Should I use std::size_t or int in my for loops?


Question

I'm just wondering should I use std::size_t for loops and stuff instead of int? For instance:

#include <cstdint>

int main()
{
    for (std::size_t i = 0; i < 10; ++i) {
        // std::size_t OK here? Or should I use, say, unsigned int instead?
    }
}

In general, what is the best practice regarding when to use std::size_t?

1
181
8/20/2019 7:30:44 PM

Accepted Answer

A good rule of thumb is for anything that you need to compare in the loop condition against something that is naturally a std::size_t itself.

std::size_t is the type of any sizeof expression and as is guaranteed to be able to express the maximum size of any object (including any array) in C++. By extension it is also guaranteed to be big enough for any array index so it is a natural type for a loop by index over an array.

If you are just counting up to a number then it may be more natural to use either the type of the variable that holds that number or an int or unsigned int (if large enough) as these should be a natural size for the machine.

168
12/23/2009 9:09:16 AM

size_t is the result type of the sizeof operator.

Use size_t for variables that model size or index in an array. size_t conveys semantics: you immediately know it represents a size in bytes or an index, rather than just another integer.

Also, using size_t to represent a size in bytes helps making the code portable.


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