[SDL] C++ / SDL using bool vs. SDL_bool

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Sun Mar 17 13:37:12 PDT 2013

Since SDL is compiled as "C", I am not sure how one would switch to 
C++'s "bool" type and maintain binary compatibility across all platforms.

Using SDL_bool or similar enumerations have a clear advantage in C: they 
convey the programmers intent of a binary decision or result. In most 
cases, how this is implemented at the low level (bit, byte, int) is 
secondary unless data structures which are using these constructs need 
to scale to large numbers (i.e. think of a particle system tracking 
state with 8 SDL_bool's implemented as 32bit int vs an implementation as 
single 8bit byte and a bitmask - memory overhead is 32:1).

A clear practical benefit is, that compilers can use this "boolean 
intent" to fail code during compilation which prevents bugs. Example:

\\ int boolean
int binary_result = MyFunctionReturningZeroOrOne(); \\ assume it returns 
2 instead of 0 because of a bug
if (binary_result == 0) { DoSomethingGood(); } else { DoSomethingBad(); 
} \\ DoSomethingBad can be called and we wouldn't know why until debugging
if (binary_result == 2) { ... } \\ Compiler is fine with this, yet for a 
correctly implemented function, this would never be called

\\ enum boolean
SDL_bool binary_result = MyFunctionReturningTrueOrFalse(); \\ By 
definition of the result type, we cannot return anything else but TRUE 
if (binary_result == SDL_TRUE) { DoSomethingGood(); } else { 
DoSomethingBad(); } \\ TRUE is clearly associated with DoSomethingGood; 
aka intent in code
if (binary_result == 2) { ... } \\ Compiler will fail to compile or 
minimally warn

The only downside is that one has slightly more code to write ... but 
that should never deter a good programmer. ;-)


On 3/17/2013 10:18 AM, Forest Hale wrote:
> Two technical notes on C++ bool:
> 1. comparison operators produce bool, and 0 and 1 are not considered equivalent to false and true (or rather they are convertible but the compiler may choose to warn about it).
> 2. bool is 1 byte at least on x86 compilers, unlike an enum which is 4 bytes on x86 compilers, they are not bit packed but they are still considerably smaller than an enum definition of bool, it's
> best to group them in a struct to save memory (for the same reason one should group all same-size types so they don't need to be padded to alignment).
> On 03/17/2013 09:38 AM, John wrote:
>> It's just a matter of it being a modern built-in type. You would use it for the same reasons you would use the built-in "string" type in a language. The advantage is code clarity and widespread
>> familiarity.
>> In C, there is a small technical advantage to using the built-in bool over a UDT. bool might minimize use of space in memory, registers, etc., because bool is typically 8-bits, while enums are
>> typically native ints, unless forced to be otherwise via compiler-specific options.
>> In C++, there are several technical advantages of bool being a distinct type, such as overloading, template specialization and implicit conversion.
>> For SDL, I'd say the advantage is mostly one of keeping up appearances. :)
>> On 03/17/2013 07:28 AM, Vittorio Giovara wrote:
>>> Is there any advantage in using bool at all?
>>> As far as I know packing one bit in memory or in a struct will usually
>>> wrap the variable or struct in at least a byte segment in memory; so
>>> using a uint8_t type and a 0 or 1 value could achieve the same thing
>>> and without adding a new type.
>>> Or did I miss something?
>>> Vittorio
>>> Sent from my iPad Mini
>>> On 17/mar/2013, at 00:45, John <john at leafygreengames.com> wrote:
>>>> C99 declares both bool and _Bool, plus a macro, __bool_true_false_are_defined.
>>>> The point of the macro is so you can fix these sort of custom boolean types in older code without breaking anything.
>>>> On 03/16/2013 05:47 PM, Sik the hedgehog wrote:
>>>>> I think C99's support for boolean values consists of stdbool.h and a
>>>>> _Bool type (*not* bool). Correct me if I'm wrong.
>>>>> 2013/3/16, Alex Barry <alex.barry at gmail.com>:
>>>>>> On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 4:52 PM, Steven Noonan
>>>>>> <steven at uplinklabs.net>wrote:
>>>>>>> The 'bool' type was added in C99 (see section 7.16 in the C99 standard).
>>>>>> That's true, but I think Sam's logic is to support the lowest common
>>>>>> denominator - in this case, not every compiler will support a bool in
>>>>>> standard C, and it is typical for a C library to define a TRUE/FALSE value.
>>>>>> I think typically, if a programmer is using SDL from C++, they would be
>>>>>> wrapping a lot of functions in C classes where SDL_Bool could be translated
>>>>>> into bool true/false values.
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