C/C++ Pointer Declaration Syntax – It makes sense!
I never really liked the way pointers are declared in C/C++:
int *a, *b, *c; // a, b and c are pointers to int
The reason is that I am used to reading variable declarations as
MyType myVar1, myVar2, myVar3; and I always read
int* as the type “integer pointer”. I therefore wanted the following
int* a, b, c; // a is a pointer to int, b and c are ints
to mean that
c all were of type
int*, i.e. pointers to
int. I therefore found it slightly annoying to repeat the asterisk for every variable. This also meant that the symbol
* had two slightly different meanings to me: (1) It declares a pointer or (2) it dereferences a pointer. I usually don’t declare a whole lot of pointers in one line, but still, this is a (minor) annoyance I have briefly discussed with few fellow programmers over the years. Today I started reading C Traps and Pitfalls by Andrew Koenig and after reading one sentence, in chapter two, the pointer declaration syntax suddenly makes – at least some – sense:
[…] Analogously, float *pf; means that *pf is a float and therefore that pf is a pointer to a float.
Of course! If we instead of looking at it as a variable
a of type
int*, read it as
*a – i.e. “
a dereferenced” – it makes sense. That is indeed an
int, and that also means that
* always means “dereference”.