I wrote the original edition of Effective C++ in 1991. When the time came for a second edition in 1997, I updated the material in important ways, but, because I didn’t want to confuse readers familiar with the first edition, I did my best to retain the existing structure: 48 of the original 50 Item titles remained essentially unchanged. If the book were a house, the second edition was the equivalent of freshening things up by replacing carpets, paint, and light fixtures.
For the third edition, I tore the place down to the studs. (There were times I wished I’d gone all the way to the foundation.) The world of C++ has undergone enormous change since 1991, and the goal of this book — to identify the most important C++ programming guidelines in a small, readable package — was no longer served by the Items I’d established nearly 15 years earlier. In 1991, it was reasonable to assume that C++ programmers came from a C background. Now, programmers moving to C++ are just as likely to come from Java or C#. In 1991, inheritance and object-oriented programming were new to most programmers. Now they’re well-established concepts, and exceptions, templates, and generic programming are the areas where people need more guidance. In 1991, nobody had heard of design patterns. Now it’s hard to discuss software systems without referring to them. In 1991, work had just begun on a formal standard for C++. Now that standard is eight years old, and work has begun on the next version.