Hi guys, i have one question regarding alignment. Assume that you have the following struct:

struct align1
{
	double a;
	char b;
	int c;
	short d;
};

Also assume:
sizeof(double): 8
sizeof(int): 4
sizeof(char): 1
sizeof(short): 2

i would expect:
sizeof(align1): 8 + (char padded to->) 4 + 4 + 2 = 18 bytes
but i get:
sizeof(align1): 8 + (char padded to->) 4 + 4 + (short padded to->) 4 = 20 bytes

So what i don't understand is why the compiler pads the structure in the end? Theoretically the compiler could occupy the 2 wasted bytes
of the struct with 2 chars, why waste them on padding?

To make the question more clear if we had:

struct align1 var1;
char a;
char b;

we would need to allocate only 20bytes; but with the strategy of the compiler we would need 24 bytes. So what i want to learn is
why gcc is making this choice.

The program to test all this follows:

#include <stdio.h>

struct align1
{
	double a;
	char b;
	int c;
	short d;
};

struct align2
{
	double a;
	char b;
	short d;
	int c;
};

struct align3
{
	double a;
	int c;
	char b;
	short d;
};

int main()
{


	printf("sizeof(double): %d\nsizeof(int): %d\nsizeof(char): %d\nsizeof(short): %d\n",
			sizeof(double),sizeof(int),sizeof(char),sizeof(short));

	printf("minimum space required: %d bytes \n", sizeof(double)+sizeof(int)+sizeof(char)+sizeof(short));


	printf("allignment1 costs: %d bytes\n", sizeof(struct align1));
	printf("allignment2 costs: %d bytes\n", sizeof(struct align2));
	printf("allignment3 costs: %d bytes\n", sizeof(struct align3));


	return 0;
}

I have read the following articles {but i still haven't figured out what i am asking}:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packed
[2] http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/library/pa-dalign/
[3] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms253949.aspx

So your question is, why does structure alignment apply to the last member of a structure?

I think the answer is the same as for why structure alignment exists in the first place. Structure alignment makes the size of a structure a multiple of the machine's word size, which on your computer is probably 32 bits (4 bytes). This is because it's a lot easier for a computer to read addresses that are aligned at word boundaries.

Consider an array of structures. Padding individual members of the structure isn't much use if you don't pad the last member; the second element in the array won't start at a word boundary.

[edit] In this particular case, the compiler could have made the structure smaller, I suppose. However, the sizeof a structure is always supposed to be the same thing, so your structure would then be virtually useless for arrays. [/edit]

Comments
Spot on.

You can change the compiler's padding behavior by using some options or pragmas. Microsoft compilers can eliminate padding altogether with

#pragma pack(0) // don't pad this structure
typedef struct
{
   // blabla
}
#pragma pack() // revert to default padding

Deleting padding is useful when you want to save data in binary form to a file or xmit it across socket and you don't know what is on the other end. It will also help reduce memory requirements in some applications which use large arrays of those structures.

struct align1
{
	double a;
	char b;
	int c;
	short d;
};

> why the compiler pads the structure in the end?

hint:
1. does the struct align1 have an alignment requirement?
2. if we create an array align1 array[5] ; would the alignment be right for every element in the array?

Some addition to dwks's post:
if it were not for structure tail padding, one of the most valuable C and C++ identity

Type array[SIZE];
sizeof(array)/sizeof(Type) == SIZE

was incorrect for some kind of Type's (as a structure from the original post).

Thank you all for your answers.

So your question is, why does structure alignment apply to the last member of a structure?

Yes.

hint:
1. does the struct align1 have an alignment requirement?
2. if we create an array align1 array[5] ; would the alignment be right for every element in the array?

I can't understand why pad the structure in the end. Ok if we want an array of align1 elements *then* we have to pad the end. But if don't want an array why the compiler chooses to pad the end?

Take for example the second program where i create a composite struct containing the first struct then why "pay" 24bytes when we can fit the whole composite struct in 20 and at the same time respect the boundary alignment?

pad2end: CFLAGS += -Wpacked  -Wpadded
pad2end : pad2end.o
#include <stdio.h>

struct align1
{
	double a;
	char b;
	int c;
	short d;
};

struct alignComposite
{
	struct align1 one;
	char two;
	char three;
};


int main()
{


	printf("sizeof(align1) : %d bytes\n", sizeof(struct align1));
	
	printf("sizeof(alignComposite) : %d bytes\n", sizeof(struct alignComposite));

	return 0;
}

/*
	so align1 should occupy: 8+4+4+2:18 without the padding in the end.
	and align composite should occupy: 18 + 2 :20

	but

	$ ./pad2end
	sizeof(align1) : 20 bytes
	sizeof(alignComposite) : 24 bytes

*/

The way i see it from the hints of vijayan and the fact that structures are considered to be scalar variable; and have the same behaviour{plz correct me if i am wrong}. The structs are padded so that no padding occurs when we create an array of them, like with a scalar variable because if the compiler padded the struct when it created the array it wouldn't be the same behaviour we have when we created an array of integers.

Is this notion correct? Can anyone put it more formally?

thanks again for your time,
nicolas

PS: what's the difference between -Wpacked -Wpadded warnings?

> But if don't want an array why the compiler chooses to pad the end?
How is the compiler supposed to know you don't want an array of them?

> why "pay" 24bytes when we can fit the whole composite struct in 20 and at the
> same time respect the boundary alignment?
The compiler isn't allowed to rearrange structure members to achieve the best fit.
If you want to arrange things so that you waste the least space, then arrange as groups of double, float, long, int, short, char.

double, char, double, char will take more space than
double, double, char, char

> Deleting padding is useful when you want to save data in binary form to a file
> or xmit it across socket and you don't know what is on the other end.
But packing in itself is not enough to ensure success. Packing can never solve the endian problem for example. Also, packing increases the complexity (and decreases the performance) of the code accessing the structure. On some machines, reading a packed int may take 4 byte reads and some shifting, compared to a single aligned 32-bit read if the compiler was free to do it's own thing.

Another also, does pack() actually guarantee a minimum, or just a "best effort"?

Plus there's the whole "lack of portability" in specifying such things to the compiler to begin with.

> The structs are padded so that no padding occurs when we create an array of them,
> like with a scalar variable because if the compiler padded the struct when it created the
> array it wouldn't be the same behaviour we have when we created an array of integers.
> Is this notion correct?

not merely 'it wouldn't be the same behaviour we have when we created an array of integers'. array subscript and pointer arithmetic would not work otherwise.

> an anyone put it more formally?

the formal exposition is in the legalese in the IS (ISO/IEC 14882).
but this arises out of a few simple requirements:
1. the layout and sizeof an object of a particular compile-time type should be known at compile-time.
2. these have to be independent of the storage duration of the object.
3. these also have to be independent of whether the object is an element of an array, a member of a class, a base class sub-object etc.
4. object types can have alignment requirements.
5. an object should be allocated at an address that meets the alignment requirements of its object type.
6. array subscript and pointer arithmetic should work correctly.
7. the memory model of C++ should be compatible with that of C89.

here is a (poor) attempt at a formal explanation:

struct A
{
   char a ;
   int b ;
   char c ;
};

the layout of A and sizeof(A) are known at compile-time and would be the same for all objects of type A, independent of the storage duration of the object. and independent of whether the object is an element of an array, a member of a class, a base class sub-object etc.

in an array, no padding can be added between elements of an array. required for pointer arithmetic (and array subscript) to work correctly.

... An object of array type contains a contiguously allocated non-empty set of N sub-objects of type T. ... IS 8.3.4/1

because of this, the sizeof(A) has to be an integral multiple of the alignof(A). and alignof(A) cannot be less than the alignof(any member of A).

for example, in an implementation where the sizeof(int) == 4 and the alignof(int) == 4, the alignof(A) == 4 and the layout of A could be char a, 3 bytes padding, int b, char c, 3 bytes padding .

but not char a, char c, 2 bytes padding, int b.

Nonstatic data members of a (non-union) class declared without an intervening access-specifier are allocated so that later members have higher addresses within a class object. ... IS 9.2/12

(required for C compatibility)

and not 3 bytes padding, char a, int b, char c, 3 bytes padding

A pointer to a POD-struct object, suitably converted using a reinterpret_cast, points to its initial member (or if that member is a bit-field, then to the unit in which it resides) and vice versa.
[Note: There might therefore be unnamed padding within a POD-struct object, but not at its beginning, as necessary to achieve appropriate alignment. ] IS 9.2/17

(also required for C compatibility)

struct B : A
{
  char d ;
};

struct C
{
  A a ;
  char d ;
};

unless A is empty (and empty base class or empty member optimization applies), the padding at the end of A cannot be used to accommodate the member d.

The object representation of an object of type T is the sequence of N unsigned char objects taken up by the object of type T, where N equals sizeof(T). ...
[Footnote: The intent is that the memory model of C++ is compatible with that of ISO/IEC 9899 Programming Language C. --- end foonote] IS 3.9/4

Lippman in 'The C++ Object Model' explains it very well.

thanks for your help... everything makes much more sense now. the 7 requirements that vijayan posted made everything clear. There are some things that i don't quite get in the last post,
like:
alignof operator(?)

or

but not char a, char c, 2 bytes padding, int b.

but i wil read part of the C++ object model{Lippman's book}, and then if i still have these questions i will ask again!

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