Coding style

The developers of Orthanc should follow these C++ Programming Style Guidelines, that are similar to the so-called “BSD/Allman style”, with some adaptations that are described below. A compliant Eclipse formatter is available in the Orthanc distribution (not maintained anymore).


Do not forget to include licensing information (GPLv3 with OpenSSL exception) in each .cpp and .h.


No tab characters. Replace 1 tab by 2 spaces.

Strengthened Rules

  • Rule 31: Use COLOR_RED instead of Color::RED

  • Rule 34: Use the suffix .cpp

  • Rule 35: A single header file must contain a single public class

  • Rule 72: Use the Example 2 style (aka. Allman style, used by MSDN and Visual Studio):

    while (!done)
      done = moreToDo();

Replaced Rules

  • Rule 6: The names of the methods are camel-case to move the coding style closer to that of the .NET framework.

  • Rule 36:

    • One-liners are always ok in a .h,

    • High-performance code is also allowed but only with the inline keyword (the code being moved at the end of the header)

  • Rule 40: Use #pragma once in each header file (cf. Wikipedia)

  • Rules 73 and 80: Use Visual Studio’s default style that does not add two whitespaces in front of public, protected, private and case:

    class SomeClass : public BaseClass

Additional Rules

  • Use C++ exceptions, avoid error codes.

  • Use the RAII design pattern (Resource Allocation Is Initialization) wherever possible.

  • No C-style casting, use static_cast, reinterpret_cast, dynamic_cast and const_cast.

  • Never use using namespace in header files (except inside inline implementations).

  • Complement to rule 20: Finalize is the complementary word to Initialize.

  • Minimize the number of #include in header files.

  • Never use catch (...), except when protecting non-Orthanc code.

  • To ease unit testing, favor the JavaBeans conventions:

    • Single constructor without argument,

    • Use getters/setters.

Conventions for pointers and references

Except when clearly stated in the documentation:

  • A function that receives a reference to an object as an argument is not responsible for the lifecycle of the object, and must not delete it. The object is allowed to keep this reference in a member variable. The caller must ensure that the referenced object will not be freed between the object that references it.

  • A function that receives a pointer to an object as an argument takes the ownership of the object.

  • A function that returns a reference to an object indicates that the object should not be freed by the caller.

  • A function that returns a pointer to an object transfers its ownership to the caller. Occasionally, a pointer is also returned to indicate the presence or the absence (represented by NULL) of some resource: In such a case, the pointer must not be freed.