Coding Standards

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Revision as of 19:06, 29 July 2011 by Cpinkham (talk | contribs) (Qt 4.6 is required now)

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Coding Standards

The rules of thumb on this page are meant to help developers ensure that their code fits in with the normal conventions in the MythTV source. These standards are mostly voluntary, and there's plenty of existing code that doesn't follow these standards, but you can more easily produce readable and understandable code if you keep these items in mind.

For more of an overview of the development process for Myth, see MythPlugin Architecture.


Spaces and braces

The one hard and fast rule of Myth development: don't use tab characters.

Indents are accomplished with 4 spaces. Please set your editor to convert tabs to spaces, or at least do the conversion before you submit a patch.

You should put 1 space between keywords like if or for and their parenthesized lists. By contrast, don't do the same for function names; there should be no space between the name and its opening parenthesis. There should be no spacing between parentheses and the items they contain.

Spaces are used between binary operators (meaning + or =).

Braces should go on their own line. The exception to this is the declaration of structs or enums, where the opening brace goes on the same line as the type declaration. One-line if or else bodies do not need braces.

Lines should not exceed 80 characters in width. If you have a long statement, indent the continuations so they line up vertically. Generally, if you indent past the last opening parenthesis of the previous line, you'll be in good shape.

typedef enum my_enum {
    kTestOne,   ///< This represents blah
    kTestTwo,   ///< Widget Blah
    kTestThree, ///< Blah Blah
} MyEnum;

static inline void run_three_times(const QStringList &strings, const char *buffer)
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++)
        MyEnum result = my_func(i, strings);
        if (kTestOne == result || kTestTwo == result)

        result = my_other_func(result, strings);
        if (kTestOne == result || kTestTwo == result)
            if (DoSomething())

For Vi(m) users: the following options can be put into your ~/.vimrc file -

set expandtab
set tabstop=4
set shiftwidth=4

And if it's not too intrusive, this line can appear in the source code, and Vim will apply the correct settings:

/* vim: set expandtab tabstop=4 shiftwidth=4: */

Class and variable names

Class names and enum names are written in StudlyCaps, with an initial capital letter and no underscores. Methods are StudlyCaps. Variable names are all lowercase, or lowerWithCaps. Non-static Member variables in classes should be prefixed with "m_"; other variables should not be preceded by "m_". Constants should be written with a "k" prefix and inner caps. The few global variables use a "g" prefix.

Make your variable names left-to-right specific. Related variables should sort together alphabetically; audioId and audioMutex should stand apart from videoTimeRemaining. The names should be compact, but be as self-explanatory as possible.

enum AudioChannelEnum {
    kChannelLeft      = 0x01,
    kChannelRight     = 0x02,
    kChannelCenter    = 0x04,
    kChannelLeftBack  = 0x08,
    kChannelRightBack = 0x10,
    kChannelBase      = 0x20,
    kChannelAll       = 0xff
} AudioChannels;

class AudioOutput
    AudioOutput(const QString &device_name);

    /// Adjust the volume by a delta, from +100 to -100.
    void AdjustVolume(int change);
    /// \return Device name
    QString GetDeviceName(void) const
        QMutexLocker locker(&m_lock);
        return m_deviceName;
    mutable QMutex m_lock; // This is mutable so that 
    /// The absolute volume, from 0-100.
    int m_volume; // protected by m_lock
    QString m_deviceName; // protected by m_lock

    const static int kAudioBuffers;


Comments should be compact; you should spend your time making your code readable and your variable names self-explanatory. Comments should give necessary overviews of functionality, or document strange cases, ranges, etc.

Description of variables' use and purpose should accompany the declaration. For class variables, a rough outline of how they fit into the algorithm should be given and any assumptions or notes on valid ranges should be given.

Doxygen comments are encouraged in the code. But keep them brief and don't use them when they don't add information not already obvious from the variable or function name.

Design guidelines

There's more to programming than typing; here's some advice to keep in mind while designing or updating code:

  • Use C++. Avoid outdated C constructs like TRUE/FALSE macros, C-style casting etc. One or two C-isms are preferred, like using NULL over the C++ preference of 0 (see this ticket). Myth supports gcc 2.95.x and above.
  • Encapsulate Well Make a Get method const. Return a copy and not a reference. Use Set methods, when defined in the header these entail no efficiency loss and allow you do add debugging code when necessary. Make local functions static and constants static const.
  • Use Qt for non-GUI tasks. Don't design your own helper classes or use platform-dependent code when Qt already offers a class. Strings, containers (lists etc) and mutexes are good examples of Qt's generic functionality. The current development version of MythTV requires Qt 4.6, so check your calls against the Qt 4.6 documentation so you don't break things.
  • Use MythUI for GUI tasks. We are currently working on a UI layer that's independent of Qt (MythUI), and patches that use native Qt widgets or the old libMyth code will be rejected. Use libmythui/* instead.
  • Stay platform-independent. Use Qt instead of #ifdefs where possible. If you must add something that only works on one platform, add a compile-time flag so that it's only built where it works. See for several examples.
  • Avoid dependencies. Dependencies are added very rarely to Myth, so think carefully before you suggest a new item. If you want to link to a library that's small and has unique functionality, you may be able to get it added to the core Myth build. In general, though, avoid external dependencies if at all possible.
  • Use private classes to keep popular header files stable. This design pattern is used in MythContext and others; most of the private data and methods are stored in a private class, defined in the .cpp file. A pointer to this class is stored as a member variable in the public class. This way, the private data can change without changing the header file, which prevents everyone from having to rebuild most of the source tree for a popular header like mythcontext.h.
  • Don't use assert() or abort() Crashing is never good. Use proper error handling in place of assert. This doesn't mean you can't use asserts during development, just that by the time the code is ready for commit there should be no need for them.
  • Don't use C++ exceptions Unlike say Java, C++ doesn't have any way to tell the user of a method what exceptions must be caught, but gcc does let you mark a return value as something that must be examined. To deal with exceptions that can occur during object construction use either two part initialization or a static factory method that returns NULL when it fails.
  • Try to keep style coherent If a class prepends all it's member variables with _ rather than the "m_" don't add a variable with "m_", use the class style unless you are doing a major rewrite an renaming all the existing variables.
  • Make large style changes in a separate patch from functional changes This makes it easier for us to comb through the history looking for the commit that introduced the bug.
  • QString and other Qt container classes are not thread-safe. You can not use them in multiple threads without locking as you might a "const char*" string or a std::string.
  • Don't use Qt signals and slots in backend code There are a number of gotchas with signals and slots and we're decided to use them only in UI code as a result of dealing with all the hard to debug crashes that have resulted.


Brace Style

Kernel normal form

Comment Style

Outdented, meaning one indent level less then the code it's talking about, and above the code block, not below.

White Space Style

Soft Tab style (spaces, not tabs, and 4 spaces to a tabstop)


* Autoload
* Multiton pattern