Effective C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs

Effective C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs

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by Scott Meyers

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“Every C++ professional needs a copy of Effective C++. It is an absolute must-read for anyone thinking of doing serious C++ development. If you’ve never read Effective C++ and you think you know everything about C++, think again.”
Steve Schirripa, Software Engineer, Google


“Every C++ professional needs a copy of Effective C++. It is an absolute must-read for anyone thinking of doing serious C++ development. If you’ve never read Effective C++ and you think you know everything about C++, think again.”
Steve Schirripa, Software Engineer, Google
“C++ and the C++ community have grown up in the last fifteen years, and the third edition of Effective C++ reflects this. The clear and precise style of the book is evidence of Scott’s deep insight and distinctive ability to impart knowledge.”
Gerhard Kreuzer, Research and Development Engineer, Siemens AG

The first two editions of Effective C++ were embraced by hundreds of thousands of programmers worldwide. The reason is clear: Scott Meyers’ practical approach to C++ describes the rules of thumb used by the experts — the things they almost always do or almost always avoid doing — to produce clear, correct, efficient code.

The book is organized around 55 specific guidelines, each of which describes a way to write better C++. Each is backed by concrete examples. For this third edition, more than half the content is new, including added chapters on managing resources and using templates. Topics from the second edition have been extensively revised to reflect modern design considerations, including exceptions, design patterns, and multithreading.

Important features of Effective C++ include:

  • Expert guidance on the design of effective classes, functions, templates, and inheritance hierarchies.
  • Applications of new “TR1” standard library functionality, along with comparisons to existing standard library components.
  • Insights into differences between C++ and other languages (e.g., Java, C#, C) that help developers from those languages assimilate “the C++ way” of doing things.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Since early in the ’90s, working C++ programmers have relied on Scott Meyers’s Effective C++ to dramatically improve their skills. But the state-of-the-art has moved forward dramatically since Meyers last updated this book in 1997. (For instance, there’s now STL. Design patterns. Even new functionality being added through TR1 and Boost.) So Meyers has done a top-to-bottom rewrite, identifying the 55 most valuable techniques you need now to be exceptionally effective with C++.

Over half of this edition’s content is new. Templates broadly impact C++ development, and you’ll find them everywhere. There’s extensive coverage of multithreaded systems. There’s an entirely new chapter on resource management. You’ll find substantial new coverage of exceptions. Much is gained, but nothing’s lost: You’ll find the same depth of practical insight that first made Effective C++ a classic all those years ago. Bill Camarda, from the July 2005 Read Only

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Read an Excerpt

I wrote the original edition of Effective C++ in 1991. When the time came for a second edition in 1997, I updated the material in important ways, but, because I didn’t want to confuse readers familiar with the first edition, I did my best to retain the existing structure: 48 of the original 50 Item titles remained essentially unchanged. If the book were a house, the second edition was the equivalent of freshening things up by replacing carpets, paint, and light fixtures.

For the third edition, I tore the place down to the studs. (There were times I wished I’d gone all the way to the foundation.) The world of C++ has undergone enormous change since 1991, and the goal of this book — to identify the most important C++ programming guidelines in a small, readable package — was no longer served by the Items I’d established nearly 15 years earlier. In 1991, it was reasonable to assume that C++ programmers came from a C background. Now, programmers moving to C++ are just as likely to come from Java or C#. In 1991, inheritance and object-oriented programming were new to most programmers. Now they’re well-established concepts, and exceptions, templates, and generic programming are the areas where people need more guidance. In 1991, nobody had heard of design patterns. Now it’s hard to discuss software systems without referring to them. In 1991, work had just begun on a formal standard for C++. Now that standard is eight years old, and work has begun on the next version.

To address these changes, I wiped the slate as clean as I could and asked myself, “What are the most important pieces of advice for practicing C++ programmers in 2005?” The result is the set of Items in this new edition. The book has new chapters on resource management and on programming with templates. In fact, template concerns are woven throughout the text, because they affect almost everything in C++. The book also includes new material on programming in the presence of exceptions, on applying design patterns, and on using the new TR1 library facilities. (TR1 is described in Item54.) It acknowledges that techniques and approaches that work well in single-threaded systems may not be appropriate in multithreaded systems. Well over half the material in the book is new. However, most of the fundamental information in the second edition continues to be important, so I found a way to retain it in one form or another. (You’ll find a mapping between the second and third edition Items in Appendix B.)

I’ve worked hard to make this book as good as I can, but I have no illusions that it’s perfect. If you feel that some of the Items in this book are inappropriate as general advice; that there is a better way to accomplish a task examined in the book; or that one or more of the technical discussions is unclear, incomplete, or misleading, please tell me. If you find an error of any kind — technical, grammatical, typographical, whatever — please tell me that, too. I’ll gladly add to the acknowledgments in later printings the name of the first person to bring each problem to my attention.

Even with the number of Items expanded to 55, the set of guidelines in this book is far from exhaustive. But coming up with good rules — ones that apply to almost all applications almost all the time — is harder than it might seem. If you have suggestions for additional guidelines, I would be delighted to hear about them.

I maintain a list of changes to this book since its first printing, including bug fixes, clarifications, and technical updates. The list is available at the Effective C++ Errata web page, http://aristeia.com/BookErrata/ec++3e-errata.html. If you’d like to be notified when I update the list, I encourage you to join my mailing list. I use it to make announcements likely to interest people who follow my professional work. For details, consult http://aristeia.com/MailingList/.

Scott Douglas Meyers Stafford, Oregon April 2005

Meet the Author

Scott Meyers is one of the world's foremost authorities on C++, providing training and consulting services to clients worldwide. He is the author of the best-selling Effective C++ series of books (Effective C++, More Effective C++, and Effective STL) and of the innovative Effective C++ CD. He is consulting editor for Addison Wesley's Effective Software Development Series and is a founding member of the Advisory Board for The C++ Source (http://www.artima.com/cppsource). He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Brown University. His web site is http://www.aristeia.com.

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Effective C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Dr_Germ More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book. Well written, enjoyable, and supremely useful. I read this within a two week period, and virtually after every Item in the book (in fact, usually several times within each Item) did I go back to my production C++ code to fix things, improve things, or simply re-familiarize myself with concepts I had previously come across but couldn't quite comprehend. If you are all but the most skilled C++ programmer, this book will without a doubt teach you a number of valuable lessons. I also found that it got me to think about issues that I had never encountered before, but that led to deeper understanding of C++ in particular and software design in general. Highly, *highly* recommended.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book for anyone who is writing C code and compiling it with a C++ compiler. Scott Meyers helps you understand why to implement each recommendation in a way so that you don't need to simply trust his advice without understandnig why. This book will help you understand how to make incremental improvements in how you build C++ applications.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This seems to be for a C++ programmer who has moved beyond mastery of the basic syntax. Ok, you can implement a set of interrelated classes and get everything compiled and run. But, and you're aware of this, there may be refinements in coding that elude you. So Meyers offers a cookbook of 55 improvements. I'd agree with the cover's claim that these recipes are indeed specific enough to be useful. Take the suggestion about deferring variable definitions as long as possible. This minimises the chance of creating unused variables, which has an attendant cost in computing and memory, if the compiler is not smart enough to omit them. Plus, there is a cost in harder coding and debugging, if the definition of a variable is many screens before its first usage. Such a contrast with earlier languages like C or Fortran, where you have to define all the variables upon entry to a subroutine. This example also shows an unheralded merit of the book. A bunch of recipes are also germane in other OO languages like Java. The only gripe I have is with the suggestion of declaring data variables private. I certainly agree with it. But this is one of the first things you learn in any introductory text on an OO language. It really seems unnecssary here, unless the author is just padding out the book.