Top positive review
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Readable, pithy, sensible, 'greatest hits' round up of advice on C++
on 2 March 2007
It's Sutter! It's Alexandrescu! It's both of them together! And the dark lords of C++ have combined forces to produce... er, some coding standards.
Yes, another book of best practices. Some readers may therefore be a tad disappointed that the combined fruits of the authors' labours will not be shattering their puny human minds with the sort of C++ that cause lesser compilers to accidentally create black holes that destroy the entire universe.
But let's evaluate the book on what it sets out to do, which is to give 100 bite-sized pieces of advice on C++ coding. And it's very good. You might prefer to see it as an annotated guide to the state of the art in intermediate C++ programming, in particular to Sutter's Exceptional C++ trilogy, which has become sufficiently sprawling that a reorganisation of the material, plus pointers to which book said what, has become quite welcome.
Yes, it's true that C++ is hardly short of books telling you when to pass by value. But take a look at the bibliography - it's a synthesis of all those other tomes (the Effective series, Sutter's own Exceptional series of course, and older books like C++ Strategy and Tactics) plus magazine articles, into a neat and compact whole.
Few of the items are longer than one or two pages. This is good because the advice stays simple, clear and direct. On the other hand, some of the items feel a bit squeezed into the available space, with discussion deferred to the books in the references, which is a little frustrating on occasion. After all, a lot of the best parts of the Exceptional C++ and Effective C++ series and their ilk is not so much what to do (or not to do), but the why behind it. There's plenty of the former, but not so much of the latter.
If you've read any other coding convention books (like those in Steve McConnell's Code Complete) then the first quarter of the book may feel like the same old same old. And of course with there being exactly 100 items, some are more heavyweight than others. But there's definite C++ meat here, in particular with the items on Exceptions and the STL.
C++ Coding Standards is as well-written as you'd expect from the authors - their friendly, slightly conversational writing styles mesh nicely and I couldn't tell who wrote which bits. And it's a great summary and unification of C++ best practices that someone just starting out could easily refer to in their initial forays. Perhaps even more experienced hands will discover a few tips, implications or issues that they hadn't considered before. It could also be a good way to ensure that a team are all up to date on best practices.
Essential for those with a large C++ library? Probably not, but it does the job it sets out to do very well.