Al Dev (Alavoor Vasudevan)

v15.2, 12 Oct 2001

This document will help you to format (beautify) the C/C++ programs so that it is more readable and confirms to your site C/C++ coding standards. The information in this document applies to all the operating sytems that is – Linux, MS DOS, Apple Macintosh, Windows 95/NT/2000, BeOS, OS/2, IBM OSes, all flavors of Unix like Solaris, HPUX, AIX, SCO, Sinix, BSD, UnixWare, etc.. and to all other operating systems which support “C” compiler (it means almost all the operating systems on this planet!).

1. Introduction

2. How can I trust Beautifier programs??!!

3. Beautifiers for other Languages

4. Verification Script

5. Related URLs

6. Other Formats of this Document

7. Copyright

1. Introduction

Coding standards for C/C++ or any language is required in order to make the programs more readable/understandable by programmers. There are C/C++ beautifiers (formating tools) to accomplish this goal. Formatted (beautified) code improves the productivity of programmers by 2 times!!

On Linux/Unixes there is a command called “indent” and “cb” . Refer to ‘man indent’ and ‘man cb’. Note that indent and cb work for only “C” programs. For “C++” programs use “bcpp”.

Important NOTE: To compile bcpp under unix, unpack bcpp.tar.gz and you MUST change directory to “code” and give a make. Do not change to “unix” directory and give a make. That will give lots of errors.

Download the beautifier program from one of the following

I used BCPP to format the C++ programs and it worked fine for me. You may want to check other tools and use the one which you may like the most.

BCPP was written by Steven De Toni at

2. How can I trust Beautifier programs??!!

For 100% assurance you need a SCIENTIFIC way to validate and trust a beautifier program. The method described in this section will enable the beautifier program to be accepted as “trust-worthy” and reliable.

In order to verify that beautifier programs like bcppindent or cb is not damaging or changing the input source-code after formatting, you can use the shell script verification program or use the following technique –

Generate the object code from the original input source code using the compiler –

  g++ -c myprogram.cpp

Here g++ is GNU C++ compiler. This will create object output myprogram.o

Save this file –

   mv myprogram.o myprogram_orig.o

Now run bcpp –

   bcpp myprogram.cpp

This will create the formatted output program file myprogram.cpp and move the original file to myprogram.cpp.orig. Compile the new file with –

   g++ -c myprogram.cpp

Now use the unix ‘diff’ command to compare the two object files –

   diff myprogram.o myprogram_orig.o

Both these files MUST BE IDENTICAL. This verifies that bcpp is working perfectly. On DOS or Windows 95 you may want to use the free Cygnus Cygwin ‘diff’ or ‘MKS’ utilities.

If for some reason you are not able to diff the object files then you MUST use the assembly output as described below.

You can use the assembler output instead of object output from the C++ compiler for doing the comparison. Like –

    g++ -S myprogram.cpp

This creates myprogram.s. Verify with –

    diff myprogram.s myprogram_orig.s

This step gives 100% guarantee that your valuable source code is intact and bcpp is JUST doing ONLY formatting and is NOT changing or damaging your code in any way. This method gives you 100% quality assurance and life term or long term WARRANTY on beautifier programs like ‘bcpp’, ‘cb’ or ‘indent’.

It is strongly recommended that you do these two steps every time you run beautifier programs like bcppindent or cb.

3. Beautifiers for other Languages

Visit the following sites to get beautifiers for other languages like HTML, SQL, Java, Perl, Fortran.


To create presentation of codes to display using HTML –

Also search the search engines like or and search for keyword “beautfier”.

4. Verification Script

This is a Korn shell script to verify beautifier program. Requires “pdksh*.rpm” from Linux ‘contrib’ cdrom. Save this file as ‘text’ file and chmod a+rx on it. You can re-write this shell script in PERL so that you can use it on Window 95/NT or MSDOS. Uncomment the PRGM variable to point to bcppcb or indent


# Verification program to check C++ Beautifiers 'bcpp', 'indent' or cb
# Copyright 
# The copyright policy is GNU/GPL.
# Author: Al Dev (Alavoor Vasudevan)

        # Remove all the temp files....
        \rm -f ${TMP_FILE}
        \rm -f ${TMP_CPPFILE}*.*

        if [ ! -f ${FNAME} ]; then
                print "\nError: The file ${FNAME} does not exist!!. Aborting now ...."
        \cp  -f ${FNAME} ${TMP_CPPFILE}.cpp
        ${COMPILER} -c ${TMP_CPPFILE}.cpp
        if [ ! -f ${TMP_CPPFILE}.o ]; then
                print "Fatal Error: Failed to compile ${FNAME}. Aborting now... "
        \mv -f ${TMP_CPPFILE}.o ${TMP_CPPFILE}_orig.o

        aa=`basename $PRGM`
        print "\nRunning, verifying $aa on ${FNAME}"
        ${PRGM} ${TMP_CPPFILE}.cpp
        ${COMPILER} -c ${TMP_CPPFILE}.cpp
        \rm -f $TMP_FILE
        diff ${TMP_CPPFILE}.o ${TMP_CPPFILE}_orig.o 1> $TMP_FILE 2>> $TMP_FILE
        result=`wc -c $TMP_FILE | awk '{print $1}' `
        if [ "$result" = "0" ]; then
                print "Success!! Beautifier $aa is working properly!!\n"
                print "Fatal Error: Something wrong!! Beautifier is not working!!"
#       ${COMPILER} -S ${TMP_CPPFILE}.cpp
#       diff ${TMP_CPPFILE}.s ${TMP_CPPFILE}_orig.s

        # Remove all the temp files....
        \rm -f ${TMP_FILE}
        \rm -f ${TMP_CPPFILE}*.*

########## Main of program begins here ##################3


print -n "Enter the C++ file name <default is *.cpp> : "
read ans
if [ "$ans" = "" -o "$ans" = " " ]; then

# Remove all the temp files....
\rm -f ${TMP_FILE}
\rm -f ${TMP_CPPFILE}*.*

if [ "$ans" != "ALL" ]; then
        check_beautify_now ${FILENAME}
        ls *.cpp |
        while read FILENAME 
                check_beautify_now ${FILENAME}

5. Related URLs

Visit following locators which are related to C, C++ –

6. Other Formats of this Document

This document is published in 14 different formats namely – DVI, Postscript, Latex, Adobe Acrobat PDF, LyX, GNU-info, HTML, RTF(Rich Text Format), Plain-text, Unix man pages, single HTML file, SGML (Linuxdoc format), SGML (Docbook format), MS WinHelp format.

This howto document is located at –

  • and click on HOWTOs and search for howto document name using CTRL+f or ALT+f within the web-browser.

You can also find this document at the following mirrors sites –



The document is written using a tool called “SGML-Tools” which can be got from – Compiling the source you will get the following commands like

  • sgml2html xxxxhowto.sgml (to generate html file)
  • sgml2html -split 0 xxxxhowto.sgml (to generate a single page html file)
  • sgml2rtf xxxxhowto.sgml (to generate RTF file)
  • sgml2latex xxxxhowto.sgml (to generate latex file)

6.1 Acrobat PDF format

PDF file can be generated from postscript file using either acrobat distill or Ghostscript. And postscript file is generated from DVI which in turn is generated from LaTex file. You can download distill software from Given below is a sample session:

bash$ man sgml2latex
bash$ sgml2latex filename.sgml
bash$ man dvips
bash$ dvips -o filename.dvi
bash$ distill
bash$ man ghostscript
bash$ man ps2pdf
bash$ ps2pdf output.pdf
bash$ acroread output.pdf &

Or you can use Ghostscript command ps2pdf. ps2pdf is a work-alike for nearly all the functionality of Adobe’s Acrobat Distiller product: it converts PostScript files to Portable Document Format (PDF) files. ps2pdf is implemented as a very small command script (batch file) that invokes Ghostscript, selecting a special “output device” called pdfwrite. In order to use ps2pdf, the pdfwrite device must be included in the makefile when Ghostscript was compiled; see the documentation on building Ghostscript for details.

6.2 Convert Linuxdoc to Docbook format

This document is written in linuxdoc SGML format. The Docbook SGML format supercedes the linuxdoc format and has lot more features than linuxdoc. The linuxdoc is very simple and is easy to use. To convert linuxdoc SGML file to Docbook SGML use the program and some perl scripts. The ld2db output is not 100% clean and you need to use the perl script. You may need to manually correct few lines in the document.

The is not 100% clean, you will get lots of errors when you run

        bash$ file-linuxdoc.sgml db.sgml
        bash$ db.sgml > db_clean.sgml
        bash$ gvim db_clean.sgml 
        bash$ docbook2html db.sgml

And you may have to manually edit some of the minor errors after running the perl script. For e.g. you may need to put closing tag < /Para> for each < Listitem>

6.3 Convert to MS WinHelp format

You can convert the SGML howto document to Microsoft Windows Help file, first convert the sgml to html using:

        bash$ sgml2html xxxxhowto.sgml     (to generate html file)
        bash$ sgml2html -split 0   xxxxhowto.sgml (to generate a single page html file)

Then use the tool HtmlToHlp. You can also use sgml2rtf and then use the RTF files for generating winhelp files.

6.4 Reading various formats

In order to view the document in dvi format, use the xdvi program. The xdvi program is located in tetex-xdvi*.rpm package in Redhat Linux which can be located through ControlPanel | Applications | Publishing | TeX menu buttons. To read dvi document give the command –

        xdvi -geometry 80x90 howto.dvi
        man xdvi

And resize the window with mouse. To navigate use Arrow keys, Page Up, Page Down keys, also you can use ‘f’, ‘d’, ‘u’, ‘c’, ‘l’, ‘r’, ‘p’, ‘n’ letter keys to move up, down, center, next page, previous page etc. To turn off expert menu press ‘x’.

You can read postscript file using the program ‘gv’ (ghostview) or ‘ghostscript’. The ghostscript program is in ghostscript*.rpm package and gv program is in gv*.rpm package in Redhat Linux which can be located through ControlPanel | Applications | Graphics menu buttons. The gv program is much more user friendly than ghostscript. Also ghostscript and gv are available on other platforms like OS/2, Windows 95 and NT, you view this document even on those platforms.


To read postscript document give the command –


You can read HTML format document using Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet explorer, Redhat Baron Web browser or any of the 10 other web browsers.

You can read the latex, LyX output using LyX a X-Windows front end to latex.

7. Copyright

Copyright policy is GNU/GPL as per LDP (Linux Documentation project). LDP is a GNU/GPL project. Additional restrictions are – you must retain the author’s name, email address and this copyright notice on all the copies. If you make any changes or additions to this document then you should intimate all the authors of this document.