Re: Deriving from concrete types

"Alan McKenney" <>
1 Jul 2006 05:47:25 -0400
kanze wrote:

Gene Bushuyev wrote:


Inheriting from a large concrete class like std::vector is a
gratuitous violation of design rules, which has only problems
and no real advantages.

 ... There is also no doubt in my mind that
std::vector<> was not so designed, and that any use of it as a
public base class will run into problems. Not because it
doesn't conform to the rules of the OO design concept, per se,
but because it doesn't conform to the rules of any design
concept which would normally be implemented using it as a base
class in C++.

      It's funny. When I first added my $0.02 to this discussion,
      I didn't have a concrete example. I was merely responding
      to what I saw as overly rigid dogma.

      However, just in the last hour, I find myself writing a class
      which is publicly derived from std::vector .

      The situation is that I have a class to implement a configuration
      table. The (private) member object that holds the table data was

          typedef std::vector<Entry> KeywordData
          std::vector<KeywordData> tableData;

      (If anyone cares, Entry is basically a bag of data.)

      Another part of the class maps the keyword to the index in

      Writing the code to set up and to access the data went
      quickly, because I (and anyone who maintains the code)
      know all about how to use std::vector<> (well, almost all....)

      I then went to write my "print()" function, which prints out
      the contents of the table for debugging purposes,
      (one of my design principles: never create a complicated
      data structure without a "print()" function!) and
      realized that "tableData" didn't have the keyword.

      At first, in line with the suggestions in this thread, I tried
      making KeywordData a class:

struct KeywordData { std::vector<Entry> data; std::string keyword; };

      but since I wanted to preserve the interface, I found myself
      writing forwarding functions for large parts of the std::vector
      interface, with frequent trips to the std::vector man page to
      get all the types just right.

      This violated my personal design principle of not
      reimplementing the wheel.

      I then tried using private inheritance, but found myself
      cut-and-pasting and "awk"ing from Sun's man pages
      to get the many, many "using" statements.

      This violated my design principle of avoiding
      cut-and-paste. (Anyone who has had to maintain
      code with large amounts of cut-and-pasted code will
      understand this.)

      I then thought of moving "keyword" to a separate vector,
      but this violated my design principle of keeping related
      data together. (20 years of Fortran programming really
      soured me on emulating structs by using parallel data

      So, in accordance with *my* design principles, developed
      over 30 years of large-scale software development and
      maintenance, led me to do:

struct KeywordData : public std::vector<Entry> { std::string keyword;
std::vector<KeywordData> tableData;

      So far, given how I use the class, I don't see a problem.

      It's quick to write, economical in concepts, requires no change
      to the part of the code that expected a std::vector, the meaning
      is obvious to anyone who reads the code, and the "gotchas"
      are obvious, at least to anyone who reads this newsgroup :-)

      And, short of spending a few days (which I can't afford) coming
      up with a different design that satisfies the OOD crowd, I don't
      see a better, more obvious design.

-- Alan McKenney

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