C++ Function Templates


Example

Templating can also be applied to functions (as well as the more traditional structures) with the same effect.

// 'T' stands for the unknown type
// Both of our arguments will be of the same type.
template<typename T>
void printSum(T add1, T add2)
{
    std::cout << (add1 + add2) << std::endl;
}

This can then be used in the same way as structure templates.

printSum<int>(4, 5);
printSum<float>(4.5f, 8.9f);

In both these case the template argument is used to replace the types of the parameters; the result works just like a normal C++ function (if the parameters don't match the template type the compiler applies the standard conversions).

One additional property of template functions (unlike template classes) is that the compiler can infer the template parameters based on the parameters passed to the function.

printSum(4, 5);     // Both parameters are int.
                    // This allows the compiler deduce that the type
                    // T is also int.

printSum(5.0, 4);   // In this case the parameters are two different types.
                    // The compiler is unable to deduce the type of T
                    // because there are contradictions. As a result
                    // this is a compile time error.

This feature allows us to simplify code when we combine template structures and functions. There is a common pattern in the standard library that allows us to make template structure X using a helper function make_X().

// The make_X pattern looks like this.
// 1) A template structure with 1 or more template types.
template<typename T1, typename T2>
struct MyPair
{
    T1      first;
    T2      second;
};
// 2) A make function that has a parameter type for
//    each template parameter in the template structure.
template<typename T1, typename T2>
MyPair<T1, T2> make_MyPair(T1 t1, T2 t2)
{
    return MyPair<T1, T2>{t1, t2};
}

How does this help?

auto val1 = MyPair<int, float>{5, 8.7};     // Create object explicitly defining the types
auto val2 = make_MyPair(5, 8.7);            // Create object using the types of the paramters.
                                            // In this code both val1 and val2 are the same
                                            // type.

Note: This is not designed to shorten the code. This is designed to make the code more robust. It allows the types to be changed by changing the code in a single place rather than in multiple locations.