Difference between revisions of "Development: Coding Style"

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The following content is a copy of the <code>/usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle</code> file (modified slightly for visual presentation). A current copy can also be found online [http://lxr.linux.no/source/Documentation/CodingStyle here]. 
== Linux kernel coding style ==
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<center>'''Linux kernel coding style''' </center>
  
 
This is a short document describing the preferred coding style for the
 
This is a short document describing the preferred coding style for the
Line 13: Line 14:
  
 
Anyway, here goes:
 
Anyway, here goes:
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 1: Indentation ==
 
== Chapter 1: Indentation ==
 
  
 
Tabs are 8 characters, and thus indentations are also 8 characters.
 
Tabs are 8 characters, and thus indentations are also 8 characters.
Line 49: Line 47:
  
 
Get a decent editor and don't leave whitespace at the end of lines.
 
Get a decent editor and don't leave whitespace at the end of lines.
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 2: Breaking long lines and strings ==
 
== Chapter 2: Breaking long lines and strings ==
Line 73: Line 69:
 
                 next_statement;
 
                 next_statement;
 
  }
 
  }
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 3: Placing Braces ==
 
== Chapter 3: Placing Braces ==
Line 128: Line 123:
  
 
== Chapter 4: Naming ==
 
== Chapter 4: Naming ==
 
  
 
C is a Spartan language, and so should your naming be.  Unlike Modula-2
 
C is a Spartan language, and so should your naming be.  Unlike Modula-2
Line 159: Line 153:
 
problem, which is called the function-growth-hormone-imbalance syndrome.
 
problem, which is called the function-growth-hormone-imbalance syndrome.
 
See next chapter.
 
See next chapter.
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 5: Functions ==
 
== Chapter 5: Functions ==
 
  
 
Functions should be short and sweet, and do just one thing.  They should
 
Functions should be short and sweet, and do just one thing.  They should
Line 189: Line 180:
 
and it gets confused.  You know you're brilliant, but maybe you'd like
 
and it gets confused.  You know you're brilliant, but maybe you'd like
 
to understand what you did 2 weeks from now.
 
to understand what you did 2 weeks from now.
 
  
 
== Chapter 6: Centralized exiting of functions ==
 
== Chapter 6: Centralized exiting of functions ==
 
  
 
Albeit deprecated by some people, the equivalent of the goto statement is
 
Albeit deprecated by some people, the equivalent of the goto statement is
Line 227: Line 216:
 
         return result;
 
         return result;
 
  }
 
  }
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 7: Commenting ==
 
== Chapter 7: Commenting ==
 
  
 
Comments are good, but there is also a danger of over-commenting.  NEVER
 
Comments are good, but there is also a danger of over-commenting.  NEVER
Line 245: Line 232:
 
of the function, telling people what it does, and possibly WHY it does
 
of the function, telling people what it does, and possibly WHY it does
 
it.
 
it.
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 8: You've made a mess of it ==
 
== Chapter 8: You've made a mess of it ==
 
  
 
That's OK, we all do.  You've probably been told by your long-time Unix
 
That's OK, we all do.  You've probably been told by your long-time Unix
Line 295: Line 279:
 
re-formatting you may want to take a look at the man page.  But
 
re-formatting you may want to take a look at the man page.  But
 
remember: "indent" is not a fix for bad programming.
 
remember: "indent" is not a fix for bad programming.
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 9: Configuration-files ==
 
== Chapter 9: Configuration-files ==
 
  
 
For configuration options (arch/xxx/Kconfig, and all the Kconfig files),
 
For configuration options (arch/xxx/Kconfig, and all the Kconfig files),
Line 322: Line 303:
 
support for file-systems, for instance) should be denoted (DANGEROUS), other
 
support for file-systems, for instance) should be denoted (DANGEROUS), other
 
experimental options should be denoted (EXPERIMENTAL).
 
experimental options should be denoted (EXPERIMENTAL).
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 10: Data structures ==
 
== Chapter 10: Data structures ==
 
  
 
Data structures that have visibility outside the single-threaded
 
Data structures that have visibility outside the single-threaded
Line 355: Line 333:
 
Remember: if another thread can find your data structure, and you don't
 
Remember: if another thread can find your data structure, and you don't
 
have a reference count on it, you almost certainly have a bug.
 
have a reference count on it, you almost certainly have a bug.
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 11: Macros, Enums, Inline functions and RTL ==
 
== Chapter 11: Macros, Enums, Inline functions and RTL ==
 
  
 
Names of macros defining constants and labels in enums are capitalized.
 
Names of macros defining constants and labels in enums are capitalized.
Line 412: Line 387:
 
The cpp manual deals with macros exhaustively. The gcc internals manual also
 
The cpp manual deals with macros exhaustively. The gcc internals manual also
 
covers RTL which is used frequently with assembly language in the kernel.
 
covers RTL which is used frequently with assembly language in the kernel.
 
 
 
 
 
== Chapter 12: Printing kernel messages ==
 
== Chapter 12: Printing kernel messages ==
 
  
 
Kernel developers like to be seen as literate. Do mind the spelling
 
Kernel developers like to be seen as literate. Do mind the spelling
Line 425: Line 397:
  
 
Printing numbers in parentheses (%d) adds no value and should be avoided.
 
Printing numbers in parentheses (%d) adds no value and should be avoided.
 
 
  
 
== Chapter 13: References ==
 
== Chapter 13: References ==
 
  
 
The C Programming Language, Second Edition
 
The C Programming Language, Second Edition
Line 449: Line 418:
 
language C, URL: http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC22/WG14/
 
language C, URL: http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC22/WG14/
  
--
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 +
 
 
Last updated on 16 February 2004 by a community effort on LKML.
 
Last updated on 16 February 2004 by a community effort on LKML.
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[[Category:Development]]

Latest revision as of 00:52, 16 January 2009

The following content is a copy of the /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle file (modified slightly for visual presentation). A current copy can also be found online here.


Linux kernel coding style

This is a short document describing the preferred coding style for the linux kernel. Coding style is very personal, and I won't _force_ my views on anybody, but this is what goes for anything that I have to be able to maintain, and I'd prefer it for most other things too. Please at least consider the points made here.

First off, I'd suggest printing out a copy of the GNU coding standards, and NOT read it. Burn them, it's a great symbolic gesture.

Anyway, here goes:

Chapter 1: Indentation

Tabs are 8 characters, and thus indentations are also 8 characters. There are heretic movements that try to make indentations 4 (or even 2!) characters deep, and that is akin to trying to define the value of PI to be 3.

Rationale: The whole idea behind indentation is to clearly define where a block of control starts and ends. Especially when you've been looking at your screen for 20 straight hours, you'll find it a lot easier to see how the indentation works if you have large indentations.

Now, some people will claim that having 8-character indentations makes the code move too far to the right, and makes it hard to read on a 80-character terminal screen. The answer to that is that if you need more than 3 levels of indentation, you're screwed anyway, and should fix your program.

In short, 8-char indents make things easier to read, and have the added benefit of warning you when you're nesting your functions too deep. Heed that warning.

Don't put multiple statements on a single line unless you have something to hide:

if (condition) do_this;
do_something_everytime;

Outside of comments, documentation and except in Kconfig, spaces are never used for indentation, and the above example is deliberately broken.

Get a decent editor and don't leave whitespace at the end of lines.

Chapter 2: Breaking long lines and strings

Coding style is all about readability and maintainability using commonly available tools.

The limit on the length of lines is 80 columns and this is a hard limit.

Statements longer than 80 columns will be broken into sensible chunks. Descendants are always substantially shorter than the parent and are placed substantially to the right. The same applies to function headers with a long argument list. Long strings are as well broken into shorter strings.

void fun(int a, int b, int c)
{
        if (condition)
                printk(KERN_WARNING "Warning this is a long printk with "
                                        "3 parameters a: %u b: %u "
                                        "c: %u \n", a, b, c);
        else
                next_statement;
}

Chapter 3: Placing Braces

The other issue that always comes up in C styling is the placement of braces. Unlike the indent size, there are few technical reasons to choose one placement strategy over the other, but the preferred way, as shown to us by the prophets Kernighan and Ritchie, is to put the opening brace last on the line, and put the closing brace first, thusly:

if (x is true) {
        we do y
}

However, there is one special case, namely functions: they have the opening brace at the beginning of the next line, thus:

int function(int x)
{
        body of function
}

Heretic people all over the world have claimed that this inconsistency is ... well ... inconsistent, but all right-thinking people know that (a) K&R are _right_ and (b) K&R are right. Besides, functions are special anyway (you can't nest them in C).

Note that the closing brace is empty on a line of its own, _except_ in the cases where it is followed by a continuation of the same statement, ie a "while" in a do-statement or an "else" in an if-statement, like this:

do {
        body of do-loop
} while (condition);

and

if (x == y) {
        ..
} else if (x > y) {
        ...
} else {
        ....
}

Rationale: K&R.

Also, note that this brace-placement also minimizes the number of empty (or almost empty) lines, without any loss of readability. Thus, as the supply of new-lines on your screen is not a renewable resource (think 25-line terminal screens here), you have more empty lines to put comments on.

Chapter 4: Naming

C is a Spartan language, and so should your naming be. Unlike Modula-2 and Pascal programmers, C programmers do not use cute names like ThisVariableIsATemporaryCounter. A C programmer would call that variable "tmp", which is much easier to write, and not the least more difficult to understand.

HOWEVER, while mixed-case names are frowned upon, descriptive names for global variables are a must. To call a global function "foo" is a shooting offense.

GLOBAL variables (to be used only if you _really_ need them) need to have descriptive names, as do global functions. If you have a function that counts the number of active users, you should call that "count_active_users()" or similar, you should _not_ call it "cntusr()".

Encoding the type of a function into the name (so-called Hungarian notation) is brain damaged - the compiler knows the types anyway and can check those, and it only confuses the programmer. No wonder MicroSoft makes buggy programs.

LOCAL variable names should be short, and to the point. If you have some random integer loop counter, it should probably be called "i". Calling it "loop_counter" is non-productive, if there is no chance of it being mis-understood. Similarly, "tmp" can be just about any type of variable that is used to hold a temporary value.

If you are afraid to mix up your local variable names, you have another problem, which is called the function-growth-hormone-imbalance syndrome. See next chapter.

Chapter 5: Functions

Functions should be short and sweet, and do just one thing. They should fit on one or two screenfuls of text (the ISO/ANSI screen size is 80x24, as we all know), and do one thing and do that well.

The maximum length of a function is inversely proportional to the complexity and indentation level of that function. So, if you have a conceptually simple function that is just one long (but simple) case-statement, where you have to do lots of small things for a lot of different cases, it's OK to have a longer function.

However, if you have a complex function, and you suspect that a less-than-gifted first-year high-school student might not even understand what the function is all about, you should adhere to the maximum limits all the more closely. Use helper functions with descriptive names (you can ask the compiler to in-line them if you think it's performance-critical, and it will probably do a better job of it than you would have done).

Another measure of the function is the number of local variables. They shouldn't exceed 5-10, or you're doing something wrong. Re-think the function, and split it into smaller pieces. A human brain can generally easily keep track of about 7 different things, anything more and it gets confused. You know you're brilliant, but maybe you'd like to understand what you did 2 weeks from now.

Chapter 6: Centralized exiting of functions

Albeit deprecated by some people, the equivalent of the goto statement is used frequently by compilers in form of the unconditional jump instruction.

The goto statement comes in handy when a function exits from multiple locations and some common work such as cleanup has to be done.

The rationale is:

- unconditional statements are easier to understand and follow - nesting is reduced - errors by not updating individual exit points when making modifications are prevented - saves the compiler work to optimize redundant code away ;)

int fun(int )
{
        int result = 0;
        char *buffer = kmalloc(SIZE);

        if (buffer == NULL)
                return -ENOMEM;

        if (condition1) {
                while (loop1) {
                        ...
                }
                result = 1;
                goto out;
        }
        ...
out:
        kfree(buffer);
        return result;
}

Chapter 7: Commenting

Comments are good, but there is also a danger of over-commenting. NEVER try to explain HOW your code works in a comment: it's much better to write the code so that the _working_ is obvious, and it's a waste of time to explain badly written code.

Generally, you want your comments to tell WHAT your code does, not HOW. Also, try to avoid putting comments inside a function body: if the function is so complex that you need to separately comment parts of it, you should probably go back to chapter 5 for a while. You can make small comments to note or warn about something particularly clever (or ugly), but try to avoid excess. Instead, put the comments at the head of the function, telling people what it does, and possibly WHY it does it.

Chapter 8: You've made a mess of it

That's OK, we all do. You've probably been told by your long-time Unix user helper that "GNU emacs" automatically formats the C sources for you, and you've noticed that yes, it does do that, but the defaults it uses are less than desirable (in fact, they are worse than random typing - an infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program).

So, you can either get rid of GNU emacs, or change it to use saner values. To do the latter, you can stick the following in your .emacs file:

(defun linux-c-mode ()
  "C mode with adjusted defaults for use with the Linux kernel."
  (interactive)
  (c-mode)
  (c-set-style "K&R")
  (setq tab-width 8)
  (setq indent-tabs-mode t)
  (setq c-basic-offset 8))

This will define the M-x linux-c-mode command. When hacking on a module, if you put the string -*- linux-c -*- somewhere on the first two lines, this mode will be automatically invoked. Also, you may want to add

(setq auto-mode-alist (cons '("/usr/src/linux.*/.*\\.[ch]$" . linux-c-mode)
			auto-mode-alist))

to your .emacs file if you want to have linux-c-mode switched on automagically when you edit source files under /usr/src/linux.

But even if you fail in getting emacs to do sane formatting, not everything is lost: use "indent".

Now, again, GNU indent has the same brain-dead settings that GNU emacs has, which is why you need to give it a few command line options. However, that's not too bad, because even the makers of GNU indent recognize the authority of K&R (the GNU people aren't evil, they are just severely misguided in this matter), so you just give indent the options "-kr -i8" (stands for "K&R, 8 character indents"), or use "scripts/Lindent", which indents in the latest style.

"indent" has a lot of options, and especially when it comes to comment re-formatting you may want to take a look at the man page. But remember: "indent" is not a fix for bad programming.

Chapter 9: Configuration-files

For configuration options (arch/xxx/Kconfig, and all the Kconfig files), somewhat different indentation is used.

Help text is indented with 2 spaces.

if CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL
	tristate CONFIG_BOOM
	default n
	help
	  Apply nitroglycerine inside the keyboard (DANGEROUS)
	bool CONFIG_CHEER
	depends on CONFIG_BOOM
	default y
	help
	  Output nice messages when you explode
endif

Generally, CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL should surround all options not considered stable. All options that are known to trash data (experimental write- support for file-systems, for instance) should be denoted (DANGEROUS), other experimental options should be denoted (EXPERIMENTAL).

Chapter 10: Data structures

Data structures that have visibility outside the single-threaded environment they are created and destroyed in should always have reference counts. In the kernel, garbage collection doesn't exist (and outside the kernel garbage collection is slow and inefficient), which means that you absolutely _have_ to reference count all your uses.

Reference counting means that you can avoid locking, and allows multiple users to have access to the data structure in parallel - and not having to worry about the structure suddenly going away from under them just because they slept or did something else for a while.

Note that locking is _not_ a replacement for reference counting. Locking is used to keep data structures coherent, while reference counting is a memory management technique. Usually both are needed, and they are not to be confused with each other.

Many data structures can indeed have two levels of reference counting, when there are users of different "classes". The subclass count counts the number of subclass users, and decrements the global count just once when the subclass count goes to zero.

Examples of this kind of "multi-level-reference-counting" can be found in memory management ("struct mm_struct": mm_users and mm_count), and in filesystem code ("struct super_block": s_count and s_active).

Remember: if another thread can find your data structure, and you don't have a reference count on it, you almost certainly have a bug.

Chapter 11: Macros, Enums, Inline functions and RTL

Names of macros defining constants and labels in enums are capitalized.

#define CONSTANT 0x12345

Enums are preferred when defining several related constants.

CAPITALIZED macro names are appreciated but macros resembling functions may be named in lower case.

Generally, inline functions are preferable to macros resembling functions.

Macros with multiple statements should be enclosed in a do - while block:

#define macrofun(a, b, c) 			\
        do {					\
                if (a == 5)			\
                        do_this(b, c);		\
        } while (0)

Things to avoid when using macros:

1) macros that affect control flow:

#define FOO(x)					\
        do {					\
                if (blah(x) < 0)		\
                        return -EBUGGERED;	\
        } while(0)

is a _very_ bad idea. It looks like a function call but exits the "calling" function; don't break the internal parsers of those who will read the code.

2) macros that depend on having a local variable with a magic name:

#define FOO(val) bar(index, val)

might look like a good thing, but it's confusing as hell when one reads the code and it's prone to breakage from seemingly innocent changes.

3) macros with arguments that are used as l-values: FOO(x) = y; will bite you if somebody e.g. turns FOO into an inline function.

4) forgetting about precedence: macros defining constants using expressions must enclose the expression in parentheses. Beware of similar issues with macros using parameters.

#define CONSTANT 0x4000
#define CONSTEXP (CONSTANT | 3)

The cpp manual deals with macros exhaustively. The gcc internals manual also covers RTL which is used frequently with assembly language in the kernel.

Chapter 12: Printing kernel messages

Kernel developers like to be seen as literate. Do mind the spelling of kernel messages to make a good impression. Do not use crippled words like "dont" and use "do not" or "don't" instead.

Kernel messages do not have to be terminated with a period.

Printing numbers in parentheses (%d) adds no value and should be avoided.

Chapter 13: References

The C Programming Language, Second Edition by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. Prentice Hall, Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-13-110362-8 (paperback), 0-13-110370-9 (hardback). URL: http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/cbook/

The Practice of Programming by Brian W. Kernighan and Rob Pike. Addison-Wesley, Inc., 1999. ISBN 0-201-61586-X. URL: http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/tpop/

GNU manuals - where in compliance with K&R and this text - for cpp, gcc, gcc internals and indent, all available from http://www.gnu.org

WG14 is the international standardization working group for the programming language C, URL: http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC22/WG14/


Last updated on 16 February 2004 by a community effort on LKML.