Lose weight with MIN, MAX and CLAMP

This article is related to two patches to cairo, #12717 and #12722. Many times in C, you want values in a certain range, or some that are not above or below a certain value. The process which ensures that values are within a certain range is called clamping.

Let us say that you have function that sets the position of something.

void set_pos (Obj *obj, int x, int y) { obj->x = x; obj->y = y; }

Further assume that the position must be contained within obj:s clip rectangle. That could be accomplished using this code:

void set_pos (Obj *obj, int x, int y) { // First clip the values if (x < obj->rect.x) x = obj->rect.x; if (x > obj->rect.x + obj->rect.width) x = obj->rect.x + obj->rect.width; if (y < obj->rect.y) y = obj->rect.y; if (y > obj->rect.y + obj->rect.height) y = obj->rect.y + obj->rect.height; // Then set them obj->x = x; obj->y = y; }

A mathematical way to write the clipping would be something like:

obj->x = x, obj->rect.x <= x <= obj->rect.x + obj->rect.width
obj->y = y, obj->rect.y <= y <= obj->rect.y + obj->rect.height

Time to introduce the MIN and MAX functions and see how they can help us. In C, they can be implemented as macros.

#define MAX(a, b) (((a) > (b)) ? (a) : (b)) #define MIN(a, b) (((a) < (b)) ? (a) : (b))

It should not be any surprise that

x = MAX (x, obj->rect.x)


if (x < obj->rect.x) x = obj->rect.x;

is exactly equivalent. We can therefore rewrite the boundary checking code in set_pos to take advantage of these macros:

void set_pos (Obj *obj, int x, int y) { x = MAX (x, obj->rect.x); x = MIN (x, obj->rect.x + obj->rect.width); y = MAX (y, obj->rect.y); y = MIN (y, obj->rect.y + obj->rect.height); obj->x = x; obj->y = y; }

But wait, there is more! The code can be further rewritten if we introduce a CLAMP macro.

#define CLAMP(x, l, h) (((x) > (h)) ? (h) : (((x) < (l)) ? (l) : (x)))

Now we can make the set_pos function even more readable:

void set_pos (Obj *obj, int x, int y) { obj->x = CLAMP (x, obj->rect.x, obj->rect.x + obj->rect.width); obj->y = CLAMP (y, obj->rect.y, obj->rect.y + obj->rect.height); }

Note how similar this code is to the imagined mathematical definition. It is also worth noting that the CLAMP macro doesn't work if the value of the upper bound is lower than the lower bound. That is, if obj->rect.width or obj->rect.height is negative, then the macro will give erroneous results.

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