Next: , Previous: , Up: Header Files   [Contents][Index]

26.4.4 Once-Only Headers

If a header file happens to be included twice, the compiler will process its contents twice. This is very likely to cause an error, e.g. when the compiler sees the same structure definition twice.

The standard way to prevent this is to enclose the entire real contents of the file in a conditional, like this:

/* File foo.  */

the entire file

#endif /* !FILE_FOO_SEEN */

This construct is commonly known as a wrapper #ifndef. When the header is included again, the conditional will be false, because FILE_FOO_SEEN is defined. Preprocessing skips over the entire contents of the file, so that compilation will never “see” the file contents twice in one module.

GCC optimizes this case even further. It remembers when a header file has a wrapper #ifndef. If a subsequent #include specifies that header, and the macro in the #ifndef is still defined, it does not bother to rescan the file at all.

You can put comments in the header file outside the wrapper. They do not interfere with this optimization.

The macro FILE_FOO_SEEN is called the controlling macro or guard macro. In a user header file, the macro name should not begin with ‘_’. In a system header file, it should begin with ‘__’ (or ‘_’ followed by an upper-case letter) to avoid conflicts with user programs. In any kind of header file, the macro name should contain the name of the file and some additional text, to avoid conflicts with other header files.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Header Files   [Contents][Index]