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From: Björn Karlsson (bjorn.karlsson_at_[hidden])
Date: 2002-01-29 02:40:02

From: Fernando Cacciola [mailto:fcacciola_at_[hidden]]
>Could you elaborate how *exactly* "optional return codes are invitations to
poor programming practice"?

Sure, although I'm thinking that my wording was maybe too strong (sorry):
* When the return value isn't a return value any more, but rather an out
parameter, you'll need to know more about the interface - is the return
value optional or not? Will the returned value be default constructed? Can I
supply a default value which is returned on failure? etcetera.
* Tests for failure cannot be done together with the operation. A common
idiom would be
if (lexical_conversion("3.1415"), &d) {}, but with the status of the
operation coming out of the function call, this would have to be
string s=lexical_conversion<string>(42, &res); if (res) { }...
It's easy to forget, and it's easy to ignore.
* For those (like me) who likes to write as few lines as possible for a
given task, it would be tempting to just pass on the return value. Let's say
I need to convert a string to an int and pass that string on to a function
as a parameter:

void foo(const string& s){}

// Code to call foo, this is what I might be tempted to do
int i=964;
// Bad Bjorn, doesn't care if it worked or not

What I should have done is this;
int i=964;
bool b;
string s=lexical_cast<string>(i, &b);
if (b) { foo(s); )

This would be the "invitation".

The thing is, skilled programmers won't make mistakes either way (ehr, well,
you know what I mean). For a novice, checking a return value is second
nature after a couple of code reviews, but checking an optional return code
isn't as obvious.

What do you think?

>Notice that the usage of optional<> provides the safest interface: there is
no way you can accidentally use a value which
>wasn't returned by lexical_convert(). optional<> behaves like a NULL
pointer if lexical_convert() failed, as soon as you try to dereference it
you get an assertion violation.

This sounds interesting. I haven't looked at optional yet, but I will. It
could also be built on top of either of the proposed signatures, right?


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