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[Page 1274 (continued)]

F.3. The #define Preprocessor Directive: Symbolic Constants

The #define preprocessor directive creates symbolic constantsconstants represented as symbolsand macrosoperations defined as symbols. The #define preprocessor directive format is


#define identifier replacement-text

When this line appears in a file, all subsequent occurrences (except those inside a string) of identifier in that file will be replaced by replacement-text before the program is compiled. For example,

#define PI 3.14159

replaces all subsequent occurrences of the symbolic constant PI with the numeric constant 3.14159. Symbolic constants enable the programmer to create a name for a constant and use the name throughout the program. Later, if the constant needs to be modified throughout the program, it can be modified once in the #define preprocessor directiveand when the program is recompiled, all occurrences of the constant in the program will be modified. [Note: Everything to the right of the symbolic constant name replaces the symbolic constant. For example, #define PI = 3.14159 causes the preprocessor to replace every occurrence of PI with = 3.14159. Such replacement is the cause of many subtle logic and syntax errors.] Redefining a symbolic constant with a new value without first undefining it is also an error. Note that const variables in C++ are preferred over symbolic constants. Constant variables have a specific data type and are visible by name to a debugger. Once a symbolic constant is replaced with its replacement text, only the replacement text is visible to a debugger. A disadvantage of const variables is that they might require a memory location of their data type sizesymbolic constants do not require any additional memory.

Common Programming Error F.2

Using symbolic constants in a file other than the file in which the symbolic constants are defined is a compilation error (unless they are #included from a header file).


Good Programming Practice F.1

Using meaningful names for symbolic constants helps make programs more self-documenting.



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