C coding style

Include files

Simple rule: include files should never include include files. If instead they state (in comments or implicitly) what files they need to have included first, the problem of deciding which files to include is pushed to the user (programmer) but in a way that's easy to handle and that, by construction, avoids multiple inclusions.

There's a little dance involving #ifdef's that can prevent a file being read twice, but it's usually done wrong in practice - the #ifdef's are in the file itself, not the file that includes it. The result is often thousands of needless lines of code passing through the lexical analyzer, which is (in good compilers) the most expensive phase.

-- Rob Pike Notes on Programming in C

The real problem is C does not have a proper package or module system. Leaving the user to manually composite include file list is a workaround.

Reduce macros

As a general rule, #ifdef use should be confined to header files whenever possible. Conditionally-compiled code can be confined to functions which, if the code is not to be present, simply become empty. The compiler will then quietly optimize out the call to the empty function.

C preprocessor macros present a number of hazards, including possible multiple evaluation of expressions with side effects and no type safety. If you are tempted to define a macro, consider creating an inline function instead. The code which results will be the same, but inline functions are easier to read, do not evaluate their arguments multiple times, and allow the compiler to perform type checking on the arguments and return value.

-- Linux kernel coding style

Reduce inline functions

Since their code is replicated at each call site, they end up bloating the size of the compiled kernel. That, in turn, creates pressure on the processor's memory caches, which can slow execution dramatically.

More recent compilers take an increasingly active role in deciding whether a given function should actually be inlined or not.

-- Linux kernel coding style

Prototypes should have parameter names

Prototypes do not require parameter names. But writing them out helps to understand the usage of functions.

Do omit parameter names when it is obvious, for example,

int plus(int, int);

is preferred to

int plus(int adder, int addee);

Comment FALLTHROUGH in cases

Non default cases in switch statements should end with either break or FALLTHROUGH comment.

Mark non-return

Mark a function never returns (always abort) with __dead.

To be compatible with different operating systems, use a shim:

 * Public domain
 * sys/cdefs.h compatibility shim

#include_next <sys/cdefs.h>

#if !defined(HAVE_ATTRIBUTE__DEAD) && !defined(__dead)
#define __dead          __attribute__((__noreturn__))

This is based on the code at openntpd, with #ifndef and __pure removed.