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Prescriptions, Proscriptions, and Prognostications
To new, or not to new, which is the best one?
by Matthew Wilson
April 19, 2005
Summary
Do all C++ applications need to perform overload of operators new and delete? Does failure to do so indicate a naïve presumption on the part of the programmer of goodness in the language facilities provided by your compiler?

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In an early draft of the important new update to his eponymous Effective C++ - the 3rd Edition is due out in May! - Scott Meyers' said that "In my experience, almost all nontrivial C++ applications contain custom implementations of new and delete." He and I had one of our customary "heated debates" on this issue - mainly because I was concerned that, coming from Scott, it could be interpreted to mean that customising new and delete is a sine qua non of all sophisticated C++ development - the result of which was that we agreed to differ. (For a change <g>)

Not seeking to stir that particular pot again, I am nonetheless interested in finding out how well Scott's experience tallies with the wider experience of the C++ community. For my part, I've certainly had occasion to implement custom memory management schemes - both out of interest and out of necessity - but the necessity has only been in high-throughput financial/comms systems, and that's only amounted to around 10-20% of the projects I've worked on.

I'm also interested in whether, if this is indeed the general experience of C++ software developers, it might represent a rather damning appraisal of the memory managers that ship with most/all compilers. And if so, could this be construed to mean that there's something wrong with C++ per se, which we all know is patently false (albeit that it does contain the odd imperfection)? Alternatively, as Scott sagely observes, C++ is used in such a diverse array of application areas that compiler library implementors find themselves in something of an uncomfortable position: "if everybody is demanding in lots of different ways, they're not going to approach optimal for anybody, hence the need to customize".

So wodayafink?

Thanks in advance

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About the Blogger

Matthew Wilson is a software development consultant and creator of the FastFormat, Pantheios and STLSoft libraries. He is author of the books Imperfect C++ (Addison-Wesley, October 2004) and Extended STL, volume 1 (Addison-Wesley, 2007), and is currently working on his third, Breaking Up The Monolith: Advanced C++ Design Without Compromise. He has published over 60 articles on C++ and other topics, and has served as columnist and contributing editor for C/C++ Users Journal. Matthew believes that code should be discoverable and largely self-documenting, and lives up to that by being a hopeless documentor. He can be contacted via http://www.imperfectcplusplus.com/ or stlsoft@gmail.com.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2005 Matthew Wilson. All rights reserved.

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