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6.2: Minimum and Maximum Operators in C++

It is very convenient to have operators which return the ``minimum'' or the ``maximum'' of two arguments. In GNU C++ (but not in GNU C),

a <? b
is the minimum, returning the smaller of the numeric values a and b;
a >? b
is the maximum, returning the larger of the numeric values a and b.

These operations are not primitive in ordinary C++, since you can use a macro to return the minimum of two things in C++, as in the following example.

#define MIN(X,Y) ((X) < (Y) ? : (X) : (Y))

You might then use `int min = MIN (i, j);' to set min to the minimum value of variables i and j.

However, side effects in X or Y may cause unintended behavior. For example, MIN (i++, j++) will fail, incrementing the smaller counter twice. A GNU C extension allows you to write safe macros that avoid this kind of problem (see Naming Types). However, writing MIN and MAX as macros also forces you to use function-call notation notation for a fundamental arithmetic operation. Using GNU C++ extensions, you can write `int min = i <? j;' instead.

Since <? and >? are built into the compiler, they properly handle expressions with side-effects; `int min = i++ <? j++;' works correctly.