2.10.4 Pointer and Array Relationship

Pointers and scalar arrays have a special relationship in D, just as they do in ANSI C. A scalar array is represented by a variable that is associated with the address of its first storage location. A pointer is also the address of a storage location with a defined type. Thus, D permits the use of the array [] index notation with both pointer variables and array variables. For example, the following two D fragments are equivalent in meaning:

p = &a[0]; trace(p[2]);


In the first fragment, the pointer p is assigned to the address of the first element in scalar array a by applying the & operator to the expression a[0]. The expression p[2] traces the value of the third array element (index 2). Because p now contains the same address associated with a, this expression yields the same value as a[2], shown in the second fragment. One consequence of this equivalence is that C and D permit you to access any index of any pointer or array. Array bounds checking is not performed for you by the compiler or the DTrace runtime environment. If you access memory beyond the end of a scalar array's predefined size, you either get an unexpected result or DTrace reports an invalid address error, as shown in the previous example. As always, you cannot damage DTrace itself or your operating system, but you do need to debug your D program.

The difference between pointers and arrays is that a pointer variable refers to a separate piece of storage that contains the integer address of some other storage. Whereas, an array variable names the array storage itself, not the location of an integer that in turn contains the location of the array. Figure 2.4, “Pointer and Array Storage” illustrates this difference.

Figure 2.4 Pointer and Array Storage

The diagram illustrates the pointer p with the value 0x12345678, which is the address of the first element (a[0]) of the array declared as a[5].

This difference is manifested in the D syntax if you attempt to assign pointers and scalar arrays. If x and y are pointer variables, the expression x = y is legal; it copies the pointer address in y to the storage location that is named by x. If x and y are scalar array variables, the expression x = y is not legal. Arrays may not be assigned as a whole in D. However, an array variable or symbol name can be used in any context where a pointer is permitted. If p is a pointer and a is a scalar array, the statement p = a is permitted. This statement is equivalent to the statement p = &a[0].