Use The Tools Available

An automated framework for executing these tools should be established very early in the development process. It should not take more than 2-3 commands to checkout the source code, build, and execute the tests. Once the tests are done executing, you should have an almost complete picture of the state and quality of the code.

Source Control

Source control is an absolute necessity for any software development project. If you are not using one yet, start using one.

  • GitHub - allows for unlimited public repositories, and unlimited private repositories with up to 3 collaborators.
  • Bitbucket - allows for unlimited private repositories with up to 5 collaborators, for free.
  • SourceForge - open source hosting only.
  • GitLab - allows for unlimited public and private repositories, unlimited CI Runners included, for free.
  • Visual Studio Online ( - allows for unlimited public repositories, must pay for private repository. Repositories can be git or TFVC. Additionally: Issue tracking, project planning (multiple Agile templates, such as SCRUM), integrated hosted builds, integration of all this into Microsoft Visual Studio. Windows only.

Build Tool

Use an industry standard widely accepted build tool. This prevents you from reinventing the wheel whenever you discover / link to a new library / package your product / etc. Examples include:

Remember, it's not just a build tool, it's also a programming language. Try to maintain good clean build scripts and follow the recommended practices for the tool you are using.

Package Manager

Package management is an important topic in C++, with currently no clear winner. Consider using a package manager to help you keep track of the dependencies for your project and make it easier for new people to get started with the project.

  • Conan - a crossplatform dependency manager for C++
  • hunter - CMake driven cross-platform package manager for C/C++
  • C++ Archive Network (CPPAN) - a crossplatform dependency manager for C++
  • qpm - Package manager for Qt
  • build2 - cargo-like package management for C++
  • Buckaroo - Truly decentralized cross-platform dependency manager for C/C++ and more
  • Vcpkg - Microsoft C++ Library Manager for Windows, Linux, and MacOS - description

Continuous Integration

Once you have picked your build tool, set up a continuous integration environment.

Continuous Integration (CI) tools automatically build the source code as changes are pushed to the repository. These can be hosted privately or with a CI host.

  • Travis CI
    • works well with C++
    • designed for use with GitHub
    • free for public repositories on GitHub
  • AppVeyor
    • supports Windows, MSVC and MinGW
    • free for public repositories on GitHub
  • Hudson CI / Jenkins CI
    • Java Application Server is required
    • supports Windows, OS X, and Linux
    • extendable with a lot of plugins
  • TeamCity
    • has a free option for open source projects
  • Decent CI
    • simple ad-hoc continuous integration that posts results to GitHub
    • supports Windows, OS X, and Linux
    • used by ChaiScript
  • Visual Studio Online (
    • Tightly integrated with the source repositories from Visual Studio Online
    • Uses MSBuild (Visual Studio's build engine), which is available on Windows, OS X and Linux
    • Provides hosted build agents and also allows for user-provided build agents
    • Can be controlled and monitored from within Microsoft Visual Studio
    • On-Premise installation via Microsoft Team Foundation Server
  • GitLab
    • use custom Docker images, so can be used for C++
    • has free shared runners
    • has trivial processing of result of coverage analyze

If you have an open source, publicly-hosted project on GitHub:

These tools are all free and relatively easy to set up. Once they are set up you are getting continuous building, testing, analysis and reporting of your project. For free.


Use every available and reasonable set of warning options. Some warning options only work with optimizations enabled, or work better the higher the chosen level of optimization is, for example -Wnull-dereference with GCC.

You should use as many compilers as you can for your platform(s). Each compiler implements the standard slightly differently and supporting multiple will help ensure the most portable, most reliable code.

GCC / Clang

-Wall -Wextra -Wshadow -Wnon-virtual-dtor -pedantic

  • -Wall -Wextra reasonable and standard
  • -Wshadow warn the user if a variable declaration shadows one from a parent context
  • -Wnon-virtual-dtor warn the user if a class with virtual functions has a non-virtual destructor. This helps catch hard to track down memory errors
  • -Wold-style-cast warn for c-style casts
  • -Wcast-align warn for potential performance problem casts
  • -Wunused warn on anything being unused
  • -Woverloaded-virtual warn if you overload (not override) a virtual function
  • -Wpedantic (all versions of GCC, Clang >= 3.2) warn if non-standard C++ is used
  • -Wconversion warn on type conversions that may lose data
  • -Wsign-conversion (Clang all versions, GCC >= 4.3) warn on sign conversions
  • -Wmisleading-indentation (only in GCC >= 6.0) warn if indentation implies blocks where blocks do not exist
  • -Wduplicated-cond (only in GCC >= 6.0) warn if if / else chain has duplicated conditions
  • -Wduplicated-branches (only in GCC >= 7.0) warn if if / else branches have duplicated code
  • -Wlogical-op (only in GCC) warn about logical operations being used where bitwise were probably wanted
  • -Wnull-dereference (only in GCC >= 6.0) warn if a null dereference is detected
  • -Wuseless-cast (only in GCC >= 4.8) warn if you perform a cast to the same type
  • -Wdouble-promotion (GCC >= 4.6, Clang >= 3.8) warn if float is implicit promoted to double
  • -Wformat=2 warn on security issues around functions that format output (ie printf)
  • -Wlifetime (only special branch of Clang currently) shows object lifetime issues

Consider using -Weverything and disabling the few warnings you need to on Clang

-Weffc++ warning mode can be too noisy, but if it works for your project, use it also.


/permissive- - Enforces standards conformance.

/W4 /w14640 - use these and consider the following (see descriptions below)

  • /W4 All reasonable warnings
  • /w14242 'identfier': conversion from 'type1' to 'type1', possible loss of data
  • /w14254 'operator': conversion from 'type1:field_bits' to 'type2:field_bits', possible loss of data
  • /w14263 'function': member function does not override any base class virtual member function
  • /w14265 'classname': class has virtual functions, but destructor is not virtual instances of this class may not be destructed correctly
  • /w14287 'operator': unsigned/negative constant mismatch
  • /we4289 nonstandard extension used: 'variable': loop control variable declared in the for-loop is used outside the for-loop scope
  • /w14296 'operator': expression is always 'boolean_value'
  • /w14311 'variable': pointer truncation from 'type1' to 'type2'
  • /w14545 expression before comma evaluates to a function which is missing an argument list
  • /w14546 function call before comma missing argument list
  • /w14547 'operator': operator before comma has no effect; expected operator with side-effect
  • /w14549 'operator': operator before comma has no effect; did you intend 'operator'?
  • /w14555 expression has no effect; expected expression with side-effect
  • /w14619 pragma warning: there is no warning number 'number'
  • /w14640 Enable warning on thread un-safe static member initialization
  • /w14826 Conversion from 'type1' to 'type_2' is sign-extended. This may cause unexpected runtime behavior.
  • /w14905 wide string literal cast to 'LPSTR'
  • /w14906 string literal cast to 'LPWSTR'
  • /w14928 illegal copy-initialization; more than one user-defined conversion has been implicitly applied

Not recommended

  • /Wall - Also warns on files included from the standard library, so it's not very useful and creates too many extra warnings.


Start with very strict warning settings from the beginning. Trying to raise the warning level after the project is underway can be painful.

Consider using the treat warnings as errors setting. /Wx with MSVC, -Werror with GCC / Clang

LLVM-based tools

LLVM based tools work best with a build system (such as cmake) that can output a compile command database, for example:


If you are not using a build system like that, you can consider Build EAR which will hook into your build system and generate a compile command database for you.

CMake now also comes with built-in support for calling clang-tidy during normal compilation.

Static Analyzers

The best bet is the static analyzer that you can run as part of your automated build system. Cppcheck and clang meet that requirement for free options.

Coverity Scan

Coverity has a free (for open source) static analysis toolkit that can work on every commit in integration with Travis CI and AppVeyor.


PVS-Studio is a tool for bug detection in the source code of programs, written in C, C++ and C#. It is free for personal academic projects, open source non-commercial projects and independent projects of individual developers. It works in Windows and Linux environment.


Cppcheck is free and open source. It strives for 0 false positives and does a good job at it. Therefore all warnings should be enabled: --enable=all


  • For correct work it requires well formed path for headers, so before usage don't forget to pass: --check-config.
  • Finding unused headers does not work with -j more than 1.
  • Remember to add --force for code with a lot number of #ifdef if you need check all of them.


cppclean - Open source static analyzer focused on finding problems in C++ source that slow development of large code bases.


CppDepend Simplifies managing a complex C/C++ code base by analyzing and visualizing code dependencies, by defining design rules, by doing impact analysis, and comparing different versions of the code. It's free for OSS contributors.

Clang's Static Analyzer

Clang's analyzer's default options are good for the respective platform. It can be used directly from CMake. They can also be called via clang-check and clang-tidy from the LLVM-based Tools.

Also, CodeChecker is available as a front-end to clang's static analysis.

clang-tidy can be easily used with Visual Studio via the Clang Power Tools extension.

MSVC's Static Analyzer

Can be enabled with the /analyze command line option. For now we will stick with the default options.

Flint / Flint++

Flint and Flint++ are linters that analyze C++ code against Facebook's coding standards.


OCLint is a free, libre and open source static code analysis tool for improving quality of C++ code in many different ways.

ReSharper C++ / CLion

Both of these tools from JetBrains offer some level of static analysis and automated fixes for common things that can be done better. They have options available for free licenses for open source project leaders.


The Eclipse based Cevelop IDE has various static analysis and refactoring / code fix tools available. For example, you can replace macros with C++ constexprs, refactor namespaces (extract/inline using, qualify name), and refactor your code to C++11's uniform initialization syntax. Cevelop is free to use.

Qt Creator

Qt Creator can plug into the clang static analyzer.


clazy is a clang based tool for analyzing Qt usage.


IKOS is an open source static analyzer, developed by NASA. It is based on the Abstract Interpretation. It is written in C++ and provides an analyzer for C and C++, using LLVM. The source code is available on Github.

Runtime Checkers

Code Coverage Analysis

A coverage analysis tool shall be run when tests are executed to make sure the entire application is being tested. Unfortunately, coverage analysis requires that compiler optimizations be disabled. This can result in significantly longer test execution times.

  • Codecov
    • integrates with Travis CI and AppVeyor
    • free for open source projects
  • Coveralls
    • integrates with Travis CI and AppVeyor
    • free for open source projects
  • LCOV
    • very configurable
  • Gcovr
  • kcov
    • integrates with codecov and coveralls
    • performs code coverage reporting without needing special compiler flags, just by instrumenting debug symbols.
  • OpenCppCoverage - open source coverage reporting tool for Windows.


Valgrind is a runtime code analyzer that can detect memory leaks, race conditions, and other associated problems. It is supported on various Unix platforms.

Dr Memory

Similar to Valgrind.

GCC / Clang Sanitizers

These tools provide many of the same features as Valgrind, but built into the compiler. They are easy to use and provide a report of what went wrong.

  • AddressSanitizer
  • MemorySanitizer
  • ThreadSanitizer
  • UndefinedBehaviorSanitizer

Be aware of the sanitizer options available, including runtime options.

Fuzzy Analyzers

If your project accepts user defined input, considering running a fuzzy input tester.

Both of these tools use coverage reporting to find new code execution paths and try to breed novel inputs for your code. They can find crashes, hangs, and inputs you didn't know were considered valid.

Mutation Testers

These tools take code executed during unit test runs and mutate the executed code. If the test continues to pass with a mutation in place, then there is likely a flawed test in your suite.

Control Flow Guard

MSVC's Control Flow Guard adds high performance runtime security checks.

Checked STL Implementations

Heap Profiling

Ignoring Warnings

If it is determined by team consensus that the compiler or analyzer is warning on something that is either incorrect or unavoidable, the team will disable the specific error to as localized part of the code as possible.

Be sure to reenable the warning after disabling it for a section of code. You do not want your disabled warnings to leak into other code.


CMake, mentioned above, has a built in framework for executing tests. Make sure whatever build system you use has a way to execute tests built in.

To further aid in executing tests, consider a library such as Google Test, Catch, CppUTest or Boost.Test to help you organize the tests.

Unit Tests

Unit tests are for small chunks of code, individual functions which can be tested standalone.

Integration Tests

There should be a test enabled for every feature or bug fix that is committed. See also Code Coverage Analysis. These are tests that are higher level than unit tests. They should still be limited in scope to individual features.

Negative Testing

Don't forget to make sure that your error handling is being tested and works properly as well. This will become obvious if you aim for 100% code coverage.



uftrace can be used to generating function call graphs of a program execution


rr is a free (open source) reverse debugger that supports C++.

Other Tools


Lizard provides a very simple interface for running complexity analysis against a C++ codebase.


Metrix++ can identify and report on the most complex sections of your code. Reducing complex code helps you and the compiler understand it better and optimize it better.

ABI Compliance Checker

ABI Compliance Checker (ACC) can analyze two library versions and generates a detailed compatibility report regarding API and C++ ABI changes. This can help a library developer spot unintentional breaking changes to ensure backward compatibility.


Customizable Naming Convention Checker can report on identifiers in your code that do not follow certain naming conventions.


ClangFormat can check and correct code formatting to match organizational conventions automatically. Multipart series on utilizing clang-format.


SourceMeter offers a free version which provides many different metrics for your code and can also call into cppcheck.

Bloaty McBloatface

Bloaty McBloatface is a binary size analyzer/profiler for unix-like platforms

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