Hacking Redland librdf


Dave Beckett


Should be:

  • Licensed with the same license as Redland librdf.
  • Patches in GNU diff -u unifed context format preferred.
  • Include tests if they add new features.

Code Style

Do not make large commits that only change code style unless you have previously had this agreed or it is in code under major refactoring where a diff is not a large concern. There is always diff -b when large code style (whitespace) changes are made.


2 spaces. No tabs.

All code must be wrapped to 80 chars as far as is possible. Function definitions or calls should indent the parameters to the left (.

Redland libraries use very long function names following the naming convention which can make linebreaking very hard. In this case, indent function parameters on new lines 4 spaces after the function name like this:

var = function_name_with_very_long_name_that_is_hard_to_wrap_args(

Use no space between a keyword followed by braces argument. For example, use if(cond) rather than if (cond) (ditto for while, do etc.) and functionname(...) rather than functionname (...) in both definition and calls of functions.

There is nothing wrong with introducing a variable to break up a very long function call argument.


Put spaces around operators in expressions, assignments, tests, conditions


  • a += 2 * x
  • if(a < 2)


  • a+=2*x
  • if(a<2)

When comparing to 0 or a NULL pointer, use the idiomatic form that has no comparison.


  • if(!ptr)
  • if(!index)


  • if(ptr == NULL)
  • if(index == 0)
  • if(0 == index)

When comparing a variable to a constant, the code has currently used if(var == constant) rather than the slightly safer, and easier to compile check, if(constant == var).


In general add {}s around blocks in if else chains when one of the blocks has more than 1 line of code. Try not to mix, but the final case if it is one line, can be braceless.

if(var == 1) {
  ... multiple lines of code ...
} else {
  ... multiple lines of code ...


if(var == 1)
  ... one line of code
  ... one line of code


if(var == 1) {
  ... multiple lines of code ...
} else if(var == 2) {
  ... multiple lines of code and / or more if conditions ...
} else
  ... one line of code ...


If using if else chains on an enumeration, don't do that, use a switch() which GCC can use to find missing cases when they get added.

switch(enum_var) {
  case ENUM_1:
    ... code ...

  case ENUM_2:
    ... code ...

    ... code ...

There should ALWAYS be a default: case.


Declare functions in this format:

functionname(type1 param1, type2 param2, ...)
  type3 var1;
  type4 var2;

  ... first line of code ...

    ... cleanup code...

  return value;


  • Declare one variable per line
  • Declare all variables at the top of the function (K&R C style)
  • You may declare variables in inner {} blocks. The form if(1) { ... var decls ...; more code } may be used but a code rewrite is preferable.
  • If a label is used it MUST be used only for cleanup, and going forward in the code to the end of the function.
  • Multiple return are allowed but for obvious error or result returns. Do not twist the code to enable a single return.
  • goto may be used for resource cleanup and result return where control flow only goes forward.

C Pre-Processor (CPP) Macros

Always define macros for internal constants and name the macros with the library prefix followed by a descriptive name in ALL CAPS such as:


When evaluating macro symbols that may be undefined, always check the symbol is defined first. Like this:

#if defined(LIBRDF_DEBUG) && LIBRDF_DEBUG > 42
   ... do complex debugging stuff ...

This is not needed for macros that are known to be defined, such as those checked by configure e.g.

   ... do stuff that requires a raptor2 version 2.1.0 or newer ...

since the above would be checked implicitly by configure using pkg-config(1) to validate Raptor 2 is present before getting to the code that tries to evaluate the value from raptor2.h.

The debug macros that are used for printing out values when debugging is enabled do not need protection by #if or #ifdef and should be used like this:

LIBRDF_DEBUG1("Something wonderful happened\n");

LIBRDF_DEBUG2("Something %s happened\n", happening);

Memory allocation

Allocating a zeroed out block of memory or a set of objects (calloc)

var = LIBRDF_CALLOC(type, count, size)

Prefering when count = 1 this form:

var = LIBRDF_CALLOC(type, 1, sizeof(*var))

Allocating a block of memory:

var = LIBRDF_MALLOC(type, size)

Freeing memory:

LIBRDF_FREE(type, var)

The reasoning here is to make allocs mostly fit into 1 line without too much boilerplate and duplication of types.

The macro names vary by library such as RAPTOR_CALLOC and RASQAL_CALLOC for Raptor and Rasqal respectively.


Public functions, types, enumerations and defines must have autodocs - the structured comment block before the definition. This is read by gtk-doc(1) to generate reference API documentation.


 * functionname:
 * @param1: Description of first parameter
 * @param2: Description of second parameter (or NULL)
 * ... more params ...
 * Short Description
 * Long Description.
 * Return value: return value
   ... body ...

The Short Description have several commmon forms:

  • Constructor - creates a FOO object
  • Destructor - destroys a FOO object
  • Short description of regular function or method.
  • INTERNAL - short description

The latter is used for autodocs for internal functions either as internal documentation or for APIs that may one day be public.

The (or NULL) phrase is used for pointer parameters that may be omitted. This is usually tested by the function as an assertion. In some functions there are more complex conditions on which optional parameters are allowed, these are described in the Long Description.

The long description may also include a deprecation statement such as:

* @Deprecated: Use new_function() with foo = BAR

This must be indented to the left and will be used by the gtk-doc(1) document generator to provide a link to the replacement function and usage.

Commit Messages

The general standard for Redland libraries using GIT is a merge of the GIT standards format and GNU ChangeLog

First line summaries what commit does - this goes into the GIT short log

(function1, function2): what changed

(function3): Added, deprecating function4()

(function4): Deleted, replaced by function3()

struct foo gains field ...

struct bar loses field ...

enum blah gains new value BLAH_2 which ...

Use name() in the description for references to functions. Make sure to do (function1, function2) NOT (function1,function2) as it makes things easier to format later.

Sometimes it's short enough (good) that it all can be done in the first line, pretty much only if it's a small change to a single function.

If the change is trivial or a typo and (this is IMPORTANT) NOT a commit to code files, then the commit can start with '#'. This may get filtered out of commit log message notifications and ChangeLog.

e.g. #spelling or #ws the latter is whitespace changes for some reason

The changes will semi-automatically be added to the ChangeLog files following the GNU style, indented and word wrapped, and adding the list of files at the start. So the commit message above ends up looking something like:

2010-08-23  User Name <user@example.org>

        * dir/file1.c, dir2/file2.c: First line summaries what commit
          does - this goes into the GIT short log

          (function1, function2): what changed

          (function3): Added, deprecating function4()

          (function4): Deleted, replaced by function3()

          struct foo gains field ...

          struct bar loses field ...

          enum blah gains new value BLAH_2 which ...