

int main() {

// Onechar(); // require() fails

onechar(a); // Initializes s to a

char c;

while((c = onechar()) != 0)

cout << c << endl;

} ///:~

The static char* s holds its value between calls of onechar( ) because its storage is not part of the stack frame of the function, but is in the static storage area of the program. When you call onechar( ) with a char* argument, s is assigned to that argument, and the first character of the string is returned. Each subsequent call to onechar( ) without an argument produces the default value of zero for string, which indicates to the function that you are still extracting characters from the previously initialized value of s. The function will continue to produce characters until it reaches the null terminator of the string, at which point it stops incrementing the pointer so it doesn’t overrun the end of the string.

But what happens if you call onechar( ) with no arguments and without previously initializing the value of s? In the definition for s, you could have provided an initializer,

static char* s = 0;

but if you do not provide an initializer for a static variable of a built-in type, the compiler guarantees that variable will be initialized to zero (converted to the proper type) at program start-up. So in onechar( ), the first time the function is called, s is zero. In this case, the if(!s) conditional will catch it.

The above initialization for s is very simple, but initialization for static objects (like all other objects) can be arbitrary expressions involving constants and previously declared variables and functions.

static class objects inside functions

The rules are the same for static objects of user-defined types, including the fact that some initialization is required for the object. However, assignment to zero has meaning only for built-in types; user-defined types must be initialized with constructor calls. Thus, if you don’t specify constructor arguments when you define the static object, the class must have a default constructor. For example,

//: C10:Funobj.cpp

// Static objects in functions

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class X {

int i;

public:

X(int ii = 0) : i(ii) {} // Default

~X() { cout << “X::~X()” << endl; }

};

void f() {

static X x1(47);

static X x2; // Default constructor required

}

int main() {

f();

} ///:~

The static objects of type X inside f( ) can be initialized either with the constructor argument list or with the default constructor. This construction occurs the first time control passes through the definition, and only the first time.

Static object destructors

Destructors for static objects (all objects with static storage, not just local static objects as in the above example) are called when main( ) exits or when the Standard C library function exit( ) is explicitly called, main( ) in most implementations calls exit( ) when it terminates. This means that it can be dangerous to call exit( ) inside a destructor because you can end up with infinite recursion. Static object destructors are not called if you exit the program using the Standard C library function abort( ).

You can specify actions to take place when leaving main( ) (or calling exit( )) by using the Standard C library function atexit( ). In this case, the functions registered by atexit( ) may be called before the destructors for any objects constructed before leaving main( ) (or calling exit( )).

Destruction of static objects occurs in the reverse order of initialization. However, only objects that have been constructed are destroyed. Fortunately, the programming system keeps track of initialization order and the objects that have been constructed. Global objects are always constructed before main( ) is entered, so this last statement applies only to static objects that are local to functions. If a function containing a local static object is never called, the constructor for that object is never executed, so the destructor is also not executed. For example,

//: C10:StaticDestructors.cpp

// Static object destructors

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“statdest.out”); // Trace file

class Obj {

char c; // Identifier

public:

Obj(char cc) : c(cc) {

out << “Obj::Obj() for ” << c << endl;

}

~Obj() {

out << “Obj::~Obj() for ” << c << endl;

}

};

Obj a(‘a’); // Global (static storage)

// Constructor & destructor always called

void f() {

static Obj b(‘b’);

}

void g() {

static Obj c(‘c’);

}

int main() {

out << “inside main()” << endl;

f(); // Calls static constructor for b

// g() not called

out << “leaving main()” << endl;

} ///:~

In Obj, the char c acts as an identifier so the constructor and destructor can print out information about the object they’re working on. The Obj a is a global object, so the constructor is always called for it before main( ) is entered, but the constructors for the static Obj b inside f( ) and the static Obj C inside g( ) are called only if those functions are called.

To demonstrate which constructors and destructors are called, inside main( ) only f( ) is called. The output of the program is

Obj::Obj() for a

inside main()

Obj::Obj() for b

leaving main()

Obj::~Obj() for b

Obj::~Obj() for a

The constructor for a is called before main( ) is entered, and the constructor for b is called only because f( ) is called. When main( ) exits, the destructors for the objects that have been constructed are called in reverse order of their construction. This means that if g( ) is called, the order in which the destructors for b and c are called depends on whether f( ) or g( ) is called first.

Notice that the trace file ofstream object out is also a static object. It is important that its definition (as opposed to an extern declaration) appear at the beginning of the file, before there is any possible use of out. Otherwise you’ll be using an object before it is properly initialized.

In C++ the constructor for a global static object is called before main( ) is entered, so you now have a simple and portable way to execute code before entering main( ) and to execute code with the destructor after exiting main( ). In C this was always a trial that required you to root around in the compiler vendor’s assembly-language startup code.

Controlling linkage

Ordinarily, any name at file scope (that is, not nested inside a class or function) is visible throughout all translation units in a program. This is often called external linkage because at link time the name is visible to the linker everywhere, external to that translation unit. Global variables and ordinary functions have external linkage.

There are times when you’d like to limit the visibility of a name. You might like to have a variable at file scope so all the functions in that file can use it, but you don’t want functions outside that file to see or access that variable, or to inadvertently cause name clashes with identifiers outside the file.

An object or function name at file scope that is explicitly declared static is local to its translation unit (in the terms of this book, the cpp file where the declaration occurs); that name has internal linkage. This means you can use the same name in other translation units without a name clash.

One advantage to internal linkage is that the name can be placed in a header file without worrying that there will be a clash at link time. Names that are commonly placed in header files, such as const definitions and inline functions, default to internal linkage. (However, const defaults to internal linkage only in C++; in C it defaults to external linkage.) Note that linkage refers only to elements that have addresses at link/load time; thus, class declarations and local variables have no linkage.

Confusion

Here’s an example of how the two meanings of static can cross over each other. All global objects implicitly have static storage class, so if you say (at file scope),

int a = 0;

then storage for a will be in the program’s static data area, and the initialization for a will occur once, before main( ) is entered. In addition, the visibility of a is global, across all translation units. In terms of visibility, the opposite of static (visible only in this translation unit) is extern, which explicitly states that the visibility of the name is across all translation units. So the above definition is equivalent to saying

extern int a = 0;

But if you say instead,

static int a = 0;

all you’ve done is change the visibility, so a has internal linkage. The storage class is unchanged – the object resides in the static data area whether the visibility is static or extern.

Once you get into local variables, static stops altering the visibility (and extern has no meaning) and instead alters the storage class.

With function names, static and extern can only alter visibility, so if you say,

extern void f();

it’s the same as the unadorned declaration

void f();

and if you say,

static void f();

it means f( ) is visible only within this translation unit; this is sometimes called file static.

Other storage class specifiers

You will see static and extern used commonly. There are two other storage class specifiers that occur less often. The auto specifier is almost never used because it tells the compiler that this is a local variable. The compiler can always determine this fact from the context in which the variable is defined, so auto is redundant.

A register variable is a local (auto) variable, along with a hint to the compiler that this particular variable will be heavily used, so the compiler ought to keep it in a register if it can. Thus, it is an optimization aid. Various compilers respond differently to this hint; they have the option to ignore it. If you take the address of the variable, the register specifier will almost certainly be ignored. You should avoid using register because the compiler can usually do a better job at of optimization than you.

Namespaces

Although names can be nested inside classes, the names of global functions, global variables, and classes are still in a single global name space. The static keyword gives you some control over this by allowing you to give variables and functions internal linkage (make them file static). But in a large project, lack of control over the global name space can cause problems. To solve these problems for classes, vendors often create long complicated names that are unlikely to clash, but then you’re stuck typing those names. (A typedef is often used to simplify this.) It’s not an elegant, language-supported solution.

You can subdivide the global name space into more manageable pieces using the namespace feature of C++.[35] The namespace keyword, like class, struct, enum, and union, puts the names of its members in a distinct space. While the other keywords have additional purposes, the creation of a new name space is the only purpose for namespace.

Creating a namespace

The creation of a namespace is notably similar to the creation of a class:

namespace MyLib {

// Declarations

}

This produces a new namespace containing the enclosed declarations. There are significant differences with class, struct, union and enum, however:

1. A namespace definition can only appear at the global scope, but namespaces can be nested within each other.

2. No terminating semicolon is necessary after the closing brace of a namespace definition.

3. A namespace definition can be “continued” over multiple header files using a syntax that would appear to be a redefinition for a class:

//: C10:Header1.h

namespace MyLib {

extern int x;

void f();

// …

} ///:~

//: C10:Header2.h

// Add more names to MyLib

namespace MyLib { // NOT a redefinition!

extern int y;

void g();

// …

} ///:~

4. A namespace name can be aliased to another name, so you don’t have to type an unwieldy name created by a library vendor:

namespace BobsSuperDuperLibrary {

class Widget { /* … */ };

class Poppit { /* … */ };

// …

}

// Too much to type! I’ll alias it:

namespace Bob = BobsSuperDuperLibrary;

5. You cannot create an instance of a namespace as you can with a class.

Unnamed namespaces

Each translation unit contains an unnamed namespace that you can add to by saying namespace without an identifier:

namespace {

class Arm { /* … */ };

class Leg { /* … */ };

class Head { /* … */ };

class Robot {

Arm arm[4];

Leg leg[16];

Head head[3];

// …

} xanthan;

int i, j, k;

}

The names in this space are automatically available in that translation unit without qualification. It is guaranteed that an unnamed space is unique for each translation unit. If you put local names in an unnamed namespace, you don’t need to give them internal linkage by making them static.

Friends

You can inject a friend declaration into a namespace by declaring it within an enclosed class:

namespace me {

class Us {

//…

friend you();

};

}

Now the function you( ) is a member of the namespace me.

Using a namespace

You can refer to a name within a namespace in two ways: one name at a time, using the scope resolution operator, and more expediently with the using keyword.

Scope resolution

Any name in a namespace can be explicitly specified using the scope resolution operator, just like the names within a class:

namespace X {

class Y {

static int i;

public:

void f();

};

class Z;

void func();

}

int X::Y::i = 9;

class X::Z {

int u, v, w;

public:

Z(int i);

int g();

};

X::Z::Z(int i) { u = v = w = i; }

int X::Z::g() { return u = v = w = 0; }

void X::func() {

X::Z a(1);

a.g();

}

So far, namespaces look very much like classes.

The using directive

Because it can rapidly get tedious to type the full qualification for an identifier in a namespace, the using keyword allows you to import an entire namespace at once. When used in conjunction with the namespace keyword, this is called a using directive. The using directive declares all the names of a namespace to be in the current scope, so you can conveniently use the unqualified names:

namespace math {

enum sign { positive, negative };

class Integer {

int i;

sign s;

public:

Integer(int ii = 0)

: i(ii),

s(i >= 0 ? positive : negative)

{}

sign getSign() { return s; }

void setSign(sign sgn) { s = sgn; }

// …

};

Integer a, b, c;

Integer divide(Integer, Integer);

// …

}

Now you can declare all the names in math inside a function, but leave those names nested within the function:

void arithmetic() {

using namespace math;

Integer x;

x.setSign(positive);

}

Without the using directive, all the names in the namespace would need to be fully qualified.

One aspect of the using directive may seem slightly counterintuitive at first. The visibility of the names introduced with a using directive is the scope where the directive is made. But you can override the names from the using directive as if they’ve been declared globally to that scope!

void q() {

using namespace math;

Integer A; // Hides math::A;

A.setSign(negative);

math::A.setSign(positive);

}

If you have a second namespace:

namespace calculation {

class Integer {};

Integer divide(Integer, Integer);

// …

}

And this namespace is also introduced with a using directive, you have the possibility of a collision. However, the ambiguity appears at the point of use of the name, not at the using directive:

void s() {

using namespace math;

using namespace calculation;

// Everything’s ok until:

divide(1, 2); // Ambiguity

}

Thus it’s possible to write using directives to introduce a number of namespaces with conflicting names without ever producing an ambiguity.

The using declaration

You can introduce names one at a time into the current scope with a using declaration. Unlike the using directive, which treats names as if they were declared globally to the scope, a using declaration is a declaration within the current scope. This means it can override names from a using directive:

namespace U {

void f();

void g();

}

namespace V {

void f();

void g();

}

void func() {

using namespace U; // Using directive

using V::f; // Using declaration

f(); // Calls V::f();

U::f(); // Must fully qualify to call

}

The using declaration just gives the fully specified name of the identifier, but no type information. This means that if the namespace contains a set of overloaded functions with the same name, the using declaration declares all the functions in the overloaded set.

You can put a using declaration anywhere a normal declaration can occur. A using declaration works like a normal declaration in all ways but one: it’s possible for a using declaration to cause the overload of a function with the same argument types (which isn’t allowed with normal overloading). This ambiguity, however, doesn’t show up until the point of use, rather than the point of declaration.

A using declaration can also appear within a namespace, and it has the same effect as anywhere else: that name is declared within the space:

namespace Q {

using U::f;

using V::g;

// …

}

void m() {

using namespace Q;

f(); // Calls U::f();

g(); // Calls V::g();

}

A using declaration is an alias, and it allows you to declare the same function in separate namespaces. If you end up redeclaring the same function by importing different namespaces, it’s OK – there won’t be any ambiguities or duplications.

Static members in C++

There are times when you need a single storage space to be used by all objects of a class. In C, you would use a global variable, but this is not very safe. Global data can be modified by anyone, and its name can clash with other identical names in a large project. It would be ideal if the data could be stored as if it were global, but be hidden inside a class, and clearly associated with that class.

This is accomplished with static data members inside a class. There is a single piece of storage for a static data member, regardless of how many objects of that class you create. All objects share the same static storage space for that data member, so it is a way for them to “communicate” with each other. But the static data belongs to the class; its name is scoped inside the class and it can be public, private, or protected.

Defining storage for static data members

Because static data has a single piece of storage regardless of how many objects are created, that storage must be defined in a single place. The compiler will not allocate storage for you, although this was once true, with some compilers. The linker will report an error if a static data member is declared but not defined.

The definition must occur outside the class (no inlining is allowed), and only one definition is allowed. Thus it is usual to put it in the implementation file for the class. The syntax sometimes gives people trouble, but it is actually quite logical. For example,

class A {

static int i;

public:

//…

};

and later, in the definition file,

int A::i = 1;

If you were to define an ordinary global variable, you would say

int i = 1;

but here, the scope resolution operator and the class name are used to specify A::i.

Some people have trouble with the idea that A::i is private, and yet here’s something that seems to be manipulating it right out in the open. Doesn’t this break the protection mechanism? It’s a completely safe practice for two reasons. First, the only place this initialization is legal is in the definition. Indeed, if the static data were an object with a constructor, you would call the constructor instead of using the = operator. Secondly, once the definition has been made, the end-user cannot make a second definition – the linker will report an error. And the class creator is forced to create the definition, or the code won’t link during testing. This ensures that the definition happens only once and that it’s in the hands of the class creator.

The entire initialization expression for a static member is in the scope of the class. For example,

//: C10:Statinit.cpp

// Scope of static initializer

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int x = 100;

class WithStatic {

static int x;

static int y;

public:

void print() const {

cout << “WithStatic::x = ” << x << endl;

cout << “WithStatic::y = ” << y << endl;

}

};

int WithStatic::x = 1;

int WithStatic::y = x + 1;

// WithStatic::x NOT ::x

int main() {

WithStatic ws;

ws.print();

} ///:~

Here, the qualification WithStatic:: extends the scope of WithStatic to the entire definition.

static array initialization

It’s possible to create static const objects as well as arrays of static objects, both const and non-const. Here’s the syntax you use to initialize such elements:

//: C10:StaticArray.cpp

// Initializing static arrays

class Values {

// static consts can be initialized in-place:

static const int scSize = 100;

// Automatic counting works with static consts:

static const float scTable[] = {

1.1, 2.2, 3.3, 4.4

};

static const char scLetters[] = {

‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, ‘e’,

‘f’, ‘g’, ‘h’, ‘i’, ‘j’

};

// Non-const statics must be

// initialized externally:

static int size;

static float table[4];

static char letters[10];

};

int Values::size = 100;

float Values::table[4] = {

1.1, 2.2, 3.3, 4.4

};

char Values::letters[10] = {

‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, ‘e’,

‘f’, ‘g’, ‘h’, ‘i’, ‘j’

};

int main() { Values v; } ///:~

With static consts you provide the definitions inline, but for ordinary static member data, you must provide a single external definition for the member. These definitions have internal linkage, so they can be placed in header files. The syntax for initializing static arrays is the same as any aggregate, but you cannot use automatic counting for non-static const arrays. The compiler must have enough knowledge about the class to create an object by the end of the class definition, including the exact sizes of all the components.

Nested and local classes

You can easily put static data members in classes that are nested inside other classes. The definition of such members is an intuitive and obvious extension – you simply use another level of scope resolution. However, you cannot have static data members inside local classes (a local class is a class defined inside a function). Thus,

//: C10:Local.cpp

// Static members & local classes

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

// Nested class CAN have static data members:

class Outer {

class Inner {

static int i; // OK

};

};

int Outer::Inner::i = 47;

// Local class cannot have static data members:

void f() {

class Local {

public:

//! static int i; // Error

// (How would you define i?)

} x;

}

int main() { Outer x; f(); } ///:~

You can see the immediate problem with a static member in a local class: How do you describe the data member at file scope in order to define it? In practice, local classes are used very rarely.

static member functions

You can also create static member functions that, like static data members, work for the class as a whole rather than for a particular object of a class. Instead of making a global function that lives in and “pollutes” the global or local namespace, you bring the function inside the class. When you create a static member function, you are expressing an association with a particular class.

You can call a static member function in the ordinary way, with the dot or the arrow, in association with an object. However, it’s more typical to call a static member function by itself, without any specific object, using the scope-resolution operator, like this:

class X {

public:

static void f();

};

X::f();

When you see static member functions in a class, remember that the designer intended that function to be conceptually associated with the class as a whole.

A static member function cannot access ordinary data members, only static data members. It can call only other static member functions. Normally, the address of the current object (this) is quietly passed in when any member function is called, but a static member has no this, which is the reason it cannot access ordinary members. Thus, you get the tiny increase in speed afforded by a global function, which doesn’t have the extra overhead of passing this, but the benefits of having the function inside the class.

For data members, static indicates that only one piece of storage for member data exists for all objects of a class. This parallels the use of static to define objects inside a function, to mean that only one copy of a local variable is used for all calls of that function.

Here’s an example showing static data members and static member functions used together:

//: C10:StaticMemberFunctions.cpp

class X {

int i;

static int j;

public:

X(int ii = 0) : i(ii) {

// Non-static member function can access

// static member function or data:

j = i;

}

int val() const { return i; }

static int incr() {

//! i++; // Error: static member function

// cannot access non-static member data

return ++j;

}

static int f() {

//! val(); // Error: static member function

// cannot access non-static member function

return incr(); // OK — calls static

}

};

int X::j = 0;

int main() {

X x;

X* xp = &x;

x.f();

xp->f();

X::f(); // Only works with static members

} ///:~

Because they have no this pointer, static member functions can neither access nonstatic data members nor call nonstatic member functions. (Those functions require a this pointer.)

Notice in main( ) that a static member can be selected using the usual dot or arrow syntax, associating that function with an object, but also with no object (because a static member is associated with a class, not a particular object), using the class name and scope resolution operator.

Here’s an interesting feature: Because of the way initialization happens for static member objects, you can put a static data member of the same class inside that class. Here’s an example that allows only a single object of type egg to exist by making the constructor private. You can access that object, but you can’t create any new egg objects:

//: C10:Selfmem.cpp

// Static member of same type

// ensures only one object of this type exists.

// Also referred to as a “singleton” pattern.

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Egg {

static Egg e;

int i;

Egg(int ii) : i(ii) {}

public:

static Egg* instance() { return &e; }

int val() { return i; }

};

Egg Egg::e(47);

int main() {

//! Egg x(1); // Error — can’t create an Egg

// You can access the single instance:

cout << Egg::instance()->val() << endl;

} ///:~

The initialization for E happens after the class declaration is complete, so the compiler has all the information it needs to allocate storage and make the constructor call.

Static initialization dependency

Within a specific translation unit, the order of initialization of static objects is guaranteed to be the order in which the object definitions appear in that translation unit. The order of destruction is guaranteed to be the reverse of the order of initialization.

However, there is no guarantee concerning the order of initialization of static objects across translation units, and there’s no way to specify this order. This can cause significant problems. As an example of an instant disaster (which will halt primitive operating systems, and kill the process on sophisticated ones), if one file contains

// First file

#include <fstream>

ofstream out(“out.txt”);

and another file uses the out object in one of its initializers

// Second file

#include <fstream>

extern ofstream out;

class Oof {

public:

Oof() { out << “ouch”; }

} oof;

the program may work, and it may not. If the programming environment builds the program so that the first file is initialized before the second file, then there will be no problem. However, if the second file is initialized before the first, the constructor for oof relies upon the existence of out, which hasn’t been constructed yet and this causes chaos. This is only a problem with static object initializers that depend on each other, because by the time you get into main( ), all constructors for static objects have already been called.

A more subtle example can be found in the ARM.[36] In one file,

extern int y;

int x = y + 1;

and in a second file,

extern int x;

int y = x + 1;

For all static objects, the linking-loading mechanism guarantees a static initialization to zero before the dynamic initialization specified by the programmer takes place. In the previous example, zeroing of the storage occupied by the fstream out object has no special meaning, so it is truly undefined until the constructor is called. However, with built-in types, initialization to zero does have meaning, and if the files are initialized in the order they are shown above, y begins as statically initialized to zero, so x becomes one, and y is dynamically initialized to two. However, if the files are initialized in the opposite order, x is statically initialized to zero, y is dynamically initialized to one, and x then becomes two.

Programmers must be aware of this because they can create a program with static initialization dependencies and get it working on one platform, but move it to another compiling environment where it suddenly, mysteriously, doesn’t work.

What to do

There are three approaches to dealing with this problem:

1. Don’t do it. Avoiding static initializer dependencies is the best solution.

2. If you must do it, put the critical static object definitions in a single file, so you can portably control their initialization by putting them in the correct order.

3. If you’re convinced it’s unavoidable to scatter static objects across translation units – as in the case of a library, where you can’t control the programmer who uses it – there is a technique pioneered by Jerry Schwarz while creating the iostream library (because the definitions for cin, cout, and cerr live in a separate file).

This technique requires an additional class in your library header file. This class is responsible for the dynamic initialization of your library’s static objects. Here is a simple example:

//: C10:Depend.h

// Static initialization technique

#ifndef DEPEND_H

#define DEPEND_H

#include <iostream>

extern int x; // Declarations, not definitions

extern int y;

class Initializer {

static int init_count;

public:

Initializer() {

std::cout << “Initializer()” << std::endl;

// Initialize first time only

if(init_count++ == 0) {

std::cout << “performing initialization”

<< std::endl;

x = 100;

y = 200;

}

}

~Initializer() {

std::cout << “~Initializer()” << std::endl;

// Clean up last time only

if(–init_count == 0) {

std::cout << “performing cleanup”

<< std::endl;

// Any necessary cleanup here

}

}

};

// The following creates one object in each

// file where DEPEND.H is included, but that

// object is only visible within that file:

static Initializer init;

#endif // DEPEND_H ///:~

The declarations for x and y announce only that these objects exist, but don’t allocate storage for them. However, the definition for the Initializer init allocates storage for that object in every file where the header is included, but because the name is static (controlling visibility this time, not the way storage is allocated because that is at file scope by default), it is only visible within that translation unit, so the linker will not complain about multiple definition errors.

Here is the file containing the definitions for x, y, and init_count:

//: C10:Depdefs.cpp {O}

// Definitions for DEPEND.H

#include “Depend.h”

// Static initialization will force

// all these values to zero:

int x;

int y;

int Initializer::init_count;

///:~

(Of course, a file static instance of init is also placed in this file.) Suppose that two other files are created by the library user:

//: C10:Depend.cpp {O}

// Static initialization

#include “Depend.h”

///:~

and

//: C10:Depend2.cpp

//{L} Depdefs Depend

// Static initialization

#include “Depend.h”

using namespace std;

int main() {

cout << “inside main()” << endl;

cout << “leaving main()” << endl;

} ///:~

Now it doesn’t matter which translation unit is initialized first. The first time a translation unit containing Depend.h is initialized, init_count will be zero so the initialization will be performed. (This depends heavily on the fact that global objects of built-in types are set to zero before any dynamic initialization takes place.) For all the rest of the translation units, the initialization will be skipped. Cleanup happens in the reverse order, and ~Initializer( ) ensures that it will happen only once.

This example used built-in types as the global static objects. The technique also works with classes, but those objects must then be dynamically initialized by the Initializer class. One way to do this is to create the classes without constructors and destructors, but instead with initialization and cleanup member functions using different names. A more common approach, however, is to have pointers to objects and to create them dynamically on the heap inside Initializer( ). This requires the use of two C++ keywords, new and delete, which will be explored in Chapter XX.

Alternate linkage specifications

What happens if you’re writing a program in C++ and you want to use a C library? If you make the C function declaration,

float f(int a, char b);

the C++ compiler will decorate this name to something like _f_int_char to support function overloading (and type-safe linkage). However, the C compiler that compiled your C library has most definitely not decorated the name, so its internal name will be _f. Thus, the linker will not be able to resolve your C++ calls to f( ).

The escape mechanism provided in C++ is the alternate linkage specification, which was produced in the language by overloading the extern keyword. The extern is followed by a string that specifies the linkage you want for the declaration, followed by the declaration itself:

extern “C” float f(int a, char b);

This tells the compiler to give C linkage to f( ); that is, don’t decorate the name. The only two types of linkage specifications supported by the standard are “C” and “C++,” but compiler vendors have the option of supporting other languages in the same way.

If you have a group of declarations with alternate linkage, put them inside braces, like this:

extern “C” {

float f(int a, char b);

double d(int a, char b);

}

Or, for a header file,

extern “C” {

#include “Myheader.h”

}

Most C++ compiler vendors handle the alternate linkage specifications inside their header files that work with both C and C++, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Summary

The static keyword can be confusing because in some situations it controls the location of storage, and in others it controls visibility and linkage of a name.

With the introduction of C++ namespaces, you have an improved and more flexible alternative to control the proliferation of names in large projects.

The use of static inside classes is one more way to control names in a program. The names do not clash with global names, and the visibility and access is kept within the program, giving you greater control in the maintenance of your code.

Exercises

1. Create a class that holds an array of ints. Set the size of the array using an untagged enumeration inside the class. Add a const int variable, and initialize it in the constructor initializer list. Add a static int member variable and initialize it to a specific value. Add a static member function that prints the static data member. Add an inline constructor and an inline member function called print( ) to print out all the values in the array, and to call the static member function.

2. In StaticDestructors.cpp, experiment with the order of constructor and destructor calls by calling f( ) and g( ) inside main( ) in different orders. Does your compiler get it right?

3. In StaticDestructors.cpp, test the default error handling of your implementation by turning the original definition of out into an extern declaration and putting the actual definition after the definition of A (whose obj constructor sends information to out). Make sure there’s nothing else important running on your machine when you run the program or that your machine will handle faults robustly.

4. Create a class with a destructor that prints a message and then calls exit( ). Create a global static object of this class and see what happens.

5. Modify Volatile.cpp from Chapter 8 to make comm::isr( ) something that would actually work as an interrupt service routine.

11: References[BE5] & the copy-constructor

References are a C++ feature that are like constant pointers automatically dereferenced by the compiler.

Although references also exist in Pascal, the C++ version was taken from the Algol language. They are essential in C++ to support the syntax of operator overloading (see Chapter XX), but are also a general convenience to control the way arguments are passed into and out of functions.

This chapter will first look briefly at the differences between pointers in C and C++, then introduce references. But the bulk of the chapter will delve into a rather confusing issue for the new C++ programmer: the copy-constructor, a special constructor (requiring references) that makes a new object from an existing object of the same type. The copy-constructor is used by the compiler to pass and return objects by value into and out of functions.

Finally, the somewhat obscure C++ pointer-to-member feature is illuminated.

Pointers in C++

The most important difference between pointers in C and in C++ is that C++ is a more strongly typed language. This stands out where void* is concerned. C doesn’t let you casually assign a pointer of one type to another, but it does allow you to quietly accomplish this through a void*. Thus,

bird* b;

rock* r;

void* v;

v = r;

b = v;

C++ doesn’t allow this because it leaves a big hole in the type system. The compiler gives you an error message, and if you really want to do it, you must make it explicit, both to the compiler and to the reader, using a cast. (See Chapter XX for C++’s improved casting syntax.)

References in C++

A reference (&) is like a constant pointer that is automatically dereferenced. It is usually used for function argument lists and function return values. But you can also make a free-standing reference. For example,

int x;

int& r = x;

When a reference is created, it must be initialized to a live object. However, you can also say

int& q = 12;

Here, the compiler allocates a piece of storage, initializes it with the value 12, and ties the reference to that piece of storage. The point is that any reference must be tied to someone else’s piece of storage. When you access a reference, you’re accessing that storage. Thus if you say,

int x = 0;

int& a = x;

a++;

incrementing a is actually incrementing x. Again, the easiest way to think about a reference is as a fancy pointer. One advantage of this pointer is you never have to wonder whether it’s been initialized (the compiler enforces it) and how to dereference it (the compiler does it).

There are certain rules when using references:

1. A reference must be initialized when it is created. (Pointers can be initialized at any time.)

2. Once a reference is initialized to an object, it cannot be changed to refer to another object. (Pointers can be pointed to another object at any time.)

3. You cannot have NULL references. You must always be able to assume that a reference is connected to a legitimate piece of storage.

References in functions

The most common place you’ll see references is in function arguments and return values. When a reference is used as a function argument, any modification to the reference inside the function will cause changes to the argument outside the function. Of course, you could do the same thing by passing a pointer, but a reference has much cleaner syntax. (You can think of a reference as nothing more than a syntax convenience, if you want.)

If you return a reference from a function, you must take the same care as if you return a pointer from a function. Whatever the reference is connected to shouldn’t go away when the function returns; otherwise you’ll be referring to unknown memory.

Here’s an example:

//: C11:Reference.cpp

// Simple C++ references

int* f(int* x) {

(*x)++;

return x; // Safe; x is outside this scope

}

int& g(int& x) {

x++; // Same effect as in f()

return x; // Safe; outside this scope

}

int& h() {

int q;

//! return q; // Error

static int x;

return x; // Safe; x lives outside scope

}

int main() {

int a = 0;

f(&a); // Ugly (but explicit)

g(a); // Clean (but hidden)

} ///:~

The call to f( ) doesn’t have the convenience and cleanliness of using references, but it’s clear that an address is being passed. In the call to g( ), an address is being passed (via a reference), but you don’t see it.

const references

The reference argument in Reference.cpp works only when the argument is a non-const object. If it is a const object, the function g( ) will not accept the argument, which is actually a good thing, because the function does modify the outside argument. If you know the function will respect the constness of an object, making the argument a const reference will allow the function to be used in all situations. This means that, for built-in types, the function will not modify the argument, and for user-defined types the function will call only const member functions, and won’t modify any public data members.

The use of const references in function arguments is especially important because your function may receive a temporary object, created as a return value of another function or explicitly by the user of your function. Temporary objects are always const, so if you don’t use a const reference, that argument won’t be accepted by the compiler. As a very simple example,

//: C11:Pasconst.cpp

// Passing references as const

void f(int&) {}

void g(const int&) {}

int main() {

//! f(1); // Error

g(1);

} ///:~

The call to f(1) produces a compiler error because the compiler must first create a reference. It does so by allocating storage for an int, initializing it to one and producing the address to bind to the reference. The storage must be a const because changing it would make no sense – you can never get your hands on it again. With all temporary objects you must make the same assumption, that they’re inaccessible. It’s valuable for the compiler to tell you when you’re changing such data because the result would be lost information.

Pointer references

In C, if you wanted to modify the contents of the pointer rather than what it points to, your function declaration would look like

void f(int**);

and you’d have to take the address of the pointer when passing it in:

int i = 47;

int* ip = &i;

f(&ip);

With references in C++, the syntax is cleaner. The function argument becomes a reference to a pointer, and you no longer have to take the address of that pointer. Thus,

//: C11:Refptr.cpp

// Reference to pointer

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

void increment(int*& i) { i++; }

int main() {

int* i = 0;

cout << “i = ” << i << endl;

increment(i);

cout << “i = ” << i << endl;

} ///:~

By running this program, you’ll prove to yourself that the pointer itself is incremented, not what it points to.

Argument-passing guidelines

Your normal habit when passing an argument to a function should be to pass by const reference. Although this may at first seem like only an efficiency concern (and you normally don’t want to concern yourself with efficiency tuning while you’re designing and assembling your program), there’s more at stake: as you’ll see in the remainder of the chapter, a copy-constructor is required to pass an object by value, and this isn’t always available.

The efficiency savings can be substantial for such a simple habit: to pass an argument by value requires a constructor and destructor call, but if you’re not going to modify the argument then passing by const reference only needs an address pushed on the stack.

In fact, virtually the only time passing an address isn’t preferable is when you’re going to do such damage to an object that passing by value is the only safe approach (rather than modifying the outside object, something the caller doesn’t usually expect). This is the subject of the next section.

The copy-constructor

Now that you understand the basics of the reference in C++, you’re ready to tackle one of the more confusing concepts in the language: the copy-constructor, often called X(X&) (“X of X ref”). This constructor is essential to control passing and returning of user-defined types by value during function calls.

Passing & returning by value

To understand the need for the copy-constructor, consider the way C handles passing and returning variables by value during function calls. If you declare a function and make a function call,

int f(int x, char c);

int g = f(a, b);

how does the compiler know how to pass and return those variables? It just knows! The range of the types it must deal with is so small – char, int, float, and double and their variations – that this information is built into the compiler.

If you figure out how to generate assembly code with your compiler and determine the statements generated by the function call to f( ), you’ll get the equivalent of,

push b

push a

call f()

add sp,4

mov g, register a

This code has been cleaned up significantly to make it generic – the expressions for b and a will be different depending on whether the variables are global (in which case they will be _b and _a) or local (the compiler will index them off the stack pointer). This is also true for the expression for g. The appearance of the call to f( ) will depend on your name-decoration scheme, and “register a” depends on how the CPU registers are named within your assembler. The logic behind the code, however, will remain the same.

In C and C++, arguments are pushed on the stack from right to left, the function call is made, then the calling code is responsible for cleaning the arguments off the stack (which accounts for the add sp,4). But notice that to pass the arguments by value, the compiler simply pushes copies on the stack – it knows how big they are and that pushing those arguments makes accurate copies of them.

The return value of f( ) is placed in a register. Again, the compiler knows everything there is to know about the return value type because it’s built into the language, so the compiler can return it by placing it in a register. The simple act of copying the bits of the value is equivalent to copying the object.

Passing & returning large objects

But now consider user-defined types. If you create a class and you want to pass an object of that class by value, how is the compiler supposed to know what to do? This is no longer a built-in type the compiler writer knows about; it’s a type someone has created since then.

To investigate this, you can start with a simple structure that is clearly too large to return in registers:

//: C11:PassStruct.cpp

// Passing a big structure

struct Big {

char buf[100];

int i;

long d;

} B, B2;

Big bigfun(Big b) {

b.i = 100; // Do something to the argument

return b;

}

int main() {

B2 = bigfun(B);

} ///:~

Decoding the assembly output is a little more complicated here because most compilers use “helper” functions rather than putting all functionality inline. In main( ), the call to bigfun( ) starts as you might guess – the entire contents of B is pushed on the stack. (Here, you might see some compilers load registers with the address of B and its size, then call a helper function to push it onto the stack.)

In the previous example, pushing the arguments onto the stack was all that was required before making the function call. In PassStruct.cpp, however, you’ll see an additional action: The address of B2 is pushed before making the call, even though it’s obviously not an argument. To comprehend what’s going on here, you need to understand the constraints on the compiler when it’s making a function call.

Function-call stack frame

When the compiler generates code for a function call, it first pushes all the arguments on the stack, then makes the call. Inside the function itself, code is generated to move the stack pointer down even further to provide storage for the function’s local variables. (“Down” is relative here; your machine may increment or decrement the stack pointer during a push.) But during the assembly-language CALL, the CPU pushes the address in the program code where the function call came from, so the assembly-language RETURN can use that address to return to the calling point. This address is of course sacred, because without it your program will get completely lost. Here’s what the stack frame looks like after the CALL and the allocation of local variable storage in the function:

clip_image031[4]

The code generated for the rest of the function expects the memory to be laid out exactly this way, so it can carefully pick from the function arguments and local variables without touching the return address. I shall call this block of memory, which is everything used by a function in the process of the function call, the function frame.

You might think it reasonable to try to return values on the stack. The compiler could simply push it, and the function could return an offset to indicate how far down in the stack the return value begins.

Re-entrancy

The problem occurs because functions in C and C++ support interrupts; that is, the languages are re-entrant. They also support recursive function calls. This means that at any point in the execution of a program an interrupt can occur without disturbing the program. Of course, the person who writes the interrupt service routine (ISR) is responsible for saving and restoring all the registers he uses, but if the ISR needs to use any memory that’s further down on the stack, that must be a safe thing to do. (You can think of an ISR as an ordinary function with no arguments and void return value that saves and restores the CPU state. An ISR function call is triggered by some hardware event rather than an explicit call from within a program.)

Now imagine what would happen if the called function tried to return values on the stack from an ordinary function. You can’t touch any part of the stack that’s above the return address, so the function would have to push the values below the return address. But when the assembly-language RETURN is executed, the stack pointer must be pointing to the return address (or right below it, depending on your machine), so right before the RETURN, the function must move the stack pointer up, thus clearing off all its local variables. If you’re trying to return values on the stack below the return address, you become vulnerable at that moment because an interrupt could come along. The ISR would move the stack pointer down to hold its return address and its local variables and overwrite your return value.

To solve this problem, the caller could be responsible for allocating the extra storage on the stack for the return values before calling the function. However, C was not designed this way, and C++ must be compatible. As you’ll see shortly, the C++ compiler uses a more efficient scheme.

Your next idea might be to return the value in some global data area, but this doesn’t work either. Re-entrancy means that any function can interrupt any other function, including the same function you’re currently inside. Thus, if you put the return value in a global area, you might return into the same function, which would overwrite that return value. The same logic applies to recursion.

The only safe place to return values is in the registers, so you’re back to the problem of what to do when the registers aren’t large enough to hold the return value. The answer is to push the address of the return value’s destination on the stack as one of the function arguments, and let the function copy the return information directly into the destination. This not only solves all the problems, it’s more efficient. It’s also the reason that, in PassStruct.cpp, the compiler pushes the address of B2 before the call to bigfun( ) in main( ). If you look at the assembly output for bigfun( ), you can see it expects this hidden argument and performs the copy to the destination inside the function.

Bitcopy versus initialization

So far, so good. There’s a workable process for passing and returning large simple structures. But notice that all you have is a way to copy the bits from one place to another, which certainly works fine for the primitive way that C looks at variables. But in C++ objects can be much more sophisticated than a patch of bits; they have meaning. This meaning may not respond well to having its bits copied.

Consider a simple example: a class that knows how many objects of its type exist at any one time. From Chapter XX, you know the way to do this is by including a static data member:

//: C11:HowMany.cpp

// Class counts its objects

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“HowMany.out”);

class HowMany {

static int object_count;

public:

HowMany() {

object_count++;

}

static void print(const char* msg = 0) {

if(msg) out << msg << “: “;

out << “object_count = ”

<< object_count << endl;

}

~HowMany() {

object_count–;

print(“~HowMany()”);

}

};

int HowMany::object_count = 0;

// Pass and return BY VALUE:

HowMany f(HowMany x) {

x.print(“x argument inside f()”);

return x;

}

int main() {

HowMany h;

HowMany::print(“after construction of h”);

HowMany h2 = f(h);

HowMany::print(“after call to f()”);

} ///:~

The class HowMany contains a static int and a static member function print( ) to report the value of that int, along with an optional message argument. The constructor increments the count each time an object is created, and the destructor decrements it.

The output, however, is not what you would expect:

after construction of h: object_count = 1

x argument inside f(): object_count = 1

~HowMany(): object_count = 0

after call to f(): object_count = 0

~HowMany(): object_count = -1

~HowMany(): object_count = -2

After h is created, the object count is one, which is fine. But after the call to f( ) you would expect to have an object count of two, because h2 is now in scope as well. Instead, the count is zero, which indicates something has gone horribly wrong. This is confirmed by the fact that the two destructors at the end make the object count go negative, something that should never happen.

Look at the point inside f( ), which occurs after the argument is passed by value. This means the original object h exists outside the function frame, and there’s an additional object inside the function frame, which is the copy that has been passed by value. However, the argument has been passed using C’s primitive notion of bitcopying, whereas the C++ HowMany class requires true initialization to maintain its integrity, so the default bitcopy fails to produce the desired effect.

When the local object goes out of scope at the end of the call to f( ), the destructor is called, which decrements object_count, so outside the function, object_count is zero. The creation of h2 is also performed using a bitcopy, so the constructor isn’t called there, either, and when h and h2 go out of scope, their destructors cause the negative values of object_count.

Copy-construction

The problem occurs because the compiler makes an assumption about how to create a new object from an existing object. When you pass an object by value, you create a new object, the passed object inside the function frame, from an existing object, the original object outside the function frame. This is also often true when returning an object from a function. In the expression

HowMany h2 = f(h);

h2, a previously unconstructed object, is created from the return value of f( ), so again a new object is created from an existing one.

The compiler’s assumption is that you want to perform this creation using a bitcopy, and in many cases this may work fine but in HowMany it doesn’t fly because the meaning of initialization goes beyond simply copying. Another common example occurs if the class contains pointers – what do they point to, and should you copy them or should they be connected to some new piece of memory?

Fortunately, you can intervene in this process and prevent the compiler from doing a bitcopy. You do this by defining your own function to be used whenever the compiler needs to make a new object from an existing object. Logically enough, you’re making a new object, so this function is a constructor, and also logically enough, the single argument to this constructor has to do with the object you’re constructing from. But that object can’t be passed into the constructor by value because you’re trying to define the function that handles passing by value, and syntactically it doesn’t make sense to pass a pointer because, after all, you’re creating the new object from an existing object. Here, references come to the rescue, so you take the reference of the source object. This function is called the copy-constructor and is often referred to as X(X&), which is its appearance for a class called X.

If you create a copy-constructor, the compiler will not perform a bitcopy when creating a new object from an existing one. It will always call your copy-constructor. So, if you don’t create a copy-constructor, the compiler will do something sensible, but you have the choice of taking over complete control of the process.

Now it’s possible to fix the problem in HowMany.cpp:

//: C11:HowMany2.cpp

// The copy-constructor

#include <fstream>

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“HowMany2.out”);

class HowMany2 {

static const int bufsize = 30;

char name[bufsize]; // Object identifier

static int object_count;

public:

HowMany2(const char* id = 0) {

if(id) strncpy(name, id, bufsize);

else *name = 0;

++object_count;

print(“HowMany2()”);

}

// The copy-constructor:

HowMany2(const HowMany2& h) {

strncpy(name, h.name, bufsize);

strncat(name, ” copy”, bufsize – strlen(name));

++object_count;

print(“HowMany2(HowMany2&)”);

}

// Can’t be static (printing name):

void print(const char* msg = 0) const {

if(msg) out << msg << endl;

out << ‘\t’ << name << “: ”

<< “object_count = ”

<< object_count << endl;

}

~HowMany2() {

–object_count;

print(“~HowMany2()”);

}

};

int HowMany2::object_count = 0;

// Pass and return BY VALUE:

HowMany2 f(HowMany2 x) {

x.print(“x argument inside f()”);

out << “returning from f()” << endl;

return x;

}

int main() {

HowMany2 h(“h”);

out << “entering f()” << endl;

HowMany2 h2 = f(h);

h2.print(“h2 after call to f()”);

out << “call f(), no return value” << endl;

f(h);

out << “after call to f()” << endl;

} ///:~

There are a number of new twists thrown in here so you can get a better idea of what’s happening. First, the character buffer name acts as an object identifier so you can figure out which object the information is being printed about. In the constructor, you can put an identifier string (usually the name of the object) that is copied to name using the Standard C library function strncpy( ), which only copies a certain number of characters, preventing overrun of the buffer.

Next is the copy-constructor, HowMany2(HowMany2&). The copy-constructor can create a new object only from an existing one, so the existing object’s name is copied to name, followed by the word “copy” so you can see where it came from. Note the use of the Standard C library function strncat( ) to copy a maximum number of characters into name, again to prevent overrunning the end of the buffer.

Inside the copy-constructor, the object count is incremented just as it is inside the normal constructor. This means you’ll now get an accurate object count when passing and returning by value.

The print( ) function has been modified to print out a message, the object identifier, and the object count. It must now access the name data of a particular object, so it can no longer be a static member function.

Inside main( ), you can see a second call to f( ) has been added. However, this call uses the common C approach of ignoring the return value. But now that you know how the value is returned (that is, code inside the function handles the return process, putting the result in a destination whose address is passed as a hidden argument), you might wonder what happens when the return value is ignored. The output of the program will throw some illumination on this.

Before showing the output, here’s a little program that uses iostreams to add line numbers to any file:

//: C11:Linenum.cpp

// Add line numbers

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

#include <strstream>

#include <cstdlib>

using namespace std;

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {

requireArgs(argc, 1, “Usage: linenum file\n”

“Adds line numbers to file”);

strstream text;

{

ifstream in(argv[1]);

assure(in, argv[1]);

text << in.rdbuf(); // Read in whole file

} // Close file

ofstream out(argv[1]); // Overwrite file

assure(out, argv[1]);

const int bsz = 100;

char buf[bsz];

int line = 0;

while(text.getline(buf, bsz)) {

out.setf(ios::right, ios::adjustfield);

out.width(2);

out << ++line << “) ” << buf << endl;

}

} ///:~

The entire file is read into a strstream (which can be both written to and read from) and the ifstream is closed with scoping. Then an ofstream is created for the same file, overwriting it. getline( ) fetches a line at a time from the strstream and line numbers are added as the line is written back into the file.

The line numbers are printed right-aligned in a field width of two, so the output still lines up in its original configuration. You can change the program to add an optional second command-line argument that allows the user to select a field width, or you can be more clever and count all the lines in the file to determine the field width automatically.

When Linenum.cpp is applied to HowMany2.out, the result is

1) HowMany2()

2) h: object_count = 1

3) entering f()

4) HowMany2(HowMany2&)

5) h copy: object_count = 2

6) x argument inside f()

7) h copy: object_count = 2

8) returning from f()

9) HowMany2(HowMany2&)

10) h copy copy: object_count = 3

11) ~HowMany2()

12) h copy: object_count = 2

13) h2 after call to f()

14) h copy copy: object_count = 2

15) call f(), no return value

16) HowMany2(HowMany2&)

17) h copy: object_count = 3

18) x argument inside f()

19) h copy: object_count = 3

20) returning from f()

21) HowMany2(HowMany2&)

22) h copy copy: object_count = 4

23) ~HowMany2()

24) h copy: object_count = 3

25) ~HowMany2()

26) h copy copy: object_count = 2

27) after call to f()

28) ~HowMany2()

29) h copy copy: object_count = 1

30) ~HowMany2()

31) h: object_count = 0

As you would expect, the first thing that happens is the normal constructor is called for h, which increments the object count to one. But then, as f( ) is entered, the copy-constructor is quietly called by the compiler to perform the pass-by-value. A new object is created, which is the copy of h (thus the name “h copy”) inside the function frame of f( ), so the object count becomes two, courtesy of the copy-constructor.

Line eight indicates the beginning of the return from f( ). But before the local variable “h copy” can be destroyed (it goes out of scope at the end of the function), it must be copied into the return value, which happens to be h2. A previously unconstructed object (h2) is created from an existing object (the local variable inside f( )), so of course the copy-constructor is used again in line nine. Now the name becomes “h copy copy” for h2’s identifier because it’s being copied from the copy that is the local object inside f( ). After the object is returned, but before the function ends, the object count becomes temporarily three, but then the local object “h copy” is destroyed. After the call to f( ) completes in line 13, there are only two objects, h and h2, and you can see that h2 did indeed end up as “h copy copy.”

Temporary objects

Line 15 begins the call to f(h), this time ignoring the return value. You can see in line 16 that the copy-constructor is called just as before to pass the argument in. And also, as before, line 21 shows the copy-constructor is called for the return value. But the copy-constructor must have an address to work on as its destination (a this pointer). Where is the object returned to?

It turns out the compiler can create a temporary object whenever it needs one to properly evaluate an expression. In this case it creates one you don’t even see to act as the destination for the ignored return value of f( ). The lifetime of this temporary object is as short as possible so the landscape doesn’t get cluttered up with temporaries waiting to be destroyed, taking up valuable resources. In some cases, the temporary might be immediately passed to another function, but in this case it isn’t needed after the function call, so as soon as the function call ends by calling the destructor for the local object (lines 23 and 24), the temporary object is destroyed (lines 25 and 26).

Now, in lines 28-31, the h2 object is destroyed, followed by h, and the object count goes correctly back to zero.

Default copy-constructor

Because the copy-constructor implements pass and return by value, it’s important that the compiler will create one for you in the case of simple structures – effectively, the same thing it does in C. However, all you’ve seen so far is the default primitive behavior: a bitcopy.

When more complex types are involved, the C++ compiler will still automatically create a copy-constructor if you don’t make one. Again, however, a bitcopy doesn’t make sense, because it doesn’t necessarily implement the proper meaning.

Here’s an example to show the more intelligent approach the compiler takes. Suppose you create a new class composed of objects of several existing classes. This is called, appropriately enough, composition, and it’s one of the ways you can make new classes from existing classes. Now take the role of a naive user who’s trying to solve a problem quickly by creating the new class this way. You don’t know about copy-constructors, so you don’t create one. The example demonstrates what the compiler does while creating the default copy-constructor for your new class:

//: C11:Autocc.cpp

// Automatic copy-constructor

#include <iostream>

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

class WithCC { // With copy-constructor

public:

// Explicit default constructor required:

WithCC() {}

WithCC(const WithCC&) {

cout << “WithCC(WithCC&)” << endl;

}

};

class WoCC { // Without copy-constructor

static const int bsz = 30;

char buf[bsz];

public:

WoCC(const char* msg = 0) {

memset(buf, 0, bsz);

if(msg) strncpy(buf, msg, bsz);

}

void print(const char* msg = 0) const {

if(msg) cout << msg << “: “;

cout << buf << endl;

}

};

class Composite {

WithCC withcc; // Embedded objects

WoCC wocc;

public:

Composite() : wocc(“Composite()”) {}

void print(const char* msg = 0) {

wocc.print(msg);

}

};

int main() {

Composite c;

c.print(“contents of c”);

cout << “calling Composite copy-constructor”

<< endl;

Composite c2 = c; // Calls copy-constructor

c2.print(“contents of c2”);

} ///:~

The class WithCC contains a copy-constructor, which simply announces it has been called, and this brings up an interesting issue. In the class Composite, an object of WithCC is created using a default constructor. If there were no constructors at all in WithCC, the compiler would automatically create a default constructor, which would do nothing in this case. However, if you add a copy-constructor, you’ve told the compiler you’re going to handle constructor creation, so it no longer creates a default constructor for you and will complain unless you explicitly create a default constructor as was done for WithCC.

The class WoCC has no copy-constructor, but its constructor will store a message in an internal buffer that can be printed out using print( ). This constructor is explicitly called in Composite’s constructor initializer list (briefly introduced in Chapter XX and covered fully in Chapter XX). The reason for this becomes apparent later.

The class Composite has member objects of both WithCC and WoCC (note the embedded object wocc is initialized in the constructor-initializer list, as it must be), and no explicitly defined copy-constructor. However, in main( ) an object is created using the copy-constructor in the definition:

Composite c2 = c;

The copy-constructor for Composite is created automatically by the compiler, and the output of the program reveals how it is created.

To create a copy-constructor for a class that uses composition (and inheritance, which is introduced in Chapter XX), the compiler recursively calls the copy-constructors for all the member objects and base classes. That is, if the member object also contains another object, its copy-constructor is also called. So in this case, the compiler calls the copy-constructor for WithCC. The output shows this constructor being called. Because WoCC has no copy-constructor, the compiler creates one for it, which is the default behavior of a bitcopy, and calls that inside the Composite copy-constructor. The call to Composite::print( ) in main shows that this happens because the contents of c2.wocc are identical to the contents of c.wocc. The process the compiler goes through to synthesize a copy-constructor is called memberwise initialization.

It’s best to always create your own copy-constructor rather than letting the compiler do it for you. This guarantees it will be under your control.

Alternatives to copy-construction

At this point your head may be swimming, and you might be wondering how you could have possibly written a functional class without knowing about the copy-constructor. But remember: You need a copy-constructor only if you’re going to pass an object of your class by value. If that never happens, you don’t need a copy-constructor.

Preventing pass-by-value

“But,” you say, “if I don’t make a copy-constructor, the compiler will create one for me. So how do I know that an object will never be passed by value?”

There’s a simple technique for preventing pass-by-value: Declare a private copy-constructor. You don’t even need to create a definition, unless one of your member functions or a friend function needs to perform a pass-by-value. If the user tries to pass or return the object by value, the compiler will produce an error message because the copy-constructor is private. It can no longer create a default copy-constructor because you’ve explicitly stated you’re taking over that job.

Here’s an example:

//: C11:Stopcc.cpp

// Preventing copy-construction

class NoCC {

int i;

NoCC(const NoCC&); // No definition

public:

NoCC(int ii = 0) : i(ii) {}

};

void f(NoCC);

int main() {

NoCC n;

//! f(n); // Error: copy-constructor called

//! NoCC n2 = n; // Error: c-c called

//! NoCC n3(n); // Error: c-c called

} ///:~

Notice the use of the more general form

NoCC(const NoCC&);

using the const.

Functions that modify outside objects

Reference syntax is nicer to use than pointer syntax, yet it clouds the meaning for the reader. For example, in the iostreams library one overloaded version of the get( ) function takes a char& as an argument, and the whole point of the function is to modify its argument by inserting the result of the get( ). However, when you read code using this function it’s not immediately obvious to you the outside object is being modified:

char c;

cin.get(c);

Instead, the function call looks like a pass-by-value, which suggests the outside object is not modified.

Because of this, it’s probably safer from a code maintenance standpoint to use pointers when you’re passing the address of an argument to modify. If you always pass addresses as const references except when you intend to modify the outside object via the address, where you pass by non-const pointer, then your code is far easier for the reader to follow.

Pointers to members

A pointer is a variable that holds the address of some location, which can be either data or a function, so you can change what a pointer selects at runtime. The C++ pointer‑to‑member follows this same concept, except that what it selects is a location inside a class. The dilemma here is that all a pointer needs is an address, but there is no “address” inside a class; selecting a member of a class means offsetting into that class. You can’t produce an actual address until you combine that offset with the starting address of a particular object. The syntax of pointers to members requires that you select an object at the same time you’re dereferencing the pointer to member.

To understand this syntax, consider a simple structure:

struct simple { int a; };

If you have a pointer sp and an object so for this structure, you can select members by saying

sp->a;

so.a;

Now suppose you have an ordinary pointer to an integer, ip. To access what ip is pointing to, you dereference the pointer with a *:

*ip = 4;

Finally, consider what happens if you have a pointer that happens to point to something inside a class object, even if it does in fact represent an offset into the object. To access what it’s pointing at, you must dereference it with *. But it’s an offset into an object, so you must also refer to that particular object. Thus, the * is combined with the object dereferencing. As an example using the simple class,

sp->*pm = 47;

so.*pm = 47;

So the new syntax becomes –>* for a pointer to an object, and .* for the object or a reference. Now, what is the syntax for defining pm? Like any pointer, you have to say what type it’s pointing at, and you use a * in the definition. The only difference is you must say what class of objects this pointer-to-member is used with. Of course, this is accomplished with the name of the class and the scope resolution operator. Thus,

int simple::*pm;

You can also initialize the pointer-to-member when you define it (or any other time):

int simple::*pm = &simple::a;

There is actually no “address” of simple::a because you’re just referring to the class and not an object of that class. Thus, &simple::a can be used only as pointer-to-member syntax.

Functions

A similar exercise produces the pointer-to-member syntax for member functions. A pointer to a function is defined like this:

int (*fp)(float);

The parentheses around (*fp) are necessary to force the compiler to evaluate the definition properly. Without them this would appear to be a function that returns an int*.

To define and use a pointer to a member function, parentheses play a similarly important role. If you have a function inside a structure:

struct simple2 { int f(float); };

you define a pointer to that member function by inserting the class name and scope resolution operator into an ordinary function pointer definition:

int (simple2::*fp)(float);

You can also initialize it when you create it, or at any other time:

int (simple2::*fp)(float) = &simple2::f;

As with normal functions, the & is optional; you can give the function identifier without an argument list to mean the address:

fp = simple2::f;

An example

The value of a pointer is that you can change what it points to at runtime, which provides an important flexibility in your programming because through a pointer you can select or change behavior at runtime. A pointer-to-member is no different; it allows you to choose a member at runtime. Typically, your classes will have only member functions publicly visible (data members are usually considered part of the underlying implementation), so the following example selects member functions at runtime.

//: C11:Pmem.cpp

// Pointers to members

class Widget {

public:

void f(int);

void g(int);

void h(int);

void i(int);

};

void Widget::h(int) {}

int main() {

Widget w;

Widget* wp = &w;

void (Widget::*pmem)(int) = &Widget::h;

(w.*pmem)(1);

(wp->*pmem)(2);

} ///:~

Of course, it isn’t particularly reasonable to expect the casual user to create such complicated expressions. If the user must directly manipulate a pointer-to-member, then a typedef is in order. To really clean things up, you can use the pointer-to-member as part of the internal implementation mechanism. Here’s the preceding example using a pointer-to-member inside the class. All the user needs to do is pass a number in to select a function.[37]

//: C11:Pmem2.cpp

// Pointers to members

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Widget {

void f(int) const {cout << “Widget::f()\n”;}

void g(int) const {cout << “Widget::g()\n”;}

void h(int) const {cout << “Widget::h()\n”;}

void i(int) const {cout << “Widget::i()\n”;}

static const int _count = 4;

void (Widget::*fptr[_count])(int) const;

public:

Widget() {

fptr[0] = &Widget::f; // Full spec required

fptr[1] = &Widget::g;

fptr[2] = &Widget::h;

fptr[3] = &Widget::i;

}

void select(int i, int j) {

if(i < 0 || i >= _count) return;

(this->*fptr[i])(j);

}

int count() { return _count; }

};

int main() {

Widget w;

for(int i = 0; i < w.count(); i++)

w.select(i, 47);

} ///:~

In the class interface and in main( ), you can see that the entire implementation, including the functions themselves, has been hidden away. The code must even ask for the count( ) of functions. This way, the class implementor can change the quantity of functions in the underlying implementation without affecting the code where the class is used.

The initialization of the pointers-to-members in the constructor may seem overspecified. Shouldn’t you be able to say

fptr[1] = &g;

because the name g occurs in the member function, which is automatically in the scope of the class? The problem is this doesn’t conform to the pointer-to-member syntax, which is required so everyone, especially the compiler, can figure out what’s going on. Similarly, when the pointer-to-member is dereferenced, it seems like

(this->*fptr[i])(j);

is also over-specified; this looks redundant. Again, the syntax requires that a pointer-to-member always be bound to an object when it is dereferenced.

Summary

Pointers in C++ are remarkably similar to pointers in C, which is good. Otherwise a lot of C code wouldn’t compile properly under C++. The only compiler errors you will produce is where dangerous assignments occur. If these are in fact what are intended, the compiler errors can be removed with a simple (and explicit!) cast.

C++ also adds the reference from Algol and Pascal, which is like a constant pointer that is automatically dereferenced by the compiler. A reference holds an address, but you treat it like an object. References are essential for clean syntax with operator overloading (the subject of the next chapter), but they also add syntactic convenience for passing and returning objects for ordinary functions.

The copy-constructor takes a reference to an existing object of the same type as its argument, and it is used to create a new object from an existing one. The compiler automatically calls the copy-constructor when you pass or return an object by value. Although the compiler will automatically create a copy-constructor for you, if you think one will be needed for your class you should always define it yourself to ensure that the proper behavior occurs. If you don’t want the object passed or returned by value, you should create a private copy-constructor.

Pointers-to-members have the same functionality as ordinary pointers: You can choose a particular region of storage (data or function) at runtime. Pointers-to-members just happen to work with class members rather than global data or functions. You get the programming flexibility that allows you to change behavior at runtime.

Exercises

1. Create a function that takes a char& argument and modifies that argument. In main( ), print out a char variable, call your function for that variable, and print it out again to prove to yourself it has been changed. How does this affect program readability?

2. Write a class with a copy-constructor that announces itself to cout. Now create a function that passes an object of your new class in by value and another one that creates a local object of your new class and returns it by value. Call these functions to prove to yourself that the copy-constructor is indeed quietly called when passing and returning objects by value.

3. Discover how to get your compiler to generate assembly language, and produce assembly for PassStruct.cpp. Trace through and demystify the way your compiler generates code to pass and return large structures.

4. (Advanced) This exercise creates an alternative to using the copy-constructor. Create a class X and declare (but don’t define) a private copy-constructor. Make a public clone( ) function as a const member function that returns a copy of the object created using new (a forward reference to Chapter XX). Now create a function that takes as an argument a const X& and clones a local copy that can be modified. The drawback to this approach is that you are responsible for explicitly destroying the cloned object (using delete) when you’re done with it.

12: [BE6] Operator overloading

Operator overloading is just “syntactic sugar,” which means it is simply another way for you to make a function call.

The difference is the arguments for this function don’t appear inside parentheses, but instead surrounding or next to characters you’ve always thought of as immutable operators.

There are two differences between the use of an operator and an ordinary function call. The syntax is different; an operator is often “called” by placing it between or sometimes after the arguments. The second difference is that the compiler determines what “function” to call. For instance, if you are using the operator + with floating-point arguments, the compiler “calls” the function to perform floating-point addition (this “call” is typically the act of inserting in-line code, or a floating-point coprocessor instruction). If you use operator + with a floating-point number and an integer, the compiler “calls” a special function to turn the int into a float, and then “calls” the floating-point addition code.

But in C++, it’s possible to define new operators that work with classes. This definition is just like an ordinary function definition except the name of the function begins with the keyword operator and ends with the operator itself. That’s the only difference, and it becomes a function like any other function, which the compiler calls when it sees the appropriate pattern.

Warning & reassurance

It’s very tempting to become overenthusiastic with operator overloading. It’s a fun toy, at first. But remember it’s only syntactic sugar, another way of calling a function. Looking at it this way, you have no reason to overload an operator except that it will make the code involving your class easier to write and especially read. (Remember, code is read much more than it is written.) If this isn’t the case, don’t bother.

Another common response to operator overloading is panic: Suddenly, C operators have no familiar meaning anymore. “Everything’s changed and all my C code will do different things !” This isn’t true. All the operators used in expressions that contain only built-in data types cannot be changed. You can never overload operators such that

1 << 4;

behaves differently, or

1.414 << 2;

has meaning. Only an expression containing a user-defined type can have an overloaded operator.

Syntax

Defining an overloaded operator is like defining a function, but the name of that function is operator@, where @ represents the operator. The number of arguments in the function argument list depends on two factors:

1. Whether it’s a unary (one argument) or binary (two argument) operator.

2. Whether the operator is defined as a global function (one argument for unary, two for binary) or a member function (zero arguments for unary, one for binary – the object becomes the left-hand argument).

Here’s a small class that shows the syntax for operator overloading:

//: C12:Opover.cpp

// Operator overloading syntax

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Integer {

int i;

public:

Integer(int ii) { i = ii; }

const Integer

operator+(const Integer& rv) const {

cout << “operator+” << endl;

return Integer(i + rv.i);

}

Integer&

operator+=(const Integer& rv){

cout << “operator+=” << endl;

i += rv.i;

return *this;

}

};

int main() {

cout << “built-in types:” << endl;

int i = 1, j = 2, k = 3;

k += i + j;

cout << “user-defined types:” << endl;

Integer I(1), J(2), K(3);

K += I + J;

} ///:~

The two overloaded operators are defined as inline member functions that announce when they are called. The single argument is what appears on the right-hand side of the operator for binary operators. Unary operators have no arguments when defined as member functions. The member function is called for the object on the left-hand side of the operator.

For nonconditional operators (conditionals usually return a Boolean value) you’ll almost always want to return an object or reference of the same type you’re operating on if the two arguments are the same type. If they’re not, the interpretation of what it should produce is up to you. This way complex expressions can be built up:

K += I + J;

The operator+ produces a new Integer (a temporary) that is used as the rv argument for the operator+=. This temporary is destroyed as soon as it is no longer needed.

Overloadable operators

Although you can overload almost all the operators available in C, the use is fairly restrictive. In particular, you cannot combine operators that currently have no meaning in C (such as ** to represent exponentiation), you cannot change the evaluation precedence of operators, and you cannot change the number of arguments an operator takes. This makes sense – all these actions would produce operators that confuse meaning rather than clarify it.

The next two subsections give examples of all the “regular” operators, overloaded in the form that you’ll most likely use.

Unary operators

The following example shows the syntax to overload all the unary operators, both in the form of global functions and member functions. These will expand upon the Integer class shown previously and add a new byte class. The meaning of your particular operators will depend on the way you want to use them, but consider the client programmer before doing something unexpected.

//: C12:Unary.cpp

// Overloading unary operators

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Integer {

long i;

Integer* This() { return this; }

public:

Integer(long ll = 0) : i(ll) {}

// No side effects takes const& argument:

friend const Integer&

operator+(const Integer& a);

friend const Integer

operator-(const Integer& a);

friend const Integer

operator~(const Integer& a);

friend Integer*

operator&(Integer& a);

friend int

operator!(const Integer& a);

// Side effects don’t take const& argument:

// Prefix:

friend const Integer&

operator++(Integer& a);

// Postfix:

friend const Integer

operator++(Integer& a, int);

// Prefix:

friend const Integer&

operator–(Integer& a);

// Postfix:

friend const Integer

operator–(Integer& a, int);

};

// Global operators:

const Integer& operator+(const Integer& a) {

cout << “+Integer\n”;

return a; // Unary + has no effect

}

const Integer operator-(const Integer& a) {

cout << “-Integer\n”;

return Integer(-a.i);

}

const Integer operator~(const Integer& a) {

cout << “~Integer\n”;

return Integer(~a.i);

}

Integer* operator&(Integer& a) {

cout << “&Integer\n”;

return a.This(); // &a is recursive!

}

int operator!(const Integer& a) {

cout << “!Integer\n”;

return !a.i;

}

// Prefix; return incremented value

const Integer& operator++(Integer& a) {

cout << “++Integer\n”;

a.i++;

return a;

}

// Postfix; return the value before increment:

const Integer operator++(Integer& a, int) {

cout << “Integer++\n”;

Integer r(a.i);

a.i++;

return r;

}

// Prefix; return decremented value

const Integer& operator–(Integer& a) {

cout << “–Integer\n”;

a.i–;

return a;

}

// Postfix; return the value before decrement:

const Integer operator–(Integer& a, int) {

cout << “Integer–\n”;

Integer r(a.i);

a.i–;

return r;

}

void f(Integer a) {

+a;

-a;

~a;

Integer* ip = &a;

!a;

++a;

a++;

–a;

a–;

}

// Member operators (implicit “this”):

class Byte {

unsigned char b;

public:

Byte(unsigned char bb = 0) : b(bb) {}

// No side effects: const member function:

const Byte& operator+() const {

cout << “+Byte\n”;

return *this;

}

const Byte operator-() const {

cout << “-Byte\n”;

return Byte(-b);

}

const Byte operator~() const {

cout << “~Byte\n”;

return Byte(~b);

}

Byte operator!() const {

cout << “!Byte\n”;

return Byte(!b);

}

Byte* operator&() {

cout << “&Byte\n”;

return this;

}

// Side effects: non-const member function:

const Byte& operator++() { // Prefix

cout << “++Byte\n”;

b++;

return *this;

}

const Byte operator++(int) { // Postfix

cout << “Byte++\n”;

Byte before(b);

b++;

return before;

}

const Byte& operator–() { // Prefix

cout << “–Byte\n”;

–b;

return *this;

}

const Byte operator–(int) { // Postfix

cout << “Byte–\n”;

Byte before(b);

–b;

return before;

}

};

void g(Byte b) {

+b;

-b;

~b;

Byte* bp = &b;

!b;

++b;

b++;

–b;

b–;

}

int main() {

Integer a;

f(a);

Byte b;

g(b);

} ///:~

The functions are grouped according to the way their arguments are passed. Guidelines for how to pass and return arguments are given later. The above forms (and the ones that follow in the next section) are typically what you’ll use, so start with them as a pattern when overloading your own operators.

Increment & decrement

The overloaded ++ and – – operators present a dilemma because you want to be able to call different functions depending on whether they appear before (prefix) or after (postfix) the object they’re acting upon. The solution is simple, but some people find it a bit confusing at first. When the compiler sees, for example, ++a (a preincrement), it generates a call to operator++(a); but when it sees a++, it generates a call to operator++(a, int). That is, the compiler differentiates between the two forms by making different function calls. In Unary.cpp for the member function versions, if the compiler sees ++b, it generates a call to B::operator++( ); and if it sees b++ it calls B::operator++(int).

The user never sees the result of her action except that a different function gets called for the prefix and postfix versions. Underneath, however, the two functions calls have different signatures, so they link to two different function bodies. The compiler passes a dummy constant value for the int argument (which is never given an identifier because the value is never used) to generate the different signature for the postfix version.

Binary operators

The following listing repeats the example of Unary.cpp for binary operators. Both global versions and member function versions are shown.

//: C12:Binary.cpp

// Overloading binary operators

#include “../require.h”

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“binary.out”);

class Integer { // Combine this with Unary.cpp

long i;

public:

Integer(long ll = 0) : i(ll) {}

// Operators that create new, modified value:

friend const Integer

operator+(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator-(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator*(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator/(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator%(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator^(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator&(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator|(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator<<(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend const Integer

operator>>(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

// Assignments modify & return lvalue:

friend Integer&

operator+=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator-=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator*=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator/=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator%=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator^=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator&=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator|=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator>>=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend Integer&

operator<<=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

// Conditional operators return true/false:

friend int

operator==(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator!=(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator<(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator>(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator<=(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator>=(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator&&(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

friend int

operator||(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right);

// Write the contents to an ostream:

void print(ostream& os) const { os << i; }

};

const Integer

operator+(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i + right.i);

}

const Integer

operator-(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i – right.i);

}

const Integer

operator*(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i * right.i);

}

const Integer

operator/(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

require(right.i != 0, “divide by zero”);

return Integer(left.i / right.i);

}

const Integer

operator%(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

require(right.i != 0, “modulo by zero”);

return Integer(left.i % right.i);

}

const Integer

operator^(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i ^ right.i);

}

const Integer

operator&(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i & right.i);

}

const Integer

operator|(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i | right.i);

}

const Integer

operator<<(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i << right.i);

}

const Integer

operator>>(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return Integer(left.i >> right.i);

}

// Assignments modify & return lvalue:

Integer& operator+=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i += right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator-=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i -= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator*=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i *= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator/=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

require(right.i != 0, “divide by zero”);

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i /= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator%=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

require(right.i != 0, “modulo by zero”);

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i %= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator^=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i ^= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator&=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i &= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator|=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i |= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator>>=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i >>= right.i;

return left;

}

Integer& operator<<=(Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

if(&left == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

left.i <<= right.i;

return left;

}

// Conditional operators return true/false:

int operator==(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i == right.i;

}

int operator!=(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i != right.i;

}

int operator<(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i < right.i;

}

int operator>(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i > right.i;

}

int operator<=(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i <= right.i;

}

int operator>=(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i >= right.i;

}

int operator&&(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i && right.i;

}

int operator||(const Integer& left,

const Integer& right) {

return left.i || right.i;

}

void h(Integer& c1, Integer& c2) {

// A complex expression:

c1 += c1 * c2 + c2 % c1;

#define TRY(OP) \

out << “c1 = “; c1.print(out); \

out << “, c2 = “; c2.print(out); \

out << “; c1 ” #OP ” c2 produces “; \

(c1 OP c2).print(out); \

out << endl;

TRY(+) TRY(-) TRY(*) TRY(/)

TRY(%) TRY(^) TRY(&) TRY(|)

TRY(<<) TRY(>>) TRY(+=) TRY(-=)

TRY(*=) TRY(/=) TRY(%=) TRY(^=)

TRY(&=) TRY(|=) TRY(>>=) TRY(<<=)

// Conditionals:

#define TRYC(OP) \

out << “c1 = “; c1.print(out); \

out << “, c2 = “; c2.print(out); \

out << “; c1 ” #OP ” c2 produces “; \

out << (c1 OP c2); \

out << endl;

TRYC(<) TRYC(>) TRYC(==) TRYC(!=) TRYC(<=)

TRYC(>=) TRYC(&&) TRYC(||)

}

// Member operators (implicit “this”):

class Byte { // Combine this with Unary.cpp

unsigned char b;

public:

Byte(unsigned char bb = 0) : b(bb) {}

// No side effects: const member function:

const Byte

operator+(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b + right.b);

}

const Byte

operator-(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b – right.b);

}

const Byte

operator*(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b * right.b);

}

const Byte

operator/(const Byte& right) const {

require(right.b != 0, “divide by zero”);

return Byte(b / right.b);

}

const Byte

operator%(const Byte& right) const {

require(right.b != 0, “modulo by zero”);

return Byte(b % right.b);

}

const Byte

operator^(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b ^ right.b);

}

const Byte

operator&(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b & right.b);

}

const Byte

operator|(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b | right.b);

}

const Byte

operator<<(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b << right.b);

}

const Byte

operator>>(const Byte& right) const {

return Byte(b >> right.b);

}

// Assignments modify & return lvalue.

// operator= can only be a member function:

Byte& operator=(const Byte& right) {

// Handle self-assignment:

if(this == &right) return *this;

b = right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator+=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b += right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator-=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b -= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator*=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b *= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator/=(const Byte& right) {

require(right.b != 0, “divide by zero”);

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b /= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator%=(const Byte& right) {

require(right.b != 0, “modulo by zero”);

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b %= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator^=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b ^= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator&=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b &= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator|=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b |= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator>>=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b >>= right.b;

return *this;

}

Byte& operator<<=(const Byte& right) {

if(this == &right) {/* self-assignment */}

b <<= right.b;

return *this;

}

// Conditional operators return true/false:

int operator==(const Byte& right) const {

return b == right.b;

}

int operator!=(const Byte& right) const {

return b != right.b;

}

int operator<(const Byte& right) const {

return b < right.b;

}

int operator>(const Byte& right) const {

return b > right.b;

}

int operator<=(const Byte& right) const {

return b <= right.b;

}

int operator>=(const Byte& right) const {

return b >= right.b;

}

int operator&&(const Byte& right) const {

return b && right.b;

}

int operator||(const Byte& right) const {

return b || right.b;

}

// Write the contents to an ostream:

void print(ostream& os) const {

os << “0x” << hex << int(b) << dec;

}

};

void k(Byte& b1, Byte& b2) {

b1 = b1 * b2 + b2 % b1;

#define TRY2(OP) \

out << “b1 = “; b1.print(out); \

out << “, b2 = “; b2.print(out); \

out << “; b1 ” #OP ” b2 produces “; \

(b1 OP b2).print(out); \

out << endl;

b1 = 9; b2 = 47;

TRY2(+) TRY2(-) TRY2(*) TRY2(/)

TRY2(%) TRY2(^) TRY2(&) TRY2(|)

TRY2(<<) TRY2(>>) TRY2(+=) TRY2(-=)

TRY2(*=) TRY2(/=) TRY2(%=) TRY2(^=)

TRY2(&=) TRY2(|=) TRY2(>>=) TRY2(<<=)

TRY2(=) // Assignment operator

// Conditionals:

#define TRYC2(OP) \

out << “b1 = “; b1.print(out); \

out << “, b2 = “; b2.print(out); \

out << “; b1 ” #OP ” b2 produces “; \

out << (b1 OP b2); \

out << endl;

b1 = 9; b2 = 47;

TRYC2(<) TRYC2(>) TRYC2(==) TRYC2(!=) TRYC2(<=)

TRYC2(>=) TRYC2(&&) TRYC2(||)

// Chained assignment:

Byte b3 = 92;

b1 = b2 = b3;

}

int main() {

Integer c1(47), c2(9);

h(c1, c2);

out << “\n member functions:” << endl;

Byte b1(47), b2(9);

k(b1, b2);

} ///:~

You can see that operator= is only allowed to be a member function. This is explained later.

Notice that all the assignment operators have code to check for self-assignment, as a general guideline. In some cases this is not necessary; for example, with operator+= you may want to say A+=A and have it add A to itself. The most important place to check for self-assignment is operator= because with complicated objects disastrous results may occur. (In some cases it’s OK, but you should always keep it in mind when writing operator=.)

All of the operators shown in the previous two examples are overloaded to handle a single type. It’s also possible to overload operators to handle mixed types, so you can add apples to oranges, for example. Before you start on an exhaustive overloading of operators, however, you should look at the section on automatic type conversion later in this chapter. Often, a type conversion in the right place can save you a lot of overloaded operators.

Arguments & return values

It may seem a little confusing at first when you look at Unary.cpp and Binary.cpp and see all the different ways that arguments are passed and returned. Although you can pass and return arguments any way you want to, the choices in these examples were not selected at random. They follow a very logical pattern, the same one you’ll want to use in most of your choices.

1. As with any function argument, if you only need to read from the argument and not change it, default to passing it as a const reference. Ordinary arithmetic operations (like + and , etc.) and Booleans will not change their arguments, so pass by const reference is predominantly what you’ll use. When the function is a class member, this translates to making it a const member function. Only with the operator-assignments (like +=) and the operator=, which change the left-hand argument, is the left argument not a constant, but it’s still passed in as an address because it will be changed.

2. The type of return value you should select depends on the expected meaning of the operator. (Again, you can do anything you want with the arguments and return values.) If the effect of the operator is to produce a new value, you will need to generate a new object as the return value. For example, Integer::operator+ must produce an Integer object that is the sum of the operands. This object is returned by value as a const, so the result cannot be modified as an lvalue.

3. All the assignment operators modify the lvalue. To allow the result of the assignment to be used in chained expressions, like A=B=C, it’s expected that you will return a reference to that same lvalue that was just modified. But should this reference be a const or nonconst? Although you read A=B=C from left to right, the compiler parses it from right to left, so you’re not forced to return a nonconst to support assignment chaining. However, people do sometimes expect to be able to perform an operation on the thing that was just assigned to, such as (A=B).func( ); to call func( ) on A after assigning B to it. Thus the return value for all the assignment operators should be a nonconst reference to the lvalue.

4. For the logical operators, everyone expects to get at worst an int back, and at best a bool. (Libraries developed before most compilers supported C++’s built-in bool will use int or an equivalent typedef).

5. The increment and decrement operators present a dilemma because of the pre- and postfix versions. Both versions change the object and so cannot treat the object as a const. The prefix version returns the value of the object after it was changed, so you expect to get back the object that was changed. Thus, with prefix you can just return *this as a reference. The postfix version is supposed to return the value before the value is changed, so you’re forced to create a separate object to represent that value and return it. Thus, with postfix you must return by value if you want to preserve the expected meaning. (Note that you’ll often find the increment and decrement operators returning an int or bool to indicate, for example, whether an iterator is at the end of a list). Now the question is: Should these be returned as const or nonconst? If you allow the object to be modified and someone writes (++A).func( );, func( ) will be operating on A itself, but with (A++).func( );, func( ) operates on the temporary object returned by the postfix operator++. Temporary objects are automatically const, so this would be flagged by the compiler, but for consistency’s sake it may make more sense to make them both const, as was done here. Because of the variety of meanings you may want to give the increment and decrement operators, they will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Return by value as const

Returning by value as a const can seem a bit subtle at first, and so deserves a bit more explanation. Consider the binary operator+. If you use it in an expression such as f(A+B), the result of A+B becomes a temporary object that is used in the call to f( ). Because it’s a temporary, it’s automatically const, so whether you explicitly make the return value const or not has no effect.

However, it’s also possible for you to send a message to the return value of A+B, rather than just passing it to a function. For example, you can say (A+B).g( ), where g( ) is some member function of Integer, in this case. By making the return value const, you state that only a const member function can be called for that return value. This is const-correct, because it prevents you from storing potentially valuable information in an object that will most likely be lost.

return efficiency

When new objects are created to return by value, notice the form used. In operator+, for example:

return Integer(left.i + right.i);

This may look at first like a “function call to a constructor,” but it’s not. The syntax is that of a temporary object; the statement says “make a temporary Integer object and return it.” Because of this, you might think that the result is the same as creating a named local object and returning that. However, it’s quite different. If you were to say instead:

Integer tmp(left.i + right.i);

return tmp;

three things will happen. First, the tmp object is created including its constructor call. Then, the copy-constructor copies the tmp to the location of the outside return value. Finally, the destructor is called for tmp at the end of the scope.

In contrast, the “returning a temporary” approach works quite differently. When the compiler sees you do this, it knows that you have no other need for the object it’s creating than to return it so it builds the object directly into the location of the outside return value. This requires only a single ordinary constructor call (no copy-constructor is necessary) and there’s no destructor call because you never actually create a local object. Thus, while it doesn’t cost anything but programmer awareness, it’s significantly more efficient.

Unusual operators

Several additional operators have a slightly different syntax for overloading.

The subscript, operator[ ], must be a member function and it requires a single argument. Because it implies that the object acts like an array, you will often return a reference from this operator, so it can be used conveniently on the left-hand side of an equal sign. This operator is commonly overloaded; you’ll see examples in the rest of the book.

The comma operator is called when it appears next to an object of the type the comma is defined for. However, operator, is not called for function argument lists, only for objects that are out in the open, separated by commas. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of practical uses for this operator; it’s in the language for consistency. Here’s an example showing how the comma function can be called when the comma appears before an object, as well as after:

//: C12:Comma.cpp

// Overloading the ‘,’ operator

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class After {

public:

const After& operator,(const After&) const {

cout << “After::operator,()” << endl;

return *this;

}

};

class Before {};

Before& operator,(int, Before& b) {

cout << “Before::operator,()” << endl;

return b;

}

int main() {

After a, b;

a, b; // Operator comma called

Before c;

1, c; // Operator comma called

} ///:~

The global function allows the comma to be placed before the object in question. The usage shown is fairly obscure and questionable. Although you would probably use a comma-separated list as part of a more complex expression, it’s too subtle to use in most situations.

The function call operator( ) must be a member function, and it is unique in that it allows any number of arguments. It makes your object look like it’s actually a function name, so it’s probably best used for types that only have a single operation, or at least an especially prominent one.

The operators new and delete control dynamic storage allocation, and can be overloaded. This very important topic is covered in the next chapter.

The operator–>* is a binary operator that behaves like all the other binary operators. It is provided for those situations when you want to mimic the behavior provided by the built-in pointer-to-member syntax, described in the previous chapter.

The smart pointer operator–> is designed to be used when you want to make an object appear to be a pointer. This is especially useful if you want to “wrap” a class around a pointer to make that pointer safe, or in the common usage of an iterator, which is an object that moves through a collection or container of other objects and selects them one at a time, without providing direct access to the implementation of the container. (You’ll often find containers and iterators in class libraries.)

A smart pointer must be a member function. It has additional, atypical constraints: It must return either an object (or reference to an object) that also has a smart pointer or a pointer that can be used to select what the smart pointer arrow is pointing at. Here’s a simple example:

//: C12:Smartp.cpp

// Smart pointer example

#include <iostream>

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

class Obj {

static int i, j;

public:

void f() { cout << i++ << endl; }

void g() { cout << j++ << endl; }

};

// Static member definitions:

int Obj::i = 47;

int Obj::j = 11;

// Container:

class ObjContainer {

static const int sz = 100;

Obj* a[sz];

int index;

public:

ObjContainer() {

index = 0;

memset(a, 0, sz * sizeof(Obj*));

}

void add(Obj* obj) {

if(index >= sz) return;

a[index++] = obj;

}

friend class Sp;

};

// Iterator:

class Sp {

ObjContainer* oc;

int index;

public:

Sp(ObjContainer* objc) {

index = 0;

oc = objc;

}

// Return value indicates end of list:

int operator++() { // Prefix

if(index >= oc->sz) return 0;

if(oc->a[++index] == 0) return 0;

return 1;

}

int operator++(int) { // Postfix

return operator++(); // Use prefix version

}

Obj* operator->() const {

if(oc->a[index]) return oc->a[index];

static Obj dummy;

return &dummy;

}

};

int main() {

const int sz = 10;

Obj o[sz];

ObjContainer oc;

for(int i = 0; i < sz; i++)

oc.add(&o[i]); // Fill it up

Sp sp(&oc); // Create an iterator

do {

sp->f(); // Smart pointer calls

sp->g();

} while(sp++);

} ///:~

The class Obj defines the objects that are manipulated in this program. The functions f( ) and g( ) simply print out interesting values using static data members. Pointers to these objects are stored inside containers of type ObjContainer using its add( ) function. ObjContainer looks like an array of pointers, but you’ll notice there’s no way to get the pointers back out again. However, Sp is declared as a friend class, so it has permission to look inside the container. The Sp class looks very much like an intelligent pointer – you can move it forward using operator++ (you can also define an operator– –), it won’t go past the end of the container it’s pointing to, and it returns (via the smart pointer operator) the value it’s pointing to. Notice that an iterator is a custom fit for the container it’s created for – unlike a pointer, there isn’t a “general purpose” iterator. Containers and iterators are covered in more depth in Chapter XX.

In main( ), once the container oc is filled with Obj objects, an iterator SP is created. The smart pointer calls happen in the expressions:

sp->f(); // Smart pointer calls

sp->g();

Here, even though sp doesn’t actually have f( ) and g( ) member functions, the smart pointer mechanism calls those functions for the Obj* that is returned by Sp::operator–>. The compiler performs all the checking to make sure the function call works properly.

Although the underlying mechanics of the smart pointer are more complex than the other operators, the goal is exactly the same – to provide a more convenient syntax for the users of your classes.

Operators you can’t overload

There are certain operators in the available set that cannot be overloaded. The general reason for the restriction is safety: If these operators were overloadable, it would somehow jeopardize or break safety mechanisms. Often it makes things harder, or confuses existing practice.

The member selection operator.. Currently, the dot has a meaning for any member in a class, but if you allow it to be overloaded, then you couldn’t access members in the normal way; instead you’d have to use a pointer and the arrow operator –>.

The pointer to member dereference operator.*. For the same reason as operator..

There’s no exponentiation operator. The most popular choice for this was operator** from Fortran, but this raised difficult parsing questions. Also, C has no exponentiation operator, so C++ didn’t seem to need one either because you can always perform a function call. An exponentiation operator would add a convenient notation, but no new language functionality, to account for the added complexity of the compiler.

There are no user-defined operators. That is, you can’t make up new operators that aren’t currently in the set. Part of the problem is how to determine precedence, and part of the problem is an insufficient need to account for the necessary trouble.

You can’t change the precedence rules. They’re hard enough to remember as it is, without letting people play with them.

Nonmember operators

In some of the previous examples, the operators may be members or nonmembers, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference. This usually raises the question, “Which should I choose?” In general, if it doesn’t make any difference, they should be members, to emphasize the association between the operator and its class. When the left-hand operand is an object of the current class, it works fine.

This isn’t always the case – sometimes you want the left-hand operand to be an object of some other class. A very common place to see this is when the operators << and >> are overloaded for iostreams:

//: C12:Iosop.cpp

// Iostream operator overloading

// Example of non-member overloaded operators

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <strstream>

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

class IntArray {

static const int sz = 5;

int i[sz];

public:

IntArray() {

memset(i, 0, sz* sizeof(*i));

}

int& operator[](int x) {

require(x >= 0 && x < sz,

“operator[] out of range”);

return i[x];

}

friend ostream&

operator<<(ostream& os,

const IntArray& ia);

friend istream&

operator>>(istream& is, IntArray& ia);

};

ostream& operator<<(ostream& os,

const IntArray& ia){

for(int j = 0; j < ia.sz; j++) {

os << ia.i[j];

if(j != ia.sz -1)

os << “, “;

}

os << endl;

return os;

}

istream& operator>>(istream& is, IntArray& ia){

for(int j = 0; j < ia.sz; j++)

is >> ia.i[j];

return is;

}

int main() {

istrstream input(“47 34 56 92 103”);

IntArray I;

input >> I;

I[4] = -1; // Use overloaded operator[]

cout << I;

} ///:~

This class also contains an overloaded operator[ ], which returns a reference to a legitimate value in the array. A reference is returned, so the expression

I[4] = -1;

not only looks much more civilized than if pointers were used, it also accomplishes the desired effect.

The overloaded shift operators pass and return by reference, so the actions will affect the external objects. In the function definitions, expressions like

os << ia.i[j];

cause existing overloaded operator functions to be called (that is, those defined in <iostream>). In this case, the function called is ostream& operator<<(ostream&, int) because ia.i[j] resolves to an int.

Once all the actions are performed on the istream or ostream, it is returned so it can be used in a more complicated expression.

The form shown in this example for the inserter and extractor is standard. If you want to create a set for your own class, copy the function signatures and return types and follow the form of the body.

Basic guidelines

Murray[38] suggests these guidelines for choosing between members and nonmembers:

Operator

Recommended use

All unary operators

member

= ( ) [ ] –>

must be member

+= –= /= *= ^=
&= |= %= >>= <<=

member

All other binary operators

nonmember

Overloading assignment

A common source of confusion with new C++ programmers is assignment. This is no doubt because the = sign is such a fundamental operation in programming, right down to copying a register at the machine level. In addition, the copy-constructor (from the previous chapter) can also be invoked when using the = sign:

MyType b;

MyType a = b;

a = b;

In the second line, the object a is being defined. A new object is being created where one didn’t exist before. Because you know by now how defensive the C++ compiler is about object initialization, you know that a constructor must always be called at the point where an object is defined. But which constructor? a is being created from an existing MyType object, so there’s only one choice: the copy-constructor. So even though an equal sign is involved, the copy-constructor is called.

In the third line, things are different. On the left side of the equal sign, there’s a previously initialized object. Clearly, you don’t call a constructor for an object that’s already been created. In this case MyType::operator= is called for a, taking as an argument whatever appears on the right-hand side. (You can have multiple operator= functions to take different right-hand arguments.)

This behavior is not restricted to the copy-constructor. Any time you’re initializing an object using an = instead of the ordinary function-call form of the constructor, the compiler will look for a constructor that accepts whatever is on the right-hand side:

//: C12:FeeFi.cpp

// Copying vs. initialization

class Fi {

public:

Fi() {}

};

class Fee {

public:

Fee(int) {}

Fee(const Fi&) {}

};

int main() {

Fee f = 1; // Fee(int)

Fi fi;

Fee fum = fi; // Fee(Fi)

} ///:~

When dealing with the = sign, it’s important to keep this distinction in mind: If the object hasn’t been created yet, initialization is required; otherwise the assignment operator= is used.

It’s even better to avoid writing code that uses the = for initialization; instead, always use the explicit constructor form; the last line becomes

Fee fum(fi);

This way, you’ll avoid confusing your readers.

Behavior of operator=

In Binary.cpp, you saw that operator= can be only a member function. It is intimately connected to the object on the left side of the =, and if you could define operator= globally, you could try to redefine the built-in = sign:

int operator=(int, MyType); // Global = not allowed!

The compiler skirts this whole issue by forcing you to make operator= a member function.

When you create an operator=, you must copy all the necessary information from the right-hand object into yourself to perform whatever you consider “assignment” for your class. For simple objects, this is obvious:

//: C12:Simpcopy.cpp

// Simple operator=()

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Value {

int a, b;

float c;

public:

Value(int aa = 0, int bb = 0, float cc = 0.0) {

a = aa;

b = bb;

c = cc;

}

Value& operator=(const Value& rv) {

a = rv.a;

b = rv.b;

c = rv.c;

return *this;

}

friend ostream&

operator<<(ostream& os, const Value& rv) {

return os << “a = ” << rv.a << “, b = ”

<< rv.b << “, c = ” << rv.c;

}

};

int main() {

Value A, B(1, 2, 3.3);

cout << “A: ” << A << endl;

cout << “B: ” << B << endl;

A = B;

cout << “A after assignment: ” << A << endl;

} ///:~

Here, the object on the left side of the = copies all the elements of the object on the right, then returns a reference to itself, so a more complex expression can be created.

A common mistake was made in this example. When you’re assigning two objects of the same type, you should always check first for self-assignment: Is the object being assigned to itself? In some cases, such as this one, it’s harmless if you perform the assignment operations anyway, but if changes are made to the implementation of the class it, can make a difference, and if you don’t do it as a matter of habit, you may forget and cause hard-to-find bugs.

Pointers in classes

What happens if the object is not so simple? For example, what if the object contains pointers to other objects? Simply copying a pointer means you’ll end up with two objects pointing to the same storage location. In situations like these, you need to do bookkeeping of your own.

There are two common approaches to this problem. The simplest technique is to copy whatever the pointer refers to when you do an assignment or a copy-constructor. This is very straightforward:

//: C12:Copymem.cpp

// Duplicate during assignment

#include “../require.h”

#include <cstdlib>

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

class WithPointer {

char* p;

static const int blocksz = 100;

public:

WithPointer() {

p = (char*)malloc(blocksz);

require(p != 0);

memset(p, 1, blocksz);

}

WithPointer(const WithPointer& wp) {

p = (char*)malloc(blocksz);

require(p != 0);

memcpy(p, wp.p, blocksz);

}

WithPointer&

operator=(const WithPointer& wp) {

// Check for self-assignment:

if(&wp != this)

memcpy(p, wp.p, blocksz);

return *this;

}

~WithPointer() {

free(p);

}

};

int main() {

WithPointer p;

WithPointer p2 = p; // Copy construction

p = p2; // Assignment

} ///:~

This shows the four functions you will always need to define when your class contains pointers: all necessary ordinary constructors, the copy-constructor, operator= (either define it or disallow it), and a destructor. The operator= checks for self-assignment as a matter of course, even though it’s not strictly necessary here. This virtually eliminates the possibility that you’ll forget to check for self-assignment if you do change the code so that it matters.

Here, the constructors allocate the memory and initialize it, the operator= copies it, and the destructor frees the memory. However, if you’re dealing with a lot of memory or a high overhead to initialize that memory, you may want to avoid this copying. A very common approach to this problem is called reference counting. You make the block of memory smart, so it knows how many objects are pointing to it. Then copy-construction or assignment means attaching another pointer to an existing block of memory and incrementing the reference count. Destruction means reducing the reference count and destroying the object if the reference count goes to zero.

But what if you want to write to the block of memory? More than one object may be using this block, so you’d be modifying someone else’s block as well as yours, which doesn’t seem very neighborly. To solve this problem, an additional technique called copy-on-write is often used. Before writing to a block of memory, you make sure no one else is using it. If the reference count is greater than one, you must make yourself a personal copy of that block before writing it, so you don’t disturb someone else’s turf. Here’s a simple example of reference counting and copy-on-write:

//: C12:Refcount.cpp

// Reference count, copy-on-write

#include “../require.h”

#include <cstring>

using namespace std;

class Counted {

class MemBlock {

static const int size = 100;

char c[size];

int refcount;

public:

MemBlock() {

memset(c, 1, size);

refcount = 1;

}

MemBlock(const MemBlock& rv) {

memcpy(c, rv.c, size);

refcount = 1;

}

void attach() { ++refcount; }

void detach() {

require(refcount != 0);

// Destroy object if no one is using it:

if(–refcount == 0) delete this;

}

int count() const { return refcount; }

void set(char x) { memset(c, x, size); }

// Conditionally copy this MemBlock.

// Call before modifying the block; assign

// resulting pointer to your block;

MemBlock* unalias() {

// Don’t duplicate if not aliased:

if(refcount == 1) return this;

–refcount;

// Use copy-constructor to duplicate:

return new MemBlock(*this);

}

}* block;

public:

Counted() {

block = new MemBlock; // Sneak preview

}

Counted(const Counted& rv) {

block = rv.block; // Pointer assignment

block->attach();

}

void unalias() { block = block->unalias(); }

Counted& operator=(const Counted& rv) {

// Check for self-assignment:

if(&rv == this) return *this;

// Clean up what you’re using first:

block->detach();

block = rv.block; // Like copy-constructor

block->attach();

return *this;

}

// Decrement refcount, conditionally destroy

~Counted() { block->detach(); }

// Copy-on-write:

void write(char value) {

// Do this before any write operation:

unalias();

// It’s safe to write now.

block->set(value);

}

};

int main() {

Counted A, B;

Counted C(A);

B = A;

C = C;

C.write(‘x’);

} ///:~

The nested class MemBlock is the block of memory pointed to. (Notice the pointer block defined at the end of the nested class.) It contains a reference count and functions to control and read the reference count. There’s a copy-constructor so you can make a new MemBlock from an existing one.

The attach( ) function increments the reference count of a MemBlock to indicate there’s another object using it. detach( ) decrements the reference count. If the reference count goes to zero, then no one is using it anymore, so the member function destroys its own object by saying delete this.

You can modify the memory with the set( ) function, but before you make any modifications, you should ensure that you aren’t walking on a MemBlock that some other object is using. You do this by calling Counted::unalias( ), which in turn calls MemBlock::unalias( ). The latter function will return the block pointer if the reference count is one (meaning no one else is pointing to that block), but will duplicate the block if the reference count is more than one.

This example includes a sneak preview of the next chapter. Instead of C’s malloc( ) and free( ) to create and destroy the objects, the special C++ operators new and delete are used. For this example, you can think of new and delete just like malloc( ) and free( ), except new calls the constructor after allocating memory, and delete calls the destructor before freeing the memory.

The copy-constructor, instead of creating its own memory, assigns block to the block of the source object. Then, because there’s now an additional object using that block of memory, it increments the reference count by calling MemBlock::attach( ).

The operator= deals with an object that has already been created on the left side of the =, so it must first clean that up by calling detach( ) for that MemBlock, which will destroy the old MemBlock if no one else is using it. Then operator= repeats the behavior of the copy-constructor. Notice that it first checks to detect whether you’re assigning the same object to itself.

The destructor calls detach( ) to conditionally destroy the MemBlock.

To implement copy-on-write, you must control all the actions that write to your block of memory. This means you can’t ever hand a raw pointer to the outside world. Instead you say, “Tell me what you want done and I’ll do it for you!” For example, the write( ) member function allows you to change the values in the block of memory. But first, it uses unalias( ) to prevent the modification of an aliased block (a block with more than one Counted object using it).

main( ) tests the various functions that must work correctly to implement reference counting: the constructor, copy-constructor, operator=, and destructor. It also tests the copy-on-write by calling the write( ) function for object C, which is aliased to A’s memory block.

Tracing the output

To verify that the behavior of this scheme is correct, the best approach is to add information and functionality to the class to generate a trace output that can be analyzed. Here’s Refcount.cpp with added trace information:

//: C12:RefcountTrace.cpp

// Refcount.cpp w/ trace info

#include “../require.h”

#include <cstring>

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“rctrace.out”);

class Counted {

class MemBlock {

static const int size = 100;

char c[size];

int refcount;

static int blockcount;

int blocknum;

public:

MemBlock() {

memset(c, 1, size);

refcount = 1;

blocknum = blockcount++;

}

MemBlock(const MemBlock& rv) {

memcpy(c, rv.c, size);

refcount = 1;

blocknum = blockcount++;

print(“copied block”);

out << endl;

rv.print(“from block”);

}

~MemBlock() {

out << “\tdestroying block ”

<< blocknum << endl;

}

void print(const char* msg = “”) const {

if(*msg) out << msg << “, “;

out << “blocknum:” << blocknum;

out << “, refcount:” << refcount;

}

void attach() { ++refcount; }

void detach() {

require(refcount != 0);

// Destroy object if no one is using it:

if(–refcount == 0) delete this;

}

int count() const { return refcount; }

void set(char x) { memset(c, x, size); }

// Conditionally copy this MemBlock.

// Call before modifying the block; assign

// resulting pointer to your block;

MemBlock* unalias() {

// Don’t duplicate if not aliased:

if(refcount == 1) return this;

–refcount;

// Use copy-constructor to duplicate:

return new MemBlock(*this);

}

}* block;

static const int sz = 30;

char ident[sz];

public:

Counted(const char* id = “tmp”) {

block = new MemBlock; // Sneak preview

strncpy(ident, id, sz);

}

Counted(const Counted& rv) {

block = rv.block; // Pointer assignment

block->attach();

strncpy(ident, rv.ident, sz);

strncat(ident, ” copy”, sz – strlen(ident));

}

void unalias() { block = block->unalias(); }

void addname(const char* nm) {

strncat(ident, nm, sz – strlen(ident));

}

Counted& operator=(const Counted& rv) {

print(“inside operator=\n\t”);

if(&rv == this) {

out << “self-assignment” << endl;

return *this;

}

// Clean up what you’re using first:

block->detach();

block = rv.block; // Like copy-constructor

block->attach();

return *this;

}

// Decrement refcount, conditionally destroy

~Counted() {

out << “preparing to destroy: ” << ident

<< “\n\tdecrementing refcount “;

block->print();

out << endl;

block->detach();

}

// Copy-on-write:

void write(char value) {

unalias();

block->set(value);

}

void print(const char* msg = “”) {

if(*msg) out << msg << ” “;

out << “object ” << ident << “: “;

block->print();

out << endl;

}

};

int Counted::MemBlock::blockcount = 0;

int main() {

Counted A(“A”), B(“B”);

Counted C(A);

C.addname(” (C) “);

A.print();

B.print();

C.print();

B = A;

A.print(“after assignment\n\t”);

B.print();

out << “Assigning C = C” << endl;

C = C;

C.print(“calling C.write(‘x’)\n\t”);

C.write(‘x’);

out << “\n exiting main()” << endl;

} ///:~

Now MemBlock contains a static data member blockcount to keep track of the number of blocks created, and to create a unique number (stored in blocknum) for each block so you can tell them apart. The destructor announces which block is being destroyed, and the print( ) function displays the block number and reference count.

The Counted class contains a buffer ident to keep track of information about the object. The Counted constructor creates a new MemBlock object and assigns the result (a pointer to the MemBlock object on the heap) to block. The identifier, copied from the argument, has the word “copy” appended to show where it’s copied from. Also, the addname( ) function lets you put additional information about the object in ident (the actual identifier, so you can see what it is as well as where it’s copied from).

Here’s the output:

object A: blocknum:0, refcount:2

object B: blocknum:1, refcount:1

object A copy (C) : blocknum:0, refcount:2

inside operator=

object B: blocknum:1, refcount:1

destroying block 1

after assignment

object A: blocknum:0, refcount:3

object B: blocknum:0, refcount:3

Assigning C = C

inside operator=

object A copy (C) : blocknum:0, refcount:3

self-assignment

calling C.write(‘x’)

object A copy (C) : blocknum:0, refcount:3

copied block, blocknum:2, refcount:1

from block, blocknum:0, refcount:2

exiting main()

preparing to destroy: A copy (C)

decrementing refcount blocknum:2, refcount:1

destroying block 2

preparing to destroy: B

decrementing refcount blocknum:0, refcount:2

preparing to destroy: A

decrementing refcount blocknum:0, refcount:1

destroying block 0

By studying the output, tracing through the source code, and experimenting with the program, you’ll deepen your understanding of these techniques.

Automatic operator= creation

Because assigning an object to another object of the same type is an activity most people expect to be possible, the compiler will automatically create a type::operator=(type) if you don’t make one. The behavior of this operator mimics that of the automatically created copy-constructor: If the class contains objects (or is inherited from another class), the operator= for those objects is called recursively. This is called memberwise assignment. For example,

//: C12:Autoeq.cpp

// Automatic operator=()

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Bar {

public:

Bar& operator=(const Bar&) {

cout << “inside Bar::operator=()” << endl;

return *this;

}

};

class MyType {

Bar b;

};

int main() {

MyType a, b;

a = b; // Prints: “inside Bar::operator=()”

} ///:~

The automatically generated operator= for MyType calls Bar::operator=.

Generally you don’t want to let the compiler do this for you. With classes of any sophistication (especially if they contain pointers!) you want to explicitly create an operator=. If you really don’t want people to perform assignment, declare operator= as a private function. (You don’t need to define it unless you’re using it inside the class.)

Automatic type conversion

In C and C++, if the compiler sees an expression or function call using a type that isn’t quite the one it needs, it can often perform an automatic type conversion from the type it has to the type it wants. In C++, you can achieve this same effect for user-defined types by defining automatic type-conversion functions. These functions come in two flavors: a particular type of constructor and an overloaded operator.

Constructor conversion

If you define a constructor that takes as its single argument an object (or reference) of another type, that constructor allows the compiler to perform an automatic type conversion. For example,

//: C12:Autocnst.cpp

// Type conversion constructor

class One {

public:

One() {}

};

class Two {

public:

Two(const One&) {}

};

void f(Two) {}

int main() {

One one;

f(one); // Wants a Two, has a One

} ///:~

When the compiler sees f( ) called with a One object, it looks at the declaration for f( ) and notices it wants a Two. Then it looks to see if there’s any way to get a Two from a One, and it finds the constructor Two::Two(One), which it quietly calls. The resulting Two object is handed to f( ).

In this case, automatic type conversion has saved you from the trouble of defining two overloaded versions of f( ). However, the cost is the hidden constructor call to Two, which may matter if you’re concerned about the efficiency of calls to f( ).

Preventing constructor conversion

There are times when automatic type conversion via the constructor can cause problems. To turn it off, you modify the constructor by prefacing with the keyword explicit[39] (which only works with constructors). Used to modify the constructor of class Two in the above example:

class One {

public:

One() {}

};

class Two {

public:

explicit Two(const One&) {}

};

void f(Two) {}

int main() {

One one;

//! f(one); // No auto conversion allowed

f(Two(one)); // OK — user performs conversion

}

By making Two’s constructor explicit, the compiler is told not to perform any automatic conversion using that particular constructor (other non-explicit constructors in that class can still perform automatic conversions). If the user wants to make the conversion happen, the code must be written out. In the above code, f(Two(one)) creates a temporary object of type Two from one, just like the compiler did in the previous version.

Operator conversion

The second way to effect automatic type conversion is through operator overloading. You can create a member function that takes the current type and converts it to the desired type using the operator keyword followed by the type you want to convert to. This form of operator overloading is unique because you don’t appear to specify a return type – the return type is the name of the operator you’re overloading. Here’s an example:

//: C12:Opconv.cpp

// Op overloading conversion

class Three {

int i;

public:

Three(int ii = 0, int = 0) : i(ii) {}

};

class Four {

int x;

public:

Four(int xx) : x(xx) {}

operator Three() const { return Three(x); }

};

void g(Three) {}

int main() {

Four four(1);

g(four);

g(1); // Calls Three(1,0)

} ///:~

With the constructor technique, the destination class is performing the conversion, but with operators, the source class performs the conversion. The value of the constructor technique is you can add a new conversion path to an existing system as you’re creating a new class. However, creating a single-argument constructor always defines an automatic type conversion (even if it’s got more than one argument, if the rest of the arguments are defaulted), which may not be what you want. In addition, there’s no way to use a constructor conversion from a user-defined type to a built-in type; this is possible only with operator overloading.

Reflexivity

One of the most convenient reasons to use global overloaded operators rather than member operators is that in the global versions, automatic type conversion may be applied to either operand, whereas with member objects, the left-hand operand must already be the proper type. If you want both operands to be converted, the global versions can save a lot of coding. Here’s a small example:

//: C12:Reflex.cpp

// Reflexivity in overloading

class Number {

int i;

public:

Number(int ii = 0) : i(ii) {}

const Number

operator+(const Number& n) const {

return Number(i + n.i);

}

friend const Number

operator-(const Number&, const Number&);

};

const Number

operator-(const Number& n1,

const Number& n2) {

return Number(n1.i – n2.i);

}

int main() {

Number a(47), b(11);

a + b; // OK

a + 1; // 2nd arg converted to Number

//! 1 + a; // Wrong! 1st arg not of type Number

a – b; // OK

a – 1; // 2nd arg converted to Number

1 – a; // 1st arg converted to Number

} ///:~

Class Number has a member operator+ and a friend operator–. Because there’s a constructor that takes a single int argument, an int can be automatically converted to a Number, but only under the right conditions. In main( ), you can see that adding a Number to another Number works fine because it’s an exact match to the overloaded operator. Also, when the compiler sees a Number followed by a + and an int, it can match to the member function Number::operator+ and convert the int argument to a Number using the constructor. But when it sees an int and a + and a Number, it doesn’t know what to do because all it has is Number::operator+, which requires that the left operand already be a Number object. Thus the compiler issues an error.

With the friend operator–, things are different. The compiler needs to fill in both its arguments however it can; it isn’t restricted to having a Number as the left-hand argument. Thus, if it sees 1 – a, it can convert the first argument to a Number using the constructor.

Sometimes you want to be able to restrict the use of your operators by making them members. For example, when multiplying a matrix by a vector, the vector must go on the right. But if you want your operators to be able to convert either argument, make the operator a friend function.

Fortunately, the compiler will not take 1 – 1 and convert both arguments to Number objects and then call operator–. That would mean that existing C code might suddenly start to work differently. The compiler matches the “simplest” possibility first, which is the built-in operator for the expression 1 – 1.

A perfect example: strings

An example where automatic type conversion is extremely helpful occurs with a string class. Without automatic type conversion, if you wanted to use all the existing string functions from the Standard C library, you’d have to create a member function for each one, like this:

//: C12:Strings1.cpp

// No auto type conversion

#include “../require.h”

#include <cstring>

#include <cstdlib>

using namespace std;

class Stringc {

char* s;

public:

Stringc(const char* S = “”) {

s = (char*)malloc(strlen(S) + 1);

require(s != 0);

strcpy(s, S);

}

~Stringc() { free(s); }

int strcmp(const Stringc& S) const {

return ::strcmp(s, S.s);

}

// … etc., for every function in string.h

};

int main() {

Stringc s1(“hello”), s2(“there”);

s1.strcmp(s2);

} ///:~

Here, only the strcmp( ) function is created, but you’d have to create a corresponding function for every one in <cstring> that might be needed. Fortunately, you can provide an automatic type conversion allowing access to all the functions in <cstring>:

//: C12:Strings2.cpp

// With auto type conversion

#include “../require.h”

#include <cstring>

#include <cstdlib>

using namespace std;

class Stringc {

char* s;

public:

Stringc(const char* S = “”) {

s = (char*)malloc(strlen(S) + 1);

require(s != 0);

strcpy(s, S);

}

~Stringc() { free(s); }

operator const char*() const { return s; }

};

int main() {

Stringc s1(“hello”), s2(“there”);

strcmp(s1, s2); // Standard C function

strspn(s1, s2); // Any string function!

} ///:~

Now any function that takes a char* argument can also take a Stringc argument because the compiler knows how to make a char* from a Stringc.

Pitfalls in automatic type conversion

Because the compiler must choose how to quietly perform a type conversion, it can get into trouble if you don’t design your conversions correctly. A simple and obvious situation occurs with a class X that can convert itself to an object of class Y with an operator Y( ). If class Y has a constructor that takes a single argument of type X, this represents the identical type conversion. The compiler now has two ways to go from X to Y, so it will generate an ambiguity error when that conversion occurs:

//: C12:Ambig.cpp

// Ambiguity in type conversion

class Y; // Class declaration

class X {

public:

operator Y() const; // Convert X to Y

};

class Y {

public:

Y(X); // Convert X to Y

};

void f(Y);

int main() {

X x;

//! f(x); // Error: ambiguous conversion

} ///:~

The obvious solution to this problem is not to do it: Just provide a single path for automatic conversion from one type to another.

A more difficult problem to spot occurs when you provide automatic conversion to more than one type. This is sometimes called fan-out:

//: C12:Fanout.cpp

// Type conversion fanout

class A {};

class B {};

class C {

public:

operator A() const;

operator B() const;

};

// Overloaded h():

void h(A);

void h(B);

int main() {

C c;

//! h(c); // Error: C -> A or C -> B ???

} ///:~

Class C has automatic conversions to both A and B. The insidious thing about this is that there’s no problem until someone innocently comes along and creates two overloaded versions of h( ). (With only one version, the code in main( ) works fine.)

Again, the solution – and the general watchword with automatic type conversion – is to only provide a single automatic conversion from one type to another. You can have conversions to other types; they just shouldn’t be automatic. You can create explicit function calls with names like make_A( ) and make_B( ).

Hidden activities

Automatic type conversion can introduce more underlying activities than you may expect. As a little brain teaser, look at this modification of FeeFi.cpp:

//: C12:FeeFi2.cpp

// Copying vs. initialization

class Fi {};

class Fee {

public:

Fee(int) {}

Fee(const Fi&) {}

};

class Fo {

int i;

public:

Fo(int x = 0) { i = x; }

operator Fee() const { return Fee(i); }

};

int main() {

Fo fo;

Fee fiddle = fo;

} ///:~

There is no constructor to create the Fee fiddle from a Fo object. However, Fo has an automatic type conversion to a Fee. There’s no copy-constructor to create a Fee from a Fee, but this is one of the special functions the compiler can create for you. (The default constructor, copy-constructor, operator=, and destructor can be created automatically.) So for the relatively innocuous statement

Fee fiddle = fo;

the automatic type conversion operator is called, and a copy-constructor is created.

Automatic type conversion should be used carefully. It’s excellent when it significantly reduces a coding task, but it’s usually not worth using gratuitously.

Summary

The whole reason for the existence of operator overloading is for those situations when it makes life easier. There’s nothing particularly magical about it; the overloaded operators are just functions with funny names, and the function calls happen to be made for you by the compiler when it spots the right pattern. But if operator overloading doesn’t provide a significant benefit to you (the creator of the class) or the user of the class, don’t confuse the issue by adding it.

Exercises

1. Create a simple class with an overloaded operator++. Try calling this operator in both pre- and postfix form and see what kind of compiler warning you get.

2. Create a class that contains a single private char. Overload the iostream operators << and >> (as in Iosop.cpp) and test them. You can test them with fstreams, strstreams, and stdiostreams (cin and cout).

3. Write a Number class with overloaded operators for +, –, *, /, and assignment. Choose the return values for these functions so that expressions can be chained together, and for efficiency. Write an automatic type conversion operator int( ).

4. Combine the classes in Unary.cpp and Binary.cpp.

5. Fix Fanout.cpp by creating an explicit function to call to perform the type conversion, instead of one of the automatic conversion operators.

13: Dynamic object creation

Sometimes you know the exact quantity, type, and lifetime of the objects in your program. But not always.

How many planes will an air-traffic system have to handle? How many shapes will a CAD system need? How many nodes will there be in a network?

To solve the general programming problem, it’s essential that you be able to create and destroy objects at runtime. Of course, C has always provided the dynamic memory allocation functions malloc( )and free( )(along with variants of malloc( )) that allocate storage from the heap (also called the free store) at runtime.

However, this simply won’t work in C++. The constructor doesn’t allow you to hand it the address of the memory to initialize, and for good reason: If you could do that, you might

1. Forget. Then guaranteed initialization of objects in C++ wouldn’t be guaranteed.

2. Accidentally do something to the object before you initialize it, expecting the right thing to happen.

3. Hand it the wrong-sized object.

And of course, even if you did everything correctly, anyone who modifies your program is prone to the same errors. Improper initialization is responsible for a large portion of programming errors, so it’s especially important to guarantee constructor calls for objects created on the heap.

So how does C++ guarantee proper initialization and cleanup, but allow you to create objects dynamically, on the heap?

The answer is, “by bringing dynamic object creation into the core of the language.” malloc( ) and free( ) are library functions, and thus outside the control of the compiler. However, if you have an operator to perform the combined act of dynamic storage allocation and initialization and another to perform the combined act of cleanup and releasing storage, the compiler can still guarantee that constructors and destructors will be called for all objects.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how C++’s new and delete elegantly solve this problem by safely creating objects on the heap.

Object creation

When a C++ object is created, two events occur:

1. Storage is allocated for the object.

2. The constructor is called to initialize that storage.

By now you should believe that step two always happens. C++ enforces it because uninitialized objects are a major source of program bugs. It doesn’t matter where or how the object is created – the constructor is always called.

Step one, however, can occur in several ways, or at alternate times:

1. Storage can be allocated before the program begins, in the static storage area. This storage exists for the life of the program.

2. Storage can be created on the stack whenever a particular execution point is reached (an opening brace). That storage is released automatically at the complementary execution point (the closing brace). These stack-allocation operations are built into the instruction set of the processor and are very efficient. However, you have to know exactly how much storage you need when you’re writing the program so the compiler can generate the right code.

3. Storage can be allocated from a pool of memory called the heap (also known as the free store). This is called dynamic memory allocation. To allocate this memory, a function is called at runtime; this means you can decide at any time that you want some memory and how much you need. You are also responsible for determining when to release the memory, which means the lifetime of that memory can be as long as you choose – it isn’t determined by scope.

Often these three regions are placed in a single contiguous piece of physical memory: the static area, the stack, and the heap (in an order determined by the compiler writer). However, there are no rules. The stack may be in a special place, and the heap may be implemented by making calls for chunks of memory from the operating system. As a programmer, these things are normally shielded from you, so all you need to think about is that the memory is there when you call for it.

C’s approach to the heap

To allocate memory dynamically at runtime, C provides functions in its standard library: malloc( ) and its variants calloc( ) and realloc( ) to produce memory from the heap, and free( ) to release the memory back to the heap. These functions are pragmatic but primitive and require understanding and care on the part of the programmer. To create an instance of a class on the heap using C’s dynamic memory functions, you’d have to do something like this:

//: C13:MallocClass.cpp

// Malloc with class objects

// What you’d have to do if not for “new”

#include “../require.h”

#include <cstdlib> // Malloc() & free()

#include <cstring> // Memset()

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Obj {

int i, j, k;

static const int sz = 100;

char buf[sz];

public:

void initialize() { // Can’t use constructor

cout << “initializing Obj” << endl;

i = j = k = 0;

memset(buf, 0, sz);

}

void destroy() { // Can’t use destructor

cout << “destroying Obj” << endl;

}

};

int main() {

Obj* obj = (Obj*)malloc(sizeof(Obj));

require(obj != 0);

obj->initialize();

// … sometime later:

obj->destroy();

free(obj);

} ///:~

You can see the use of malloc( ) to create storage for the object in the line:

Obj* obj = (Obj*)malloc(sizeof(Obj));

Here, the user must determine the size of the object (one place for an error). malloc( ) returns a void* because it’s just a patch of memory, not an object. C++ doesn’t allow a void* to be assigned to any other pointer, so it must be cast.

Because malloc( ) may fail to find any memory (in which case it returns zero), you must check the returned pointer to make sure it was successful.

But the worst problem is this line:

Obj->initialize();

If they make it this far correctly, users must remember to initialize the object before it is used. Notice that a constructor was not used because the constructor cannot be called explicitly – it’s called for you by the compiler when an object is created. The problem here is that the user now has the option to forget to perform the initialization before the object is used, thus reintroducing a major source of bugs.

It also turns out that many programmers seem to find C’s dynamic memory functions too confusing and complicated; it’s not uncommon to find C programmers who use virtual memory machines allocating huge arrays of variables in the static storage area to avoid thinking about dynamic memory allocation. Because C++ is attempting to make library use safe and effortless for the casual programmer, C’s approach to dynamic memory is unacceptable.

operator new

The solution in C++ is to combine all the actions necessary to create an object into a single operator called new. When you create an object with new (using a new-expression), it allocates enough storage on the heap to hold the object, and calls the constructor for that storage. Thus, if you say

MyType *fp = new MyType(1,2);

at runtime, the equivalent of malloc(sizeof(MyType)) is called (often, it is literally a call to malloc( )), and the constructor for MyType is called with the resulting address as the this pointer, using (1,2) as the argument list. By the time the pointer is assigned to fp, it’s a live, initialized object – you can’t even get your hands on it before then. It’s also automatically the proper MyType type so no cast is necessary.

The default new also checks to make sure the memory allocation was successful before passing the address to the constructor, so you don’t have to explicitly determine if the call was successful. Later in the chapter you’ll find out what happens if there’s no memory left.

You can create a new-expression using any constructor available for the class. If the constructor has no arguments, you can make the new-expression without the constructor argument list:

MyType *fp = new MyType;

Notice how simple the process of creating objects on the heap becomes – a single expression, with all the sizing, conversions, and safety checks built in. It’s as easy to create an object on the heap as it is on the stack.

operator delete

The complement to the new-expression is the delete-expression, which first calls the destructor and then releases the memory (often with a call to free( )). Just as a new-expression returns a pointer to the object, a delete-expression requires the address of an object.

delete fp;

cleans up the dynamically allocated MyType object created earlier.

delete can be called only for an object created by new. If you malloc( ) (or calloc( ) or realloc( )) an object and then delete it, the behavior is undefined. Because most default implementations of new and delete use malloc( ) and free( ), you’ll probably release the memory without calling the destructor.

If the pointer you’re deleting is zero, nothing will happen. For this reason, people often recommend setting a pointer to zero immediately after you delete it, to prevent deleting it twice. Deleting an object more than once is definitely a bad thing to do, and will cause problems.

A simple example

This example shows that the initialization takes place:

//: C13:Newdel.cpp

// Simple demo of new & delete

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Tree {

int height;

public:

Tree(int height) {

height = height;

}

~Tree() { cout << “*”; }

friend ostream&

operator<<(ostream& os, const Tree* t) {

return os << “Tree height is: ”

<< t->height << endl;

}

};

int main() {

Tree* t = new Tree(40);

cout << t;

delete t;

} ///:~

We can prove that the constructor is called by printing out the value of the Tree. Here, it’s done by overloading the operator<< to use with an ostream. Note, however, that even though the function is declared as a friend, it is defined as an inline! This is a mere convenience – defining a friend function as an inline to a class doesn’t change the friend status or the fact that it’s a global function and not a class member function. Also notice that the return value is the result of the entire output expression, which is itself an ostream& (which it must be, to satisfy the return value type of the function).

Memory manager overhead

When you create auto objects on the stack, the size of the objects and their lifetime is built right into the generated code, because the compiler knows the exact quantity and scope. Creating objects on the heap involves additional overhead, both in time and in space. Here’s a typical scenario. (You can replace malloc( ) with calloc( ) or realloc( ).)

4. You call malloc( ), which requests a block of memory from the pool. (This code may actually be part of malloc( ).)

5. The pool is searched for a block of memory large enough to satisfy the request. This is done by checking a map or directory of some sort that shows which blocks are currently in use and which blocks are available. It’s a quick process, but it may take several tries so it might not be deterministic – that is, you can’t necessarily count on malloc( ) always taking exactly the same amount of time.

6. Before a pointer to that block is returned, the size and location of the block must be recorded so further calls to malloc( ) won’t use it, and so that when you call free( ), the system knows how much memory to release.

The way all this is implemented can vary widely. For example, there’s nothing to prevent primitives for memory allocation being implemented in the processor. If you’re curious, you can write test programs to try to guess the way your malloc( ) is implemented. You can also read the library source code, if you have it.

Early examples redesigned

Now that new and delete have been introduced (as well as many other subjects), the Stash and Stack examples from the early part of this book can be rewritten using all the features discussed in the book so far. Examining the new code will also give you a useful review of the topics.

At this point in the book, neither the Stash nor Stack classes will “own” the objects they point to; that is, when the Stash or Stack object goes out of scope, it will not call delete for all the objects it points to. The reason this is not possible is because, in an attempt to be generic, they hold void pointers. If you delete a void pointer, the only thing that happens is the memory gets released, because there’s no type information and no way for the compiler to know what destructor to call. When a pointer is returned from the Stash or Stack object, you must cast it to the proper type before using it. These problems will be dealt with in the next chapter [[??]], and in Chapter XX.

Because the container doesn’t own the pointer, the user must be responsible for it. This means there’s a serious problem if you add pointers to objects created on the stack and objects created on the heap to the same container because a delete-expression is unsafe for a pointer that hasn’t been allocated on the heap. (And when you fetch a pointer back from the container, how will you know where its object has been allocated?). Thus, you must be sure that objects stored in the upcoming versions of Stash and Stack are only made on the heap, either through careful programming or by creating classes that can only be built on the heap.

Stash for pointers

This version of the Stash class, which you last saw in Chapter XX, is changed to reflect all the new material introduced since Chapter XX. In addition, the new PStash holds pointers to objects that exist by themselves on the heap, whereas the old Stash in Chapter XX and earlier copied the objects into the Stash container. With the introduction of new and delete, it’s easy and safe to hold pointers to objects that have been created on the heap.

Here’s the header file for the “pointer Stash”:

//: C13:PStash.h

// Holds pointers instead of objects

#ifndef PSTASH_H

#define PSTASH_H

class PStash {

int quantity; // Number of storage spaces

int next; // Next empty space

// Pointer storage:

void** storage;

void inflate(int increase);

public:

PStash() {

quantity = 0;

storage = 0;

next = 0;

}

// No ownership:

~PStash() { delete []storage; }

int add(void* element);

void* operator[](int index) const; // Fetch

// Number of elements in Stash:

int count() const { return next; }

};

#endif // PSTASH_H ///:~

The underlying data elements are fairly similar, but now storage is an array of void pointers, and the allocation of storage for that array is performed with new instead of malloc( ). In the expression

void** st = new void*[quantity + increase];

the type of object allocated is a void*, so the expression allocates an array of void pointers.

The destructor deletes the storage where the void pointers are held, rather than attempting to delete what they point at (which, as previously noted, will release their storage and not call the destructors because a void pointer has no type information).

The other change is the replacement of the fetch( ) function with operator[ ], which makes more sense syntactically. Again, however, a void* is returned, so the user must remember what types are stored in the container and cast the pointers when fetching them out (a problem which will be repaired in future chapters).

Here are the member function definitions:

//: C13:PStash.cpp {O}

// Pointer Stash definitions

#include “PStash.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <cstring> // ‘mem’ functions

using namespace std;

int PStash::add(void* element) {

const int inflateSize = 10;

if(next >= quantity)

inflate(inflateSize);

storage[next++] = element;

return(next – 1); // Index number

}

// Operator overloading replacement for fetch

void* PStash::operator[](int index) const {

if(index >= next || index < 0)

return 0; // Out of bounds

// Produce pointer to desired element:

return storage[index];

}

void PStash::inflate(int increase) {

const int psz = sizeof(void*);

void** st = new void*[quantity + increase];

memset(st, 0, (quantity + increase) * psz);

memcpy(st, storage, quantity * psz);

quantity += increase;

delete []storage; // Old storage

storage = st; // Point to new memory

} ///:~

The add( ) function is effectively the same as before, except that the pointer is stored instead of a copy of the whole object, which, as you’ve seen, actually requires a copy-constructor for normal objects.

The inflate( ) code is modified to handle the allocation of an array of void* instead of the previous design which was only working with raw bytes. Here, instead of using the prior approach of copying by array indexing, the Standard C library function memset( ) is first used to set all the new memory to zero (this is not strictly necessary, since the PStash is presumably managing all the memory correctly – but it usually doesn’t hurt to throw in a bit of extra care). Then memcpy( ) moves the existing data from the old location to the new. Often, functions like memset( ) and memcpy( ) have been optimized over time and so they may be faster than the loops shown previously, but in a function like inflate( ) that will probably not be used that often you probably won’t see a performance difference. However, the fact that the function calls are more concise than the loops may help prevent coding errors.

A test

Here’s the old test program for Stash rewritten for the PStash:

//: C13:PStashTest.cpp

//{L} PStash

// Test of pointer Stash

#include “PStash.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main() {

PStash intStash;

// ‘new’ works with built-in types, too. Note

// the “pseudo-constructor” syntax:

for(int i = 0; i < 25; i++)

intStash.add(new int(i));

for(int u = 0; u < intStash.count(); u++)

cout << “intStash[” << u << “] = ”

<< *(int*)intStash[u] << endl;

ifstream infile(“PStashTest.cpp”);

assure(infile, “PStashTest.cpp”);

PStash stringStash;

string line;

while(getline(infile, line))

stringStash.add(new string(line));

// Print out the strings:

for(int v = 0; stringStash[v]; v++)

cout << “stringStash[” << v << “] = ”

<< *(string*)stringStash[v] << endl;

} ///:~

As before, Stashes are created and filled with information, but this time the information is the pointers resulting from new-expressions. In the first case, note the line:

intStash.add(new int(i));

The expression new int(i) uses the pseudoconstructor form, so storage for a new int object is created on the heap, and the int is initialized to the value i.

Note that during printing, the value returned by PStash::operator[ ] must be cast to the proper type; this is repeated for the rest of the PStash objects in the program. It’s an undesirable effect of using void pointers as the underlying representation and will be fixed in later chapters.

The second test opens the source code file and reads it one line at a time into another PStash. Each line is read into a string using getline( ), then a new string is created from line to make an independent copy of that line. If we just passed in the address of line each time, we’d get a whole bunch of pointers pointing to line, which itself would only contain the last line that was read from the file.

When fetching the pointers back out, you see the expression:

*(string*)stringStash[v]

The pointer returned from operator[ ] must be cast to a string* to give it the proper type. Then the string* is dereferenced so the expression evaluates to an object, at which point the compiler sees a string object to send to cout.

In this example, the objects created on the heap are never destroyed. This is not harmful here because the storage is released when the program ends, but it’s not something you want to do in practice. It will be fixed in later chapters.

The stack

The Stack benefits greatly from all the features introduced since Chapter XX. [[ I think at this point only inlines have been added??]] Here’s the new header file:

//: C13:Stack4.h

// New version of Stack

#ifndef STACK4_H

#define STACK4_H

class Stack {

struct Link {

void* data;

Link* next;

Link(void* dat, Link* nxt) {

data = dat;

next = nxt;

}

}* head;

public:

Stack() { head = 0; }

~Stack();

void push(void* dat) {

head = new Link(dat,head);

}

void* peek() const { return head->data; }

void* pop();

};

#endif // STACK4_H ///:~

The rest of the logic is virtually identical to what it was in Chapter XX. Here is the implementation of the two remaining (non-inline) functions:

//: C13:Stack4.cpp {O}

// New version of Stack

#include “Stack4.h”

void* Stack::pop() {

if(head == 0) return 0;

void* result = head->data;

Link* oldHead = head;

head = head->next;

delete oldHead;

return result;

}

Stack::~Stack() {

Link* cursor = head;

while(head) {

cursor = cursor->next;

delete head;

head = cursor;

}

} ///:~

The only difference is the use of delete instead of free( ) in the destructor.

As with the Stash, the use of void pointers means that the objects created on the heap cannot be destroyed by the Stack4, so again there is the possibility of an undesirable memory leak if the user doesn’t take responsibility for the pointers in the Stack4. You can see this in the test program:

//: C13:Stack4Test.cpp

//{L} Stack4

// Test new Stack

#include “Stack4.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main() {

// Could also use command-line argument:

ifstream file(“Stack4Test.cpp”);

assure(file, ” Stack4Test.cpp”);

Stack textlines;

string line;

while(getline(file, line))

textlines.push(new string(line));

// Pop lines from the Stack and print them:

string* s;

while((s = (string*)textlines.pop()) != 0)

cout << *s << endl;

} ///:~

As with the Stash example, a file is opened and each line is read into a string object, which is duplicated via new as it is stored in a Stack. This program doesn’t delete the pointers in the Stack and the Stack itself doesn’t do it, so that memory is lost.

new & delete for arrays

In C++, you can create arrays of objects on the stack or on the heap with equal ease, and (of course) the constructor is called for each object in the array. There’s one constraint, however: There must be a default constructor, except for aggregate initialization on the stack (see Chapter XX), because a constructor with no arguments must be called for every object.

When creating arrays of objects on the heap using new, there’s something else you must do. An example of such an array is

MyType* fp = new MyType[100];

This allocates enough storage on the heap for 100 MyType objects and calls the constructor for each one. Now, however, you simply have a MyType*, which is exactly the same as you’d get if you said

MyType* fp2 = new MyType;

to create a single object. Because you wrote the code, you know that fp is actually the starting address of an array, so it makes sense to select array elements with fp[2]. But what happens when you destroy the array? The statements

delete fp2; // OK

delete fp; // Not the desired effect

look exactly the same, and their effect will be the same: The destructor will be called for the MyType object pointed to by the given address, and then the storage will be released. For fp2 this is fine, but for fp this means the other 99 destructor calls won’t be made. The proper amount of storage will still be released, however, because it is allocated in one big chunk, and the size of the whole chunk is stashed somewhere by the allocation routine.

The solution requires you to give the compiler the information that this is actually the starting address of an array. This is accomplished with the following syntax:

delete []fp;

The empty brackets tell the compiler to generate code that fetches the number of objects in the array, stored somewhere when the array is created, and calls the destructor for that many array objects. This is actually an improved syntax from the earlier form, which you may still occasionally see in old code:

delete [100]fp;

which forced the programmer to include the number of objects in the array and introduced the possibility that the programmer would get it wrong. The additional overhead of letting the compiler handle it was very low, and it was considered better to specify the number of objects in one place rather than two.

Making a pointer more like an array

As an aside, the fp defined above can be changed to point to anything, which doesn’t make sense for the starting address of an array. It makes more sense to define it as a constant, so any attempt to modify the pointer will be flagged as an error. To get this effect, you might try

int const* q = new int[10];

or

const int* q = new int[10];

but in both cases the const will bind to the int, that is, what is being pointed to, rather than the quality of the pointer itself. Instead, you must say

int* const q = new int[10];

Now the array elements in q can be modified, but any change to q itself (like q++) is illegal, as it is with an ordinary array identifier.

Running out of storage

What happens when the operator new cannot find a contiguous block of storage large enough to hold the desired object? A special function called the new-handler is called. Or rather, a pointer to a function is checked, and if the pointer is nonzero, then the function it points to is called.

The default behavior for the new-handler is to throw an exception, the subject covered in Chapter XX. However, if you’re using heap allocation in your program, it’s wise to at least replace the new-handler with a message that says you’ve run out of memory and then aborts the program. That way, during debugging, you’ll have a clue about what happened. For the final program you’ll want to use more robust recovery.

You replace the new-handler by including new.h and then calling set_new_handler( ) with the address of the function you want installed:

//: C13:Newhandl.cpp

// Changing the new-handler

#include <iostream>

#include <cstdlib>

#include <new>

using namespace std;

void out_of_memory() {

cerr << “memory exhausted!” << endl;

exit(1);

}

int main() {

set_new_handler(out_of_memory);

while(1)

new int[1000]; // Exhausts memory

} ///:~

The new-handler function must take no arguments and have void return value. The while loop will keep allocating int objects (and throwing away their return addresses) until the free store is exhausted. At the very next call to new, no storage can be allocated, so the new-handler will be called.

Of course, you can write more sophisticated new-handlers, even one to try to reclaim memory (commonly known as a garbage collector). This is not a job for the novice programmer.

Overloading new & delete

When you create a new-expression, two things occur: First, storage is allocated using the operator new, then the constructor is called. In a delete-expression, the destructor is called, then storage is deallocated using the operator delete. The constructor and destructor calls are never under your control (otherwise you might accidentally subvert them), but you can change the storage allocation functions operator new and operator delete.

The memory allocation system used by new and delete is designed for general-purpose use. In special situations, however, it doesn’t serve your needs. The most common reason to change the allocator is efficiency: You might be creating and destroying so many objects of a particular class that it has become a speed bottleneck. C++ allows you to overload new and delete to implement your own storage allocation scheme, so you can handle problems like this.

Another issue is heap fragmentation: By allocating objects of different sizes it’s possible to break up the heap so that you effectively run out of storage. That is, the storage might be available, but because of fragmentation no piece is big enough to satisfy your needs. By creating your own allocator for a particular class, you can ensure this never happens.

In embedded and real-time systems, a program may have to run for a very long time with restricted resources. Such a system may also require that memory allocation always take the same amount of time, and there’s no allowance for heap exhaustion or fragmentation. A custom memory allocator is the solution; otherwise programmers will avoid using new and delete altogether in such cases and miss out on a valuable C++ asset.

When you overload operator new and operator delete, it’s important to remember that you’re changing only the way raw storage is allocated. The compiler will simply call your new instead of the default version to allocate storage, then call the constructor for that storage. So, although the compiler allocates storage and calls the constructor when it sees new, all you can change when you overload new is the storage allocation portion. (delete has a similar limitation.)

When you overload operator new, you also replace the behavior when it runs out of memory, so you must decide what to do in your operator new: return zero, write a loop to call the new-handler and retry allocation, or (typically) throw a bad_alloc exception (discussed in Chapter XX).

Overloading new and delete is like overloading any other operator. However, you have a choice of overloading the global allocator or using a different allocator for a particular class.

Overloading global new & delete

This is the drastic approach, when the global versions of new and delete are unsatisfactory for the whole system. If you overload the global versions, you make the defaults completely inaccessible – you can’t even call them from inside your redefinitions.

The overloaded new must take an argument of size_t (the Standard C standard type for sizes). This argument is generated and passed to you by the compiler and is the size of the object you’re responsible for allocating. You must return a pointer either to an object of that size (or bigger, if you have some reason to do so), or to zero if you can’t find the memory (in which case the constructor is not called!). However, if you can’t find the memory, you should probably do something more drastic than just returning zero, like calling the new-handler or throwing an exception, to signal that there’s a problem.

The return value of operator new is a void*, not a pointer to any particular type. All you’ve done is produce memory, not a finished object – that doesn’t happen until the constructor is called, an act the compiler guarantees and which is out of your control.

The operator delete takes a void* to memory that was allocated by operator new. It’s a void* because you get that pointer after the destructor is called, which removes the object-ness from the piece of storage. The return type is void.

Here’s a very simple example showing how to overload the global new and delete:

//: C13:GlobalNew.cpp

// Overload global new/delete

#include <cstdio>

#include <cstdlib>

using namespace std;

void* operator new(size_t sz) {

printf(“operator new: %d Bytes\n”, sz);

void* m = malloc(sz);

if(!m) puts(“out of memory”);

return m;

}

void operator delete(void* m) {

puts(“operator delete”);

free(m);

}

class S {

int i[100];

public:

S() { puts(“S::S()”); }

~S() { puts(“S::~S()”); }

};

int main() {

puts(“creating & destroying an int”);

int* p = new int(47);

delete p;

puts(“creating & destroying an s”);

S* s = new S;

delete s;

puts(“creating & destroying S[3]”);

S* sa = new S[3];

delete []sa;

} ///:~

Here you can see the general form for overloading new and delete. These use the Standard C library functions malloc( ) and free( ) for the allocators (which is probably what the default new and delete use, as well!). However, they also print out messages about what they are doing. Notice that printf( ) and puts( ) are used rather than iostreams. Thus, when an iostream object is created (like the global cin, cout, and cerr), they call new to allocate memory. With printf( ), you don’t get into a deadlock because it doesn’t call new to initialize itself.

In main( ), objects of built-in types are created to prove that the overloaded new and delete are also called in that case. Then a single object of type s is created, followed by an array. For the array, you’ll see that extra memory is requested to put information about the number of objects in the array. In all cases, the global overloaded versions of new and delete are used.

Overloading new & delete for a class

Although you don’t have to explicitly say static, when you overload new and delete for a class, you’re creating static member functions. Again, the syntax is the same as overloading any other operator. When the compiler sees you use new to create an object of your class, it chooses the member operator new over the global version. However, the global versions of new and delete are used for all other types of objects (unless they have their own new and delete).

In the following example, a very primitive storage allocation system is created for the class Framis. A chunk of memory is set aside in the static data area at program start-up, and that memory is used to allocate space for objects of type Framis. To determine which blocks have been allocated, a simple array of bytes is used, one byte for each block:

//: C13:Framis.cpp

// Local overloaded new & delete

#include <cstddef> // Size_t

#include <fstream>

#include <new>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“Framis.out”);

class Framis {

static const int sz = 10;

char c[sz]; // To take up space, not used

static unsigned char pool[];

static unsigned char alloc_map[];

public:

static const int psize = 100; // frami allowed

Framis() { out << “Framis()\n”; }

~Framis() { out << “~Framis() … “; }

void* operator new(size_t) throw(bad_alloc);

void operator delete(void*);

};

unsigned char Framis::pool[psize * sizeof(Framis)];

unsigned char Framis::alloc_map[psize] = {0};

// Size is ignored — assume a Framis object

void* Framis::operator new(size_t)

throw(bad_alloc) {

for(int i = 0; i < psize; i++)

if(!alloc_map[i]) {

out << “using block ” << i << ” … “;

alloc_map[i] = 1; // Mark it used

return pool + (i * sizeof(Framis));

}

out << “out of memory” << endl;

throw bad_alloc();

}

void Framis::operator delete(void* m) {

if(!m) return; // Check for null pointer

// Assume it was created in the pool

// Calculate which block number it is:

unsigned long block = (unsigned long)m

– (unsigned long)pool;

block /= sizeof(Framis);

out << “freeing block ” << block << endl;

// Mark it free:

alloc_map[block] = 0;

}

int main() {

Framis* f[Framis::psize];

for(int i = 0; i < Framis::psize; i++)

f[i] = new Framis;

new Framis; // Out of memory

delete f[10];

f[10] = 0;

// Use released memory:

Framis* x = new Framis;

delete x;

for(int j = 0; j < Framis::psize; j++)

delete f[j]; // Delete f[10] OK

} ///:~

The pool of memory for the Framis heap is created by allocating an array of bytes large enough to hold psize Framis objects. The allocation map is psize bytes long, so there’s one byte for every block. All the bytes in the allocation map are initialized to zero using the aggregate initialization trick of setting the first element to zero so the compiler automatically initializes all the rest.

The local operator new has the same form as the global one. All it does is search through the allocation map looking for a zero byte, then sets that byte to one to indicate it’s been allocated and returns the address of that particular block. If it can’t find any memory, it issues a message and returns zero (Notice that the new-handler is not called and no exceptions are thrown because the behavior when you run out of memory is now under your control.) In this example, it’s OK to use iostreams because the global operator new and delete are untouched.

The operator delete assumes the Framis address was created in the pool. This is a fair assumption, because the local operator new will be called whenever you create a single Framis object on the heap – but not an array. Global new is used in that case. So the user might accidentally have called operator delete without using the empty bracket syntax to indicate array destruction. This would cause a problem. Also, the user might be deleting a pointer to an object created on the stack. If you think these things could occur, you might want to add a line to make sure the address is within the pool and on a correct boundary.

operator delete calculates which block in the pool this pointer represents, and then sets the allocation map’s flag for that block to zero to indicate the block has been released.

In main( ), enough Framis objects are dynamically allocated to run out of memory; this checks the out-of-memory behavior. Then one of the objects is freed, and another one is created to show that the released memory is reused.

Because this allocation scheme is specific to Framis objects, it’s probably much faster than the general-purpose memory allocation scheme used for the default new and delete.

Overloading new & delete for arrays

If you overload operator new and delete for a class, those operators are called whenever you create an object of that class. However, if you create an array of those class objects, the global operator new is called to allocate enough storage for the array all at once, and the global operator delete is called to release that storage. You can control the allocation of arrays of objects by overloading the special array versions of operator new[ ] and operator delete[ ] for the class. Here’s an example that shows when the two different versions are called:

//: C13:ArrayNew.cpp

// Operator new for arrays

#include <new> // Size_t definition

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream trace(“ArrayNew.out”);

class Widget {

static const int sz = 10;

int i[sz];

public:

Widget() { trace << “*”; }

~Widget() { trace << “~”; }

void* operator new(size_t sz) {

trace << “Widget::new: ”

<< sz << ” bytes” << endl;

return ::new char[sz];

}

void operator delete(void* p) {

trace << “Widget::delete” << endl;

::delete []p;

}

void* operator new[](size_t sz) {

trace << “Widget::new[]: ”

<< sz << ” bytes” << endl;

return ::new char[sz];

}

void operator delete[](void* p) {

trace << “Widget::delete[]” << endl;

::delete []p;

}

};

int main() {

trace << “new Widget” << endl;

Widget* w = new Widget;

trace << “\ndelete Widget” << endl;

delete w;

trace << “\nnew Widget[25]” << endl;

Widget* wa = new Widget[25];

trace << “\ndelete []Widget” << endl;

delete []wa;

} ///:~

Here, the global versions of new and delete are called so the effect is the same as having no overloaded versions of new and delete except that trace information is added. Of course, you can use any memory allocation scheme you want in the overloaded new and delete.

You can see that the array versions of new and delete are the same as the individual-object versions with the addition of the brackets. In both cases you’re handed the size of the memory you must allocate. The size handed to the array version will be the size of the entire array. It’s worth keeping in mind that the only thing the overloaded operator new is required to do is hand back a pointer to a large enough memory block. Although you may perform initialization on that memory, normally that’s the job of the constructor that will automatically be called for your memory by the compiler.

The constructor and destructor simply print out characters so you can see when they’ve been called. Here’s what the trace file looks like for one compiler:

new Widget

Widget::new: 20 bytes

*

delete Widget

~Widget::delete

new Widget[25]

Widget::new[]: 504 bytes

*************************

delete []Widget

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Widget::delete[]

Creating an individual object requires 20 bytes, as you might expect. (This machine uses two bytes for an int). The operator new is called, then the constructor (indicated by the *). In a complementary fashion, calling delete causes the destructor to be called, then the operator delete.

When an array of Widget objects is created, the array version of operator new is used, as promised. But notice that the size requested is four more bytes than expected. This extra four bytes is where the system keeps information about the array, in particular, the number of objects in the array. That way, when you say

delete []Widget;

the brackets tell the compiler it’s an array of objects, so the compiler generates code to look for the number of objects in the array and to call the destructor that many times.

You can see that, even though the array operator new and operator delete are only called once for the entire array chunk, the default constructor and destructor are called for each object in the array.

Constructor calls

Considering that

MyType* f = new MyType;

calls new to allocate a MyType-sized piece of storage, then invokes the MyType constructor on that storage, what happens if all the safeguards fail and the value returned by operator new is zero? The constructor is not called in that case, so although you still have an unsuccessfully created object, at least you haven’t invoked the constructor and handed it a zero pointer. Here’s an example to prove it:

//: C13:NoMemory.cpp

// Constructor isn’t called

// If new returns 0

#include <iostream>

#include <new> // size_t definition

using namespace std;

void my_new_handler() {

cout << “new handler called” << endl;

}

class NoMemory {

public:

NoMemory() {

cout << “NoMemory::NoMemory()” << endl;

}

void* operator new(size_t sz) throw(bad_alloc){

cout << “NoMemory::operator new” << endl;

throw bad_alloc(); // “Out of memory”

}

};

int main() {

set_new_handler(my_new_handler);

NoMemory* nm = new NoMemory;

cout << “nm = ” << nm << endl;

} ///:~

When the program runs, it prints only the message from operator new. Because new returns zero, the constructor is never called so its message is not printed.

Object placement

There are two other, less common, uses for overloading operator new.

1. You may want to place an object in a specific location in memory. This is especially important with hardware-oriented embedded systems where an object may be synonymous with a particular piece of hardware.

2. You may want to be able to choose from different allocators when calling new.

Both of these situations are solved with the same mechanism: The overloaded operator new can take more than one argument. As you’ve seen before, the first argument is always the size of the object, which is secretly calculated and passed by the compiler. But the other arguments can be anything you want: the address you want the object placed at, a reference to a memory allocation function or object, or anything else that is convenient for you.

The way you pass the extra arguments to operator new during a call may seem slightly curious at first: You put the argument list (without the size_t argument, which is handled by the compiler) after the keyword new and before the class name of the object you’re creating. For example,

X* xp = new(a) X;

will pass a as the second argument to operator new. Of course, this can work only if such an operator new has been declared.

Here’s an example showing how you can place an object at a particular location:

//: C13:PlacementNew.cpp

// Placement with operator new

#include <cstddef> // Size_t

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class X {

int i;

public:

X(int ii = 0) : i(ii) {}

~X() {

cout << “X::~X()” << endl;

}

void* operator new(size_t, void* loc) {

return loc;

}

};

int main() {

int l[10];

X* xp = new(l) X(47); // X at location l

xp->X::~X(); // Explicit destructor call

// ONLY use with placement!

} ///:~

Notice that operator new only returns the pointer that’s passed to it. Thus, the caller decides where the object is going to sit, and the constructor is called for that memory as part of the new-expression.

A dilemma occurs when you want to destroy the object. There’s only one version of operator delete, so there’s no way to say, “Use my special deallocator for this object.” You want to call the destructor, but you don’t want the memory to be released by the dynamic memory mechanism because it wasn’t allocated on the heap.

The answer is a very special syntax: You can explicitly call the destructor, as in

xp->X::~X(); // Explicit destructor call

A stern warning is in order here. Some people see this as a way to destroy objects at some time before the end of the scope, rather than either adjusting the scope or (more correctly) using dynamic object creation if they want the object’s lifetime to be determined at runtime. You will have serious problems if you call the destructor this way for an object created on the stack because the destructor will be called again at the end of the scope. If you call the destructor this way for an object that was created on the heap, the destructor will execute, but the memory won’t be released, which probably isn’t what you want. The only reason that the destructor can be called explicitly this way is to support the placement syntax for operator new.

Although this example shows only one additional argument, there’s nothing to prevent you from adding more if you need them for other purposes.

Summary

It’s convenient and optimally efficient to create automatic objects on the stack, but to solve the general programming problem you must be able to create and destroy objects at any time during a program’s execution, particularly to respond to information from outside the program. Although C’s dynamic memory allocation will get storage from the heap, it doesn’t provide the ease of use and guaranteed construction necessary in C++. By bringing dynamic object creation into the core of the language with new and delete, you can create objects on the heap as easily as making them on the stack. In addition, you get a great deal of flexibility. You can change the behavior of new and delete if they don’t suit your needs, particularly if they aren’t efficient enough. Also, you can modify what happens when the heap runs out of storage. (However, exception handling, described in Chapter XX, also comes into play here.)

Exercises

1. Prove to yourself that new and delete always call the constructors and destructors by creating a class with a constructor and destructor that announce themselves through cout. Create an object of that class with new, and destroy it with delete. Also create and destroy an array of these objects on the heap.

2. Create a PStash object, and fill it with new objects from Exercise 1. Observe what happens when this PStash object goes out of scope and its destructor is called.

3. Create a class with an overloaded operator new and delete, both the single-object versions and the array versions. Demonstrate that both versions work.

4. Devise a test for Framis.cpp to show yourself approximately how much faster the custom new and delete run than the global new and delete.

14: Inheritance & composition

One of the most compelling features about C++ is code reuse. But to be revolutionary, you need to be able to do a lot more than copy code and change it.

That’s the C approach, and it hasn’t worked very well. As with most everything in C++, the solution revolves around the class. You reuse code by creating new classes, but instead of creating them from scratch, you use existing classes that someone else has built and debugged.

The trick is to use the classes without soiling the existing code. In this chapter you’ll see two ways to accomplish this. The first is quite straightforward: You simply create objects of your existing class inside the new class. This is called composition because the new class is composed of objects of existing classes.

The second approach is more subtle. You create a new class as a type of an existing class. You literally take the form of the existing class and add code to it, without modifying the existing class. This magical act is called inheritance, and most of the work is done by the compiler. Inheritance is one of the cornerstones of object-oriented programming and has additional implications that will be explored in the next chapter.

It turns out that much of the syntax and behavior are similar for both composition and inheritance (which makes sense; they are both ways of making new types from existing types). In this chapter, you’ll learn about these code reuse mechanisms.

Composition syntax

Actually, you’ve been using composition all along to create classes. You’ve just been composing classes using built-in types. It turns out to be almost as easy to use composition with user-defined types.

Consider an existing class that is valuable for some reason:

//: C14:Useful.h

// A class to reuse

#ifndef USEFUL_H

#define USEFUL_H

class X {

int i;

public:

X() { i = 0; }

void set(int ii) { i = ii; }

int read() const { return i; }

int permute() { return i = i * 47; }

};

#endif // USEFUL_H ///:~

The data members are private in this class, so it’s completely safe to embed an object of type X as a public object in a new class, which makes the interface straightforward:

//: C14:Compose.cpp

// Reuse code with composition

#include “Useful.h”

class Y {

int i;

public:

X x; // Embedded object

Y() { i = 0; }

void f(int ii) { i = ii; }

int g() const { return i; }

};

int main() {

Y y;

y.f(47);

y.x.set(37); // Access the embedded object

} ///:~

Accessing the member functions of the embedded object (referred to as a subobject) simply requires another member selection.

It’s probably more common to make the embedded objects private, so they become part of the underlying implementation (which means you can change the implementation if you want). The public interface functions for your new class then involve the use of the embedded object, but they don’t necessarily mimic the object’s interface:

//: C14:Compose2.cpp

// Private embedded objects

#include “Useful.h”

class Y {

int i;

X x; // Embedded object

public:

Y() { i = 0; }

void f(int ii) { i = ii; x.set(ii); }

int g() const { return i * x.read(); }

void permute() { x.permute(); }

};

int main() {

Y y;

y.f(47);

y.permute();

} ///:~

Here, the permute( ) function is carried through to the new class interface, but the other member functions of X are used within the members of Y.

Inheritance syntax

[BE7] The syntax for composition is obvious, but to perform inheritance there’s a new and different form.

When you inherit, you are saying, “This new class is like that old class.” You state this in code by giving the name of the class, as usual, but before the opening brace of the class body, you put a colon and the name of the base class (or classes, for multiple inheritance). When you do this, you automatically get all the data members and member functions in the base class. Here’s an example:

//: C14:Inherit.cpp

// Simple inheritance

#include “Useful.h”

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Y : public X {

int i; // Different from X’s i

public:

Y() { i = 0; }

int change() {

i = permute(); // Different name call

return i;

}

void set(int ii) {

i = ii;

X::set(ii); // Same-name function call

}

};

int main() {

cout << “sizeof(X) = ” << sizeof(X) << endl;

cout << “sizeof(Y) = ”

<< sizeof(Y) << endl;

Y D;

D.change();

// X function interface comes through:

D.read();

D.permute();

// Redefined functions hide base versions:

D.set(12);

} ///:~

In Y you can see inheritance going on, which means that Y will contain all the data elements in X and all the member functions in X. In fact, Y contains a subobject of X just as if you had created a member object of X inside Y instead of inheriting from X. Both member objects and base class storage are referred to as subobjects.

In main( ) you can see that the data elements are added because the sizeof(Y) is twice as big as sizeof(X).

You’ll notice that the base class is preceded by public. During inheritance, everything defaults to private, which means all the public members of the base class are private in the derived class. This is almost never what you want; the desired result is to keep all the public members of the base class public in the derived class. You do this by using the public keyword during inheritance.

In change( ), the base-class permute( ) function is called. The derived class has direct access to all the public base-class functions.

The set( ) function in the derived class redefines the set( ) function in the base class. That is, if you call the functions read( ) and permute( ) for an object of type Y, you’ll get the base-class versions of those functions (you can see this happen inside main( )), but if you call set( ) for a Y object, you get the redefined version. This means that if you don’t like the version of a function you get during inheritance, you can change what it does. (You can also add completely new functions like change( ).)

However, when you’re redefining a function, you may still want to call the base-class version. If, inside set( ), you simply call set( ) you’ll get the local version of the function – a recursive function call. To call the base-class version, you must explicitly name it, using the base-class name and the scope resolution operator.

The constructor initializer list

You’ve seen how important it is in C++ to guarantee proper initialization, and it’s no different during composition and inheritance. When an object is created, the compiler guarantees that constructors for all its subobjects are called. In the examples so far, all the subobjects have default constructors, and that’s what the compiler automatically calls. But what happens if your subobjects don’t have default constructors, or if you want to change a default argument in a constructor? This is a problem because the new class constructor doesn’t have permission to access the private data elements of the subobject, so it can’t initialize them directly.

The solution is simple: Call the constructor for the subobject. C++ provides a special syntax for this, the constructor initializer list. The form of the constructor initializer list echoes the act of inheritance. With inheritance, you put the base classes after a colon and before the opening brace of the class body. In the constructor initializer list, you put the calls to subobject constructors after the constructor argument list and a colon, but before the opening brace of the function body. For a class MyType, inherited from Bar, this might look like

MyType::MyType(int i) : Bar(i) { // …

if Bar has a constructor that takes a single int argument.

Member object initialization

It turns out that you use this very same syntax for member object initialization when using composition. For composition, you give the names of the objects rather than the class names. If you have more than one constructor call in the initializer list, you separate the calls with commas:

MyType2::MyType2(int i) : Bar(i), memb(i+1) { // …

This is the beginning of a constructor for class MyType2, which is inherited from Bar and contains a member object called memb. Note that while you can see the type of the base class in the constructor initializer list, you only see the member object identifier.

Built-in types in the initializer list

The constructor initializer list allows you to explicitly call the constructors for member objects. In fact, there’s no other way to call those constructors. The idea is that the constructors are all called before you get into the body of the new class’s constructor. That way, any calls you make to member functions of subobjects will always go to initialized objects. There’s no way to get to the opening brace of the constructor without some constructor being called for all the member objects and base-class objects, even if the compiler must make a hidden call to a default constructor. This is a further enforcement of the C++ guarantee that no object (or part of an object) can get out of the starting gate without its constructor being called.

This idea that all the member objects are initialized by the opening brace of the constructor is a convenient programming aid, as well. Once you hit the opening brace, you can assume all subobjects are properly initialized and focus on specific tasks you want to accomplish in the constructor. However, there’s a hitch: What about embedded objects of built-in types, which don’t have constructors?

To make the syntax consistent, you’re allowed to treat built-in types as if they have a single constructor, which takes a single argument: a variable of the same type as the variable you’re initializing. Thus, you can say

class X {

int i;

float f;

char c;

char* s;

public:

X() : i(7), f(1.4), c(‘x’), s(“howdy”) {}

// …

The action of these “pseudoconstructor calls” is to perform a simple assignment. It’s a convenient technique and a good coding style, so you’ll often see it used.

It’s even possible to use the pseudoconstructor syntax when creating a variable of this type outside of a class:

int i(100);

This makes built-in types act a little bit more like objects. Remember, though, that these are not real constructors. In particular, if you don’t explicitly make a pseudo-constructor call, no initialization is performed.

Combining composition & inheritance

Of course, you can use the two together. The following example shows the creation of a more complex class, using both inheritance and composition.

//: C14:Combined.cpp

// Inheritance & composition

class A {

int i;

public:

A(int ii) : i(ii) {}

~A() {}

void f() const {}

};

class B {

int i;

public:

B(int ii) : i(ii) {}

~B() {}

void f() const {}

};

class C : public B {

A a;

public:

C(int ii) : B(ii), a(ii) {}

~C() {} // Calls ~A() and ~B()

void f() const { // Redefinition

a.f();

B::f();

}

};

int main() {

C c(47);

} ///:~

C inherits from B and has a member object (“is composed of”) A. You can see the constructor initializer list contains calls to both the base-class constructor and the member-object constructor.

The function C::f( ) redefines B::f( ) that it inherits, and also calls the base-class version. In addition, it calls a.f( ). Notice that the only time you can talk about redefinition of functions is during inheritance; with a member object you can only manipulate the public interface of the object, not redefine it. In addition, calling f( ) for an object of class C would not call a.f( ) if C::f( ) had not been defined, whereas it would call B::f( ).

Automatic destructor calls

Although you are often required to make explicit constructor calls in the initializer list, you never need to make explicit destructor calls because there’s only one destructor for any class, and it doesn’t take any arguments. However, the compiler still ensures that all destructors are called, and that means all the destructors in the entire hierarchy, starting with the most-derived destructor and working back to the root.

It’s worth emphasizing that constructors and destructors are quite unusual in that every one in the hierarchy is called, whereas with a normal member function only that function is called, but not any of the base-class versions. If you also want to call the base-class version of a normal member function that you’re overriding, you must do it explicitly.

Order of constructor & destructor calls

It’s interesting to know the order of constructor and destructor calls when an object has many subobjects. The following example shows exactly how it works:

//: C14:Order.cpp

// Constructor/destructor order

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“order.out”);

#define CLASS(ID) class ID { \

public: \

ID(int) { out << #ID ” constructor\n”; } \

~ID() { out << #ID ” destructor\n”; } \

};

CLASS(Base1);

CLASS(Member1);

CLASS(Member2);

CLASS(Member3);

CLASS(Member4);

class Derived1 : public Base1 {

Member1 m1;

Member2 m2;

public:

Derived1(int) : m2(1), m1(2), Base1(3) {

out << “Derived1 constructor\n”;

}

~Derived1() {

out << “Derived1 destructor\n”;

}

};

class Derived2 : public Derived1 {

Member3 m3;

Member4 m4;

public:

Derived2() : m3(1), Derived1(2), m4(3) {

out << “Derived2 constructor\n”;

}

~Derived2() {

out << “Derived2 destructor\n”;

}

};

int main() {

Derived2 d2;

} ///:~

First, an ofstream object is created to send all the output to a file. Then, to save some typing and demonstrate a macro technique that will be replaced by a much improved technique in Chapter XX, a macro is created to build some of the classes, which are then used in inheritance and composition. Each of the constructors and destructors report themselves to the trace file. Note that the constructors are not default constructors; they each have an int argument. The argument itself has no identifier; its only job is to force you to explicitly call the constructors in the initializer list. (Eliminating the identifier prevents compiler warning messages.)

The output of this program is

Base1 constructor

Member1 constructor

Member2 constructor

Derived1 constructor

Member3 constructor

Member4 constructor

Derived2 constructor

Derived2 destructor

Member4 destructor

Member3 destructor

Derived1 destructor

Member2 destructor

Member1 destructor

Base1 destructor

You can see that construction starts at the very root of the class hierarchy, and that at each level the base class constructor is called first, followed by the member object constructors. The destructors are called in exactly the reverse order of the constructors – this is important because of potential dependencies.

It’s also interesting that the order of constructor calls for member objects is completely unaffected by the order of the calls in the constructor initializer list. The order is determined by the order that the member objects are declared in the class. If you could change the order of constructor calls via the constructor initializer list, you could have two different call sequences in two different constructors, but the poor destructor wouldn’t know how to properly reverse the order of the calls for destruction, and you could end up with a dependency problem.

Name hiding

If a base class has a function name that’s overloaded several times, redefining that function name in the derived class will hide all the base-class versions. That is, they become unavailable in the derived class:

//: C14:Hide.cpp

// Name hiding during inheritance

class Homer {

public:

int doh(int) const { return 1; }

char doh(char) const { return ‘d’;}

float doh(float) const { return 1.0; }

};

class Bart : public Homer {

public:

class Milhouse {};

void doh(Milhouse) const {}

};

int main() {

Bart b;

//! b.doh(1); // Error

//! b.doh(‘x’); // Error

//! b.doh(1.0); // Error

} ///:~

Because Bart redefines doh( ), none of the base-class versions can be called for a Bart object. In each case, the compiler attempts to convert the argument into a Milhouse object and complains because it can’t find a conversion.

As you’ll see in the next chapter, it’s far more common to redefine functions using exactly the same signature and return type as in the base class.

Functions that don’t automatically inherit

Not all functions are automatically inherited from the base class into the derived class. Constructors and destructors deal with the creation and destruction of an object, and they can know what to do with the aspects of the object only for their particular level, so all the constructors and destructors in the entire hierarchy must be called. Thus, constructors and destructors don’t inherit.

In addition, the operator= doesn’t inherit because it performs a constructor-like activity. That is, just because you know how to initialize all the members of an object on the left-hand side of the = from an object on the right-hand side doesn’t mean that initialization will still have meaning after inheritance.

In lieu of inheritance, these functions are synthesized by the compiler if you don’t create them yourself. (With constructors, you can’t create any constructors for the default constructor and the copy-constructor to be automatically created.) This was briefly described in Chapter XX. The synthesized constructors use memberwise initialization and the synthesized operator= uses memberwise assignment. Here’s an example of the functions that are created by the compiler rather than inherited:

//: C14:Ninherit.cpp

// Non-inherited functions

#include <fstream>

using namespace std;

ofstream out(“ninherit.out”);

class Root {

public:

Root() { out << “Root()\n”; }

Root(Root&) { out << “Root(Root&)\n”; }

Root(int) { out << “Root(int)\n”; }

Root& operator=(const Root&) {

out << “Root::operator=()\n”;

return *this;

}

class Other {};

operator Other() const {

out << “Root::operator Other()\n”;

return Other();

}

~Root() { out << “~Root()\n”; }

};

class Derived : public Root {};

void f(Root::Other) {}

int main() {

Derived d1; // Default constructor

Derived d2 = d1; // Copy-constructor

//! Derived d3(1); // Error: no int constructor

d1 = d2; // Operator= not inherited

f(d1); // Type-conversion IS inherited

} ///:~

All the constructors and the operator= announce themselves so you can see when they’re used by the compiler. In addition, the operator Other( ) performs automatic type conversion from a Root object to an object of the nested class Other. The class Derived simply inherits from Root and creates no functions (to see how the compiler responds). The function f( ) takes an Other object to test the automatic type conversion function.

In main( ), the default constructor and copy-constructor are created and the Root versions are called as part of the constructor-call hierarchy. Even though it looks like inheritance, new constructors are actually created. As you might expect, no constructors with arguments are automatically created because that’s too much for the compiler to intuit.

The operator= is also synthesized as a new function in Derived using memberwise assignment because that function was not explicitly written in the new class.

Because of all these rules about rewriting functions that handle object creation, it may seem a little strange at first that the automatic type conversion operator is inherited. But it’s not too unreasonable – if there are enough pieces in Root to make an Other object, those pieces are still there in anything derived from Root and the type conversion operator is still valid (even though you may in fact want to redefine it).

Choosing composition vs. inheritance

Both composition and inheritance place subobjects inside your new class. Both use the constructor initializer list to construct these subobjects. You may now be wondering what the difference is between the two, and when to choose one over the other.

Composition is generally used when you want the features of an existing class inside your new class, but not its interface. That is, you embed an object that you’re planning on using to implement features of your new class, but the user of your new class sees the interface you’ve defined rather than the interface from the original class. For this effect, you embed private objects of existing classes inside your new class.

Sometimes it makes sense to allow the class user to directly access the composition of your new class, that is, to make the member objects public. The member objects use implementation hiding themselves, so this is a safe thing to do and when the user knows you’re assembling a bunch of parts, it makes the interface easier to understand. A car object is a good example:

//: C14:Car.cpp

// Public composition

class Engine {

public:

void start() const {}

void rev() const {}

void stop() const {}

};

class Wheel {

public:

void inflate(int psi) const {}

};

class Window {

public:

void rollup() const {}

void rolldown() const {}

};

class Door {

public:

Window window;

void open() const {}

void close() const {}

};

class Car {

public:

Engine engine;

Wheel wheel[4];

Door left, right; // 2-door

};

int main() {

Car car;

car.left.window.rollup();

car.wheel[0].inflate(72);

} ///:~

Because the composition of a car is part of the analysis of the problem (and not simply part of the underlying design), making the members public assists the client programmer’s understanding of how to use the class and requires less code complexity for the creator of the class.

With a little thought, you’ll also see that it would make no sense to compose a car using a vehicle object – a car doesn’t contain a vehicle, it is a vehicle. The is-a relationship is expressed with inheritance, and the has-a relationship is expressed with composition.

Subtyping

Now suppose you want to create a type of ifstream object that not only opens a file but also keeps track of the name of the file. You can use composition and embed both an ifstream and a strstream into the new class:

//: C14:FName1.cpp

// An fstream with a file name

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <strstream>

using namespace std;

class FName1 {

ifstream file;

static const int bsize = 100;

char buf[bsize];

ostrstream fname;

int nameset;

public:

FName1() : fname(buf, bsize), nameset(0) {}

FName1(const char* filename)

: file(filename), fname(buf, bsize) {

assure(file, filename);

fname << filename << ends;

nameset = 1;

}

const char* name() const { return buf; }

void name(const char* newname) {

if(nameset) return; // Don’t overwrite

fname << newname << ends;

nameset = 1;

}

operator ifstream&() { return file; }

};

int main() {

FName1 file(“FName1.cpp”);

cout << file.name() << endl;

// Error: rdbuf() not a member:

//! cout << file.rdbuf() << endl;

} ///:~

There’s a problem here, however. An attempt is made to allow the use of the FName1 object anywhere an ifstream object is used, by including an automatic type conversion operator from FName1 to an ifstream&. But in main, the line

cout << file.rdbuf() << endl;

will not compile because automatic type conversion happens only in function calls, not during member selection. So this approach won’t work.

A second approach is to add the definition of rdbuf( ) to FName1:

filebuf* rdbuf() { return file.rdbuf(); }

This will work if there are only a few functions you want to bring through from the ifstream class. In that case you’re only using part of the class, and composition is appropriate.

But what if you want everything in the class to come through? This is called subtyping because you’re making a new type from an existing type, and you want your new type to have exactly the same interface as the existing type (plus any other member functions you want to add), so you can use it everywhere you’d use the existing type. This is where inheritance is essential. You can see that subtyping solves the problem in the preceding example perfectly:

//: C14:FName2.cpp

// Subtyping solves the problem

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <strstream>

using namespace std;

class FName2 : public ifstream {

static const int bsize = 100;

char buf[bsize];

ostrstream fname;

int nameset;

public:

FName2() : fname(buf, bsize), nameset(0) {}

FName2(const char* filename)

: ifstream(filename), fname(buf, bsize) {

assure(*this, filename);

fname << filename << ends;

nameset = 1;

}

const char* name() const { return buf; }

void name(const char* newname) {

if(nameset) return; // Don’t overwrite

fname << newname << ends;

nameset = 1;

}

};

int main() {

FName2 file(“FName2.cpp”);

assure(file, “FName2.cpp”);

cout << “name: ” << file.name() << endl;

const int bsize = 100;

char buf[bsize];

file.getline(buf, bsize); // This works too!

file.seekg(-200, ios::end);

cout << file.rdbuf() << endl;

} ///:~

Now any member function that works with an ifstream object also works with an FName2 object. That’s because an FName2 is a type of ifstream; it doesn’t simply contain one. This is a very important issue that will be explored at the end of this chapter and in the next one.

Specialization

When you inherit, you take an existing class and make a special version of it. Generally, this means you’re taking a general-purpose class and specializing it for a particular need.

For example, consider the Stack class from the previous chapter. One of the problems with that class is that you had to perform a cast every time you fetched a pointer from the container. This is not only tedious, it’s unsafe – you could cast the pointer to anything you want.

An approach that seems better at first glance is to specialize the general Stack class using inheritance. Here’s an example that uses the class from the previous chapter:

//: C14:InheritStack.cpp

//{L} ../C13/Stack4

// Specializing the Stack class

#include “../C13/Stack4.h”

#include “../require.h”

#include <iostream>

#include <fstream>

#include <string>

using namespace std;

class StringList : public Stack {

public:

void push(string* str) {

Stack::push(str);

}

string* peek() const {

return (string*)Stack::peek();

}

string* pop() {

return (string*)Stack::pop();

}

};

int main() {

ifstream file(“InheritStack.cpp”);

assure(file, “InheritStack.cpp”);

string line;

StringList textlines;

while(getline(file,line))

textlines.push(new string(line));

string* s;

while((s = textlines.pop()) != 0) // No cast!

cout << *s << endl;

} ///:~

The Stack4.h header file is brought in from Chapter XX. (The Stack4 object file must be linked in as well.)

Stringlist specializes Stack so that push( ) will accept only String pointers. Before, Stack would accept void pointers, so the user had no type checking to make sure the proper pointers were inserted. In addition, peek( ) and pop( ) now return String pointers rather than void pointers, so no cast is necessary to use the pointer.

Amazingly enough, this extra type-checking safety is free! The compiler is being given extra type information, that it uses at compile-time, but the functions are inline and no extra code is generated.

Unfortunately, inheritance doesn’t solve all the problems with this container class. The destructor still causes trouble. You’ll remember from Chapter XX that the Stack::~Stack( ) destructor moves through the list and calls delete for all the pointers. The problem is, delete is called for void pointers, which only releases the memory and doesn’t call the destructors (because void* has no type information). If a Stringlist::~Stringlist( ) destructor is created to move through the list and call delete for all the String pointers in the list, the problem is solved if

1. The Stack data members are made protected so the Stringlist destructor can access them. (protected is described a bit later in the chapter.)

2. The Stack base class destructor is removed so the memory isn’t released twice.

3. No more inheritance is performed, because you’d end up with the same dilemma again: multiple destructor calls versus an incorrect destructor call (to a String object rather than what the class derived from Stringlist might contain).

This issue will be revisited in the next chapter, but will not be fully solved until templates are introduced in Chapter XX.

A more important observation to make about this example is that it changes the interface of the Stack in the process of inheritance. If the interface is different, then a Stringlist really isn’t a Stack, and you will never be able to correctly use a Stringlist as a Stack. This questions the use of inheritance here: if you’re not creating a Stringlist that is-a type of Stack, then why are you inheriting? A more appropriate version of Stringlist will be shown later in the chapter.

private inheritance

You can inherit a base class privately by leaving off the public in the base-class list, or by explici