YugabyteDB coding style

YugabyteDB coding style

YugabyteDB is primarily written in C++ (the distributed storage and transactions layer and the YCQL query layer) and C (the YSQL layer based on PostgreSQL), with some parts of the build system and test suite written in Python, Java, and Bash. In addition, we use Protocol Buffers to define some data and network message formats.

Language-agnostic style guidelines

Variable names

Avoid rarely used abbreviations. Think about whether all other potential readers of the code know about any abbreviations you're using.


Start full sentences with a capital letter, and end them with a period. This rule doesn't apply if the comment is a single phrase on the same line as a code statement.

Functions and classes in header files should typically have detailed comments, but the comments shouldn't duplicate what's already obvious from the code. In fact, if the code can be restructured, or if functions or classes could be renamed to reduce the need for comments, that is the preferred way. Obvious comments like the following don't add anything useful:

  // Returns transaction ID.
  const TransactionId& id() const;

Functions and classes in .cc files don't have to be commented as extensively as code in header files. However, do add comments and examples for anything that might be non-obvious to a potential new reader of your code.

C coding style

For the modified PostgreSQL C codebase residing inside the YugabyteDB codebase, we adhere to the PostgreSQL Coding Conventions.

Note that PostgreSQL code uses tabs for indentation and we follow that rule in the src/postgres subdirectory; we use spaces for indentation everywhere else in YugabyteDB code.

C++ coding style

Line length

Use a 100-character line length limit.

Formatting function declarations and definitions

Use one of the following formatting styles for function declarations and definitions.

All arguments on one line

ReturnType ClassName::FunctionName(ParameterType1 par_name1, ParameterType2 par_name2) {

Aligned, one argument per line

All arguments aligned with the opening parenthesis, one argument per line:

ReturnType ShortClassName::ShortFunctionName(ParameterType1 par_name1,
                                             ParameterType2 par_name2,
                                             ParameterType3 par_name3) {
  DoSomething();  // 2-space indentation

Four-space indentation

One argument per line, with four-space indentation for each argument:

ReturnType SomeClassName::ReallyLongFunctionName(
    ParameterType1 par_name1,  // 4-space indentation
    ParameterType2 par_name2,
    ParameterType3 par_name3) {
  DoSomething();  // 2-space indentation


Pack arguments into the fewest number of lines—but not exceeding the maximum line width—with each line indented by four spaces.

Don't break the argument list arbitrarily, and only break the list if the next argument won't fit within the line-length limit:

// Suppose this is the right margin -----------------------------------------------------------> |
//                                                                                               |
//                                                                                               |

ReturnType SomeClassName::ReallyLongFunctionName(
    ParameterType1 par_name1, ParameterType2 par_name2, ParameterType3 par_name3,
    ParameterType4 par_name4, ParameterType1 par_name5) {  // 4-space indentation for these 2 lines
  DoSomething();  // 2-space indentation

Formatting function calls and macro invocations

Use one of the following formatting styles for functions calls and macro invocations.

All arguments on one line

bool result = DoSomething(argument1, argument2, argument3);

Aligned arguments

All arguments aligned with the opening parenthesis, one argument per line:

bool result = DoSomething(very_very_very_very_long_argument,

One argument per line, four-space indentation

bool result = DoSomething(
    argument1,  // 4-space indentation

Packed arguments, four-space indentation, wrapping at margin

Start a new line after the opening parenthesis, with a four-space indentation, and pack arguments into as few lines as possible:

// Suppose this is the right margin -----------------------------------------------------------> |
//                                                                                               |
//                                                                                               |

bool result = DoSomething(
    argument1, argument2, argument3, argument4, argument5, argument6, argument7, argument8,
    argument9, argument10, argument11, argument12, argument13, argument14, argument15,
    argument16, argument17);

Function calls within function calls

The preceding formatting styles also apply to nested function calls:

bool result = DoSomething(

String substitution functions

For string substitution and formatting functions (Format, Substitute, StringPrintf, and so on) avoid putting substitution parameters on the same line as the format string, unless the entire function call fits on one line:

// Suppose this is the right margin -----------------------------------------------------------> |
//                                                                                               |
//                                                                                               |

// Good:
return Format(
    "My formatting string with arguments $0, $1, $2, $3, and $4",
    compute_arg0(), compute_arg1(), compute_arg2(), compute_arg3(), compute_arg4());

// Bad: notice it's harder to see where the first substitution argument is.
return Format(
    "My formatting string with arguments $0, $1, $2, $3, and $4", compute_arg0(),
    compute_arg1(), compute_arg2(), compute_arg3(), compute_arg4());


Indent multi-line expressions as follows:

const bool is_fixed_point_get = !lower_doc_key.empty() &&


const bool is_fixed_point_get =
    !lower_doc_key.empty() &&

The following style is also widely used in the YugabyteDB codebase, so it's acceptable to leave it as-is when modifying the surrounding code, but the two previous options are preferable for new code:

const bool is_fixed_point_get = !lower_doc_key.empty() &&
const auto mode = is_fixed_point_get ? BloomFilterMode::USE_BLOOM_FILTER :

Ternary operator

For expressions involving the ternary operator (? and :), prefer one of the following formatting styles:

const auto mode = is_fixed_point_get ? BloomFilterMode::USE_BLOOM_FILTER
                                     : BloomFilterMode::DONT_USE_BLOOM_FILTER;


const auto mode =
    is_fixed_point_get ? BloomFilterMode::USE_BLOOM_FILTER
                       : BloomFilterMode::DONT_USE_BLOOM_FILTER;

Command-line flag definitions

Put the flag name on the same line as DEFINE_... to make the code more grep-friendly.

Follow function-like macro invocation styles with either all arguments on one line or with aligned arguments as defined earlier, depending on whether all three arguments of the flag definition fit on one line:

            "Whether the table should be created. It's made false when either "
            "reads_only/writes_only is true. If value is true, existing table will be deleted and "

Note that in this coding style, the first line of the string constant (the flag description) is aligned with its other lines. Some coding styles, including CLion's standard behavior, indent the second and later lines by four spaces, but the Yugabyte preference is to keep them aligned.

Forward declarations

You can use forward declarations in a header file, if the class you are referencing is to be defined in the related .cc file, essentially making it a private class implementation. This helps keep the header file cleaner, and keeps the definition and implementation of the private class together with the actual implementation of the main class.

Special header files named ..._fwd.h that forward-declare various classes and declare some types, including enums, are frequently used. This helps to avoid including full class declarations wherever possible, and reduces the compilation time.

Parameter ordering

Typically, in function parameter lists in YugabyteDB, input parameters appear first, followed by output parameters.

However, this rule doesn't apply to parameters that aren't pointers to variables to be assigned to by the functions, but are simply non-const objects that the function calls some methods on that modify its state.

For example, in the following function it is OK that writer is in the middle of the parameter list, because the function is not calling the assignment operator on *writer but simply calls some member functions of *writer that modify its internal state, even though this is how this particular function produces its output:

void Tablet::EmitRocksDBMetrics(std::shared_ptr<rocksdb::Statistics> rocksdb_statistics,
                                JsonWriter* writer,
                                const MetricJsonOptions& opts) {

Pointer and reference parameters and variables

Put a space on either side of * and & (but not on both sides).

Both of the following examples are correct:

  Status GetSockAddrorTS(const std::string& ts_uuid, Sockaddr* ts_addr);
  Status GetSockAddrForTS(const std::string &ts_uuid, Sockaddr *ts_addr);

Similarly, for variable declarations and definitions:

  int* a = nullptr;
  int *a = nullptr;

Pointer vs reference as returned value

When a function never returns nullptr, prefer returning references instead of pointers.

This has the following advantages:

  • It's pretty clear to the user of the function that it would never return nullptr, and they don't have to check for it.

  • It works perfectly with YugabyteDB policy to pass read-write arguments as pointers, because the caller will add & while passing the result of such function to another call:

    DoSomething(..., &GetX());
  • It's clear that the caller doesn't own the returned reference. We can also avoid cases where ownership is taken by mistake.

    Consider the following examples, where GetP() returns pointer and GetR() returns reference:

    // No compilation error. It is useful for refactoring.
    std::unique_ptr<P> p = GetP();
    auto p = GetP();
    p->foo(); // It's unclear for the caller whether p is stored as a smart pointer and
              // owned by the caller, or returned as raw pointer and owned by someone else.
    auto& r = GetR(); // Would not even compile without &, so it's pretty clear
                      // that r is reference and not owned by the caller.

Get prefix for getters

Some C++ coding styles (such as Google's) use the Get prefix for functions returning a value, and some don't (Boost, STL). In YugabyteDB code it is allowed to either use or not use the Get prefix.

There are many different function names in YugabyteDB codebase with the Get prefix.

The Get prefix is especially useful if the function name could be misinterpreted as a verb or a verb phrase without it, but is optional in all cases.

If you can't decide whether to use the Get prefix for functions, look at other functions in the same class, file, or subsystem, and adhere to the prevalent naming style in the surrounding code.

Code duplication

Try to reduce code duplication by extracting repeated code into reusable functions, classes, or templates. Reducing code duplication with macros is also allowed, but try not to overuse them; use non-macro-based ways to reuse code duplication as much as possible. Undefine macros that are only used in an isolated section of code when they're no longer needed.

Switch statements over enums

If you don't use the default statement in a switch over an enum, the compiler will warn you if some values aren't handled (and that warning has been made into an error). This allows the compiler to enforce that all enum values are being handled by a switch over an enum, if that's your intention. This complicates default case handling a bit, though. If every case is followed by a return, you can simply move the default handler to right after the end of the switch statement, such as:

switch (operation_type) {
  case OperationType::kInsert:
  case OperationType::kDelete:
FATAL_INVALID_ENUM_VALUE(OperationType, operation_type);

In this case, when you add a new request type, such as OperationType::kUpdate, you'll get a compile error asking you to add it to the switch statement. If there is no return following each case handler, the default case by (for example) setting a boolean flag can be detected:

boolean handled = false;
switch (operation_type) {
  case OperationType::kInsert:
    handled = true;
  case OperationType::kDelete:
    handled = true;
if (!handled) {
  FATAL_INVALID_ENUM_VALUE(OperationType, operation_type);

Note that FATAL_INVALID_ENUM_VALUE will terminate the process, so for functions returning a Status, you should handle invalid enum values gracefully:

    IllegalArgument, "Invalid value of operation type: $0",

The using keyword and namespaces

You can use the using directive for inner utility namespaces in .cc files (but not in header files):

using namespace std::placeholders;
using namespace std::literals;
using namespace yb::size_literals;

This allows you to use various convenient literals, such as 100ms to denote "100 milliseconds".

Unnamed namespaces vs static keyword

When you define functions that should only be accessible within a .cc file, prefer using unnamed namespaces to using the static keyword. See for example the Unnamed/anonymous namespaces vs. static functions discussion.

Static and global variables

Using static objects is allowed in YugabyteDB coding style with a few limitations, and with an understanding of a static object's lifecycle. The limitations are:

  • Static global variables must be totally independent. The order of constructions/destructions should not matter.
  • Static objects must not lock anything or allocate global resources (except memory) during their construction.
  • Static objects should be as simple as possible.

If you are adding new static objects, remember:

  • Global static objects (as well as static class fields) are constructed before the main() function call.

  • Local static objects are constructed when they first come into variable scope. This option should be preferred. For local static objects, there is also a locking mechanism needed so that a concurrent execution waits for initialization completion if the static variable is already being initialized by another thread. For example, for a simple static variable defined in a function:

    void f() {
        static string s = "asdf";

    The generated code might be using a lock automatically to guard the static variable initialization:

      call    __cxa_guard_acquire
            test    eax, eax
            setne   al
            test    al, al
            je      .L6
            mov     ebx, 0
            lea     rax, [rbp-17]
            mov     rdi, rax
            call    std::allocator<char>::allocator()
            lea     rax, [rbp-17]
            mov     rdx, rax
            mov     esi, OFFSET FLAT:.LC0
            mov     edi, OFFSET FLAT:f()::s
            call    std::__cxx11::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >::basic_string(char const*, std::allocator<char> const&)
            mov     edi, OFFSET FLAT:guard variable for f()::s
            call    __cxa_guard_release
  • Static objects are destroyed after the end of the main() function.

  • The order of global static objects construction is undefined, and can even change from build to build.

  • The order of static objects destructions is reverse of the order of constructions, so it is also undefined.

Multiple inheritance

Use protected or private inheritance if you can.

Multiple inheritance is allowed in general, subject to a few limitations:

  • Don't down-cast pointers or references (casting from a base to a derived class).

    Note that the only way to do this safely in C++ is using the dynamic_cast<...> operator, which relies on run-time type information (RTTI), and there is a possibility that RTTI might be disabled in release builds at some point for performance reasons.

  • Don't use multiple inheritance if a base class is part of this object from an architectural point of view. Instead, prefer composition (making the "part" object a member field in the "whole" object) in such cases.

Testing whether a pointer is null

It's OK to use implicit boolean conversion for raw, unique, or shared pointers:

if (p) {
} else {
  ...  // Handle the nullptr case

Another example:

LOG(INFO) << (p ? p->DebugString() : "N/A");

Error checking macros

Various macros are used for error and invariant checking.

Checking a condition and returning a Status with SCHECK

SCHECK (stands for "Status check") checks a condition and returns a Status with the appropriate message if the condition is not true. It can only be used within a function that returns a Status or a Result.

The SCHECK macro is a good way to check for errors that are expected to happen under some conditions, for example, with invalid input, and the errors need to be ultimately reported to the user:

SCHECK(key_opt.is_initialized(), InternalError, "Key is not initialized");

There are also variants the SCHECK macro for equality checks and comparisons: SCHECK_EQ, SCHECK_NE, SCHECK_GT, SCHECK_LT, SCHECK_GE, and SCHECK_LE:

SCHECK_EQ(schedules.size(), 1, IllegalState,
          Format("Expected exactly one schedule with id $0", schedule_id));

Returning a Status in release mode, but triggering a fatal error in debug mode, with RSTATUS_DCHECK

RSTATUS_DCHECK works similarly to SCHECK in release mode, but triggers a fatal error and a log message in debug mode, terminating program execution. Similarly to SCHECK, it also has variants for checking for equality and inequality. RSTATUS_DCHECK can be used for invariant checks and sanity checks where the error is not expected to happen under normal circumstances but there is a recovery path from this error in a production situation. In these cases it is OK to cause a unit test to crash in debug mode when the error is encountered.

Checking an invariant that must always hold with CHECK

For really important invariants from which it is difficult to recover while still maintaining correctness, sometimes the CHECK macro and its variants are used. It is enabled in both debug and release modes and causes program termination if the condition is not true. It should be used really carefully to avoid causing unnecessary server restarts in release mode.

Only checking a condition in debug mode with DCHECK

This macro expands to a no-op in release mode. This is reserved for checking invariants or preconditions in performance-critical code, and typically only in cases when the condition is expected to be true because other code guarantees it.

Sometimes DCHECK is used to verify function prerequisites. If you never expect an incorrect parameter value to be passed into a function, because there is validation happening in the calling function, it's OK to keep that as a DCHECK.

However, if you could theoretically get bad data in production at a certain point in the code, then:

  • If you can recover from this error, return an error Status (e.g. using SCHECK or RSTATUS_DCHECK).
  • If this is a severe invariant violation and you can't recover from it, this could be a CHECK.

Log levels

Use the following policy when choosing log levels:

  • INFO - general logs that describe some important actions taken by the system.

    This should not be too verbose, that is, avoid logging the same information several times per second. Use YB_LOG_EVERY_N_SECS when necessary.

  • WARNING - expected failures. Failures that could occur while service is running. For instance, network disconnect, timeout, and so on.

  • ERROR - should NEVER be used.

  • DFATAL - unexpected failures. Some sanity check failures that should not happen if the system operates correctly. For example, unexpected state, data corruption, and so on.

    DFATAL logs an ERROR in release mode and FATAL in debug mode. So, tests will fail when such issues happen.

    Use RSTATUS_DCHECK whenever possible, instead of DFATAL.


PREDICT_TRUE and PREDICT_FALSE macros expand to hints to the compiler that a particular code path is likely or unlikely. In theory, these macros could allow better compiler optimizations. However, we don't use these macros in new code, as it's difficult to check if they really improve performance.

Result vs Status with output parameters

For new code, use Result, for example:

static Result<DocKeyHash> DecodeHash(const Slice& slice);

Much of YugabyteDB code is wired to return Status, in order to provide the information on whether or not a function completed successfully (OK). However, sometimes it is useful to obtain legitimate output from these functions. This used to be done via function signatures such as the following:

// Old approach, don't use this in new code.
Status foo(int* return_variable);

However, the Result type is a better way to achieve the same goal, because it can encapsulate both an output parameter (in the successful case) and a Status (in case of an error):

Result<int> foo();

String formatting

Use the Format function to produce formatted strings, rather than the older Substitute function.

While the two functions have similar syntax, with inline substitution parameters $0, $1, and so on, Format has several advantages:

  • It uses the ToString utility, so it can convert many different types of objects to strings, such as collections, protobufs, or any class with a ToString member function.
  • You don't need to call arg.ToString(). Just pass arg to the Format function as-is, and it will call ToString for you.
  • Format is a bit faster than Substitute on some benchmarks.


consensus::OpId is just an alias for yb::OpIdPB, a protobuf class. Use this only where you really need to use protobuf, for example inside other protobuf messages. For the rest of the code, use yb::OpId, a normal C++ class.


Avoid using CHECKED_STATUS; use Status for function return type in all new code.

The YugabyteDB codebase used to contain a lot of CHECKED_STATUS usage. You might still encounter it in older release branches. It was a useful macro when the YugabyteDB main compiler did not support the [[nodiscard]] class attribute, but after switching to a modern compiler, this macro is no longer necessary.

Thread safety analysis

Clang's Thread Safety Analysis annotations are used in parts of YugabyteDB code.

Thread safety analysis is a C++ extension implemented as part of Clang Static Analyzer that provides compile-time checks for potential race conditions in code. Annotations are extremely useful for code maintainability, because they make locking semantics explicit, and the compiler warns about accessing memory without holding the necessary mutexes.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • std::unique_lock doesn't work with thread safety annotations out of the box. This is wrapped into YugabyteDB custom yb::UniqueLock wrapper.
  • Similarly, there is the yb::SharedLock wrapper for std::shared_lock.
  • Occasionally, you may need to annotate some functions where thread safety analysis cannot be properly applied, with NO_THREAD_SAFETY_ANALYSIS, so that thread safety analysis can still be used in the surrounding code. The situations in which thread safety analysis might not work include conditional locking and complex locking semantics where a unique lock is being passed around between member functions of different classes.

YugabyteDB build scripts enable thread safety analysis for Clang version 11 and later; earlier versions of the Clang compiler don't support certain features required by YugabyteDB. Thread safety analysis works very well on macOS with modern Clang compilers, providing instant hints if your environment is set up properly.

Unused C and C++ features

  • C++ exceptions: We don't use C++ exceptions in most of the YugabyteDB code. However, in some cases, we use C++ standard library functions that throw exceptions; we catch those exceptions as early as possible, and convert them into Status or Result return values.
  • assert: C library macro. YugabyteDB uses its own set of macros for invariant checking.

In addition to the guidelines outlined on this page, the YugabyteDB C++ coding style is based on Google's C++ style guide.

Protocol buffers coding style

Name protobuf structures and enums with a PB suffix. This is for the following reasons:

  • Better "greppability" (searchability) means fewer false positive results when searching for TableTypePB and not TableType.
  • It's possible to have structs and classes with the same name, but without PB suffix for usage in the code.
  • It's possible to have enum wrappers similar to YB_DEFINE_ENUM with the same name as the protobuf enum, but without the PB suffix.