WHY BOTHER WITH ENCAPSULATION?
We asked this question earlier, but now that we have a little experience, we can provide a much better answer. Encapsulation protects data from accidental corruption, and constructors guarantee proper initialization. Both prevent errors that we are very prone to make since we are thinking only about the internals of the class when we are writing it. Later, when we are actually using the class, we have no need to concern ourselves with the internal structure or operation, but can spend our energies using the class to solve the overall problem we are working on. As you may guess, there is a lot more to learn about the use and benefits of classes so we will dive right into some new topics.
The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate how to use some of the traditional aspects of C or C++ with classes and objects. Pointers to an object as well as pointers within an object will be illustrated. Arrays embedded within an object, and an array of objects will be illustrated. Since objects are simply another C++ data construct, all of these things are possible and can be used if needed.
In order to have a systematic study, we will use the program named BOXES1.CPP from the last chapter as a starting point and we will add a few new constructs to it for each example program. You will recall that it was a very simple program with the class definition, the class implementation, and the main program all in one file. This was selected as a starting point because we will eventually make changes to all parts of the program and it will be convenient to have it all in a single file for illustrative purposes. It must be kept in mind however that the proper way to use these constructs is to separate them into the three files as was illustrated in BOX.H, BOX.CPP, and BOXES2.CPP in the last chapter. This allows the implementor of box to supply the user with only the interface, namely BOX.H. Not giving him the implementation file named BOX.CPP, is practicing the technique of information hiding. As we have said many times, it seems silly to break up such a small program into three separate files, and it is sort of silly. The last chapter of this tutorial will illustrate a program large enough to require dividing the program up into many separate files.
AN ARRAY OF OBJECTS
Example program ------> OBJARRAY.CPP
Examine the file named OBJARRAY.CPP for our first example of an array of objects. This file is nearly identical to the file named BOX1.CPP until we come to line 45 where an array of 4 boxes are defined.
Recalling the operation of the constructor you will remember that each of the four box objects will be initialized to the values defined within the constructor since the constructor will be executed for each box as they are defined. In order to define an array of objects, a constructor for that object with no parameters must be available. (We have not yet illustrated a constructor with initializing parameters, but we will in the next program.) This is an efficiency consideration since it would probably be an error to initialize all elements of an array of objects to the same value. We will see the results of executing the constructor when we compile and execute the file later.
Line 50 defines a for loop that begins with 1 instead of the normal starting index for an array leaving the first object, named group, to use the default values stored when the constructor was called. You will observe that sending a message to one of the objects uses the same construct as is used for any object. The name of the array followed by its index in square brackets is used to send a message to one of the objects in the array. This is illustrated in line 51 and the operation of that code should be clear to you. The other method is called in the output statement in lines 58 and 59 where the area of the four boxes in the group array are listed on the monitor.
Another fine point should be mentioned. The integer variable named index is defined in line 50 and is still available for use in line 57 since we have not yet left the enclosing block which begins in line 44 and extends to line 68. But this is true only if your compiler is aging slightly. If you have a new compiler, you may find that index is undefined in line 57. See the discussion in Chapter 1 if this is not clear.
DECLARATION AND DEFINITION OF A VARIABLE
An extra variable was included for illustration, the one named extra_data in line seven. Since the keyword static is used to modify this variable in line 8, it is an external variable and only one copy of this variable will ever exist. All seven objects of this class share a single copy of this variable which is global to the objects defined in line 44.
The variable is actually only declared here which says it will exist somewhere, but it is not yet defined. A declaration says the variable will exist and gives it a name, but the definition actually defines a place to store it somewhere in the computers memory space. By definition, a static variable can be declared in a class header but it cannot be defined there, so it is usually defined in the implementation file. In this case it is defined in line 17 and can then be used throughout the class.
Figure 6-1 is a graphical representation of some of the variables. Note that the objects named large, group, group, and group are not shown but they also share the variable named extra_data. They are not shown in order to simplify the picture and enhance the clarity. Each object has its own personal length and width because they are not declared static.
Line 24 of the constructor sets the single global variable to 1 each time an object is declared. Only one assignment is necessary so the other six are actually wasted code. It is generally not a good idea to assign a value to a static member in a constructor, but in this case, it illustrates how the static variable works. To illustrate that there is only one variable shared by all objects of this class, the method to read its value also increments it. Each time it is read in lines 61 through 65, it is incremented and the result of the execution proves that there is only a single variable shared by all objects of this class. You will also note that the method named get_extra() is defined within the class declaration so it will be assembled into the final program as inline code.
You will recall the 2 static variables we declared in lines 18 and 19 of DATE.H in chapter 5 of this tutorial. We defined them in lines 9 and 10 of DATE.CPP and overlooked a complete explanation of what they did at that time. The declaration and definition of these variables should be considered a good example of the proper place to put these constructs in your classes.
Be sure you understand this program and especially the static variable, then compile and execute it to see if you get the same result as listed at the end of the program.
A STRING WITHIN AN OBJECT
Example program ------> OBJSTRNG.CPP
Examine the program named OBJSTRNG.CPP for our first example of an object with an embedded string. Actually, the object does not have an embedded string, it has an embedded pointer, but the two work so closely together that we can study one and understand both.
You will notice that line 8 contains a pointer to a char named line_of_text. The constructor contains an input parameter which is a pointer to a string which will be copied to the string named line_of_text within the constructor. We could have defined the variable line_of_text as an actual array in the class, then used strcpy() to copy the string into the object and everything would have worked the same, but we will leave that as an exercise for you at the end of this chapter. It should be pointed out that we are not limited to passing a single parameter to a constructor. Any number of parameters can be passed, as will be illustrated later.
You will notice that when the three boxes are defined this time, we supply a string constant as an actual parameter with each declaration which is used by the constructor to assign the string pointer some data to point to. When we call get_area() in lines 50 through 54, we get the message displayed and the area returned. It would be prudent to put these operations in separate methods since there is no apparent connection between printing the message and calculating the area, but it was written this way to illustrate that it can be done. What this really says is that it is possible to have a method that has a side effect, the message output to the monitor, and a return value, the area of the box. However, as we discussed in chapter 4 when we studied DEFAULT.CPP, the order of evaluation is sort of funny, so we broke each line into two lines.
After you understand this program, compile and execute it.
AN OBJECT WITH AN INTERNAL POINTER
Example programs ------> OBJINTPT.CPP
The program named OBJINTPT.CPP is our first example program with an embedded pointer which will be used for dynamic allocation of data.
In line 8 we declare a pointer to an integer variable, but it is only a pointer, there is no storage associated with it. The constructor therefore allocates an integer type variable on the heap for use with this pointer in line 22. It should be clear to you that the three objects defined in line 46 each contain a pointer which points into the heap to three different locations. Each object has its own dynamically allocated variable for its own private use. Moreover each has a value of 112 stored in its dynamically allocated data because line 23 stores that value in each of the three locations, once for each call to the constructor.
In such a small program, there is no chance that we will exhaust the heap, so no test is made for unavailable memory. In a real production program, it would be mandatory to test that the value of the returned pointer is not NULL to assure that the data actually did get allocated.
The method named set() has three parameters associated with it and the third parameter is used to set the value of the new dynamically allocated variable. There are two messages passed, one to the small box and one to the large box. As before, the medium box is left with its default values.
The three areas are displayed followed by the three stored values in the dynamically allocated variables, and we finally have a program that requires a destructor in order to be completely proper. If we simply leave the scope of the objects as we do when we leave the main() program, we will leave the three dynamically allocated variables on the heap with nothing pointing to them. They will be inaccessible and will therefore represent wasted storage on the heap. For that reason, the destructor is used to delete the variable which the pointer named point is referencing, as each object goes out of existence. In this case, lines 38 and 39 assign zero to variables that will be automatically deleted. Even though these lines of code really do no good, they are legal statements.
Actually, in this particular case, the variables will be automatically reclaimed when we return to the operating system because all program cleanup is done for us at that time. This is an illustration of good programming practice, that of cleaning up after yourself when you no longer need some dynamically allocated variables.
One other construct should be mentioned again, that of the inline method implementations in line 12 and 13. As we mentioned in chapter 5, inline functions can be used where speed is of the utmost in importance since the code is assembled inline rather than by actually making a method call. Since the code is defined as part of the declaration, the system will assemble it inline, and a separate implementation for these methods is not needed. If the inline code is too involved, the compiler is allowed to ignore the inline request and will actually assemble it as a separate method, but it will do it invisibly to you and will probably not even tell you about it.
Remember that we are interested in using information hiding and inline code prevents hiding of the implementation, putting it out in full view. Many times you will be more interested in speeding up a program than you are in hiding a trivial implementation. Since most inline methods are trivial, you should feel free to use the inline code construct wherever it is expedient. Be sure to compile and execute this program.
A DYNAMICALLY ALLOCATED OBJECT
Example program ------> OBJDYNAM.CPP
Examine the file named OBJDYNAM.CPP for our first look at a dynamically allocated object. This is not any different than any other dynamically allocated object, but an example is always helpful.
In line 40 we define a pointer to an object of type box and since it is only a pointer with nothing to point to, we dynamically allocate an object for it in line 45, with the object being created on the heap just like any other dynamically allocated variable. When the object is created in line 45, the constructor is called automatically to assign values to the two internal storage variables. Note that the constructor is not called when the pointer is defined since there is nothing to initialize. It is called when the object is allocated.
Reference to the components of the object are handled in much the same way that structure references are made, through use of the pointer operator as illustrated in lines 51 through 53. Of course you can use the pointer dereferencing method without the arrow such as (*point).set(12, 12); as a replacement for line 52 but the arrow notation is much more universal and should be used. Finally, the object is deleted in line 55 and the program terminates. If there were a destructor for this class, it would be called automatically as part of the delete statement to clean up the object prior to deletion.
You have probably noticed by this time that the use of objects is not much different from the use of structures. Be sure to compile and execute this program after you have studied it thoroughly.
AN OBJECT WITH A POINTER TO ANOTHER OBJECT
Example program ------> OBJLIST.CPP
The program named OBJLIST.CPP contains an object with an internal reference to another object of its own class. This is the standard structure used for a singly linked list and we will keep the use of it very simple in this program.
The constructor contains the statement in line 22 which assigns the pointer the value of NULL to initialize the pointer. This is a good idea for all of your programming, don't allow any pointer to point off into space, but initialize all pointers to something. By assigning the pointer within the constructor, you guarantee that every object of this class will automatically have its pointer initialized. It will be impossible to overlook the assignment of one of these pointers.
Two additional methods are declared in lines 13 and 14 with the one in line 14 having a construct we have not yet mentioned in this tutorial. This method returns a pointer to an object of the box class. As you are aware, you can return a pointer to a struct in standard C, and this is a parallel construct in C++. The implementation in lines 49 through 52 returns the pointer stored as a member variable within the object. We will see how this is used when we get to the actual program.
An extra pointer named box_pointer is defined in the main program for use later and in line 67 we make the embedded pointer within the small box point to the medium box. Line 68 makes the embedded pointer within the medium box point to the large box. We have effectively generated a linked list with three elements. In line 70 we make the extra pointer point to the small box. Continuing in line 71 we use it to refer to the small box and update it to the value contained in the small box which is the address of the medium box. We have therefore traversed from one element of the list to another by sending a message to one of the objects. If line 71 were repeated exactly as shown, it would cause the extra pointer to refer to the large box, and we would have traversed the entire linked list which is only composed of three elements. Figure 6-2 is a graphical representation of the data space following execution of line 70. Note that only a portion of each object is actually depicted here to keep it simple.
ANOTHER NEW KEYWORD this
Another new keyword is available in C++, the keyword this. The word this is defined within any object as being a pointer to the object in which it is contained. It is implicitly defined as;
and is initialized to point to the object for which the member function is invoked. This pointer is most useful when working with pointers and especially with a linked list when you need to reference a pointer to the object you are inserting into the list. The keyword this is available for this purpose and can be used in any object. Actually the proper way to refer to any variable within a list is through use of the predefined pointer this, by writing this->variable_name, but the compiler assumes the pointer is used, and we can simplify every reference by omitting the pointer. Use of the keyword this is not illustrated in a program at this point, but will be used in one of the larger example programs later in this tutorial.
You should study this program until you understand it completely then compile and execute it in preparation for our next example program.
A LINKED LIST OF OBJECTS
Example program ------> OBJLINK.CPP
The next example program in this chapter is named OBJLINK.CPP and is a complete example of a linked list written in object oriented notation.
This program is very similar to the last one. In fact it is identical until we get to the main() program. You will recall that in the last program the only way we had to set or use the embedded pointer was through use of the two methods named point_at_next() and get_next() which are listed in lines 42 through 52 of the present program. We will use these to build up our linked list then traverse and print the list. Finally, we will delete the entire list to free the space on the heap.
In lines 57 through 59 we define three pointers for use in the program. The pointer named start will always point to the beginning of the list, but temp will move down through the list as we create it. The pointer named box_pointer will be used for the creation of each object. We execute the loop in lines 62 through 75 to generate the list where line 64 dynamically allocates a new object of the box class and line 65 fills it with nonsense data for illustration. If this is the first element in the list, the start pointer is set to point to this element, but if elements already exist, the last element in the list is assigned to point to the new element. In either case, the temp pointer is assigned to point to the last element of the list, in preparation for adding another element if there is another element to be added.
In line 78, the pointer named temp is caused to point to the first element and it is used to increment its way through the list by updating itself in line 82 during each pass through the loop. When temp has the value of NULL, which it gets from the last element of the list, we are finished traversing the list.
Finally, we delete the entire list by starting at the beginning and deleting one element each time we pass through the loop in lines 87 through 92.
A careful study of the program will reveal that it does indeed generate a linked list of ten elements, each element being an object of class box. The length of this list is limited by the practicality of how large a list we desire to print out, but it could be lengthened to many thousands of these simple elements provided you have enough memory available to store them all.
Once again, the success of the dynamic allocation is not checked as it should be in a correctly written program. Be sure to compile and execute this example program.
Example program ------> NESTING.CPP
Examine the program named NESTING.CPP for an example of nesting classes which results in nested objects. A nested object could be illustrated with your computer in a rather simple manner. The computer itself is composed of many items which work together but work entirely differently, such as a keyboard, a disk drive, and a power supply. The computer is composed of these very dissimilar items and it is desirable to discuss the keyboard separately from the disk drive because they are so different. A computer class could be composed of several objects that are dissimilar by nesting the dissimilar classes within the computer class.
If however, we wished to discuss disk drives, we may wish to examine the characteristics of disk drives in general, then examine the details of a hard disk, and the differences of floppy disks. This would involve inheritance because much of the data about both drives could be characterized and applied to the generic disk drive then used to aid in the discussion of the other three. We will study inheritance in the next three chapters, but for now we will look at the embedded or nested class.
This example program contains a class named box which contains an object of another class embedded within it in line 17, the mail_info class. It is depicted graphically in figure 6-3. This object is available for use only within the class implementation of box because that is where it is defined. The main() program has objects of class box defined but no objects of class mail_info, so the mail_info class cannot be referred to in the main() program. In this case, the mail_info class object is meant to be used internally to the box class and one example is given in line 22 where a message is sent to the label.set() method to initialize the variables. Additional methods could be used as needed, but these are given as an illustration of how they can be called.
Of prime importance is the fact that there are never any objects of the mail_info class declared directly in the main() program, they are inherently declared when the enclosing objects of class box are declared. Of course objects of the mail_info class could be declared and used in the main() program if needed, but they are not in this example program. In order to be complete, the box class should have one or more methods to use the information stored in the object of the mail_info class. Study this program until you understand the new construct, then compile and execute it.
If the class and the nested classes require parameter lists for their respective constructors an initialization list can be given. This will be discussed and illustrated later in this tutorial.
Example program ------> OPOVERLD.CPP
The example file named OPOVERLD.CPP contains examples of overloading operators. This allows you to define a class of objects and redefine the use of the normal operators. The end result is that objects of the new class can be used in as natural a manner as the predefined types. In fact, they seem to be a part of the language rather than your own add-on.
In this case we overload the + operator and the * operator, with the declarations in lines 11 through 13, and the definitions in lines 17 through 41. The methods are declared as friend functions so we can use the double parameter functions as listed. If we did not use the friend construct, the function would be a part of one of the objects and that object would be the object to which the message was sent. Including the friend construct allows us to separate this method from the object and call the method with infix notation. Using this technique, it can be written as object1 + object2 rather than object1.operator+(object2). Also, without the friend construct we could not use an overloading with an int type variable for the first parameter because we can not send a message to an integer type variable such as int.operator+(object). Two of the three operator overloadings use an int for the first parameter so it is necessary to declare them as friend functions.
There is no upper limit to the number of overloadings for any given operator. Any number of overloadings can be used provided the parameters are different for each particular overloading.
The header in line 17 illustrates the first overloading where the + operator is overloaded by giving the return type followed by the keyword operator and the operator we wish to overload. The two formal parameters and their types are then listed in the parentheses and the normal function operations are given in the implementation of the function in lines 19 through 22. The observant student will notice that the implementation of the friend functions are not actually a part of the class because the class name is not prepended onto the method name in line 17. There is nothing unusual about this implementation, it should be easily understood by you at this point. For purposes of illustration, some silly mathematics are performed in the method implementation, but any desired operations can be done.
The biggest difference occurs in line 57 where this method is called by using the infix notation instead of the usual message sending format. Since the variables small and medium are objects of the box class, the system will search for a way to use the + operator on two objects of class box and will find it in the overloaded operator+ method we have just discussed. The operations within the method implementation can be anything we need them to be, and they are usually much more meaningful than the silly math included here.
In line 59 we ask the system to add an int type constant to an object of class box, so the system finds the other overloading of the + operator beginning in line 26 to perform this operation. Also in line 61 we ask the system to use the * operator to do something to an int constant and an object of class box, which it satisfies by finding the method in lines 35 through 41. Note that it would be illegal to attempt to use the * operator the other way around, namely large * 4 since we did not define a method to use the two types in that order. Another overloading could be given with reversed types, and we could then use the reverse order in a program.
You will notice that when using operator overloading, we are also using function name overloading since some of the function names are the same.
When we use operator overloading in this manner, we actually make our programs look like the class is a natural part of the language since it is integrated into the language so well. C++ is therefore an extendible language and can be molded to fit the mechanics of the problem at hand.
OPERATOR OVERLOADING CAVEATS
Each new topic we study has its pitfalls which must be warned against and the topic of operator overloading seems to have the record for pitfalls since it is so prone to misuse and has several problems. The overloading of operators is only available for classes, you cannot redefine the operators for the predefined simple types. This would probably be very silly anyway since the code could be very difficult to read if you changed some of them around.
The logical and "&&" and the logical or "||" operators can be overloaded for the classes you define, but they will not operate as short circuit operators. All members of the logical construction will be evaluated with no regard concerning the outcome. Of course the normal predefined logical operators will continue to operate as short circuit operators as expected, but not the overloaded ones.
If the increment "++" or decrement "--" operators are overloaded, the system has no way of telling whether the operators are used as preincrement or postincrement (or predecrement or postdecrement) operators. Which method is used is implementation dependent, so you should use them in such a way that it doesn't matter which is used.
Be sure to compile and execute OPOVERLD.CPP before continuing on to the next example program.
FUNCTION OVERLOADING IN A CLASS
Example program ------> FUNCOVER.CPP
Examine the program named FUNCOVER.CPP for an example of function name overloading within a class. In this program the constructor is overloaded as well as one of the methods to illustrate what can be done.
This file illustrates some of the uses of overloaded names and a few of the rules for their use. You will recall that the function selected is based on the number and types of the formal parameters only. The type of the return value is not significant in overload resolution.
In this case there are three constructors. The constructor which is actually called is selected by the number and types of the parameters in the definition. In line 78 of the main program the three objects are declared, each with a different number of parameters and inspection of the results will indicate that the correct constructor was called based on the number of parameters.
In the case of the other overloaded methods, the number and type of parameters is clearly used to select the proper method. You will notice that one method uses a single integer and another uses a single float type variable, but the system is able to select the correct one. As many overloadings as desired can be used provided that all of the parameter patterns are unique.
You may be thinking that this is a silly thing to do but it is, in fact, a very important topic. Throughout this tutorial we have been using an overloaded operator and you haven't been the least confused over it. It is the << operator which is part of the cout class, which operates as an overloaded function since the way it outputs data is a function of the type of its input variable or the field we ask it to display. Many programming languages have overloaded output functions so you can output any data with the same function name.
Be sure to compile and execute this program.
Separate compilation is available with C++ and it follows the identical rules as given for ANSI-C separate compilation. As expected, separately compiled files can be linked together. However, since classes are used to define objects, the nature of C++ separate compilation is considerably different from that used for ANSI-C. This is because the classes used to create the objects are not considered as external variables, but as included classes. This makes the overall program look different from a pure ANSI-C program. Your programs will take on a different appearance as you gain experience in C++.
YOU GET SOME METHODS BY DEFAULT
Example program ------> DEFMETHS.CPP
Even if you include no constructors or operator overloadings you get a few defined automatically by the compiler. Examine the file named DEFMETHS.CPP which will illustrate those methods provided by the compiler, and why you sometimes can't use the defaults but need to write your own to do the job the defaults were intended to do for you.
Before we actually look at the program, we will list a few rules that all compiler writers must follow in order to deliver a useful implementation of C++. First we will state the rules, then take a closer look at them and the reason for their existence.
Any class declared and used in a C++ program must have some way to construct an object because the compiler, by definition, must call a constructor when we define an object. If we don't provide a constructor, the compiler itself will generate one that it can call during construction of the object. This is the default constructor and we have used it unknowingly in a lot of our example programs. The default constructor does not initialize any of the member variables, but it sets up all of the internal class references it needs, and calls the base constructor or constructors if they exist. We haven't studied inheritance yet, but we will in the next chapter of this tutorial so we will know then what base classes are all about. Line 12 of the present program declares a default constructor which is called when you define an object with no parameters. In this case, the constructor is necessary because we have an embedded string in the class that requires a dynamic allocation and an initialization of the string to the null string. It will take little thought to see that our constructor is much better than the default constructor which would leave us with an uninitialized pointer.
The default constructor is used in line 79 of this example program.
THE COPY CONSTRUCTOR
The copy constructor is generated automatically for you by the compiler if you fail to define one yourself. It is used to copy the contents of an object to a new object during construction of that new object. If the compiler generates it for you, it will simply copy the contents of the original into the new object as a byte by byte copy, which may not be what you want. For simple classes with no pointers, that is usually sufficient, but in the present example program, we have a pointer as a class member so a byte by byte copy would copy the pointer from one to the other and they would both be pointing to the same allocated member. For this program, we declared our own copy constructor in line 15 and implemented it in lines 35 to 40. A careful study of the implementation will reveal that the new class will indeed be identical to the original, but the new class has its own string to work with. Since both constructors contain dynamic allocation, we must assure that the allocated data is destroyed when we are finished with the objects, so a destructor is mandatory as implemented in lines 51 through 54 of the present example program. The copy constructor is used in line 85 of the current example program.
THE ASSIGNMENT OPERATOR
It is not too obvious, but an assignment operator is required for this program also, because the default assignment operator simply copies the source object to the destination object byte by byte. This would result in the same problem we had with copy constructor. The assignment operator is declared in line 18 and defined in lines 42 through 49 where we deallocate the old string in the existing object prior to allocating room for the new text and copying the text from the source object into the new object. The assignment operator is used in line 92.
It should be fairly obvious to the student that when a class is defined which includes any sort of dynamic allocation, the above three methods should be included in addition to the proper destructor. If any of the four entities are omitted, the program may have terribly erratic behavior. Be sure to compile and execute this example program.
A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
Example program ------> PHRASE.H
Using the inline keyword with a class member can cause a bit of difficulty unless you understand how the compiler uses the inline code definition to perform the inline code insertion. Examine the header file named PHRASE.H which includes some inline methods. These are included as an illustration of one means of defining the inline methods in a clean way that the compiler can use efficiently.
When any implementation uses this class, it must have access to the inline implementation in order to insert the proper inline code for the member functions. One way to do this is to put all of the inline methods in a separate file named with the INL extension, then including that file into the end of the .H file as shown here. This makes all of the inline code available for the compiler while compiling files that use this class.
Example program ------> PHRASE.INL
The example file named PHRASE.INL contains all of the inline code for this class.
Example program ------> PHRASE.CPP
Note that the only reason for this file to exist is to define the static string variable full_phrase. Since this is a definition, and therefore some memory is defined, it cannot be placed in the header file. If it were placed there, it would seem to work all right in this program because the header file is only used once, but using a bad technique like that would lead to problems later. For illustrative purposes, all of the methods were declared inline, so there are no member definitions in this class.
Example program ------> USEPHRAS.CPP
The file named USEPHRAS.CPP uses the phrase class defined in the last two example files. It is plain to see that this class is no different than any others we have studied. It simply illustrates a way to package inline code in a simple and very efficient manner.
ANOTHER PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
We come again to the practical part of this lesson where we study a practical class that can actually be used in a program but is still simple enough for the student to completely understand.
Example program ------> TIME.H
In the last chapter we studied the date class and in this chapter we will study a simple time class. You should begin by studying the file named TIME.H which will look very similar to the date class header. The only major difference in this class from the date class is the overloaded constructors and methods. The program is a very practical example that illustrates very graphically that many constructor overloadings are possible.
Example program ------> TIME.CPP
The implementation for the time class is given in the file named TIME.CPP. Once again, the code is very simple and you should have no problem understanding this example in its entirety. It should be pointed out that three of the four overloadings actually call the fourth so that the code did not have to be repeated four times. This is a perfectly good coding practice and illustrates that other member functions can be called from within the implementation.
As we have mentioned before, this code contains calls that are specific to DOS and are therefore not portable to other platforms. If you are using some other platform, you will need to change the code to make valid calls to your operating system, or simply assign default values to the member variables.
Example program ------> USETIME.CPP
The example program named USETIME.CPP is a very simple program that uses the time class in a very rudimentary way as an illustration for you. You should be able to understand this program in a very short time. It will be to your advantage to completely understand the practical example programs given at the end of the last chapter and the end of this chapter. As mentioned above, we will use the time class and the date class as the basis for both single and multiple inheritance in the next three chapters.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE NEXT STEP?
At this point you have learned enough C++ to write meaningful programs and it would be to your advantage to stop studying and begin using the knowledge you have gained. Because C++ is an extension to ANSI-C, it can be learned in smaller pieces than would be required if you are learning a completely new language. You have learned enough to study and completely understand the example program given in chapter 12, the Flyaway adventure game. You should begin studying this program now.
One of your biggest problems is learning to think in terms of object oriented programming. It is not a trivial problem if you have been programming in procedural languages for any significant length of time. However, it can be learned by experience, so you should begin trying to think in terms of classes and objects immediately. Your first project should use only a small number of objects and the remainder of code can be completed in standard procedural programming techniques. As you gain experience, you will write more of the code for any given project using classes and objects but every project will eventually be completed in procedural code.
After you have programmed for a while using the techniques covered up to this point in the tutorial, you can continue on to the next few chapters which will discuss inheritance and virtual functions.
Advance to Chapter 7
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