Table of Contents

Use Objects for Resources

Pretty much this single rule: don’t use raw pointers for new‘d objects in modern c++!

Why? Because you’re liable for delete‘ing the pointer. If it’s not, you get a memory leak. If you run your program for a long time, you’ll be wondering if you really bought an 16 GB macbook.

How To Screw Up

This is a very subtle way to screw up:

void bar(){
    Foo* f = new Foo();
    ... // exception occurs!
    delete f; // We're good... right?

} catch(std::string& e){
    std::cout << e.what() << std::endl;

As a result of the exception, our flow is intercepted and we don’t get to delete f;. That’s a memory leak right there.

How To Unscrew Yourself

C++ objects are nice. They have destructors. Use it:

void bar(){
    std::shared_ptr<Foo> f(new Foo());
    ... // exception occurs!
}; // we left scope, f is destroyed!


The standard library has std::auto_ptr, std::shared_ptr, and std::unique_ptr for the most basic RAII pointer management. You probably shouldn’t use std::auto_ptr unless you need to though. We’ll explain why below:

Decide How to Implement Copy

There’s multiple definitions of the idea “copy”:

The silent-killer-copy

std::auto_ptr<Foo> f1(new Foo());
std::auto_ptr<Foo> f2(new Foo());

f1 = f2; // f1 is nullptr

The shared-refcount-copy

// denote content as c1. Count(c1) = 1
std::shared_ptr<Foo> f1(new Foo()); 
// denote content as c2. Count(c2) = 1. This syntax works too.
std::shared_ptr<Foo> f2 = std::make_shared<Foo>();

// Count(c1) = 0, Count(c2) = 2
f1 = f2; 

The unique-move-copy

void foo(std::unique_ptr<Foo> f){

std::unique_ptr<Foo> f1(new Foo());

// COMPILER ERROR! Can't just copy unique_ptr!
std::unique_ptr<Foo> f2 = f1; 

// We're OK! Explicit move!
std::unique_ptr<Foo> f2 = std::move(f1);
// We're OK! Explicit move!

The weak-copy

std::weak_ptr<Foo> f1; // empty right now
    std::shared_ptr<Foo> f2 = std::make_shared<Foo>();
    f1 = f2;

    f1.use_count(); // returns 1.
    std::shared_ptr<Foo> f3 = f1.lock(); // takes ownership of the shared_ptr.
    ... // do stuff with f3
} // unlocks, f2 and f3 are destroyed.
f1.use_count(); // returns 0
f1.lock(); // returns an empty shared_ptr!

Raw Resource Interface in RAII

Sometimes, an old library will not be using your fancy std::???_ptr’s, and will require passing in pointers themselves. You can’t just pass in a smart pointer and expect it to work:

void bar(Foo* f){
std::shared_ptr<Foo> f = std::make_shared<Foo>();
bar(f); // Error! Not the correct type :(

Explicit Conversion Solution

In all std::???_ptr’s, you can call the function get() to retrieve the underlying pointer:

void bar(Foo* f){
std::shared_ptr<Foo> f = std::make_shared<Foo>();
bar(f.get()); // We're good!

However, the drawback is that .get() is often pretty ugly if you wanted a smooth interface.

Implicit Conversion Solution

You can specify a copy constructor, and you wouldn’t need the .get():

class FooPointer{
    FooPointer(Foo f){
        _f = f;
    public Foo(){
        return get(); // returns pointer
    public get(){
        return _f;

void bar(Foo f){

FooPointer f;
bar(f); // Works! Implicitly calls Foo()!

However, the drawback is that you might cast FooPointer to Foo on accident. That’s why I don’t think anyone should use this unless it’s of great convenience.

Use new/delete or new[]/delete[]

Pretty self explanatory:

std::string* s = new std::string("sup");
std::string* s_ = new std::string[100];

delete s;
delete [] s_;

Here’s a picture for reference. You can see what happens when you make a mistake:


Don’t Typedef Arrays/Pointers To Arrays!

Typedefs are already super confusing if you don’t use the simple ones, but to add fuel to the fire:

typedef std::string StringTenTuple[10];

std::string* s = new StringTenTuple;

delete s; // NOPE!
delete [] s; // YUP!

That triggers me holy.

Dedicate Whole Expression to ONLY RAII

In fact, in cppreference, they even stated that there are some issues with this, and that’s why std::make_shared<Foo>(...) was created:

void bar(std::shared_ptr<Foo> f, int v){

bar(std::shared_ptr<Foo>(new Foo()), bad_function()); // DONT DO THIS!

Why? Because of the way execution is done on these variables! There are 4 statements here:

  1. new Foo()
  2. bad_function()
  3. std::shared_ptr<Foo>(...)
  4. bar(...)

Now, if we followed this order, we would be in big trouble! We allocated Foo on the heap, but before we were able to safely stuff it into std::shared_ptr<Foo>(...), we ran into an exception in bad_function.

Did someone say memory leak?

That’s why the standard library made std::make_shared<Foo>(...):

void bar(std::shared_ptr<Foo> f, int v){

bar(std::make_shared<Foo>(), bad_function()); // THIS IS OK!

Since steps 1 and 3 are now in the same step.

However, just don’t do this in the first place. Create your smart pointer on its own line.

void bar(std::shared_ptr<Foo> f, int v){

std::shared_ptr<Foo> f(new Foo()); // On its own line
bar(f, bad_function()); // ALWAYS SAFE!