ProAnswers.org

When should I use references, and when should I use pointers in c++?

When should I use references, and when should I use pointers?

Use references when you can, and pointers when you have to.

References are usually preferred over pointers whenever you don’t need “reseating”. This usually means that references are most useful in a class’s public interface. References typically appear on the skin of an object, and pointers on the inside.

The exception to the above is where a function’s parameter or return value needs a “sentinel” reference. This is usually best done by returning/taking a pointer, and giving the NULL pointer this special significance (references should always alias objects, not a dereferenced NULL pointer).