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C++ Coding Standards:

101 Rules, Guidelines, and Best Practices


Andrei Alexandrescu


Herb Sutter


2005 (c) Copyright Pearson Education (Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall)


ISBN: 0321113586; Published: Oct 25, 2004; Copyright 2005;
Dimensions 7-3/8x9-1/4 ; Pages: 240; Edition: 1st.





We REQUEST you purchase the book from Pearson Education.

If you intend to use the Abraxas Software rule-file's & test-suite's to analyze your C++ using concepts from the book, then it is essential that you purchase the book.


While the CodeCheck rule-file may find the a violation from the book, the enumeration's below tell you how to use the actual "Table of Contents" in the book. The page number in the book MUST be used to review the associated material on the particular problem. For instance a violation 95, maps in the book to page 180. It essential that all messages be followed up by an analysis of the material in the book. It is essential you purchase the book in order to use the CCS rule-file.


If a user of the CodeCheck rule-file finds a false positive or a false negative, please send us corrected C++ so we can expand our test suite.  If you wish you can add your name and email address to the C++ so others may contact you, and you can get credit for writing the test-case.



The following “Table of Contents” is an overview of the book.

The book does not use the A-K system for the sections. We chose that system in order to organize the rule-file and selectively disable analysis of sections. When using automatic detection systems its best to focus on one section at a time. It is assumed the user of the rule-file will activate/de-activate the section A-K that they wish to analyze. Running a full analysis of all sections on a large body of C++ may actually generate a larger file than the original C++ source.

Keep Things Simple.

C++ Coding Standards:

101 Rules, Guidelines, and Best Practices

Table of Contents


A. Organizational and Policy Issues.


0)     Don't sweat the small stuff. (Or: Know what not to standardize.).


1)     Compile cleanly at high warning levels.


2)     Use an automated build system.


3)     Use a version control system.


4)     Invest in code reviews.


B. Design Style.


5)     Give one entity one cohesive responsibility.


6)     Correctness, simplicity, and clarity come first.


7)     Know when and how to code for scalability.


8)     Don't optimize prematurely.


9)     Don't pessimize prematurely.


10) Minimize global and shared data.


11) Hide information.


12) Know when and how to code for concurrency.


13) Ensure resources are owned by objects. Use explicit RAII and smart pointers.


C. Coding Style.


14) Prefer compile- and link-time errors to run-time errors.


15) Use const proactively.


16) Avoid macros.


17) Avoid magic numbers.


18) Declare variables as locally as possible.


19) Always initialize variables.


20) Avoid long functions. Avoid deep nesting.


21) Avoid initialization dependencies across compilation units.


22) Minimize definitional dependencies. Avoid cyclic dependencies.


23) Make header files self-sufficient.


24) Always write internal #include guards. Never write external #include guards.


D. Functions and Operators.


25) Take parameters appropriately by value, (smart) pointer, or reference.


26) Preserve natural semantics for overloaded operators.


27) Prefer the canonical forms of arithmetic and assignment operators.


28) Prefer the canonical form of ++ and --. Prefer calling the prefix forms.


29) Consider overloading to avoid implicit type conversions.


30) Avoid overloading &&, ||, or , (comma).


31) Don't write code that depends on the order of evaluation of functionarguments.


E. Class Design and Inheritance.


32) Be clear what kind of class you're writing.


33) Prefer minimal classes to monolithic classes.


34) Prefer composition to inheritance.


35) Avoid inheriting from classes that were not designed to be base classes.


36) Prefer providing abstract interfaces.


37) Public inheritance is substitutability. Inherit, not to reuse, but to be reused.


38) Practice safe overriding.


39) Consider making virtual functions nonpublic, and public functions nonvirtual.


40) Avoid providing implicit conversions.


41) Make data members private, except in behaviorless aggregates (C-stylestructs).


42) Don't give away your internals.


43) Pimpl judiciously.


44) Prefer writing nonmember nonfriend functions.


45) Always provide new and delete together.


46) If you provide any class-specific new, provide all of the standard forms (plain, in-place, and nothrow).


F. Construction, Destruction, and Copying.


47) Define and initialize member variables in the same order.


48) Prefer initialization to assignment in constructors.


49) Avoid calling virtual functions in constructors and destructors.


50) Make base class destructors public and virtual, or protected and nonvirtual.


51) Destructors, deallocation, and swap never fail.


52) Copy and destroy consistently.


53) Explicitly enable or disable copying.


54) Avoid slicing. Consider Clone instead of copying in base classes.


55) Prefer the canonical form of assignment.


56) Whenever it makes sense, provide a no-fail swap (and provide it correctly).


G. Namespaces and Modules.


57) Keep a type and its nonmember function interface in the same namespace.


58) Keep types and functions in separate namespaces unless they're specifically intended to work together.


59) Don't write namespace usings in a header file or before an #include.


60) Avoid allocating and deallocating memory in different modules.


61) Don't define entities with linkage in a header file.


62) Don't allow exceptions to propagate across module boundaries.


63) Use sufficiently portable types in a module's interface.



64) Blend static and dynamic polymorphism judiciously.


65) Customize intentionally and explicitly.


66) Don't specialize function templates.


67) Don't write unintentionally nongeneric code.


H. Templates and Genericity.


68) Assert liberally to document internal assumptions and invariants.


69) Establish a rational error handling policy, and follow it strictly.


70) Distinguish between errors and non-errors.


71) Design and write error-safe code.


72) Prefer to use exceptions to report errors.


73) Throw by value, catch by reference.


74) Report, handle, and translate errors appropriately.


75) Avoid exception specifications.


I. Error Handling and Exceptions.


76) Use vector by default. Otherwise, choose an appropriate container.


77) Use vector and string instead of arrays.


78) Use vector (and string::c_str) to exchange data with non-C++ APIs.


79) Store only values and smart pointers in containers.


80) Prefer push_back to other ways of expanding a sequence.


81) Prefer range operations to single-element operations.


82) Use the accepted idioms to really shrink capacity and really erase elements.


J. STL: Containers.


83) Use a checked STL implementation.


84) Prefer algorithm calls to handwritten loops.


85) Use the right STL search algorithm.


86) Use the right STL sort algorithm.


87) Make predicates pure functions.


88) Prefer function objects over functions as algorithm and comparer arguments.


89) Write function objects correctly.


K. Type Safety.


90) Avoid type switching; prefer polymorphism.


91) Rely on types, not on representations.


92) Avoid using reinterpret_cast.


93) Avoid using static_cast on pointers.


94) Avoid casting away const.


95) Don't use C-style casts.


96) Don't memcpy or memcmp non-PODs.


97) Don't use unions to reinterpret representation.


98) Don't use varargs (ellipsis).


99) Don't use invalid objects. Don't use unsafe functions.


100)                  Don't treat arrays polymorphically.



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