Measuring time durations

Today on the poul‘s mailing list someone asked: “How to measure the time spent in a function?”. I replied with the code that I use for that purpose, but later I thought that it was an interesting question, so I’m posting the solution here on the blog.

The solution is to use the boost date_time library. It is simple, portable (works on Linux, Win and Mac) and precise, since the time is printed in microseconds.

Here is an example code that shows how to profile a function:

#include <iostream>
#include <boost/date_time.hpp>

void f()
 for(volatile int i=0;i<100000;i++) ;

int main()
 using namespace std;
 using namespace boost::posix_time;

 ptime t1(microsec_clock::local_time());
 ptime t2(microsec_clock::local_time());


Just replace f() with the function you want to profile. Of course you can profile the time spent running your entire program by putting the whole program between the declaration of t1 and t2.

The time is printed in this format:


To be able to compile the program, you need to link with the boost_system library. With the g++ compiler you must add -lboost_system when linking.

Of course you need to have the boost libraries installed. On Linux type:

sudo apt-get install libboost-dev libboost-thread-dev

While on Windows, get this compiler that comes with boost precompiled.

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