## Pointer + size in C

I created this post in respose of https://news.ycombinator.com/edit?id=34084894

Sample there was

``````//Checked C:

int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
_Array_ptr<int> p : count(5) = a;  // p points to 5 elements.

//My proposal for C:

int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
int p[..] = a;  // p points to 5 elements.

``````

We can do this in C.

``````    int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
int (*p)[sizeof(a)/sizeof(a)] = &a;  // p points to array of 5 elements.
``````

The diference is that we have a pointer to array of 5 elements. and not a pointer to the first element of a sequence of 5.

For fixed size we can have just

`````` int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
``````

and we have a type that is knows its size in compile time.

But, passing an array to a function it will lose the size

`````` void f(int a){
//a is just a pointer here
}

int main() {
int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
f(a);
}

``````

One alternative is to pass a pointer to array then we don`t lose the type size.

``````
void f(int (*a)){
(*a)=1;
}

int main() {
int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
f(&a);
}

``````

The problem in this case the syntax becames `(*a)[index]` instead of just `a[index]`.

Another alternative is use static

``````
void f(int a[static 5]){

}

int main() {
int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
f(a);
}

``````

Doing this the compiler may or may not complaing if we pass the an smaller size. The problem is that there is no garantee. Some compilers (msvc) dont even parse this and variable a still just a pointer inside f.

We also can use variable modified types. Doing this the type has a connection with a variable that have the size.

``````
void f(int n, int a[n]){

}

void f1(int n) {
int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};
f(sizeof(a)/sizeof(a), a);
}

int main() {
f1(1);
}

``````

In this case the size is not magically hidden inside the type. Instead it is explicitly in some variable that needs to be present. In this case the size was passed as first argument. variable a is not just a pointer here.

There is one problem. The size argument needs to come before the array variable and we cannot this type as structs member because there is not way to connect to the struct member that represents the size.

We also can create pointer to variable modified array types created on the heap.

``````#include <stdlib.h>

void f(int n, int a[n]){

}

void f1(int n) {

int (*a)[n] = calloc(n, sizeof(int));
f(n, *a);
}

int main() {
f1(1);
}

``````

If the objetive of the proposal is security I think C compiler already have ways of understanding static or dynamic sizes for arrays. Maybe compilers are not doing a great job on this or programmers are not using this in a safer style.

Even without any new syntax I believe static analisers should take into account the size we declare here.

`````` void f(int a){}
``````

What compiler cannot do is to modify the semantics of sizeof(a) for instance.

I didn'd find more details about `int p[..] = a;` idea but it should try to address any of the problems we have today maybe ofering a better ergonomy.

For instance, having to pass the size manually and before the variable modified array.

``````#include <stdlib.h>

void f(int a[..]){

//we could have a hidden size variable
//that can be extracted if necessary.
//_vla_size(a)
}

void f1(int n) {

int (*a)[n] = calloc(n, sizeof(int));
f(*a);
}

int main() {
f1(1);
}

``````

or better syntax to not having to use `(*a)[index]` and just `a[index]` knowing the pointer variable associated with it.

Maybe also making it possible to be used in struct members.

We also need to take into account that varible modified arrays can have more dimensions, or in other words, it may depend on more than one variable.

We may also need a something like:

``````
int a = { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4};

int * p = a;

``````

p is not a pointer to array of 5. It is instead a variable modifed pointer type pointing to first element of n elements. But the implications are huge.. e.g `p++` so I am just thinking aloud here.