Coding Convention

Naming convention

Headers go into <libname>/*

  • we want the same layout when headers are installed and are in the source tree
  • we want to prefix by the library name to avoid headers clash, remember that we want to install in /usr/include sometimes

Sources and private headers goes into <src>/*

  • That allows us to isolate public code that need a particular attention
  • It’s easier to grep only in public headers

Private classes go into <src>/*

Private implementation headers should be named ‘<classname>_p.hpp’

  • this distinguishes public and private headers, otherwise we can have two files with the same name which is not pratical.
  • furthermore this denotates that the content should never be public, it’s the private part of a class.
  • Qt classes are not in a namespace
  • Qt classes are prefixed with ‘Qi’


For the public foo class and the private oups class in the bar library we have:


src/oups_p.hpp (optional)



This gives us the following objects:


#include <bar/foo.hpp>

int main(void) {
   qi::Foo foo;


#include <bar/qt/qifoo.h>

int main(void) {
   QiFoo foo;


Public headers must not include public headers from other libraries. This ensures binary compatibility.

Public headers must be enclosed within brackets <> when included.

On the other hand, private headers must be enclosed within double quotes “” when included.

Header include statement

  • If a header is not provided by the project, then the include statement must be:

    #include <bar/foo.h>
  • Else if a header is provided by the project and gets installed, so this is a public header, then the include statement must be:

    #include <bar/foo.h>
  • Otherwise, this is a private header provided by the project and only used in this project (e.i. never gets installed), then the include statement must be:

    #include "bar/foo.h"

Export symbol

All public functions and classes should be exported using <LIBNAME>_API macro. This macro should be unique to the library and never be used by others libraries.

#include <bar/api.hpp>

class BAR_API Foo

For each library you will have to define <library>/api.hpp

#pragma once
#ifndef BAR_API_HPP_
#define BAR_API_HPP_

#include <qi/macro.hpp>

#define BAR_API QI_LIB_API(bar)

#endif  // !BAR_API_HPP_

Please remember to export nested class

class BAR_API Foo

  class BAR_API Bar // BAR_API is mandatory here

Private Implementation

  • Use private implementation where applicable.
  • Still reserve a pointer instead if you dont use it. (for future use, see example two).
  • Classes should be named <classname>Private.
  • A pointer ‘_p’ should be added into the class.

When a class has a private implementation, the copy constructor must be either implemented, either disabled - ie. defined in the private section of the class.

Example with Pimpl


class FooPrivate;
class Foo
  FooPrivate* _p;

Example without Pimpl

class Foo

  //could be used to create a future pimpl if needed without breaking ABI
  void* _reserved;
  int _mymember;


You can expose struct but they should only contains POD. If a struct have a member which a class (or worst) a STL class, Windows wont be happy, and you will have to link the exe and the dll with the same VC runtime, in the same configuration (release/debug). Prefer Pimpl in this case.


Exceptions issues:

  • may not be available on all platforms
  • it’s not really compatible with asynchronous design, where error reporting should be asynchronous too, but the error can catch at the caller place, and re-throw at the callee place. (qi::Future can help having both)
  • exceptions increase the library size
  • it’s really hard to write exception-safe code. (RAII really help here)
  • Exception catching of a user defined type in a binary other than the one which threw the exception requires a typeinfo lookup. (and rtti do not work well across dll boundary
  • it break ABI: memory allocated in one place should be deallocated in the same place (remember that object do not have the same size in release/debug with MSVC), so if user catch a ref, this can crash.
  • Avoiding leak is really hard (all function should handle exceptions, again RAII really help)


A* a = new A();
// this leak a A*
delete a;

This could be fixed with a RAII smart pointer class:

// this could be rewriten with smart pointer to avoid error
boost::shared_ptr<A> a = boost::make_shared<A>();

// a is cleanup here whatever happened.

even more vicious:

// GenericObject that throw in operator= sometime
class EvilObject;
std::list<EvilObject> evilList;

// simple function, that do not look evil, but can throw nevertheless,
// but can you guess what?
void functionthatdonotthrow(const EvilObject& eo)

void main()
  EvilObject* eo = new EvilObject;
  // leak, but you can't guess that reading functionthatdonotthrow

Once you have exception you should use RAII everywhere to avoid leak.

So use exception with caution and prefer a simple hierarchy over a complicated one. Do not hesitate to use std::runtime_error. Never throw an exception not defined in your lib, except the one provided by the stdexcept header.


When naming an iterator, simply append “It” after the name of the container.

std::vector<int> primeNumbers;
std::vector<int>::iterator primeNumbersIt;


The name of the enumeration must be singular.

The enumeration values must be prefixed by the name of the enumeration followed by an underscore.

Precise each number and never reorder existing enumerations for ABI compatibility.

class Message
  enum Type
    Type_Call = 0,
    Type_Error = 1,
    Type_Answer = 2,
    Type_Event = 3


Always prefer enumerations to booleans for readability.

// bad: cannot understand just by reading the line
Client ds("ip", true);
// GOOD: easy to read, ok this is keepalive.
Client ds("ip", Connection_KeepAlive);


  • Private members names should be prefixed with underscores.


If the argument is IN-OUT then use pointer and avoid reference. The code that use the function is clearer to look at.

int a, b, result;
bool check;

// the & show that the value can be modified
check = computeButCanFail(a, b, &result);

//bad... we dont know value will be modified
check = computeButCanFail(a, b, result);

If the type is a POD (bool, char, short, int, float, double, etc...) use:

void setValue(int i);

In all other case use const ref.

void setValue(const MyClass& myclass);


All class with virtuals should have a virtual destructor to avoid leak.


Always declare the destructor of an interface pure virtual.

(and provide an implementation to make it compile).

An interface should not be instanciable, so forcing the destrutor to be pure is good.

class SocketInterface
  // pure virtual destructor
  virtual ~SocketInterface() = 0;

  virtual void onReadyRead();


They should never be used to return data to users. Implement fast copy constructor and operator=. Rely on swap semantic if needed.

Allocation should always be done in the same “space”, a library should malloc and free his structure, user code too. Under windows structure do not have the same size between debug and release, this lead to release library not usable in debug build.

** pointer should only be used as input parameter, to pass an array of pointer.

// BAD an object is created in the socket library, but should be released
// in the client program
Message* msg;;
// Good, user provide a message to fill
Message msg;;


** Basically you should only use assert for something that according to you the developer when you write the assert CANNOT POSSIBLY BE FALSE.

  • do not call assert when the error is not fatal.
  • never call exit in a library.

Report error to the user of the library if possible instead. Users are then free to assert/exit as they want. A library should never crash a program deliberately.

assert is only active during debug, you may think that it is enough to use it, but some developper use debug build, and they do not want their program to crash because of a lib that do not handle errors correctly.

You should really be careful with assert, the goal is to catch error before a segfault, to point at the real error, instead of a random segfault. So use with caution.

A borderline example:

inotify_event& evt = reinterpret_cast<inotify_event&>(buffer[i]);
if (evt..mask & IN_CREATE) {...}
else if (evt.mask & IN_STUFF) {...}
else assert(!"inotify event type unknown");

// this one is wrong, if inotify api evolves some new message types may appear. This can happen and is not fatal to the code.

Coding Style

We use clang-format (version 3.6.0) to format our c++ files. If you want more information about clang-format take a look to and

Here is the .clang-format file use for the project (files are port to this one at a time).

Language:        Cpp
# BasedOnStyle:  Google
AccessModifierOffset: -2
AlignEscapedNewlinesLeft: true
AlignTrailingComments: true
AllowAllParametersOfDeclarationOnNextLine: false
AllowShortBlocksOnASingleLine: false
AllowShortFunctionsOnASingleLine: None
AllowShortIfStatementsOnASingleLine: false
AllowShortLoopsOnASingleLine: false
AlwaysBreakBeforeMultilineStrings: true
AlwaysBreakTemplateDeclarations: true
BinPackParameters: false
# Only works for clang-format 3.7.0 (Apple)
# BinPackArguments: false
BreakBeforeBinaryOperators: false
BreakBeforeBraces: Allman
BreakBeforeTernaryOperators: false
BreakConstructorInitializersBeforeComma: true
ColumnLimit: 119
CommentPragmas: '^ IWYU pragma:'
ConstructorInitializerAllOnOneLineOrOnePerLine: false
ConstructorInitializerIndentWidth: 2
ContinuationIndentWidth: 4
Cpp11BracedListStyle: true
DerivePointerAlignment: false
DisableFormat: false
ExperimentalAutoDetectBinPacking: false
ForEachMacros: [ foreach, Q_FOREACH, BOOST_FOREACH ]
IndentCaseLabels: false
IndentWidth: 2
IndentWrappedFunctionNames: false
IndentFunctionDeclarationAfterType: false
KeepEmptyLinesAtTheStartOfBlocks: false
MaxEmptyLinesToKeep: 1
NamespaceIndentation: Inner
ObjCSpaceAfterProperty: false
ObjCSpaceBeforeProtocolList: false
PenaltyBreakBeforeFirstCallParameter: 100
PenaltyBreakComment: 300
PenaltyBreakString: 1000
PenaltyBreakFirstLessLess: 120
PenaltyExcessCharacter: 1000000
PenaltyReturnTypeOnItsOwnLine: 200
PointerAlignment: Left
SpaceBeforeAssignmentOperators: true
SpaceBeforeParens: ControlStatements
SpaceInEmptyParentheses: false
SpacesBeforeTrailingComments: 1
SpacesInAngles: false
SpacesInCStyleCastParentheses: false
SpacesInParentheses: false
SpaceAfterControlStatementKeyword: true
Standard: Auto
TabWidth: 8
UseTab: Never