Contents of the HUNGARIN.TXT file
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Date: Tue, 3 Aug 1993 09:21:58 -0400
From: Dave Bushong
Message-Id: <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Hungarian is a GOOD IDEA
References: <[email protected]> <[email protected]>
In comp.lang.c you write:
>Here, here! Hungarian is a big help for me to keep track of what the heck
>I'm doing with these variables...
>Is there an official list of prefixes, by the way? I follow the Microsoft
>model from the Windows API by and large; I was wondering if some debate
>here in 'net land came up with anything else.
Here it is:
This file is written by Charles Simonyi, creator/inventor of Hungarian Notation
Program Identifier Naming Conventions
This monograph is intended to give you the flavor of the major ideas behind
When confronted with the need for a new name in a program, a good
programmer will generally consider the following factors to reach a decision:
1. Mnemonic value - so that the programmer can remember the name.
2. Suggestive value - so that others can read the code.
3. "Consistency" - this is often viewed as an aesthetic idea, yet it also
has to do with the information efficiency of the program text. Roughly
speaking, we want similar names for similar quantities.
4. Speed of the decision - we cannot spend too much time pondering the
name of a single quantity, nor is there time for typing and editing extremely
long variable names.
All in all, name selection can be a frustrating and time consuming subtask.
Often, a name which satisfies some of the above criteria will contradict the
others. Maintaining consistency can be especially difficult.
Advantages of the Conventions
The following naming conventions provide a very convenient framework for
generating names that satisfy the above criteria. The basic idea is to name
all quantities by their types. This simple statement requires considerable
elaboration. (What is meant by "types"? What happens if "types" are not
unique?) However, once we can agree on the framework, the benefits readily
follow. The following are examples:
1. The names will be mnemonic in a very specific sense: if someone
remembers the type of a quantity or how it is constructed from other types,
the name will be readily apparent.
2. The names will be suggestive as well: we will be able to map any name
into the type of the quantity, hence obtaining information about the shape and
the use of the quantity.
3. The names will be consistent because they will have been produced by the
4. The decision on the name will be mechanical, thus speedy.
5. Expressions in the program can be subjected to consistency checks that
are very similar to the "dimension" checks in physics.
As suggested above, the concept of "type" in this context is determined by
the set of operations that can be applied to a quantity. The test for type
equivalence is simple: could the same set of operations be meaningfully
applied to the quantities in questions? If so, the types are thought to be the
same. If there are operations which apply to a quantity in exclusion of
others, the type of the quantity is different.
The concept of "operation" is considered quite generally here; "being the
subscript of array A" or "being the second parameter of procedure Position"
are operations on quantity x (and "A" or "Position" as well). The point is
that "integers" x and y are not of the same type if Position (x,y) is legal
but Position (y,x) is nonsensical. Here we can also sense how the concepts of
type and name merge: x is so named because it is an x-coordinate, and it seems
that its type is also an x-coordinate. Most programmers probably would have
named such a quantity x. In this instance, the conventions merely codify and
clarify what has been widespread programming practice.
Note that the above definition of type (which, incidentally, is suggested
by languages such as SIMULA and Smalltalk) is a superset of the more common
definition which takes only the quantity's representation into account.
Naturally, if the representations of x and y are different, there will exist
some operations that could be applied to x but not y, or vice versa.
Let us not forget that we are talking about conventions which are to be
used by humans for the benefit of humans. Capabilities or restrictions of the
programming environment are not at issue here. The exact determination of what
constitutes a "type" is not critical, either. If a quantity is incorrectly
classified, we have style problem, not a bug.
My thesis discusses in detail the following specific naming rules:
1. Quantities are named by their type possibly followed by a qualifier. A
convenient (and legal) punctuation is recommended to separate the type and
qualifier part of a name. (In C, we use a capital initial for the qualifier as
in rowFirst: row is the type; First is the qualifier.)
2. Qualifiers distinguish quantities that are of the same type and that
exist within the same naming context. Note that contexts may include the whole
system, a block, a procedure, or a data structure (for fields), depending on
the programming environment. If one of the "standard qualifiers" is
applicable, it should be used. Otherwise, the programmer can choose the
qualifier. The choice should be simple to make, because the qualifier needs to
be unique only within the type and within the scope - a set that is expected
to be small in most cases. In rare instances more than one qualifier may
appear in a name. Standard qualifiers and their associated semantics are
listed below. An example is worthwhile: rowLast is a type row value; that is,
the last element in an interval. The definition of "Last" states that the
interval is "closed"; i.e., a loop through the interval should include rowLast
as its last value.
3. Simple types are named by short tags that are chosen by the programmer.
The recommendation that the tags be small is startling to many programmers.
The essential reason for short tags is to make the implementation of rule 4
realistic. Other reasons are listed below.
4. Names of constructed types should be constructed from the names of the
constituent types. A number of standard schemes for constructing pointer,
array, and different types exist. Other constructions may be defined as
required. For example, the prefix p is used to construct pointers. ProwLast
(prowLast) is then the name of a particular pointer to a row type value that
defines the end of a closed interval. The standard type constructions are also
In principle, the conventions can be enriched by new type construction
schemes. However, the standard constructions proved to be sufficient in years
of use. It is worth noting that the types for data structures are generally
not constructed from the tags of their fields. First of all, constructions
with over two components would be unwieldy. More importantly, the invariant
property of data structure, the set of operations in which they participate,
seems to be largely independent of the fields of the structure that determine
only the representation. We all have had numerous experiences with changes in
data structures that left the operations (but not the implementation of the
operations) unchanged. Consequently, I recommend the use of a new tag for
every new data structure. The tag with some punctuation (upper case initial or
all upper case) should also be used as the structure name in the program. New
tags should also be used if the constructions accumulate to the point where
In my experience, tags are more difficult to choose than qualifiers. When a
new tag is needed, the first impulse is to use a short descriptive common
generic English term as the type name. This is almost always a mistake. One
should not preempt the most useful English phrases for the provincial purposes
of any given version of a given program. Chances are that the same generic
term could be equally applicable to many more types in the same program. How
will we know which is the one with the pretty "logical" name, and which have
the more arbitrary variants typically obtained by omitting various vowels or
by other disfigurement? Also, in communicating with the programmer, how do we
distinguish the generic use of the common term from the reserved technical
usage? By inflection? In the long run, an acronym that is not an English
worked may work out the best for tags. Related types may then share some of
the letters of the acronym. In speech, the acronym may be spelled out, or a
pronounceable nickname may be used. When hearing the special names, the
informed listener will know that the special technical meaning should be
understood. Generic terms should remain free for generic use.
For example, a color graphics program may have a set of internal values
that denote colors. What should one call the manifest value for the color red?
The obvious choice (which is "wrong" here) is RED. The problem with RED is
that it does not identify its type. Is it a label or a procedure that turns
objects RED? Even if we know that it is a constant (because it is spelled all
caps, for example), there might be several color-related types. Of which one
is RED an instance? If I see a procedure defined as paint(color), may I call
it RED as an argument? Has the word RED been used for any other purpose within
the program? So we decide to find a tag for the color type and use the word
Red as a qualifier.
Note that the obvious choice for the qualifier is in fact that the
"correct" one! This is because the use of qualifiers are not hampered by any
of the above difficulties. Qualifiers are not "exclusive" (or rather they are
exclusive only within a smaller set) so we essentially need not take into
account the possibility of other uses of the term "Red." The technical use of
the term will be clear to everyone when the qualifier is paired up with an
obviously technical type tag. Since qualifiers (usually) do not participate in
type construction, there is no inherent reason why they would need to be
Conversely, the tag for the type of the color value should not be "color."
Just consider all the other color related types that may appear in the
graphics program (or in a future variant): hardware encoding of color, color
map entry number, absolute pointer to color map entry, color values in
alternate color mapping mode, hue-brightness-saturation triples, other color
values in external interfaces; printers, plotters, interacting external
software, etc. Furthermore, the tag will have to appear in names with
constructed types and qualifiers.
A typical arbitrary choice could be "co" (pronounced see-oh). Or, if "co"
was already taken, "cv", "cl", "kl", and so on. Note that the mnemonic value
of the tags is just about average: not too bad, but not too good either. The
conventions cannot help with creating names that are inherently mnemonic,
instead they identify, compress, and contain those parts of the program that
are truly individual, thus arbitrary. The lack of inherent meaning should be
compensated by ample comments whenever a new tag is introduced. This is a
reasonable suggestion since the number of basic tags remains very small even
in a large system.
In conclusion, the name of our quantity would be "coRed", provided that the
color type "co" is properly documented. The value of the name will show later
in program segments such as the following:
if co == coRed then *mpcopx[coRed]+=dx ...
At a glance we can see that the variable co is compared with a quantity of
its own kind; coRed is also used as a subscript to an array whose domain is of
the correct type. Furthermore, as we will see, the color is mapped into a
pointer to "x", which is de-referenced (by the *operator in this example) to
yield an x type value, which is then incremented by a "delta x" type value.
Such "dimensional analysis" does not guarantee that the program is completely
free from bugs, but it does help to eliminate the most common kinds. It also
lends a certain rhythm to the writing of the code: "Let's see, I have a co in
hand and I need an x; do I have a mpcox? No, but there is a mpcopx that will
give me a px; *px will get me the x...", and so on.
Naming for "Writability"
A good yardstick for choosing a name is to try to imagine that there is an
extraordinary reward for two programmers if they can independently come up
with the same program text for the same problem. Both programmers know the
reward, but cannot otherwise communicate. Such an experiment would be futile,
of course, for any sizable problem, but it is a neat goal. The reward of real
life is that a program written by someone else, which is identical to what
one's own program would have been, is extremely readable and modifiable. By
the proper use of the conventions, the idea can be approached very closely,
give or take a relatively few tags and possibly some qualifiers. The leverage
of the tags is enormous. If they are communicated, or are agreed on
beforehand, or come from a common source, the goal becomes reachable and the
reward may be reaped. This makes the documentation of the tags all the more
An example of such a consideration is the discretionary use of qualifiers
in small scopes where a quantity's type is likely to be unique, for example in
small procedures with a few parameters and locals or in data structures which
typically have only a few fields. One might prefer to attach a qualifier even
to a quantity with a unique type of "writability", the ability for someone
else to come up with the name without hesitation. As many textbooks point out,
the "someone else" can be the same programmer sometime in the future revisit-
ing the long forgotten code. Conclusion: do not use qualifiers when not
needed, even if they seem valuable.
Naming Rules for Procedures
Unfortunately, the simple notion of qualified typed tags does not work well
for procedure names. Some procedures do not take parameters or do not return
values. The scopes of procedure names tend to be large. The following set of
special rules for procedures has worked quite satisfactorily:
1. Distinguish procedure names from other names by punctuation, for example
by always starting with a capital letter (typed tags of other quantities are
in lower case). This alleviates the problem caused by the large scope.
2. Start the name with the tag of the value that is returned, if any.
3. Express the action of the procedure in one or two words, typically
transitive verbs. The words should be punctuated for easy parsing by the
reader (a common legal method of punctuation is the use of capital initials
for every word).
4. Append the list of tags of some or all of the formal parameters if it
seems appropriate to do so.
The last point is contrary to the earlier remarks on data structure naming.
When the parameters to a procedure are changed, typically all uses of the
procedure will have to be updated. There is an opportunity during the update
to change the name as well, in fact the name change can serve as a useful
check that all occurrences have been found. With data structures, the addition
or change of a field will not have an effect on all uses of the changed
structure type. Typically, if a procedure has only one or two parameters, the
inclusion of the parameter tags will really simplify the choice of procedure
Some examples for procedure names are the following:
InitSy: Takes an sy as its argument and initializes it.
OpenFn: fn is the argument. The procedure will "open" the fn.
No value is returned.
FcFromBnRn: Returns the fc corresponding to the bn,rn,pair given.
(The names cannot tell us what the types sy, fn, fc,
The following is a list of standard type constructions. (X and Y stand for
arbitrary tags. According to standard punctuation the actual tags are
pX pointer to X
dX difference between two instances of type X. X + dX
is of type X.
cX count of instances of type X.
mpXY an array of Y's indexed by X. Read as "map from X to Y."
rgX an array of X's. read as "range X." The indices of the array
iX indent of the array rgX.
dnX (rare) an array indexed by type X. The elements of the array
eX (rare) element of the array dnX.
grpX a group of X's stored one after another in storage. Used when
the X elements are of variable size and standard array indexing
would not apply. Elements of the group must be referenced by
means other then direct indexing. A storage allocation zone,
for example, is a grp of blocks.
bX relative offset to a type X. This is used for field
displacements in a data structure with variable size fields.
The offset may be given in terms of bytes or words, depending
on the base pointer from which the offset is measured.
Where it matters, quantities named mp, rg, dn, or grp are actually pointers
to the structures described above.
cbX size of instances of X in bytes
CwX Size of instances of X in words
One obvious problem with the constructions is that they make the parsing of
the types ambiguous. Is pfc a tag of its own or is it a pointer to an fc? Such
questions (just as many others) can be answered only if one is familiar with
the specific tags that are used in a program.
The following are standard qualifiers. (The letter X stands for any type
tag. Actual type tags are in lowercase.)
XFirst the first element in an ordered set (interval) of X values.
XLast the last element in an ordered set of X values. XLast is the
upper limit of a closed interval, hence the loop continuation
condition should be: x<=xLast
XLim the strict upper limit of an ordered set of X values. Loop
continuation should be: xXMax strict upper limit for all X values (excepting Max, Mac,
and Nil) for all other x: x x=0, xMax is equal to the number of different x values.
The allocated length of a dnx vector, for example, will be
XMac the Current (as opposed to constant or allocated) upper limit
for all x values. If x values start with 0, xMac is the
current number of X values. To iterate through a dnx array,
for x=0 step 1 to xMac-1 do ... dnx[x] ...
for ix=0 step 1 to ixMac-1 do ... rgx[ix] ...
XNil a distinguished Nil value of type X. The value may or may not
be 0 or -1.
XT temporary X. An easy way to qualify the second quantity of a
given type in a scope.
SOME COMMON PRIMITIVE TYPES
f flag (boolean, logical). If qualifier is used, it should describe the
true state of the flag. Exception: the constants fTrue and fFalse.
w word with arbitrary contents.
ch character, usually in ASCII text.
b byte, not necessarily holding a coded character, more akin to w.
Distinguished from the b constrictor by the capital letter of the
qualifier in immediately following.
sz pointer to first character of a zero terminated string.
st pointer to a string. First byte is the count of characters cch.
h pp (in heap).
The following partial example of an actual symbol table routine illustrates
the use of the conventions in a "real life" situation. The purpose of this
example is not to make any claims about the code itself, but to show how the
conventions can help us learn about the code. In fact, some of the names in
this routine are standard.
1 #include "sy.h"
2 Extern int *rgwDic;
3 extern int bsyMac;
4 struct SY *PsySz(sz)
5 char sz;
7 char *pch;
8 int cch;
9 struct SY *psy, *PsyCreate();
10 int *pbsy;
11 int cwSz;
12 unsigned wHash=0;
14 while (*pch!=0
18 for (; *pbsy!=0; pbsy = &psy->bsyNext)
20 char *szSy;
21 szSy= (psy=(struct SY *)&rgwDic[*pbsy])->sz;
23 while (*pch==*szSy++)
25 if (*pch++==0)
26 return (psy);
30 if (cch>=2)
32 *pbsy=(int *)(psy=PsyCreate(cwSY+cwSz))-rgwDic;
33 Zero((int *)psy,cwSY);
34 bltbyte(sz, psy->sz, cch+1);
The tag SY is the only product specific type in this routine. The
definition of SY is found in the include file sy.h (fair enough). The type
name itself is in all capitals, a common convention.
Line 2 - says that there is an array of words, which is called
Dic(tionary). Remember that since Dic is a qualifier, it is named
Line 3 - is the offset pointing beyond the last sy (see b constructor + Mac
standard qualifier.) One has to guess at this time that this is used for
allocating new sy's. The "base" of the offset would also have to be guessed to
be rgwDic. Actually, the name grpsy would have been better instead of rgwDic,
from this local perspective. In the real program, the rgwDic area is used for
a number of different purposes, hence the "neutral" name.
Line 4 - is a procedure declaration. Procedure returns a pointer to an SY
as the result. The parameter must be a zero terminated string.
Lines 7-12 - declare quantities. The usages should be clear from the names.
For example, cwSz is the number of words in some string (probably the
argument), pbsy is a pointer to an offset of an sy (p constructor + b
constructor). The only qualifier used here is in wHash - the hash code.
Line 13 - pch will be a pointer to the first character of sz.
Line 16 - cch is the count of characters (c constructor) ostensibly, in sz.
Line 17 - cwHash is the number of words in the hash table (I would have
called it ibsyMax). In a way, the qualifier on rgbsyHash could be omitted, but
it helps identifying the hash table in external contexts.
Lines 17-18 - note the opportunities for dimensional checking:
pbsy = rgbsy[...] follows from pX = &rgX[...]
pbsy = psy->bsy Next follows from pX=&pY->X; or pX = &Y.X
So even the use of -> instead of . follows from local context. The p on the
left hand side signals the need for the & on the right.
Line 20 - introduces a new sz, qualified to distinguish it from the
argument. The qualifier, very appropriately, is the source of the datum, Sy.
Line 23 - given the use of szSy in this line, the name pchSy would have
been a little more appropriate. No harm done, however.
Lines 29-31 - this strange code has to do with the fact that the
declaration of SY includes 2 bytes of sz, so that cwSz is really the number of
words in the sz-2 bytes! This should deserve a comment or at least a qualifier
M2 (minus 2) or the like. cwSY is the length of the SY structure in words. The
all caps qualifier is not strictly standard, but it helps to associate the
quantity with the declaration of SY, rather than with any random sy instance.
PsyCreate is a good procedure name; PsyCreateCw would have been even
better. In line 32 we can also see an example of dimensional checking: while
we have a psy inside the parenthesis, we need a bsy for the left side (*pbsy
=bsy!) so we subtract the "base" of the bsy from the psy
bX + base = pX; hence: bX = pX - base.
In closing, it is evident that the conventions participated in making the
code more correct, easier to write and easier to read. Naming conventions
cannot guarantee "good" code however, only the skill of the programmer can.
Charles Simonyi Microsoft Corporation
Dave Bushong, Wang Laboratories, Inc. Amateur Radio Callsign KZ1O
Project Leader, Recognition products [email protected]#noca.ca.na
Internet: [email protected]