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The Multiple-Include Optimization

Header files are often of the form

#ifndef FOO
#define FOO

to prevent the compiler from processing them more than once. The preprocessor notices such header files, so that if the header file appears in a subsequent #include directive and FOO is defined, then it is ignored and it doesn’t preprocess or even re-open the file a second time. This is referred to as the multiple include optimization.

Under what circumstances is such an optimization valid? If the file were included a second time, it can only be optimized away if that inclusion would result in no tokens to return, and no relevant directives to process. Therefore the current implementation imposes requirements and makes some allowances as follows:

  1. There must be no tokens outside the controlling #if-#endif pair, but whitespace and comments are permitted.
  2. There must be no directives outside the controlling directive pair, but the null directive (a line containing nothing other than a single ‘#’ and possibly whitespace) is permitted.
  3. The opening directive must be of the form
    #ifndef FOO


    #if !defined FOO     [equivalently, #if !defined(FOO)]
  4. In the second form above, the tokens forming the #if expression must have come directly from the source file—no macro expansion must have been involved. This is because macro definitions can change, and tracking whether or not a relevant change has been made is not worth the implementation cost.
  5. There can be no #else or #elif directives at the outer conditional block level, because they would probably contain something of interest to a subsequent pass.

First, when pushing a new file on the buffer stack, _stack_include_file sets the controlling macro mi_cmacro to NULL, and sets mi_valid to true. This indicates that the preprocessor has not yet encountered anything that would invalidate the multiple-include optimization. As described in the next few paragraphs, these two variables having these values effectively indicates top-of-file.

When about to return a token that is not part of a directive, _cpp_lex_token sets mi_valid to false. This enforces the constraint that tokens outside the controlling conditional block invalidate the optimization.

The do_if, when appropriate, and do_ifndef directive handlers pass the controlling macro to the function push_conditional. cpplib maintains a stack of nested conditional blocks, and after processing every opening conditional this function pushes an if_stack structure onto the stack. In this structure it records the controlling macro for the block, provided there is one and we’re at top-of-file (as described above). If an #elif or #else directive is encountered, the controlling macro for that block is cleared to NULL. Otherwise, it survives until the #endif closing the block, upon which do_endif sets mi_valid to true and stores the controlling macro in mi_cmacro.

_cpp_handle_directive clears mi_valid when processing any directive other than an opening conditional and the null directive. With this, and requiring top-of-file to record a controlling macro, and no #else or #elif for it to survive and be copied to mi_cmacro by do_endif, we have enforced the absence of directives outside the main conditional block for the optimization to be on.

Note that whilst we are inside the conditional block, mi_valid is likely to be reset to false, but this does not matter since the closing #endif restores it to true if appropriate.

Finally, since _cpp_lex_direct pops the file off the buffer stack at EOF without returning a token, if the #endif directive was not followed by any tokens, mi_valid is true and _cpp_pop_file_buffer remembers the controlling macro associated with the file. Subsequent calls to stack_include_file result in no buffer being pushed if the controlling macro is defined, effecting the optimization.

A quick word on how we handle the

#if !defined FOO

case. _cpp_parse_expr and parse_defined take steps to see whether the three stages ‘!’, ‘defined-expression’ and ‘end-of-directive’ occur in order in a #if expression. If so, they return the guard macro to do_if in the variable mi_ind_cmacro, and otherwise set it to NULL. enter_macro_context sets mi_valid to false, so if a macro was expanded whilst parsing any part of the expression, then the top-of-file test in push_conditional fails and the optimization is turned off.

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