Despite its
stature and storied history in programming circles, C++ has only been around
since 1991. Even though other programming languages like Java and C# have been
introduced during its lifetime, C++ remains one of the most commonly used
languages in application development.

One of the
reasons C++ has remained so popular is the fact that it is an evolving
programming language. The more C++ is used in application development the more
tools, features and techniques are developed to supplement its already
considerable power. In his book, Effective
C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs, 3rd Edition
Scott Meyers discusses some of the best practices programmers have established
for C++. An excerpt of that book is available in a free download from

In the
following interview, Scott Meyers talks about some of
the most significant changes he has seen take place in the C++ universe and how
those changes have given an edge to application developers.

Title: Effective
C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs, 3rd Edition

Author: Scott Meyers
Publisher: Addison Wesley
ISBN: 0321334876. Copyright 2005


[TechRepublic] In your book you discuss the many changes that have occurred in the C++
universe since 1991. When it comes to C++ as a language, what do you see as the
most significant change in the past decade?

[Scott Meyers] There is no doubt that the most significant change has been what we
might call “the rise of templates.” Templates were originally
envisioned as a way to support “containers of T,” but we now
recognize that they are vastly more powerful than that. The STL, the notion of
generic programming, policy-based design, templatemetaprogramming, and expression templates are all
technologies that have proved their practical worth and that require template
capabilities beyond containers of T.

All modern C++ libraries
take advantage of the power of templates, and in fact the notion of
“modern” C++ programming is virtually synonymous with programming
that makes liberal use of templates. That’s why the new edition of Effective
C++ not only contains a chapter devoted to templates; it also mentions them
throughout the book. You can’t be an effective C++ programmer these days
without having a good understanding of how to use templates.

[TechRepublic] For programmers migrating from languages such as Java and C#, you
suggest C++ can be a bit of a challenge initially. What do you think is the
biggest hurdle for those programmers to overcome?

[Scott Meyers] One of the most challenging aspects of moving from one language to
another is overcoming false assumptions. It’s hard to be on the lookout for
trouble if you don’t realize that it’s possible. For example, C++ objects can
sometimes go uninitialized, but, as far as I know,
that’s impossible in Java or C#.

C++ has a number of things
that lead to undefined behavior, again, something that can’t exist in Java or
C#. C++ objects can have multiple addresses, which isn’t possible in Java or
C#. In the third edition of Effective C++, I mention these things and several
others, because it’s important for developers from other languages to understand
when the fundamental behavior of the language is other than what they are
likely to expect.

Perhaps that’s the biggest
hurdle for such developers: becoming aware of subtle, but fundamental,
differences in behavior in C++ compared to the language they’ve been using.

[TechRepublic] In your book you list 55 specific ways to improve C++ program design.
Are there any specific improvements that stand out in your mind as the most
effective or of most benefit?

[Scott Meyers] I take satisfaction in knowing that much of the design advice I made in
earlier editions continues to apply, e.g., the proper use of public
inheritance; the proper use of pure virtual, impure virtual,
and nonvirtual functions; the aggressive use of
const, etc. But the third edition contains new advice that I think is critical,

Three ideas that
particularly stand out in my mind are the importance of using objects to manage
resources, the importance of writing exception-safe code, and the many design
alternatives—including their advantages and disadvantages—to virtual functions.
Effective C++ has always had lots of nuts-and-bolts advice about using C++
well, but I’ve also always put in lots of design advice, often in the form of
motivations or rationales for the specific C++ programming guidelines. I think
the third edition upholds this tradition of building good programming practices
on a foundation of solid design.