Re: source tree organization for large-scale C++ projects

James Kanze <>
Mon, 7 Apr 2008 02:30:56 -0700 (PDT)
On Apr 7, 2:53 am, mshngo <> wrote:

I have seen two main methods of organizing the header and
source files in a C++ project. The first method separates the
public header files from the remaining files (i.e., source
files and internal/ implementation header files) -- the public
header files are usually stored in a directory named
"include", and the remaining files are stored in another
directory named "src". The structures of these two directories
are usually closely related. For example, Postgres adopts this

The second method does not enforce such a separation -- files
are placed in directories according to which software module
they belong to, so that header files and source files
belonging to the same module will be placed within the same

What are the trade-offs?

I presume you're referring to the development code; in delivered
code, the headers are almost always in a separate directory from
the sources, since the sources aren't part of the base
deliverables, and the headers are. (Even if your project is
open source, you don't want users to have to -I on your source
directories---or at least, the users won't want to.) This
argues somewhat for a separation during development as well;
ensure that you're not accidentally including a header which
won't be delivered when you compile your tests, for example.
And having less files in the directories may also improve search
times for the compilers. But such differences are probably
very minor.

James Kanze (GABI Software)
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