Exceptional C++ Style

Herb Sutter

Mentioned 5

Software "style" is about finding the perfect balance between overhead and functionality... elegance and maintainability... flexibility and excess. In Exceptional C++ Style , legendary C++ guru Herb Sutter presents 40 new programming scenarios designed to analyze not only the what but the why and help you find just the right balance in your software. Organized around practical problems and solutions, this book offers new insight into crucial C++ details and interrelationships, and new strategies for today's key C++ programming techniques--including generic programming, STL, exception safety, and more. You'll find answers to questions like: What can you learn about library design from the STL itself? How do you avoid making templated code needlessly non-generic? Why shouldn't you specialize function templates? What should you do instead? How does exception safety go beyond try and catch statements? Should you use exception specifications, or not? When and how should you "leak" the private parts of a class? How do you make classes safer for versioning? What's the real memory cost of using standard containers? How can using const really optimize your code? How does writing inline affect performance? When does code that looks wrong actually compile and run perfectly, and why should you care? What's wrong with the design of std::string? Exceptional C++ Style will help you design, architect, and code with style--and achieve greater robustness and performance in all your C++ software.

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Mentioned in questions and answers.

This question attempts to collect the few pearls among the dozens of bad C++ books that are published every year.

Unlike many other programming languages, which are often picked up on the go from tutorials found on the Internet, few are able to quickly pick up C++ without studying a well-written C++ book. It is way too big and complex for doing this. In fact, it is so big and complex, that there are very many very bad C++ books out there. And we are not talking about bad style, but things like sporting glaringly obvious factual errors and promoting abysmally bad programming styles.

Please edit the accepted answer to provide quality books and an approximate skill level — preferably after discussing your addition in the C++ chat room. (The regulars might mercilessly undo your work if they disagree with a recommendation.) Add a short blurb/description about each book that you have personally read/benefited from. Feel free to debate quality, headings, etc. Books that meet the criteria will be added to the list. Books that have reviews by the Association of C and C++ Users (ACCU) have links to the review.

Note: FAQs and other resources can be found in the C++ tag info and under . There is also a similar post for C: The Definitive C Book Guide and List

Beginner

Introductory, no previous programming experience

  • Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++ (Bjarne Stroustrup) (updated for C++11/C++14) An introduction to programming using C++ by the creator of the language. A good read, that assumes no previous programming experience, but is not only for beginners.

Introductory, with previous programming experience

  • C++ Primer * (Stanley Lippman, Josée Lajoie, and Barbara E. Moo) (updated for C++11) Coming at 1k pages, this is a very thorough introduction into C++ that covers just about everything in the language in a very accessible format and in great detail. The fifth edition (released August 16, 2012) covers C++11. [Review]

  • A Tour of C++ (Bjarne Stroustrup) (EBOOK) The “tour” is a quick (about 180 pages and 14 chapters) tutorial overview of all of standard C++ (language and standard library, and using C++11) at a moderately high level for people who already know C++ or at least are experienced programmers. This book is an extended version of the material that constitutes Chapters 2-5 of The C++ Programming Language, 4th edition.

  • Accelerated C++ (Andrew Koenig and Barbara Moo) This basically covers the same ground as the C++ Primer, but does so on a fourth of its space. This is largely because it does not attempt to be an introduction to programming, but an introduction to C++ for people who've previously programmed in some other language. It has a steeper learning curve, but, for those who can cope with this, it is a very compact introduction into the language. (Historically, it broke new ground by being the first beginner's book to use a modern approach at teaching the language.) [Review]

  • Thinking in C++ (Bruce Eckel) Two volumes; is a tutorial style free set of intro level books. Downloads: vol 1, vol 2. Unfortunately they’re marred by a number of trivial errors (e.g. maintaining that temporaries are automatically const), with no official errata list. A partial 3rd party errata list is available at (http://www.computersciencelab.com/Eckel.htm), but it’s apparently not maintained.

* Not to be confused with C++ Primer Plus (Stephen Prata), with a significantly less favorable review.

Best practices

  • Effective C++ (Scott Meyers) This was written with the aim of being the best second book C++ programmers should read, and it succeeded. Earlier editions were aimed at programmers coming from C, the third edition changes this and targets programmers coming from languages like Java. It presents ~50 easy-to-remember rules of thumb along with their rationale in a very accessible (and enjoyable) style. For C++11 and C++14 the examples and a few issues are outdated and Effective Modern C++ should be preferred. [Review]

  • Effective Modern C++ (Scott Meyers) This is basically the new version of Effective C++, aimed at C++ programmers making the transition from C++03 to C++11 and C++14.

  • Effective STL (Scott Meyers) This aims to do the same to the part of the standard library coming from the STL what Effective C++ did to the language as a whole: It presents rules of thumb along with their rationale. [Review]

Intermediate

  • More Effective C++ (Scott Meyers) Even more rules of thumb than Effective C++. Not as important as the ones in the first book, but still good to know.

  • Exceptional C++ (Herb Sutter) Presented as a set of puzzles, this has one of the best and thorough discussions of the proper resource management and exception safety in C++ through Resource Acquisition is Initialization (RAII) in addition to in-depth coverage of a variety of other topics including the pimpl idiom, name lookup, good class design, and the C++ memory model. [Review]

  • More Exceptional C++ (Herb Sutter) Covers additional exception safety topics not covered in Exceptional C++, in addition to discussion of effective object oriented programming in C++ and correct use of the STL. [Review]

  • Exceptional C++ Style (Herb Sutter) Discusses generic programming, optimization, and resource management; this book also has an excellent exposition of how to write modular code in C++ by using nonmember functions and the single responsibility principle. [Review]

  • C++ Coding Standards (Herb Sutter and Andrei Alexandrescu) “Coding standards” here doesn't mean “how many spaces should I indent my code?” This book contains 101 best practices, idioms, and common pitfalls that can help you to write correct, understandable, and efficient C++ code. [Review]

  • C++ Templates: The Complete Guide (David Vandevoorde and Nicolai M. Josuttis) This is the book about templates as they existed before C++11. It covers everything from the very basics to some of the most advanced template metaprogramming and explains every detail of how templates work (both conceptually and at how they are implemented) and discusses many common pitfalls. Has excellent summaries of the One Definition Rule (ODR) and overload resolution in the appendices. A second edition is scheduled for 2017. [Review]


Advanced

  • Modern C++ Design (Andrei Alexandrescu) A groundbreaking book on advanced generic programming techniques. Introduces policy-based design, type lists, and fundamental generic programming idioms then explains how many useful design patterns (including small object allocators, functors, factories, visitors, and multimethods) can be implemented efficiently, modularly, and cleanly using generic programming. [Review]

  • C++ Template Metaprogramming (David Abrahams and Aleksey Gurtovoy)

  • C++ Concurrency In Action (Anthony Williams) A book covering C++11 concurrency support including the thread library, the atomics library, the C++ memory model, locks and mutexes, as well as issues of designing and debugging multithreaded applications.

  • Advanced C++ Metaprogramming (Davide Di Gennaro) A pre-C++11 manual of TMP techniques, focused more on practice than theory. There are a ton of snippets in this book, some of which are made obsolete by typetraits, but the techniques, are nonetheless useful to know. If you can put up with the quirky formatting/editing, it is easier to read than Alexandrescu, and arguably, more rewarding. For more experienced developers, there is a good chance that you may pick up something about a dark corner of C++ (a quirk) that usually only comes about through extensive experience.


Reference Style - All Levels

  • The C++ Programming Language (Bjarne Stroustrup) (updated for C++11) The classic introduction to C++ by its creator. Written to parallel the classic K&R, this indeed reads very much alike it and covers just about everything from the core language to the standard library, to programming paradigms to the language's philosophy. [Review]

  • C++ Standard Library Tutorial and Reference (Nicolai Josuttis) (updated for C++11) The introduction and reference for the C++ Standard Library. The second edition (released on April 9, 2012) covers C++11. [Review]

  • The C++ IO Streams and Locales (Angelika Langer and Klaus Kreft) There's very little to say about this book except that, if you want to know anything about streams and locales, then this is the one place to find definitive answers. [Review]

C++11/14 References:

  • The C++ Standard (INCITS/ISO/IEC 14882-2011) This, of course, is the final arbiter of all that is or isn't C++. Be aware, however, that it is intended purely as a reference for experienced users willing to devote considerable time and effort to its understanding. As usual, the first release was quite expensive ($300+ US), but it has now been released in electronic form for $60US.

  • The C++14 standard is available, but seemingly not in an economical form – directly from the ISO it costs 198 Swiss Francs (about $200 US). For most people, the final draft before standardization is more than adequate (and free). Many will prefer an even newer draft, documenting new features that are likely to be included in C++17.

  • Overview of the New C++ (C++11/14) (PDF only) (Scott Meyers) (updated for C++1y/C++14) These are the presentation materials (slides and some lecture notes) of a three-day training course offered by Scott Meyers, who's a highly respected author on C++. Even though the list of items is short, the quality is high.

  • The C++ Core Guidelines (C++11/14/17/…) (edited by Bjarne Stroustrup and Herb Sutter) is an evolving online document consisting of a set of guidelines for using modern C++ well. The guidelines are focused on relatively higher-level issues, such as interfaces, resource management, memory management and concurrency affecting application architecture and library design. The project was announced at CppCon'15 by Bjarne Stroustrup and others and welcomes contributions from the community. Most guidelines are supplemented with a rationale and examples as well as discussions of possible tool support. Many rules are designed specifically to be automatically checkable by static analysis tools.

  • The C++ Super-FAQ (Marshall Cline, Bjarne Stroustrup and others) is an effort by the Standard C++ Foundation to unify the C++ FAQs previously maintained individually by Marshall Cline and Bjarne Stroustrup and also incorporating new contributions. The items mostly address issues at an intermediate level and are often written with a humorous tone. Not all items might be fully up to date with the latest edition of the C++ standard yet.

  • cppreference.com (C++03/11/14/17/…) (initiated by Nate Kohl) is a wiki that summarizes the basic core-language features and has extensive documentation of the C++ standard library. The documentation is very precise but is easier to read than the official standard document and provides better navigation due to its wiki nature. The project documents all versions of the C++ standard and the site allows filtering the display for a specific version. The project was presented by Nate Kohl at CppCon'14.


Classics / Older

Note: Some information contained within these books may not be up-to-date or no longer considered best practice.

  • The Design and Evolution of C++ (Bjarne Stroustrup) If you want to know why the language is the way it is, this book is where you find answers. This covers everything before the standardization of C++.

  • Ruminations on C++ - (Andrew Koenig and Barbara Moo) [Review]

  • Advanced C++ Programming Styles and Idioms (James Coplien) A predecessor of the pattern movement, it describes many C++-specific “idioms”. It's certainly a very good book and might still be worth a read if you can spare the time, but quite old and not up-to-date with current C++.

  • Large Scale C++ Software Design (John Lakos) Lakos explains techniques to manage very big C++ software projects. Certainly a good read, if it only was up to date. It was written long before C++98, and misses on many features (e.g. namespaces) important for large scale projects. If you need to work in a big C++ software project, you might want to read it, although you need to take more than a grain of salt with it. The first volume of a new edition is expected in 2015.

  • Inside the C++ Object Model (Stanley Lippman) If you want to know how virtual member functions are commonly implemented and how base objects are commonly laid out in memory in a multi-inheritance scenario, and how all this affects performance, this is where you will find thorough discussions of such topics.

  • The Annotated C++ Reference Manual (Bjarne Stroustrup, Margaret A. Ellis) This book is quite outdated in the fact that it explores the 1989 C++ 2.0 version - Templates, exceptions, namespaces and new casts were not yet introduced. Saying that however this is book goes through the entire C++ standard of the time explaining the rationale, the possible implementations and features of the language. This is not a book not learn programming principles and patterns on C++, but to understand every aspect of the C++ language.

I have a Phone interview coming up next with with a company which works in financial software industry. The interview is mainly going to be in C++ and problem solving and logic. Please tell me the method of preparation for this interview. I have started skimming through Thinking in C++ and brushing up the concepts. Is there any other way I can prepare?? Please help.

Edit:

Thank you all everyone for the advice. I just want to add that I am currently fresh out of grad school and have no previous experience. So Can you suggest some type of questions that will be asked to new grads??

Read (or skim, depending on how much time you have to prepare) "Large-Scale C++ Software Design" by John Lakos. Chances are, you will need it.

Make sure you know your basic data structures and algorithms. You're more likely to be asked about that stuff than something higher up the food chain. Those are usually saved for the in-person interview.

Put another way: be solid with the fundamentals and solid with your C++ syntax. Also, knowledge of common libraries like STL and Boost couldn't hurt...but be sure you know what those libraries give you! In the end phone screens are there to cull out people who can't do the basics. Prove you can and you should move on to the next step. Good luck!

Here's some links of interview questions to check out:

Now, for completion's sake, some books:

I've got about 2/3 years C++ experience but I've spent most of my career doing Java. I'm about to go for an interview for a C++ programming role and I've been thinking about the best way to brush up my C++ to make sure I don't get caught out by any awkward questions. What would you recommend?

What is good book for industry level C++ programming? I am not looking for a beginners C++ book that talks about datatypes and control structures. I am looking for a more advanced book. For example, how to build system applications using C++. Any kind of guidance will be very helpful.

If you're looking for books on refining your craft in C++ as a language, you don't get much better than Scott Meyers' Effective C++ and More Effective C++ and Herb Sutter's Exceptional C++, More Exceptional C++ and Exceptional C++ Style. All are packed with invaluable information on bringing your facility with the language from the intermediate to the advanced level.

System-level programming is specific to operating system, so the books diverge based on your platform. Ones I've found very helpful (albeit not C++ specific) are: Windows System Programming, by Johnson M. Hart, Advanced Windows Debugging, by Mario Hewardt and Daniel Pravat, and Linux System Programming, by Robert Love.

All of these books (as well as Peter Alexander's excellent suggestion of Modern C++ Design) are available on O'Reilly's Safari service, which is a pretty cost-effective way of doing a lot of technical reading on the cheap and well worth checking out if you're considering going on a studying binge.

Lakos' Large Scale C++ Software Design is quite a good intermediate-advanced level book about C++ software architecture. It's a little out of date - predating widespread use of templates for example - but it is quite a good book on the subject.

Lakos worked for Mentor Graphics in the 1980s when first generation workstations were the technology du jour. This was an era when the difference in performance and memory footprint between C and C++ apps was regarded as significant. This 'old school' approach discusses efficient C++ systems architecture in some depth, which is a bit of a unique selling point for this book.

These are the best two books I have seen and read

Advanced C++ Programing Styles and Idioms

C++ Common Knowledge

Modern C++ Design by Andrei Alexandrescu is probably the most advanced C++ book out there. It's more about very advanced design patterns rather than building software.

I am a vc++ developer but I spend most of my time learning c++.What are all the things I should know as a vc developer.

I don't understand why people here post things about WinAPI, .NET, MFC and ATL.

You really must know the language. Another benefit would be the cross platform libraries. C++ is not about GUI or Win32 programming. You can write Multi-Platform application with libraries like boost, QT, wxWidgets (may be some XML parser libs).

Visual C++ is a great IDE to develop C++ application and Microsoft is trying hard to make Visual C++ more standard conform. Learning standard language without dialects (MS dialect as well) will give you an advantage of Rapid Development Environment combined with multi-platform portability. There are many abstraction libraries out there, which work equally on Windows, Linux, Unix or Mac OS. Debugger is a great app in VC++ but not the first thing to start with. Try to write unit tests for your application. They will ensure on next modifications that you did not broke other part of tested (or may be debugged:) code.

Do not try to learn MFC or ATL from scratch, try to understand STL. MFC is old, and new version are more or less wrapper around ATL. ATL is some strange lib, which tries to marry STL-idioms (and sometimes STL itself) and WinAPI. But using ATL concepts without knowing what is behind, will make you unproductive as well. Some ATL idioms are very questionable and might be replaced by some better from boost or libs alike.

The most important things to learn are the language philosophy and concepts. I suggest you to dive into the language and read some serious books:

When here you will be a very advanced C++ developer Next books will make guru out of you:

Remember one important rule: If you have a question, try to find an answer to it in ISO C++ Standard (i.e. Standard document) first. Doing so you will come along many other similar things, which will make you think about the language design.

Hope that book list helps you. Concepts from these books you will see in all well designed modern C++ frameworks.

With Kind Regards,
Ovanes