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Mixxx Style Guide

General Philosophy

When you're writing code for open source projects, the most important rule to follow is this: Try to make your code blend in with the existing code.

When in doubt, use the Google C++ Style Guide. It's a treasure trove of C++ advice. Just double Google's indentation → 2 spaces become 4 spaces; 4 spaces become 8 spaces.

That being said, there are large chunks of Mixxx that are written in slightly differing styles (mainly variable naming conventions). In order to avoid this in the future, it's best for us to have some coding guidelines for developers to follow.

As you change a part of Mixxx, please update it to match this style guide. That way, eventually all of Mixxx will be written in this style. Do not send us patches that are purely cosmetic with respect to source changes – this is a waste of time since it does not benefit users directly.

Tabs vs. Spaces

Mixxx's old developers more or less used the convention that indents are 4 spaces. The consensus is that we should try to stick to this, if only for consistency. If your code uses tabs, or does not use 4-space indent then you will be asked to change it.

Line Widths

Please configure your editor to have a max column-width of 80-columns. While it is not a strict requirement, 80-column cleanliness makes it easy to tile multiple buffers of code across a laptop screen, which provides significant efficiency gains to developers. Use double indent (8-spaces) for broken lines or align with the opening “(” in the line above for hanging indents.


We currently do not provide an auto-formater or code-checker.

If you use Eclipse as IDE, the code style “K&R” works well with these tweaks

  • tab policy = space only
  • new lines = before colon in constructor initializer list

Please note that there are still some exceptions, so do not auto-format a whole file.

C++ Style Guide

This is an overview of the various conventions that the Mixxx team follows when writing Mixxx code. Most of these conventions are not intended to start holy-wars, rather they are simply intended to keep the Mixxx codebase consistent. You should strive to follow these guidelines as much as possible. If you do not, we may ask you to clean up your code to follow the style guide during code-review.


What's in a name?


Give variables and classes a descriptive but succinct name.

Avoid: Variable names that do not give a hint for their purpose. Examples: ix, i, index, position, name, foo, bar

Local variables should follow either a camelBack case or lowercase_with_underscores style:

QString hotcue_name;
int composerSortOrder;

Pointers should be prefixed with a “p” to indicate they are a pointer. The “*” should be aligned with the type and not the name.


int* pHotcueIndex;

Optionally include minimal type information with variables. This can be handy to know at a glance the rough type of an object. For example, for a ControlObject a common pattern is to prepend “CO” to the variable name:

ControlObject* m_pCOPlayButton;


  • Class names must be in CamelCase (e.g. “MyName”), with each word capitalized.
  • Member functions of classes must be camelBack cased (e.g. “thisFunction”)
  • Member variables must be prefixed with “m_”. It is essential to know the scope of a variable is at the class-member level with a simple glance for easy readability of source files.
  • Class variables (static class members) must be prefixed with “s_”.


Braces should not be given their own newline. They should always be separated from surrounding code by a single space.


if (expression) {
  // something
} else {
  // something else
if (long_expression1 ||
        expression2) {
  // something


if (expression)


Please refer to the Google C++ Style Guide's namespace section.

In new code, please wrap the code in the “mixxx” namespace (avoid making a hierarchy of namespaces). Put module-local helper functions in an anonymous namespace.

In the header file

#include <SomeQtHeaderUsedInThisHeader>
#include "some/mixxx/file/used/in/this/header.h"
namespace mixxx {
class MyClass {
    bool m_helper;
bool myFunction();
}  // namespace mixxx
// ^ Note two spaces after the closing brace.

In the implementation (.cpp) file

#include "path/to/myclass.h"
#include <LocallyNeededQtHeader>
#include "locally/needed/mixxx/header.h"
namespace mixxx {
namespace {
// Put file-local helper functions and constants here.
bool myHelper() {
  return true;
}  // namespace 
// ^ Note two spaces after the closing brace.
// Put class implementations, functions, and constants 
// that are meant to be used by other parts of Mixxx here.
MyClass::MyClass() : m_helper(myHelper()) {
bool myFunction() {
  return myHelper();
}  // namespace mixxx
// ^ Note two spaces after the closing brace.

If Statements

One-line statements following an if clause are acceptable, but it is preferable to wrap them in braces since someone may add a line at the same indentation level, not realizing that there are no braces.


if (expression)

There should be one space following the if keyword, and one space following the closing parenthesis of the condition before the brace.


if (expression) {

Do not add padding inside the conditional or omit a space between the if keyword and the conditional parenthesis.


if( expression ){

For Loops

Similarly to if-statements, there should be a single-space of padding after the for keyword and after the closing conditional parenthesis. Additionally, a single-space padding should come after the semicolon separators between the initializer, conditional, and increment statements.


for (initializer; conditional; increment) {


Use C++-style comments only. Do not use C-style comments or Java-syle comments. Comments should be complete, descriptive sentences in the present tense. If a comment is a warning or something that might need to be re-evaluated in the future, date the comment with the current month and year, along with your username.


// This is required because we don't have enough foo's in the bar -- rryan 2/2011

Plain-text comments should be separated from the comment symbol by a single space. Commented-out code should have no space between the comment symbol and the code:


// Textual comment
//if (thisSectionIsDeprecated) {
//    // Do something crufty


//Textual comment
// if (thisSectionIsDeprecated) {
//     // Do something crufty
// }

Avoid comments that do not add more information than the words contained in the statement that follows them. Instead, write a descriptive summary of what the following lines accomplish.


/* init boofar */


 * Java-style comment
/* C-style comment -- avoid because you can't nest them */


If you'd like to leave a TODO for yourself, format them like this:

// TODO(rryan) Make sure to double-check this.

If you'd like to leave a general TODO for the team, use the name XXX:

// TODO(XXX) Make this more general

Remember to actually go back and investigate your TODO's :).


// TODO Make this more general

C++ Header Files

This section outlines our various standards for writing header (.h) files.

Credit and License

If you wish to credit yourself and leave a notice for who people should contact for help about a file, do so in the most brief way possible. Do not insert ASCII art. Do not include a copyright notice, or license because the project has a root LICENSE file which covers these declarations, and so any file-level declarations would be redundant.

// filename.h 
// Created 2/21/2011 by RJ Ryan <email> 

ifndef guard

The #ifndef guard should be the filename with the dots replaced with an underscore.

#ifndef LIBRARY_H
#define LIBRARY_H


File includes should be done in the following order:

  1. System Includes
  2. Qt Includes
  3. Includes of Mixxx library dependencies
  4. Mixxx local includes
  5. Class forward-declarations

Each different group of includes should be separated by a single empty line. Order the includes in alphabetical order. Relative includes should never be used. Always include Mixxx local files by specifying them from the root of the src folder. Do not forward declare any classes other than Mixxx project classes.


#include <math.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <QtCore>
#include <QtDebug>
#include <QTreeView>
#include <taglib/taglib.h>
#include "library/library.h"
class Cue;

Class Declaration

The declaration of methods and member variables for classes should be done in the following order:

  1. Q_OBJECT macro, indented 4 spaces
  2. Public enums, constants, inner class declarations, etc.
  3. Public methods
  4. Public variables (avoid)
  5. Public slots
  6. Qt Signals
  7. Protected enums, constants, inner class declarations, etc.
  8. Protected slots
  9. Protected methods
  10. Protected variables
  11. Private enums, constants, inner class declarations, etc.
  12. Private slots
  13. Private methods
  14. Private member variables

A couple guidelines for class declarations:

  • Each access specifier should be indented 2 spaces.
  • Every different section (e.g. private methods, private member variables) should be separated by a single space.
  • At your discretion you may insert separating lines between each method if it improves readability.
  • Every public method in a class should be accompanied by a comment describing what it does and how it should be invoked. This is the only place that the overall functioning of member methods should be documented. The implementation of a member method should only have comments about the implementation.
  • All destructors should have the 'virtual' keyword.
  • Consider marking single-argument constructors explicit so that they are not automatically invoked accidentally in assignment.
  • Use C++-style comments, not C-style or Java-style comments.
  • All class declarations should be preceded with a brief description of the class and its purpose.


// The Library is the manager class for all library functionality. It contains the LibraryFeature's 
// enabled for use with the library and connects them and their signals to the GUI's library widgets.
class Library : public QObject { 
    Library(QObject* pParent,
            ConfigObject<ConfigValue>* pConfig,
            bool firstRun);
    virtual ~Library();
    // bindWidget gives the Library a chance to insert logic into the library 
    // widgets (WLibrary and WLibrarySidebar).
    void bindWidget(WLibrarySidebar* sidebarWidget,
                    WLibrary* libraryWidget,
                    MixxxKeyboard* pKeyboard);
    // Add a LibraryFeature to the list of features enabled in the Library.
    void addFeature(LibraryFeature* feature);
  public slots:
    // Request that the Library switch to the default track table and show the 
    // provided TrackModel. 
    void slotShowTrackModel(QAbstractItemModel* model);
    // Request that the library switch to the provided view name. Views should be 
    // registered in LibraryFeature::bindWidget() or Library::bindWidget
    void slotSwitchToView(const QString& view);
    // Broadcast to the associated WLibrary widget that the provided model
    // should be switched to.
    void showTrackModel(QAbstractItemModel* model); 
    // Broadcast to the associated WLibrary widget that the view with the
    // provided name should be switched to.
    void switchToView(const QString& view);
    ConfigObject<ConfigValue>* m_pConfig;
    // List of LibraryFeature's enabled in the Library
    QList<LibraryFeature*> m_features;


Using the goto statement is not allowed. Typically uses of goto are better handled by the C++ idiom of Resource Acquisition Is Initialization.

Pointer, Object live time / Ownership

  • Follow the isocpp no naked new rule. Instead of using new and delete statements, use one of the following “smart pointers” to convey ownership right from the start:
    • std::unique_ptr for exclusive ownership: e.g. auto p = std::make_unique<T>(…)
    • std::shared_ptr for shared ownership: e.g. auto p = std::make_shared<T>(…)
    • parented_ptr for ownership by the QT object tree: e.g. auto p = make_parented<T>(…)
  • Pass raw pointer T* if no ownership is transfered. A function which receives a raw pointer should not hold onto the pointer outside the scope of the function (e.g. by storing it in a member variable). An exception is the parent pointer passed into the constructor of a QObject and internally stored as a non owning reference. Do not pass smart pointers by reference.
  • parented_ptr requires the parent to be passed into the constructor at the time of creation. If a pointer that will eventually be managed by the QT object tree needs to be temporarily created without a parent, first create the object p with std::make_unique, and then later create a new variable using parented_ptr(p.release()) once the underlying object gets a parent.
  • Never store a parented_ptr in an object that outlives the parent. If the lifetime of the child relative to the parent is not clear then store the output of parented_ptr::toWeakRef() instead.
  • Any exceptions to these guidelines must be clearly documented inline in the code


Use Mixxx assert macros form util/assert.h to assert an assumption that can never fail.

The DEBUG_ASSERT macro works only in debug builds. When the assert fails, a message is logged. If Mixxx is compiled with scons debug_assertions_fatal=1 it will be terminated after that. If Mixxx is started under a debugger with mixxx --debugAssertBreak it will break (SIGINT) in that case.

Use VERIFY_OR_DEBUG_ASSERT if an error handling is required to recover gracefully in a release build.


#include <util/assert.h>
bool failed = neverFails();
   qWarning() << "neverFails() has failed"


As of the Mixxx 2.0 release, Mixxx is switching to C++11. We are taking a conservative approach to adopting C++11 features and whitelisting them one by one. If a C++11 feature you would like to use is not listed here, please email mixxx-devel to make a case for it and we will consider whitelisting it.

We are limited to what is supported across our 3 supported compilers:

In general, Microsoft Visual Studio is the one that prevents us from using features.

See also: C++11 features in Qt5.

initializer lists




Yes! Always prefer to NULL.

unique_ptr / std::move

Yes! Prefer over QScopedPointer.

By including the custom file “util/memory.h” instead of the system header <memory> you are even able to make use of std::make_unique<>() that was missing from the C++11 specification and is now provided by C++14. This generic function should always be used instead of operator new for the allocation of objects that are wrapped in a unique_ptr.

If possible, prefer std::unique_ptr in std:: containers over QSharedPointer in Qt containers.

Do not use unique_ptr for QObjects which have a parent, in this case the parent has the ownership. An early delete due to a smart pointer emit unnecessary signals.

Prefer std::unique_ptr over the Qt Object tree to manage the lifetime of an object.

Side note: Deleting sender objects before receiver objects is faster, because the sender owns the connection.

default / delete functions


delegating constructors




unicode string literals

Do Not Use. Once we switch to Qt5, you should use QStringLiteral. This has a variety of benefits.

right angle brackets

override / final

Use! Any case where a method intentionally overrides that of a parent class should use the override keyword.

In contrast to the pre-C++11 rules (see above) when using override on a function in a derived class it is recommended to omit the redundant virtual keyword, because override implies virtual.

Destructors in derived classes should also be marked with override instead of virtual. This ensures at compile time that the base class has declared a virtual destructor. If the base class has not declared a virtual destructor the destructor of a derived class might not be invoked.


Use (support added in VS2015). Some positive reports from another project.


Appears to be supported by MSVC 2013. Use!

range-based for loops

Use them! Prefer them over Qt's foreach macro which has enjoyed widespread usage throughout the Mixxx codebase.

Be very careful when updating old code from foreach to range-based-for. It is very easy to write a bug.

for (const QString& item : list) {
  qDebug() << "WOOHOO" << item;


We do not follow a aaa-style (almost-always-auto).

Our rules of thumb:

  • use auto to prevent repeating yourself
  • auto when the type is long and does not add any value

Auto is acceptable in function-level scopes (i.e. only within function bodies. Do not use auto in a function or method prototype as this makes the code less self-documenting and would require reading the body of the function to determine its return type or arguments.

More details can be found here:


void mixAudio(const QVector<QString>& values, QVector<EngineChannel*>* channels) {
  auto bufferSize = 256; // this avoids uninitialised locals
  for (const auto& value: values) { // Type can't get wrong 
      qDebug() << "blah:" << value;
  for (auto* channel: *channels) {


auto mixAudio(const QVector<QString>& values, QVector<EngineChannel*>* channels) -> bool {
    return true; // need to read the function body 


auto value getValue(); // because the type is out of sight


QVector<RowInfo>::iterator it = rowInfo.begin();
// Explicit type is only clutter and can be easily guessed from the context. 


QList<int>* pList = new QList<int>(); // do not repeat yourself 

closures / lambdas

Use carefully! Closures can obscure the control flow of a system and introduce tricky data lifetime issues. Using a lambda in your code will require more time in code review and you may be asked to re-write the code to avoid the usage by your code reviewer. Before using a closure, please consider whether it's truly necessary.

Use 8 space indent for line break or reasonable alignment + 4 indent for a new logical block. Always beak after ”},“


            [this](TrackCollectionPrivate* pTrackCollectionPrivate) {
                        SIGNAL(added(int)), this, SLOT(slotCrateAdded(int)));
                        SIGNAL(renamed(int, QString)), this,
                        SLOT(slotCrateRenamed(int, QString)));
                        SIGNAL(deleted(int)), this,
                        SIGNAL(autoDjChanged(int, bool)), this,
                        SLOT(slotCrateAutoDjChanged(int, bool)));

variadic templates

Email mixxx-devel with your use case.

r-value references / move constructors / move assignment operators

In general, do not use. Do not add gratuitous move constructors – this decision should be motivated by profiling data to help avoid needless copies.

Note: auto&& is a universal reference and not an r-value reference! It should be used instead of an explicit l-value auto& reference in range-based for loops over non-const (= mutable) containers as shown below.


for (auto&& item: mutableContainer) {
  // read and write item
for (const auto& item: immutableContainer) {
  // read only item

The universal reference auto&& could be used in both cases, but prefer const auto& if you don't intend to modify the item inside the loop's body.

forward declared / strongly typed enums



enum class ButtonState {
  // ...


enum ButtonState {
  // ...


For now, prefer using Qt atomic primitives. We may switch at some point… atomically. 8-)

inherited constructors

Use sparingly (supported in VS2015). Consider the readability implications.

non-static data member initializers

Use sparingly. While very handy, these can hamper readability since you now need to look in multiple places (the constructor member initializer list, constructor body, and the member variable declarations) to see what value member state takes on.

Rule of thumb: If a class has non-inline constructors or is more than 100 lines long, prefer initializing everything in the constructor.


class Helper {
    Helper() {}
    Helper(int baz) : baz(baz) {}
    int derivedResult() {
      return foo * bar * baz;
    int foo = 1;
    int bar = 2;
    int baz = 3;


class SomeClass {
    SomeClass(int baz); // Defined in some other file.
    int derivedResult() {
      return foo * bar * baz;
    int foo = 1;
    int bar = 2;
    int baz = 3;

magic statics

C++11 added required thread-safe initialization of static variables. Prior to C++11, it was possible for multiple threads to initialize a static concurrently. To prevent this, it was necessary to use a synchronization helper.

Due to Bug #1653368 we build Mixxx with magic statics disabled on Windows. Until this is fixed, we cannot rely on magic statics.

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coding_guidelines.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/31 02:04 by daschuer