Use of 'const' for function parameters


Question

How far do you go with const? Do you just make functions const when necessary or do you go the whole hog and use it everywhere? For example, imagine a simple mutator that takes a single boolean parameter:

void SetValue(const bool b) { my_val_ = b; }

Is that const actually useful? Personally I opt to use it extensively, including parameters, but in this case I wonder if it's worthwhile?

I was also surprised to learn that you can omit const from parameters in a function declaration but can include it in the function definition, e.g.:

.h file

void func(int n, long l);

.cpp file

void func(const int n, const long l)

Is there a reason for this? It seems a little unusual to me.

1
360
5/5/2009 9:40:00 PM

Accepted Answer

The reason is that const for the parameter only applies locally within the function, since it is working on a copy of the data. This means the function signature is really the same anyways. It's probably bad style to do this a lot though.

I personally tend to not use const except for reference and pointer parameters. For copied objects it doesn't really matter, although it can be safer as it signals intent within the function. It's really a judgement call. I do tend to use const_iterator though when looping on something and I don't intend on modifying it, so I guess to each his own, as long as const correctness for reference types is rigorously maintained.

169
10/2/2015 1:50:05 AM

"const is pointless when the argument is passed by value since you will not be modifying the caller's object."

Wrong.

It's about self-documenting your code and your assumptions.

If your code has many people working on it and your functions are non-trivial then you should mark "const" any and everything that you can. When writing industrial-strength code, you should always assume that your coworkers are psychopaths trying to get you any way they can (especially since it's often yourself in the future).

Besides, as somebody mentioned earlier, it might help the compiler optimize things a bit (though it's a long shot).


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