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Applied C++: Practical Techniques for Building Better Software

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Applied C++: Practical Techniques for Building Better Software


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  • Copyright 2003
  • Dimensions: 7-3/8" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 352
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-321-10894-9
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-10894-4

"I really like the software engineering advice given here. As the chief engineer/architect for a large development group, I can say with certainty that the advice given in this book about how real-world projects must work is right on the mark."

--Steve Vinoski, coauthor of Advanced CORBA Programming with C++, columnist for C/C++ Users Journal and IEEE Internet Computing, and Chief Architect, IONA Technologies

Applied C++ is a practical, straightforward guide to developing high-quality, maintainable software. It reflects the power of C++, templates, and the Standard Template Library for industrial-strength programming. Whether you are a single developer or work in a large team, the tips and techniques presented in this book will help you improve your language and design skills and show you how to solve substantial problems more effectively.

The authors, drawing on their extensive professional experience, teach largely by example. To illustrate software techniques useful for any application, they develop a toolkit to solve the complex problem of digital image manipulation. By using a concrete, real-world problem and describing exact feature, performance, and extensibility requirements, the authors show you how to leverage existing software components and the tools inherent in C++ to speed development, promote reuse, and deliver successful software products.

Inside Applied C++, you will find:

  • A C++ templates primer
  • Workable coding guidelines and extensive coding examples
  • Quick lists of need-to-know information about Exceptions, Assertions, and Standard Template Library components
  • A technique for effectively using prototypes to move your design from an initial concept to a robust solution
  • A technique for building debugging support into your software without a ton of overhead
  • Thirteen specific techniques to improve the overall performance of your software



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Table of Contents


1. Introduction.

Imaging Basics.

RGB Images.

HSI Images.


2. A Test Application.

Image Class Design.

Thumbnail Class.

Thumbnail Algorithm.


Image Class.

Thumbnail Class.


3. Design Techniques.

Memory Allocation.

Why a Memory Allocation Object Is Needed.

Memory Allocation Object Requirements.

A Primer on Templates.

Notations Used in Class Diagrams.

Memory Allocator Objects Class Hierarchy.


Why Prototyping Works.

Common Fears.

Our Image Framework Prototyping Strategy.

Prototype 1: Simple Image Objects.

Prototype 2: Templated Image Objects.

Prototype 3: Separating Storage from Image Objects.


4. Design Considerations.

Coding Guidelines.

Changes to Existing Software.

Naming Conventions.



Header File Issues.


Reusable Code.

The Economics of Reusability.

Designing in Debugging Support.

Creating a Generalized Debugging Stream.

Creating Sinks.

Connecting a Sink to a Stream.

Controlling Debugging Output.

Accessing Objects Indirectly Through an Object Registry.


5. System Considerations.

Multithreaded and Multiprocess Designs.


Thread Synchronization.


Exception Handling.

Designing Your Own Exception Framework.

Avoiding Exception Abuse.

Using Assertions.

Compile-Time Versus Run-Time Issues.

Compiler Issues.

Run-Time Issues.

Template Specialization.

Coding for Internationalization.


A Simple Resource Manager for Strings.

Saving and Restoring Strings from Files.

An Alternate Approach to Handling Strings.



6. Implementation Considerations.

Finalizing the Image Components.

Image Coordinates.

Image Storage.

Pixel Types.

Finalizing the Image Class.

Image Object.

Adding Global Image Functions.

Copying an Image.

Processing Single Source Images.

Processing Two Source Images.

Processing Images with Neighborhood Operators.

Generating Thumbnails.

Finalizing Interfaces to Third-Party Software.

File Delegates.

Image Delegates.


7. Testing and Performance.

Unit Tests.

Using the Unit Test Framework.

Design of the Unit Test Framework.

Extending the Unit Test Framework.

Performance Tuning.

General Guidelines.

Thirteen Ways to Improve Performance.

Image-Specific Improvements.

A Note About Timing Your Code.


8. Advanced Topics.

Memory Issues.

Copy on Write.

Caching Issues.

Language Construct Issues.

Explicit Keyword Usage.

Const Usage.

Pass by Reference Usage.

Extending the Framework.

Adding Image Processing Functions.

Enhancing Digital Photographs.


A. Useful Online Resources.



B. CD-ROM Information.





DebugView Utility.

Intel C++ Compiler.


Intel Integrated Performance Primitives (IPP).




Index. 0321108949T04142003


This book is about applying C++ to solve the problems inherent in building commercial software. Those of you who have worked on engineering teams building complex software will know exactly what we mean by calling it commercial software.

Commercial software is delivered to customers (either internal or external) who will rely on the interface you provide. It may be in an embedded system or it may be a software library or application for standard platforms. No matter where it ultimately runs, the software must be released at a particular time with all of the features it needs to be successful in the market. It is software that is built by one group of engineers and potentially extended and maintained by other engineers. These engineers who take over maintaining the software may not have been part of the original team and they may have to add new features or try to fix a problem while visiting a customer's site.

Getting a large group of engineers to build a complex piece of software and deliver it on time with full functionality is one of software engineering's biggest challenges. An even bigger challenge is building that same software in such a way that it can be handed off to others to extend and maintain. The C++ techniques and practical tips we have compiled into this book have been used repeatedly to accomplish just this. In many cases, we draw a distinction between the ideal solution and the practical solution. We try to provide discussions of the trade-offs so that you can make informed decisions, and we tell you what our criteria are when selecting one method over another. We leave it to you to determine what works best in your application. Our goal is to share practical techniques that we have found made our commercial software efforts much more successful than they otherwise would have been. We hope you will find them useful.

For those of you who prefer to learn by looking at the code, you will find plenty of examples. We illustrate all of these techniques by using a concrete example that runs throughout the book. Because it was our experiences with imaging software that prompted us to write this book, we use an example from the image processing domain, although the C++ techniques are applicable to any domain.

We start with a simple, although inadequate, application that generates thumbnail images. We use this application in our prototyping phases to experiment with different C++ design and implementation techniques. The application is simple to understand and the results of applying various C++ techniques are immediately obvious, making it a nice candidate for prototyping. This simple thumbnail generator application also has many of the same inherent problems that our final image framework will have to address. It is:

  • Memory intensive. Working with images requires efficient use of memory as images can get quite large and unwieldy. Managing memory becomes critical to the overall performance of the application.
  • Performance intensive. While generating thumbnails is a straightforward image processing technique, others that we introduce later in the book (such as edge sharpening and noise reduction) require thoughtful designs to make them usable. It's great to have cool image functions to manipulate your digital images, but they are useless if they take a really long time to run.

Upon completion, you will have an image processing framework that is immediately useful for manipulating your digital images and a practical toolkit of C++ utilities. The framework will provide efficient image storage and memory usage, some routines for manipulating your digital images (like edge sharpening, image resizing, noise reduction, edge detection, image subtraction, and more), interfaces to third-party software, and many performance optimizations. It will be a useful piece of software that has practical design and implementation features so that it could be used, if you wanted, as the basis of a commercial software product.

The complete source code for both the thumbnail generator application, the prototypes, and the final image framework can be found on the included CD. Any updates to the software can be found at the web site: http://www.appliedcpp.com.

Intended Audience

This book expects you to be familiar with C++ so that when we apply various constructs from the language, you have either seen or used them before. We also hope that you have built applications either for personal or commercial use and are familiar with what the Standard Template Library (STL) can provide. We hope to engage you in detailed discussions of the advantages and disadvantages of certain C++ constructs. And finally, we hope you really like to look at actual code examples, because the book is filled with them.

We do not attempt to provide a reference for the C++ language, although we do provide, as a refresher, primers and reviews of those topics that have exacting syntax or are not used as frequently. For the basics of the C++ language, we refer you to The C++ Programming Language Stroustrup97 For in depth discussions on certain C++ constructs, such as reference counting, we refer you to Effective C++, Second Edition Meyers97. For information on the Standard Template Library, we refer you to Effective STL Meyers01. For information on using C++ Templates, we refer you to C++ Templates: A Complete Guide Vandevoorde02.

As for our chosen application area of digital imaging, we don't expect you to have any experience with writing software that manipulates images. We provide some basic background on imaging that you can review; if you are familiar with imaging then you can skip that section. Any time we talk about a particular operation that we apply to an image, we take the time to give a simple explanation as well as some before and after pictures before proceeding to the code example. If you want an in depth, mathematical discussion of image processing operations, we refer you to Digital Image Processing Pratt78.

How To Use This Book

The book is intended to be read sequentially, since there is a concrete example introduced in Chapter 2 and used to evolve the final design of the image framework presented in Chapter 5. Throughout the book, we highlight the C++ techniques we are exploring in each chapter through heading titles and through summary boxes that appear on the first page of each chapter.

The book is organized as follows:

Chapter 1, Introduction, provides an overview of what we set out to accomplish by writing this book, and our background and biases as they apply to the C++ techniques we recommend. We also provide a background section on digital imaging that is optional. If you have experience working with imaging applications, you may want to skip the final section of this chapter.

Chapter 2, A Test Application, introduces our simple, inadequate application that we use as a test bed for prototyping C++ techniques. We deliberately create this strikingly simple application because it effectively demonstrates the trade-offs of various design and implementation decisions.

Chapter 3, Design Techniques, begins our discussion of C++ design. Again, we use lots of code examples to demonstrate design strategies. We also provide a primer on templates as a refresher since they are used so heavily within the book. Finally, we prototype various aspects of the design and build general utilities needed to support the design.

Chapter 4, Design Considerations, explores guidelines and additional strategies you may want to include in your designs. We offer you a practical set of coding guidelines, reusability strategies, and a simple, but effective, debugging strategy.

Chapter 5, System Considerations, explores system level design issues, like multi-threaded and multi-process designs, exception handling (including a framework for handling exceptions that we provide), compile time and run time issues, template specialization, and internationalization concerns.

Chapter 6, Implementation Considerations, takes all of the C++ techniques we have explored and finalizes the design and implementation of all pieces in the image framework. In addition, this chapter introduces the global image processing functions, like edge sharpening and noise reduction, and provides a visual overview of these techniques as well as providing the C++ implementations. We also provide a high-level interface for third-party software, such as file formats and libraries. Specifically, we introduce you to the Intel Performance Primitives (IPP) library and show you how to use IPP for high-speed imaging applications.

Chapter 7, Testing and Performance Considerations, provides a reasonable strategy for integrating unit tests into your software development cycle, including a full unit test framework and a discussion of how you can extend it to meet your particular needs. We also focus on performance, giving specific techniques that you can use to immediately improve the run-time performance of your application.

Chapter 8, Advanced Topics, explores those issues that we felt warranted more detailed discussions, such as copy on write, caching, explicit keyword usage, const, and pass by reference. In addition, we've added a section on extending the image framework to serve as a guide to taking the existing framework and adding your own processing functions. We've highlighted some routines that work particularly well for enhancing your digital photographs.

Appendix A, Useful Online Resources, provides links to those software tools and resources that we felt might be helpful.

Appendix B, CD-ROM Information, outlines the contents of the CD-ROM included with this book. There is a great deal of code presented in this book. All of the source code for our test application, prototypes, and image framework is included on the CD. In addition, we provide all of the unit tests, unit test framework, and makefiles necessary to run the software on a variety of platforms. We also include the evaluation version of the Intel Performance Primitives (IPP) library for you to explore.

Conventions We Use

We use a small number of conventions in the book as follows:

  • The "X" symbol indicates a coding practice that is not recommended. The indicated code may be syntactically correct, but it may be inefficient or unsafe or have other problems that the corresponding text discusses.
  • The compass symbol indicates a tip that we are providing. Tips can be either things to do or things not to do; they are highlighted because we feel that they represent important information.
  • In the interest of brevity, the code comments ("//comments") that we include in the book do not include the full comments that are present in the source code. The CD contains the complete source code, which is fully commented.
--Philip Romanik
--Amy Muntz



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