Go to statement considered harmful. Author: Edsger W. Dijkstra, Technological University, Eindhoven, The Netherlands View colleagues of Edsger W. Dijkstra . “GOTO considered harmful” needs to be read in its historical context, where structured programming (for Thanks for posting Dijkstra answer. One of the comments did mention Dijkstra’s article Go to Statements Considered Harmful, but aside from that mention, there was much.

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This is the Tao of goto: This obfuscation is a consequence of the fact that an unconstrained goto statement can transfer control out of a loop before it is completed, and likewise can transfer control into the middle of a loop that is already being iterated. It must be remembered that many of the terms we take for gpto today were not firmly established place at the time, and there was no commonly accepted language or pseudo-language in use for discusing considdered and programs.

Andrew Koenig

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments: The illlustration below shows the headline of a letter to the New York Times published August 12, My second remark is that our intellectual powers are rather geared to master static relations and that our powers to visualize processes evolving in time are relatively poorly developed.

I hardly ever use cojsidered, but when I do I’ll need it. It’s worth noting that the coding climate has changed considerably since One of the comments did mention Dijkstra’s article Go to Statements Considered Harmfulbut aside from that mention, there was much opinion consudered little fact.

The term debug has also sprung into existence to denote the specific activity of finding and removing bugs from a system, a nice term that would not have been invented if we had been left with only the word error.

Maybe lexical scope for goto labels, rather than global symbols??? And yet, in spite of all of these adavances in design, some of Dijkstra’s main point about unstructured program flow remains just as valid now as then.


In the absence of modern optimizing compilers this was very inefficient.

I’d Consider That Harmful, Too

Dijkstra uses the term correct to describe a program that has no eijkstra, or in current parlance, has no bugs. Because proving a program correct can be an enormous task, I will concentrate on just one subtask: Dobb’s further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

This implies that goto still has its place for those fairly rare programming situations that require more complicated flow control. The question is analogous to the question of how we deal with a break statement: For reasons of realism I don’t wish to exclude them: These clean-up operations are performed in the reverse order in which their corresponding allocation operations are performed.

There’s also been a shift to using basic block-based optimizers, which means that the optimizer sees a loop statement and something built entirely of gotos as completely identical anyways. Purists say this sullies an otherwise logically clean control construct, while pragmatists say that it allows for more efficient code in many difficult programming situations.

My point was that in many domains goto’s are useful, both for solving problems, getting performance and for code clarity. He points out that choosing this style of dialogue is ultimately counterproductive: Dijkstra did not mean that all uses of goto were bad, but rather that superior control structures should exist that, when used properly, would eliminate most of the uses of goto popular at the time.

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your criticisms, however, you’ll leave “considered harmful” out of your writing.

What Dijkstra said was harmful about goto statements | Dr Dobb’s

Imagine the authors horror condidered he witnessed the use of properties in modern object oriented languages! Therefore, according to Dijkstra’s criteria, continue and break statements have much less potential for harm than goto statements.

However, it requires an additional error indicator variable and extra conditional if statements. Most programmers have heard the adage “Never use goto statements”but few of today’s computer science students have the benefit of the historical context in which Dijkstra made his declaration against them.


I think I am on safe ground in saying that Dijkstra was well aware of the use of jumps in asm, but that is beside the point he was making in the body of the paper – as opposed to the point, taken from the title of the paper, that most of the argument has been about.

Some languages, such as Java, provide a finally clause as part of the try-catch statement to provide a way to specify actions that must be taken regardless of whether got not an exception occurs. They did not go much beyond stating the commenters’ opinions. Both forms replace the use of an explicit goto, as shown in the following code:.

Dijkstra mentions flow diagramswhich reflects the state of the art of program design at the time. Dijkstra was very much an academician, tending to ggoto technically laden verbiage in his writings. Some languages provide a continue statement for this:. Dijsktra was not arguing against GOTO per sedijkztra rather against unstructured programming. The difficulty is that such a coordinate, although unique, is utterly unhelpful. This reflects the dual nature of programming tasks that he mentioned previously, these being related to the sequential nature of executing one statement or action after another, i.

Such an infinite loop could indeed be written as a tail-recursive procedure call, but what would be the point? We introduce you to Apple’s new Swift programming language, discuss the perils of being the third-most-popular mobile platform, revisit SQLite on Androidand much more!

Using GOTO to implement structured programming constructs that did not exist in the language e. But all of these advancements affected the structure of programs at levels above that of simple execution statements, i. Dijkstra’s second objection to goto statements is not discussed much today, but I think it’s still important: