Using NULL as a terminator in arrays?

I like "reinventing the wheel" for learning purposes, so I'm working on a container class for strings. Will using the NULL character as an array terminator (i.e., the last value in the array will be NULL) cause interference with the null-terminated strings?

I think it would only be an issue if an empty string is added, but I might be missing something.

EDIT: This is in C++.


"" is the empty string in C and C++, not NULL. Note that "" has exactly one element (instead of zero), meaning it is equivalent to {'\0'} as an array of char.

char const *notastring = NULL;
char const *emptystring = "";

emptystring[0] == '\0';  // true
notastring[0] == '\0';   // crashes

No, it won't, because you won't be storing in an array of char, you'll be storing in an array of char*.

char const* strings[] = {
, "Am"
, "I"
, "Using"
, "Char"
, "Arrays?!"
, 0

It depends on what kind of string you're storing.

If you're storing C-style strings, which are basically just pointers to character arrays (char*), there's a difference between a NULL pointer value, and an empty string. The former means the pointer is ‘empty’, the latter means the pointer points to an array that contains a single item with character value 0 ('\0'). So the pointer still has a value, and testing it (if (foo[3])) will work as expected.

If what you're storing are C++ standard library strings of type string, then there is no NULL value. That's because there is no pointer, and the string type is treated as a single value. (Whereas a pointer is technically not, but can be seen as a reference.)

I think you are confused. While C-strings are "null terminated", there is no "NULL" character. NULL is a name for a null pointer. The terminator for a C-string is a null character, i.e. a byte with a value of zero. In ASCII, this byte is (somewhat confusingly) named NUL.

Suppose your class contains an array of char that is used to store the string data. You do not need to "mark the end of the array"; the array has a specific size that is set at compile-time. You do need to know how much of that space is actually being used; the null-terminator on the string data accomplishes that for you - but you can get better performance by actually remembering the length. Also, a "string" class with a statically-sized char buffer is not very useful at all, because that buffer size is an upper limit on the length of strings you can have.

So a better string class would contain a pointer of type char*, which points to a dynamically allocated (via new[]) array of char s. Again, it makes no sense to "mark the end of the array", but you will want to remember both the length of the string (i.e. the amount of space being used) and the size of the allocation (i.e. the amount of space that may be used before you have to re-allocate).

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