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Contribution Guidelines

This is a set of guidelines for contributing to Chatterino. The goal is to teach programmers without C++ background (java/python/etc.), people who haven't used Qt or otherwise have different experience the idioms of the codebase. Thus, we will focus on those which are different from those other environments. There are extra guidelines available here, but they are considered as extras and not as important.



Code is automatically formatted using clang-format. It takes the burden off of the programmer and ensures that all contributors use the same style (even if mess something up accidentally). We recommend that you set up automatic formatting on file save in your editor.



Comments should only be used to:

  • Increase readability (e.g. grouping member variables).
  • Containing information that can't be expressed in code.

Try to structure your code so that comments are not required.

Good example

 * @return 0 if a == b, negative if a < b and positive if b > a. (1)
int /* (2)! */ compare(const QString &a, const QString &b);
  1. You can't know this from the function signature, so it's good to clarify this.
  2. Even better: Return a "strong ordering" type (but we don't have such a type right now).

Bad example

 * Matches a link and returns boost::none if it failed and a
 * QRegularExpressionMatch on success. (1)
 * @param text The text that will be checked if it contains a link. (2)
boost::optional<QRegularExpressionMatch> matchLink(const QString &text);
  1. This repeats the function signature.
  2. This is obvious from the function and parameter names.


Arithmetic Types

Arithmetic types (like char, int, float or size_t), bool, and pointers are NOT initialized by default in C++. They keep whatever value is already at their position in the memory. This makes debugging harder and is unpredictable, so we initialize them to zero by using {} after their name when declaring them.

class ArithmeticTypes
    // DO
    int n{}; // (1)!
    bool isEnabled{}; // (2)!
    QWidget *myPtr{}; // (3)!
    int thisIs5 = 5; // (4)!
    std::vector<int> myVec; // (5)!

    // DON'T
    int m; // (6)!
    bool isHidden; // (7)!
    QWidget *yourPtr; // (8)!
    std::vector<int> myVec{}; // (9)!
  1. Initialized to 0.
  2. Initialized to false.
  3. Initialized to nullptr.
  4. Explicitly initialized to 5.
  5. Other non-arithmetic types call constructors instead, so no need for {}.
  6. ⚠ Random value.
  7. ⚠ Random value.
  8. ⚠ Random value. Dereferencing this will likely segfault.
  9. Unnecessary {} as the default constructor will be called even without {}.

Passing parameters

The way a parameter is passed signals how it is going to be used inside the function. C++ doesn't have multiple return values, so there is "out parameters" (reference to a variable that is going to be assigned inside the function) to simulate multiple return values.

Cheap to copy types like int/enum/etc. can be passed in per value since copying them is fast.

void setValue(int value /* (1)! */) {
    this->value_ = value;

void sendGreeting(const /* (2)! */ User &user /* (3)! */, MessageFlags flags /* (4)! */) {
    this->sendMessage(,, flags);
  1. ints are cheap to copy. Here, the parameter will likely be passed in a register.
  2. We only need to read the user's name, so it's marked as const.
  3. User is a class that contains the user's name and other fields, thus it's expensive to copy - so a reference is used.
  4. MessageFlags is an enum, so it's cheap to copy.

References mean that the variable doesn't need to be copied when it is passed to a function.

Type Meaning
const Type& name in Parameter. It is NOT going to be modified and may be copied inside the function.
Type& name out or in+out Parameter. It will be modified.

Pointers signal that objects are managed manually. While the above are only guaranteed to live as long as the function call (= don't store and use later) these may have more complex lifetimes.

Type Meaning
Type* name The lifetime of the parameter may exceed the length of the function call. It may use the QObject parent/children system (see QObject Classes).

R-value references && work similar to regular references but signal the parameter should be "consumed".

void storeLargeObject(LargeObject &&object) {
    // ...

void storeObject(std::unique_ptr<Object> &&object) {
    // ...

void main() {
    LargeObject large = { /*...*/ };

    storeLargeObject(std::move(large)); // (1)!

    std::unique_ptr<Object> unique = std::make_unique(/*...*/);
    storeObject(std::move(unique)); // (2)!

    assert(unique.get() == nullptr); // (3)!
  1. storeLargeObject accepts an r-value reference, and we use std::move(), thus we move the object and avoid the need to copy.
  2. You can't copy a std::unique_ptr, so we need to move here.
  3. The pointer contained by unique has now been consumed by storeObject, so it just holds a null pointer now.

Generally the lowest level of requirement should be used e.g. passing Channel& instead of std::shared_ptr<Channel>& (aka ChannelPtr) if possible.


All functions names are in camelCase. Private member variables are in camelCase_ (note the underscore at the end). We don't use the get prefix for getters. We mark functions as const if applicable.

class NamedObject
    const QString &name() const; // (1)!
    void setName(const QString &name);
    bool hasLongName() const; // (2)!

    static void myStaticFunction(); // (3)!
    QString publicName;

    QString name_; // (4)!
    // QString name; (5)

    void myPrivateMethod(); // (6)!

void myFreeStandingFunction(); // (7)!
  1. No get prefix.
  2. A has or is prefix is okay.
  3. Static member functions start lowercase as well.
  4. Private members have a _ suffix.
  5. This declaration would collide with the name() accessor.
  6. Private methods don't have a _ suffix.
  7. Free standing functions start lowercase as well.


void example(float f, Base *b, const User &user, int p) {
    // DO
    int i = int(f); // (1)!
    Derived* derived = dynamic_cast<Derived*>(base); // (2)!
    if (derived != nullptr) // (3)!
        // use derived

    const_cast<User &>(c).setName("foo"); // (4)!
    float *pp = reinterpret_cast<float*>(&p); // (5)!

    // DON'T (6)
    int i = (int)f;
    Derived* derived = (Derived*)base;
    ((int &)c) = 123;
    float *pp = (float*)&p;
  1. Use explicit type casts.
  2. Use explicit dynamic_cast.
  3. Unless extremely obvious, always check the result of dynamic_cast.
  4. Only use const_cast if using proper const correctness doesn't work.
  5. reinterpret_cast is required very rarely.
  6. Avoid C-style casts.


Always use this to refer to instance members to make it clear where we use either locals or members.

class Test
    void testFunc(int a);
    int testInt_{};

Test::testFunc(int a)
    // DO
    this->testInt_ += 2;

    // DON'T
    testInt_ -= 123;
    this->testFunc(testInt_/*(1)!*/ + 1);
  1. It's unclear if it's a local or member variable, especially if the method is more complex.

Managing resources

Regular classes

Keep the element on the stack if possible. If you need a pointer or have complex ownership you should use one of these classes:

QObject classes

  • Use the object tree to manage lifetime where possible. Objects are destroyed when their parent object is destroyed.
  • If you have to explicitly delete an object use variable->deleteLater() instead of delete variable. This ensures that it will be deleted on the correct thread.
  • If an object doesn't have a parent consider using std::unique_ptr<Type, DeleteLater> with DeleteLater from "common/Common.hpp". This will call deleteLater() on the pointer once it goes out of scope or the object is destroyed.