Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thoughts on Accelerated C++

Realizing this is about a month overdue, I'm posting my thoughts on Accelerated C++ while I still remember what it was about.

This book is definitely NOT for beginners, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that is just learning how to program. However, if you know a little C++, this book is no bore. If I could summarize it in one sentence (and steal a line used regularly in Code Complete), I would say that Accelerated C++ does a good job of teaching you how to program in the language rather than into it. The focus is on teaching through examples so, instead of getting an overview of all data structures available in STL in one big chapter, individual data structures are introduced as needed by the examples. Manipulating the structures through iterators and built-in algorithms is treated the same way - they are presented as the sample problems in the book grow to require their functionality.

Generic programming, effective use of inheritance, and some specific concepts such as handle classes are all presented extremely well in this book. Some relatively basic concepts are explored in a greater level of detail than you might read in other "how to program" books (explicitly establishing an invariant in while loops comes to mind), but by no means is this book a comprehensive guide to programming or to the language, something the authors agree with in the introduction.

That being said, I feel like I might need to give this one another read down the road. Some of the concepts presented later in the book, such as providing conversion capabilities to your classes and, again, the handle class, were pretty new concepts to me and I'm not sure I could leverage this knowledge without giving it another read and setting up some sample programs to get the hang of it. At this point, I feel like I've been given handed a rocket launcher with no instructions. I could try to use it but the odds are that the results will be catastrophic.

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