Bit Hacks You Must Know

Bit hacks are ingenious little programming tricks that manipulate integers in a smart and efficient manner. Instead of performing some operation (such as counting the 1 bits in an integer) by looping over individual bits, these programming hacks do the same but in a tricky way.

This post assumes that you know about the following bitwise operations and some C/C++ language.

  1. & : Bitwise AND
  2. ||   : Bitwise OR
  3. ^  : Bitwise XOR
  4. ~  : Bitwise NOT
  5. <<: Bitwise Shift Left
  6. >> : Bitwise Shift Right

I’m taking the size of each variable as 8 bit, where the first bit is b0 and last bit (MSB) is b7.


Let’s go ahead with some bit hacks.


Check if the integer is even or odd

if ((a & 1) == 0) {
a is even
else {
a is odd

The righmost or zeroth bit of odd number is always set. Checking the rightmost bit only will do if we want to find out that a is even or odd.


Turn off the rightmost 1-bit

b = a & (a - 1)

If x is even, then x – 1 will be odd and vice versa too. This is gonna unset the zeroth bit. Why? The rightmost bit of odd number is always set.


Test if the n-th bit is set

if (a & (1 << n)) {
n-th bit is set
else {
n-th bit is not set

1 is left shifted n times and then anded with a, do a example paper run, and you will get it better.


Set the n-th bit

b = a | (1 << n)

Shift left 1 n times or it with a and then put it into a new variable b.


Unset the nth bit

b = a | ~(1 << n)

Shift 1 n times left, complement it or it with a and then put it into a new variable b.


Toggle the n-th bit

b = a ^ (1 << n)

Shift left 1 n times, xor it with a and assign it to a new variable.


Uppercase to lower case letter

"CAPITAL LETTER" XOR " " = small letter

Xoring with space i.e., ” “, will give you lowercase letter.


If a integer is power of 2

b = a && !(a & (a - 1));

Check a and a – 1 is 0, and AND the result with a, to check that a is not zero and some power of 2.


Let me know if you want me to explain it more. 🙂


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