Creating a Random-Access File

The ostream member function write outputs a fixed number of bytes, beginning at a specific location in memory, to the specified stream. When the stream is associated with a file, function write writes the data at the location in the file specified by the "put" file-position pointer. The istream member function read inputs a fixed number of bytes from the specified stream to an area in memory beginning at a specified address. If the stream is associated with a file, function read inputs bytes at the location in the file specified by the "get" file-position pointer.

Writing Bytes with ostream Member Function write

When writing an integer number to a file, instead of using the statement

outFile << number;

which for a four-byte integer could print as few digits as one or as many as 11 (10 digits plus a sign, each requiring a single byte of storage), we can use the statement

outFile.write( reinterpret_cast< const char * >( &number ),
 sizeof( number ) );

which always writes the binary version of the integer's four bytes (on a machine with fourbyte integers). Function write treats its first argument as a group of bytes by viewing the object in memory as a const char *, which is a pointer to a byte (remember that a char is one byte). Starting from that location, function write outputs the number of bytes specified by its second argumentan integer of type size_t. As we will see, istream function read can subsequently be used to read the four bytes back into integer variable number.

Converting Between Pointer Types with the reinterpret_cast Operator

Unfortunately, most pointers that we pass to function write as the first argument are not of type const char *. To output objects of other types, we must convert the pointers to those objects to type const char *; otherwise, the compiler will not compile calls to function write. C++ provides the reinterpret_cast operator for cases like this in which a pointer of one type must be cast to an unrelated pointer type. You can also use this cast operator to convert between pointer and integer types, and vice versa. Without a reinterpret_cast, the write statement that outputs the integer number will not compile because the compiler does not allow a pointer of type int * (the type returned by the expression &number) to be passed to a function that expects an argument of type const char *as far as the compiler is concerned, these types are incompatible.

A reinterpret_cast is performed at compile time and does not change the value of the object to which its operand points. Instead, it requests that the compiler reinterpret the operand as the target type (specified in the angle brackets following the keyword reinterpret_cast). In Fig. 17.12, we use reinterpret_cast to convert a ClientData pointer to a const char *, which reinterprets a ClientData object as bytes to be output to a file. Random-access file-processing programs rarely write a single field to a file. Normally, they write one object of a class at a time, as we show in the following examples.

Error-Prevention Tip 17.1

It is easy to use reinterpret_cast to perform dangerous manipulations that could lead to serious execution-time errors.

Portability Tip 17.1

Using reinterpret_cast is compiler-dependent and can cause programs to behave differently on different platforms. The reinterpret_cast operator should not be used unless absolute necessary.

Portability Tip 17.2

A program that reads unformatted data (written by write) must be compiled and executed on a system compatible with the program that wrote the data, because different systems may represent internal data differently.


Credit Processing Program

Consider the following problem statement:

Create a credit-processing program capable of storing at most 100 fixed-length records for a company that can have up to 100 customers. Each record should consist of an account number that acts as the record key, a last name, a first name and a balance. The program should be able to update an account, insert a new account, delete an account and insert all the account records into a formatted text file for printing.

The next several sections introduce the techniques for creating this credit-processing program. Figure 17.12 illustrates opening a random-access file, defining the record format using an object of class ClientData (Figs. 17.1017.11) and writing data to the disk in binary format. This program initializes all 100 records of the file credit.dat with empty objects, using function write. Each empty object contains 0 for the account number, the null string (represented by empty quotation marks) for the last and first name and 0.0 for the balance. Each record is initialized with the amount of empty space in which the account data will be stored.

Figure 17.10. ClientData class header file.

 1 // Fig. 17.10: ClientData.h
 2 // Class ClientData definition used in Fig. 17.12Fig. 17.15.
 3 #ifndef CLIENTDATA_H
 4 #define CLIENTDATA_H
 6 #include 
 7 using std::string;
 9 class ClientData
10 {
11 public:
12 // default ClientData constructor
13 ClientData( int = 0, string = "", string = "", double = 0.0 );
15 // accessor functions for accountNumber
16 void setAccountNumber( int );
17 int getAccountNumber() const;
19 // accessor functions for lastName
20 void setLastName( string );
21 string getLastName() const;
23 // accessor functions for firstName
24 void setFirstName( string );
25 string getFirstName() const;
27 // accessor functions for balance
28 void setBalance( double );
29 double getBalance() const;
30 private:
31 int accountNumber;
32 char lastName[ 15 ];
33 char firstName[ 10 ];
34 double balance;
35 }; // end class ClientData
37 #endif

Figure 17.11. ClientData class represents a customer's credit information.

(This item is displayed on pages 860 - 861 in the print version)

 1 // Fig. 17.11: ClientData.cpp
 2 // Class ClientData stores customer's credit information.
 3 #include 
 4 using std::string;
 6 #include "ClientData.h"
 8 // default ClientData constructor
 9 ClientData::ClientData( int accountNumberValue,
10 string lastNameValue, string firstNameValue, double balanceValue )
11 {
12 setAccountNumber( accountNumberValue );
13 setLastName( lastNameValue );
14 setFirstName( firstNameValue );
15 setBalance( balanceValue );
16 } // end ClientData constructor
18 // get account-number value
19 int ClientData::getAccountNumber() const
20 {
21 return accountNumber;
22 } // end function getAccountNumber
24 // set account-number value
25 void ClientData::setAccountNumber( int accountNumberValue )
26 {
27 accountNumber = accountNumberValue; // should validate
28 } // end function setAccountNumber
30 // get last-name value
31 string ClientData::getLastName() const
32 {
33 return lastName;
34 } // end function getLastName
36 // set last-name value
37 void ClientData::setLastName( string lastNameString )
38 {
39 // copy at most 15 characters from string to lastName
40 const char *lastNameValue =;
41 int length = lastNameString.size();
42 length = ( length < 15 ? length : 14 );
43 strncpy( lastName, lastNameValue, length );
44 lastName[ length ] = ''; // append null character to lastName
45 } // end function setLastName
47 // get first-name value
48 string ClientData::getFirstName() const
49 {
50 return firstName;
51 } // end function getFirstName
53 // set first-name value
54 void ClientData::setFirstName( string firstNameString )
55 {
56 // copy at most 10 characters from string to firstName
57 const char *firstNameValue =;
58 int length = firstNameString.size();
59 length = ( length < 10 ? length : 9 );
60 strncpy( firstName, firstNameValue, length );
61 firstName[ length ] = ''; // append null character to firstName
62 } // end function setFirstName
64 // get balance value
65 double ClientData::getBalance() const
66 {
67 return balance;
68 } // end function getBalance
70 // set balance value
71 void ClientData::setBalance( double balanceValue )
72 {
73 balance = balanceValue;
74 } // end function setBalance

Figure 17.12. Creating a random-access file with 100 blank records sequentially.

(This item is displayed on pages 861 - 862 in the print version)

 1 // Fig. 17.12: Fig17_12.cpp
 2 // Creating a randomly accessed file.
 3 #include 
 4 using std::cerr;
 5 using std::endl;
 6 using std::ios;
 8 #include  
 9 using std::ofstream;
11 #include 
12 using std::exit; // exit function prototype
14 #include "ClientData.h" // ClientData class definition
16 int main()
17 {
18 ofstream outCredit( "credit.dat", ios::binary );
20 // exit program if ofstream could not open file
21 if ( !outCredit )
22 {
23 cerr << "File could not be opened." << endl;
24 exit( 1 );
25 } // end if
27 ClientData blankClient; // constructor zeros out each data member
29 // output 100 blank records to file
30 for ( int i = 0; i < 100; i++ )
31 outCredit.write( reinterpret_cast< const char * >( &blankClient ),
32  sizeof( ClientData ) ); 
34 return 0;
35 } // end main

Objects of class string do not have uniform size because they use dynamically allocated memory to accommodate strings of various lengths. This program must maintain fixedlength records, so class ClientData stores the client's first and last name in fixed-length char arrays. Member functions setLastName (Fig. 17.11, lines 3745) and setFirstName (Fig. 17.11, lines 5462) each copy the characters of a string object into the corresponding char array. Consider function setLastName. Line 40 initializes the const char * lastNameValue with the result of a call to string member function data, which returns an array containing the characters of the string. [Note: This array is not guaranteed to be null terminated.] Line 41 invokes string member function size to get the length of lastNameString. Line 42 ensures that length is fewer than 15 characters, then line 43 copies length characters from lastNameValue into the char array lastName. Member function setFirstName performs the same steps for the first name.

In Fig. 17.12, line 18 creates an ofstream object for the file credit.dat. The second argument to the constructorios::binaryindicates that we are opening the file for output in binary mode, which is required if we are to write fixed-length records. Lines 3132 cause the blankClient to be written to the credit.dat file associated with ofstream object outCredit. Remember that operator sizeof returns the size in bytes of the object contained in parentheses (see Chapter 8). The first argument to function write on line 31 must be of type const char *. However, the data type of &blankClient is ClientData *. To convert &blankClient to const char *, line 31 uses the cast operator reinterpret_cast, so the call to write compiles without issuing a compilation error.

Introduction to Computers, the Internet and World Wide Web

Introduction to C++ Programming

Introduction to Classes and Objects

Control Statements: Part 1

Control Statements: Part 2

Functions and an Introduction to Recursion

Arrays and Vectors

Pointers and Pointer-Based Strings

Classes: A Deeper Look, Part 1

Classes: A Deeper Look, Part 2

Operator Overloading; String and Array Objects

Object-Oriented Programming: Inheritance

Object-Oriented Programming: Polymorphism


Stream Input/Output

Exception Handling

File Processing

Class string and String Stream Processing

Web Programming

Searching and Sorting

Data Structures

Bits, Characters, C-Strings and structs

Standard Template Library (STL)

Other Topics

Appendix A. Operator Precedence and Associativity Chart

Appendix B. ASCII Character Set

Appendix C. Fundamental Types

Appendix D. Number Systems

Appendix E. C Legacy Code Topics

Appendix F. Preprocessor

Appendix G. ATM Case Study Code

Appendix H. UML 2: Additional Diagram Types

Appendix I. C++ Internet and Web Resources

Appendix J. Introduction to XHTML

Appendix K. XHTML Special Characters

Appendix L. Using the Visual Studio .NET Debugger

Appendix M. Using the GNU C++ Debugger


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C++ How to Program
C++ How to Program (5th Edition)
ISBN: 0131857576
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 627
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