manski's blog

Meaningful C++ error message

During my time as a student at the University of Stuttgart we had to learn the programming language Ada. Back then I was swearing about the compiler error message because they were totally meaningless (at least to me).

I am currently working on a C++ project and I have to say that C++ isn’t an inch better than Ada. Consider the following code:

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#include <Windows.h>
 
namespace Geometry {
  class Polyline { };
}
 
using Geometry::Polyline;
 
namespace OtherNS {
  Polyline* get() {
    return NULL;
  }
}

Trying to compile this code gives you the following error message (on Visual C++ 2010):

using_test.cpp(10): error C2143: syntax error : missing ';' before '*'
using_test.cpp(10): error C4430: missing type specifier - int assumed. Note: C++ does not support default-int
using_test.cpp(10): error C4430: missing type specifier - int assumed. Note: C++ does not support default-int

What? Syntax error? And then you start looking where you missed a ;.

The problem, however, is completely different. It’s because there is a function called Polyline() defined somewhere in Windows.h and now the compiler tries to use this function as return type instead of the class Polyline (but doesn’t say anything about that). <irony>This, of course, becomes totally clear just by reading this extremely meaningful error message.</irony> *sigh*

GCC isn’t better here (in case you were blindly blaming Microsoft for writing bad error messages):

error: ‘Polyline’ does not name a type

By the way, the problem can be solved by placing the using statement inside the OtherNS namespace.

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