[webkit-dev] free functions

Chris Jerdonek cjerdonek at webkit.org
Thu Jun 3 01:36:29 PDT 2010

On Tue, May 25, 2010 at 10:01 AM, Darin Adler <darin at apple.com> wrote:
> On May 25, 2010, at 7:54 AM, Chris Jerdonek wrote:
>> I sometimes come across public member functions whose implementations do not depend on private data.
>> There is a school of thought that such functions are better non-member because it reduces the number of functions coupled to private data. On the other hand, I've heard the argument that making such functions free creates naming issues -- it's not clear to the caller in which header file to find the free function.
>> My question for WebKit is whether naming considerations outweigh encapsulation considerations.  And if so, is there a naming convention or otherwise that we can use to make finding free functions easier?
> We do need our classes to be smaller so we can understand the structure of the code. The encapsulation benefits of having a much smaller number of members in a class are well worth some cost. But there are at least two considerations that come into play when replacing a member function with a free function:
>    1) Free functions still have to go in some header/source file. The usual rule for finding a function is to look for a file named based on the class. Without a class name we have to do something to make it practical to find the functions in the source tree without a lot of searching.
>    2) Free functions need names that are clear and unambiguous with no context other than the WebCore namespace. We try to keep member function names short, and we can do so in part because they have a class name context. The same function as a free function will almost certainly need a longer name. Each time we create a free function we have to think about what an appropriate name is; it’s a mistake to leave the same short name that was previously used for a class member.
> Another possible way to get encapsulation benefits with fewer of the other problems is to group functions into classes or namespaces that have no data and nothing else private. This may be helpful if the class or namespace name has a good name with a clear concept.

Would the following simple convention be an acceptable option?  A free
function in a header file could go in a nested namespace whose name is
the name of the header file followed by "Functions" (as in "free
functions").  An example in Chrome.h might be--

WebCore::ChromeFunctions::applyWindowFeatures(Chrome*, const WindowFeatures&);

Would adding such a non-member function be preferable to adding to the
Chrome class a public member function that didn't depend on private
Chrome data?  The encapsulation discussion above suggests it would.

I'm just trying to think of a simple alternative so the default need
not always be to add another member function.

For comparison, we have essentially 8 files whose file name ends in "Functions":


(For files like these, we would probably not want to use a convention
like the above.)


More information about the webkit-dev mailing list