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C/C++ Coding Style

While Blender uses auto-formatting (clang-format), this page covers aspects of code style which aren't automated.

There are only two important rules:

  • When making changes, conform to the style and conventions of the surrounding code.
  • Strive for clarity, even if that means occasionally breaking the guidelines. Use your head and ask for advice if your common sense seems to disagree with the conventions.

Language/Encoding

There are some over-arching conventions for Blenders code base.

  • American English Spelling for all doc-strings variable names and comments.
  • Use ASCII where possible, avoid special Unicode characters such as '÷', '¶' or 'λ'.
  • Use UTF-8 encoding for all source files where Unicode characters are required.
  • Use Unix-style end of line (LF, aka '\n' character).

Naming

  • Use descriptive names for global variables and functions.
  • Naming should follow the snake_case convention.
  • Public function names should include capitalized module identifier, object and property they're operating and operation itself. Very familiar with RNA callbacks names: BKE_object_foo_get(...) / BKE_object_foo_set(...):
    /* Don't: */
    ListBase *curve_editnurbs(Curve *cu);
    /* Do: */
    ListBase *BKE_curve_editnurbs_get(Curve *cu);
    
  • Private functions should not start with capitalized module identifier. They can, however, start with lower case module identifier:
    /* Don't: */
    static void DRW_my_utility_function(void);
    /* Do: */
    static void drw_my_utility_function(void);
    static void my_other_utility_function(void);
    
  • Local variables should be short and to the point.

Macros, Enums, Inline functions

  • Names of macros defining constants and labels in enums should be capitalized.
  • Macro names should be capitalized.
  • Enums used in DNA files should have explicit values assigned.

Function arguments

Return arguments

In C its common to use arguments to return values (since C only supports returning a single value).

  • return arguments should have a r_ prefix, to denote they are return values.
  • return arguments should be grouped at the end of the argument list.
  • optionally, put these arguments on a new line (especially when the argument list is already long and may be split across multiple lines anyway).
    /* Don't: */
    void BKE_curve_function(Curve *cu, int *totvert_orig, int totvert_new, float center[3]);
    
    /* Do: */
    void BKE_curve_function(Curve *cu, int totvert_new, int *r_totvert_orig, float r_center[3]);
    

Note, some areas in blender use a _r as a suffix, eg center_r, while this is NOT our convention, we choose not to change all code at this moment.

Class data member names

Private/protected data members of a C++ class should have name with a trailing underscore. Public data members should not have this suffix.

Value Literals

  • float/double (f only for floats):
    /* Don't: */
    float foo = .3;
    float bar = 1.f;
    
    /* Do: */
    float foo = 0.3f;
    float bar = 1.0f;
    
  • bool:
    /* Don't: */
    bool foo = 1;
    bool bar = 0;
    
    /* Do: */
    bool foo = true;
    bool bar = false;
    

Integer Types

Note

There is a lot of existing code that does not follow the rules below yet. Don't do global replacements without talking to a maintainer beforehand. Also, when interfacing with external libraries, sometimes it makes sense to follow their policy of integer type usage.

  • Only use int and char of the builtin integer types. Instead of using short, long or long long, use fixed size integer types like int16_t. You can assume that int has at least 32 bits.
  • Use int64_t for integers that we know can be “big”.
  • Use bool with true and false to represent truth values (instead of int with 0 and 1).
  • If your code is a container with a size, be sure its size-type is large enough for any possible usage. When in doubt, use a larger type like int64_t.
  • Use unsigned integers in bit manipulations and modular arithmetic. When using modular arithmetic, mention that in a comment.
  • When using unsigned integers, always use uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t or uint64_t.
  • Don’t use unsigned integers to indicate that a value is non-negative, use assertions instead.
  • Since bit operations are used on flags, those should be unsigned integers with a fixed size.
  • If your code is using uint already, try to avoid doing any arithmetic on values of that type. Additions of small positive constants are likely OK, but avoid subtraction or arithmetic with any values that might be negative.
  • When storing a pointer inside an integer cannot be avoided (e.g. to do arithmetic or to sort them), use intptr_t and uintptr_t.

For code that interfaces external libraries, it may be preferred to use the types that library uses to avoid unnecessary conversion between types.

Operators and Statements

Switch Statement

There are some conventions to help avoid mistakes.

  • blocks of code in a case must end with a break statement, or the macro: ATTR_FALLTHROUGH;
    Without this its hard to tell when a missing break is intentional or not.
  • when a block of code in a case statement uses braces, the break statement should be within the braces too.
  • only use curly braces when introducing case-local variables.
/* Don't: */
switch (value) {
  case TEST_A: {
    int a = func();
    result = a + 10;
  } break;        // NO: break outside braces.
  case TEST_B:
    func_b();
  case TEST_C:
  case TEST_D: {  // NO: unnecessary braces.
    func_c();
  } break;        // NO: break outside braces.
}

/* Do: */
switch (value) {
  case TEST_A: {
    int a = func();
    result = a + 10;
    break;
  }
  case TEST_B:
    func_b();
    ATTR_FALLTHROUGH;
  case TEST_C:
  case TEST_D:
    func_c();
    break;
}

Braces

Always Use Braces

Braces are to be used even when not strictly necessary (omission can lead to errors).

/* Don't: */
if (a == b)
  d = 1;
else
  c = 2;

/* Do: */
if (a == b) {
  d = 1;
}
else {
  c = 2;
}
/* Don't: */
for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++)
  dest[i] = src[i];

/* Do: */
for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
  dest[i] = src[i];
}

Indentation

In C/C++ sources use 2 spaces for indentation.

Trailing Space

All files have trailing white-space stripped, if you can - configure your editor to strip trailing space on save.

Comments

  • Write in the third person perspective, to the point, using the same terminology as the code (think good quality technical documentation).
  • Be sure to explain non-obvious algorithms, hidden assumptions, implicit dependencies, and design decisions and the reasons behind them.
  • Acronyms should always be written in upper-case (write API not api).
  • Use proper sentences with capitalized words and a full-stop.

    /* My small comment. */
    

    NOT

    /* my small comment */
    
Tags

Tags should be formatted as follows:

/* TODO: body text. */

Or optionally, some information can be included:

  • Unique user name from projects.blender.org
    /* TODO(@username): body text. */
    
  • linking to the task associated with the TODO
    /* TODO(#123): body text. */
    
  • linking to the pull request associated with the TODO.
    /* TODO(#123): body text. */
    

Common Tags

  • NOTE
  • TODO
  • FIXME
  • WORKAROUND use instead of HACK.
  • XXX general alert, prefer one of the more descriptive tags (above) where possible.
    This should be limited to describing usage of a non-obvious solution caused by some design limitations which better be resolved after rethinking of design.

    Comments should describe the problem and how it may be fixed, not only flagging the issue.

Literal Strings (following doxygen/markdown)

Code or any text that isn't plain English should be surrounded by back-ticks, e.g:

/* This comment includes the expression `x->y / 2` using back-ticks. */
Symbols (following doxygen)

References to symbols such as a function, structs, enum values... etc should start with a #. e.g:

/** Remove by #wmGroupType.type_update_flag. */
Email Addresses
Email formatting should use angle brackets, matching git Full Name <[email protected]>.

C/C++ Comments

C-style comments should be used in C++ code.

Adding dead code is discouraged. In some cases, however, having unused code is useful (gives more semantic meaning, provides reference implementation, ...).

It is fine having unused code in this cases. Use // for a single-line code, and #if 0 for multi-line code. And always explain what the unused code is about.

  • When using multiline comments, markers (star character, *) should be used in the beginning of every line of comment:
    /* Special case: ima always local immediately. Clone image should only
     * have one user anyway. */
    
    NOT
    /* Special case: ima always local immediately. Clone image should only
       have one user anyway. */
    

Comment Sections

It's common to use comments to group related code in a file. Blender's convention is to use doxygen formatted sections.

/* -------------------------------------------------------------------- */
/** \name Title of Code Section
 * \{ */

... code ...

/** \} */

You may include descriptive text about the section under the title:

/* -------------------------------------------------------------------- */
/** \name Title of Code Section
 *
 * Explain in more detail the purpose of the section.
 * \{ */

... code ...

/** \} */

For headers that mainly contain declarations, the following non-doxy sections are also acceptable:

/* --------------------------------------------------------------------
 * Name of the section.
 */

Or with some extra text:

/* --------------------------------------------------------------------
 * Name of the section.
 *
 * Optional description.
 */

API Docs

When writing more comprehensive comments that include for example, function arguments and return values, cross references to other functions... etc, we use Doxygen syntax comments.

If you choose to write doxygen comments, here's an example of a typical doxy comment (many more in blenders code).

/**
 * Return the unicode length of a string.
 *
 * \param start: the string to measure the length.
 * \param maxlen: the string length (in bytes)
 * \return the unicode length (not in bytes!)
 */
size_t BLI_strnlen_utf8(const char *start, const size_t maxlen);

Note that this is just the typical paragraph style used in blender with an extra leading '*'.

As for placement of documentation, follow these guidelines:

  • Symbols (functions, constants, structs, classes, etc.) that are declared in a header file are considered part of the module's public interface, and should be documented in the header file. This makes it possible to document & organize the header file in a way that makes sense to the reader, to document groups of symbols together, and to read through the available functionality without being hindered by implementation details and internal code. This documentation should describe the public interface, but not internal implementation details that are irrelevant to calling code.
  • Symbols that are internal to a file (static, anonymous namespace) should be documented at the implementation. This allows forward-declaring such functions in the implementation file, then listing the higher-level public functions, and only then have the lower-level internal/helper functions with their documentation. The documentation can be more to the point when the higher-level concepts are already known to the reader (when reading top-to-bottom through he file).
  • Implementation details that are irrelevant to the calling code should be documented at the definition/implementation of the symbol. Sometimes such information can even go inside a function, when it applies only to a part of its internals.

When there is overlap between internal and public functions, for example when two public functions actually call an internal function with some additional parameters, the internal function's documentation can refer to the public function. That way documentation doesn't have to be copied between those.

In Summary:

  • Try to make it possible for developers to use a module by only reading its header file. In other words, improve black-boxing by documenting the public symbols in the header file.
  • Optionally use doxygen comments for detailed docs.
  • Keep comments about implementation details close to the implementation.
  • Try to avoid duplication of comments between header & implementation doc-strings. From an internal symbol, just refer to the public one instead of copying its comments.
  • These guidelines also apply to \*_internal.h headers.
  • When a symbol has two blocks of documentation (for example public doc in the header file, and implementation details doc in the .c file), only use formal parameter and return documentation (\param and \return) in the public doc-string. Doxygen cannot deal with having those defined twice in different files.

Clang Format

Blender uses Clang format which is the required way to ensure styling for C, C++ & GLSL code.

Turning Clang Format Off

In some cases clang-format doesn't format code well or produces significantly less readable output.

You may disable clang-format in this case with:

/* clang-format off */

... manually formatted code ...

/* clang-format on */

Note that this should be isolated to the region of code where it's needed.

Utility Macros

Typically we try to avoid wrapping functionality into macros, but there are some limited cases where its useful to have standard macros, which can be shared across the code-base.

Currently these are stored in BLI_utildefines.h.

A brief list of common macros we suggest to use:

  • SWAP(type, a, b): Swap 2 values. In C++ code, prefer std::swap
  • ELEM(value, other, vars...) ...: Check if the first argument matches one of the following values given.
  • POINTER_AS_INT(value), POINTER_FROM_INT: warning free int/pointer conversions (for use when it wont break 64bit).
  • STRINGIFY(id): Represent an identifier as a string using the preprocessor.
  • STREQ(a, b), STRCASEEQ(a, b): String comparison to avoid confusion with different uses of strcmp().
  • STREQLEN(a, b, len), STRCASEEQLEN(a, b, len): Same as STREQ but pass a length value.

Other utility macros:

  • AT: Convenience for __file__:__line__.
    Example use: printf("Current location " AT " of the file\n");
  • BLI_assert(test): Assertion that prints by default (only aborts when WITH_ASSERT_ABORT is defined).
  • BLI_assert_unreachable(): Assertion for code that should never be reached in a valid execution.
  • BLI_INLINE: Portable prefix for inline functions.

Many lesser used macros are defined in BLI_utildefines.h, but the main ones are covered above.

UI Messages

Common rules

  • “Channel” identifiers, like X, Y, Z, R, G, B, etc. are always capitalized!
  • Do not use abbreviations like “verts” or “VGroups”, always use plain words like “vertices” or “vertex groups”.
  • Do not use English contractions like “aren’t”, “can’t”, etc. Better to keep full spelling, “are not” or “cannot” are not that much longer, and it helps keeping consistency styling over the whole UI.
  • Some data names are supposed to be “title cased” (namely datablocks), even in tips. However, it is a very fuzzy rule (e.g. vertex groups are not datablocks…), so better never use such emphasis if you are unsure.

UI labels

  • They must use English “title case”, i.e. each word is capitalized (Like In This Example).

UI tooltips

  • They are built as usual sentences. However:
    • They should use infinitive as much as possible: "Make the character run", not "Makes the character run".
    • They must not end with a point. This also implies they should be made of a single sentence (“middle” points are ugly!), so use comas and parenthesis: "A mesh-like surface encompassing (i.e. shrinkwrap over) all vertices (best results with fewer vertices)", not "A mesh-like surface encompassing (i.e. shrinkwrap over) all vertices. Best results with fewer vertices."

File Size

If possible try keep files under roughly 4000 lines of code. While there will be exceptions to this rule, you might consider if files over this size can be logically split up.

This is more a rule of thumb, not a hard limit.

Filename Extensions

  • C files should be named .c and .h.
  • C++ files should be named .cc and .hh, although .cpp, .hpp and .h are sometimes used as well. As a rule of thumb, keep files in a single module consistent but use the preferred naming in new code.

C++ Namespaces

Namespaces have lower case names.

Blender uses the top-level blender namespace. Most code should be in nested namespaces like blender::deg or blender::io::alembic. The exception are common data structures in the blenlib folder, that can exist in the blender namespace directly (e.g. blender::float3).

Prefer using nested namespace definition like namespace blender::io::alembic { ... } over namespace blender { namespace io { namespace alembic { ... }}}.

Tests should be in the same namespace as the code they are testing.

Anonymous Namespace

The static keyword is preferred over the anonymous namespace for file-private functions, as this makes it possible to locally see the scoping rule of that function without having to scroll to a potentially far away location to find the enclosing namespace declaration. Note that this is not a hard rule, but rather a preference.

The anonymous namespace can be used for making variables and class declarations file-private.

Unity builder namespace

Files which a part of a unity build should have their private-to-compile-unit symbols inside a blender::<module>::unity_build_<file>_cc:

namespace blender::deg {

namespace unity_build_deg_node_cc {

/* Function which is only used within the node.cc file */
static void some_private_function() { ... }

}  // namespace unity_build_deg_node_cc

/* Function which is declared in a public header (is a part of public API). */
void function_which_is_public_in_the_module() { ... }

}  // namespace blender::deg

This ensures that concatenation of files for unity builder does not cause symbol conflicts, while keeping it clear for the developers the intent of the namespace which is unique to the translation unit.

C++ Containers

Prefer using our own containers over their corresponding alternatives in the standard library. Common containers in the blender:: namespace are Vector, Array, Set and Map.

Prefer using blender::Span or blender::MutableSpan (passed by value rather than by reference) as function parameters over const blender::Vector& or const blender::Array&.

C++ Type Cast

For arithmetic and enumeration types use the functional-style cast (2).

int my_int = int(float_value);
float my_float = float(int_value);

For other type conversions use static_cast when possible and reinterpret_cast or const_cast otherwise.

void *user_data;

MyCallbackData *data = static_cast<MyCallbackData *>(user_data);
SubsurfModifierData *smd = reinterpret_cast<SubsurfModifierData *>(md);

Variable Scope

Try to keep the scope of variables as small as possible.

/* Don't: */
int a, b;

a = ...;
...
b = ...;


/* Do: */
int a = ...;
...
int b = ...;

Const

Use const whenever possible. Try to write your code so that const can be used, i.e. prefer declaring new variables instead of mutating existing ones.

Certain const declarations in function parameters are irrelevant to the declaration and only necessary in the function definition:

/* No const necessary in declaration because `param` is passed by value. */
void func(float param);

/* In the definition, it means that `param` will not change value. */
void func(const float param) { ... }

Class Layout

Classes should be structured as follows. Parts that are not needed by a specific class should just be skipped.

class X {
  /* using declarations */
  /* static data members */
  /* non-static data members */

 public:
  /* default constructor */
  /* other constructors */
  /* copy constructor */
  /* move constructor */

  /* destructor */

  /* copy assignment operator */
  /* move assignment operator */
  /* other operator overloads */

  /* all public static methods */
  /* all public non-static methods */

 protected:
  /* all protected static methods */
  /* all protected non-static methods */

 private:
  /* all private static methods */
  /* all private non-static methods */
};

Using this->

Use this-> when accessing methods and data members that don't have a trailing underscore.

class X {
 private:
  float my_float_;

 public:
  int my_int;

  void foo() {
    /* Use `this->` because there is no trailing underscore. */
    this->my_int = 42;
    this->bar();

    /* Do *not* use `this->` because there is a trailing underscore. */
    my_float_ = 3.14f;
  }

  void bar() {
    ...
  }
};

Tests

Unit tests can be created in Python (in tests/python) or in C++. This section describes the latter.

Each module can generate its own test library. The tests in these libraries are then bundled into a single executable. This executable can be run with ctest; even though the tests reside in a single executable, they are still exposed as individual tests to ctest, and thus can be selected via its -R argument.

The following rules apply:

  • Tests that target functionality in somefile.{c,cc} should reside in somefile_test.cc in the same directory. For an example, see armature_test.cc.
  • Tests that target other functionality, for example in a public header file, should be placed in source/blender/{modulename}/tests. For an example, see io/usd/tests.
  • The namespace for tests is the tests sub-namespace of the code under test. For example, tests for blender::bke should be in blender::bke:tests. Note that for test selection purposes, the name of each test should still be unique, regardless of the namespace it is in.
  • The test files should be listed in the module's CMakeLists.txt in a blender_add_test_lib() call. See the blenkernel module for an example.

Related Topics