Coding style

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The C language '''Coding style''' described here is based on the BSD coding style, with some additional elements from the GNU coding standards and the SunOS coding standards.
The C language '''Coding style''' described here is based on the BSD coding style, with some additional elements from the GNU coding standards and the SunOS coding standards.
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standards is mostly what we want, except we use BSD brace style and
standards is mostly what we want, except we use BSD brace style and
BSD-ish conventions for the spacing around operators.
BSD-ish conventions for the spacing around operators.
=== Formatting style for C code ===
(deleted moved content)
=== Coding practices for C ===
=== Coding practices for C ===
Assume, for most purposes, working ANSI/ISO C ('89, not '99) support,
both for internal use and for applications compiling against Kerberos
header files and libraries. Some exceptions are noted below.
Do not use assignments as truth values. Rather than this:
/* bad style */
if ((retval = krb5_foo()))
/* ... */;
do this:
/* better style */
retval = krb5_foo();
if (retval)
/* ... */;
This makes the code easier to read, and also makes it easier to use
debuggers. It may be excusable to put assignments into the
conditional espression of a "while" statement, though, like:
while ((ch = getopt(argc, argv, "abn")) != -1)
/* ... */;
Using assignments as truth values in conditional expressions may make
code particularly impenetrable.
There are at least three types of "zero" known to C. These are the
integer zero (0), the null pointer constant (NULL), and the character
constant zero ('\0'). Yes, these are usually all technically the
integer zero. Use them in their correct contexts. (Purists will
point out that 0 is a valid null pointer constant; still, do not use 0
to specify a null pointer constant. For further unconfusion, read the
section on null pointer constants in the C FAQ.) Do not use a lone
variable as a truth value unless it's of integer type. Thus:
int i;
char *cp;
/* ... */
if (i)
/* ... */;
if (cp != NULL) {
while (*cp != '\0')
/* ... */;
Do not cast uses of NULL unless you're calling a function with a
variable number of arguments, in which case you should cast it to to
the appropriate pointer type. Likewise, do not cast the return value
from malloc() and friends; the prototype should declare them properly
as returning a void * and thus shouldn't require an explicit cast.
Do not assume that realloc(NULL, size) will do the right thing, or
that free(NULL) will do the right thing. ANSI guarantees that it
will, but some old libraries (hopefully becoming obsolete) don't.
Also, don't assume that malloc(0) will return a non-NULL pointer.
Typically, though, the output of malloc(0) will be safe to pass to
realloc() and free().
In any case, reading the section in the C FAQ on null pointers is
highly recommended to remove confusion regarding null pointers in C,
since this is a subject of much confusion to even experienced
programmers. In particular, if you do not understand why using
calloc() to allocate a struct that contains pointer members or why
calling memset() to initialize such a struct to all-bytes-zero is
wrong, reread that section again. (Note that there are *lots* of
examples of code in the krb5 source tree that erroneously calls
memset() to zero a struct, and we should fix these somehow
Control flow statements that have a single statement as their body
should nevertheless have braces around their bodies if the body is
more than one line long, especially in the case of stacked multiple
if-else clauses; use:
if (x) {
if (y)
instead of:
/* bad style */
if (x)
if (y)
which, while legible to the compiler, may confuse human readers and
make the code less maintainable, especially if new branches get added
to any of the clauses.
Also, you should almost never intersperse conditional compilation
directives with control flow statements, as some combination of
#define'd symbols may result in statements getting eaten by dangling
bits of control flow statements. When it is not possible to avoid
this questionable practice (you really should rewrite the relevant
code section), make use of redundant braces to ensure that a compiler
error will result in preference to incorrect runtime behavior (such as
inadvertantly providing someone with a root shell).
Do not intersperse conditional compilation directives with control
flow statements in such a way that confuses emacs cc-mode. Not only
does emacs get confused, but the code becomes more difficult to read
and maintain. Therefore, avoid code like this:
/* bad style */
if (x) {
#ifdef FOO
else if (y) {
else {
Put comments after conditional compilation directives such as "#else"
and "#endif". Make them correspond to the sense of the value that
controls the compilation of the section they are closing, i.e.
#ifdef FOO
/* ... */
#else /* !FOO */
/* ... */
#endif /* !FOO */
Also, in the case of more complex conditional compilation directives,
write the comments like this:
#if defined(FOO) || defined(BAR)
/* ... */
#else /* !(defined(FOO) || defined(BAR)) */
/* ... */
#endif /* !(defined(FOO) || defined(BAR)) */
If you are writing a do-while loop that has only one statement in its
body, put braces around it anyway, since the while clause may be
mistaken for a while loop with an empty body. Don't do this:
/* bad style */
while (x);
Instead, write this:
/* better style */
do {
} while (x);
While it is syntactically correct to call through a function pointer
without applying a dereference operator to it, do not write code that
does this. It is easier to see that the function call is actually
taking place through a function pointer if you write an explicit
dereference. However, do not explicitly take the address of a
function in order to assign it to a function pointer, since a function
name degrades into a pointer. Thus:
int (*fp)(void);
int foofunc(void);
fp = foofunc;
x = (*fp)();
In general, do not take the address of an array. It does not return a
pointer to the first element; it returns a pointer to the array
itself. These are often identical when cast to an integral type, but
they are inherently of different types themselves. Functions that
take array types or pointers to array types as arguments can be
particularly trouble-prone.
If a function is declared to return a value, do not call "return"
without an argument or allow the flow of control to fall off the end
of the function.
Always declare the return type of a function, even if it returns int.
Yes, this means declaring main() to return int, since main() is
required to return int by the standard. If a function is not supposed
to return a value, declare it as returning void rather than omitting
the return type, which will default the return type to int.
Try to use ANSI C prototype-style function definitions in preference
to K&R style definitions. When using K&R style function definitions,
declare all the argument types, even those that are int, but beware of
any narrow types in the argument list.
Do not declare variables in an inner scope, e.g. inside the compound
substatement of an if statement, unless the complexity of the code
really demands that the variables be declared that way. In such
situations, the function could probably stand to be broken up into
smaller chunks anyway. Do not declare variables in an inner scope
that shadow ones in an outer scope, since this leads to confusion.
Also, some debugging environments, such as gdb under Solaris, can't
see variables declared in an inner scope, so declaring such variables
will make maintenance more difficult as well.
Parenthesize expressions that may be confusing, particularly where C's
precedences are broken. For example, the shift operators have lower
precedence than the +, -, *, /, and % operators. Perhaps the most
familiar C precedence quirk is that equality and relational operators
are of higher precedence than assignment operators. Less well known
is that the bitwise operators are of a lower precedence than equality
and relational operators.
The sizeof operator takes either a unary expression or a parenthesized
type name. It is not necessary to parenthesize the operand of sizeof
if it is applied to a unary expression, but still, always parenthesize
the operand of the sizeof operator. The sizeof operator does not
evaluate its operand if it is a unary expression, so usages such as
s = sizeof(++foo);
should be avoided for the sake of sanity and readability.
Don't pass around structures except by address. We may relax this
restriction for non-API function, though.
For new functions, input parameters should go before output parameters
in the call signature. There are exceptions, such as a context-like
Every function should have block comment preceding it describing
briefly in complete sentences what it does, what inputs and outputs it
has, and what error codes it can return. It should also describe any
unsual aspects of the function. At some point we will want to put
some of this information into a machine-parsable form.
Macros should have all-uppercase names. If it is necessary to use
multiple statements, use braces, and wrap the whole thing in a
do-while(0) construct, such as
#define FOOMACRO(x, y) do { \
foo = (x) + (y); \
f(y); \
} while (0)
Leave off the semicolon at the end of a function-like macro, so that
it can be mostly used like a call to a function without a return
value. Line up the backslashes to make it more readable. Use M-x
c-backslash-region in emacs to do neat lined-up backslashes.
Parenthesize uses of arguments in the replacement text of a macro in
order to prevent weird interactions.
Strive to make your code capable of compiling using "gcc -Wall
-Wmissing-prototypes -Wtraditional -Wcast-qual -Wcast-align
-Wconversion -Waggregate-return -pedantic" [XXX need to rethink this
somewhat] without generating any errors or warnings. Do not, however,
compile using the "-ansi" flag to gcc, since that can result in odd
behavior with header files on some systems, causing some necessary
symbols to not be defined.
=== Namespaces ===
The C standard reserves a bunch of namespaces for the implementation.
Don't stomp on them. For practical purposes, any identifier with a
leading underscore should not be used. (Technically, ^_[a-z].* are
reserved only for file scope, so should be safe for things smaller
than file scope, but it's better to be paranoid in this case.)
POSIX reserves typedef names ending with _t as well.
Recall that errno is a reserved identifier, and is permitted to be a
macro. Therefore, do not use errno as the name of a structure member,
Reserved namespaces are somewhat more restricted than this; read the
appropriate section of the C standard if you have questions.
If you're writing new library code, pick a short prefix and stick with
it for any identifier with external linkage. If for some reason a
library needs to have external symbols that should not be visible to
the application, pick another (related) prefix to use for the internal
globals. This applies to typedef names, tag names, and preprocessor
identifiers as well.
For the krb5 library, the prefix for public global symbols is "krb5_".
Use "krb5int_" as a prefix for library internal globals. Avoid using
"__" in symbol names, as it may confuse C++ implementations. There
are admittedly a number of places where we leak thing into the
namespace; we should try to fix these.
Header files should also not leak symbols. Usually using the upcased
version of the prefix you've picked will suffice, e.g. "KRB5_" as a
CPP symbol prefix corresponding to "krb5_". In general, do not define
macros that are lowercase, in order to avoid confusion and to prevent
namespace collisions.
The C standard only guarantees six case-insensitive characters to be
significant in external identifiers; this is largely regarded as
obsolescent even in 1989 and we will ignore it. It does, however,
only guarantee 31 case-sensitive characters to be signficant in
internal identifiers, so do not use identifiers that differ beyond the
31st character. This is unlikely to be a problem, though.
=== Aspects of C style in GNU coding std but not here ===
=== Aspects of C style in GNU coding std but not here ===
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in the gnu locker does not currently handle -psl correctly though.
in the gnu locker does not currently handle -psl correctly though.
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[XXX needs to be written]
[XXX needs to be written]

Revision as of 19:48, 7 January 2009

The C language Coding style described here is based on the BSD coding style, with some additional elements from the GNU coding standards and the SunOS coding standards.

External links

Old version

Old content to be moved elsewhere is below.


The code in the krb5 source tree largely follows BSD KNF (/usr/share/misc/style on NetBSD) except that it uses a four column basic offset. The style described here is a synthesis of BSD KNF and the GNU coding standards for the C language. The formatting described in the "Formatting Your Source Code" section of the GNU coding standards is mostly what we want, except we use BSD brace style and BSD-ish conventions for the spacing around operators.

Coding practices for C

Aspects of C style in GNU coding std but not here

  • redundant parens to force extra indent of operators of different precedences
  • redundant parens to force general extra indent of expressions that are broken between lines
  • use of ^L characters to break up source files into pages
  • nitpicking about capitalization in comments of variable names when their values are meant
  • commenting usages of static variables
  • casts to void
  • separation of word in names with underscores vs case change
  • enum vs #define'd integer constants
  • 14 char filename limits, MS-DOS filename limits
  • portability
  • system library function quirks
  • internationalization
  • mmap()

Aspects of C style in BSD KNF but not here

  • sorting of header files
  • sorting of struct members
  • separating struct tag decl and struct typedef
  • sorting of var decl
  • lining up var names in decls
  • newline after decls
  • usage of __P
  • usage of getopt
  • not initializing vars in decls
  • stdarg/varargs handling

Emacs cc-mode style

Putting the following code in your .emacs file will result in mostly the right thing happening with respect to formatting style. Note that you may want to turn on auto-newline feature of cc-mode, though that seems to have some bugs with brace-elseif-brace handling at least in the version of cc-mode that comes with emacs 20.3.

       (defconst krb5-c-style
            brace-elseif-brace brace-else-brace defun-close-semi)
           (c-comment-continuation-stars . "* ")
           (c-electric-pound-behavior alignleft)
            (class-open after)
            (substatement-open after)
            (block-close . c-snug-do-while)
            (extern-lang-open after))
            (case-label after)
            (label after))
           (c-indent-comments-syntactically-p . t)
           (c-label-minimum-indentation . 0)
       (defun krb5-c-hook ()
         (c-add-style "krb5" krb5-c-style t))
       (add-hook 'c-mode-common-hook 'krb5-c-hook)

indent.pro settings

The following settings for the indent program should produce a reasonable approximation to the C coding style described here, though some manual cleanup may be necessary. Note that the gindent installed in the gnu locker does not currently handle -psl correctly though.

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