C++ Type Erasure A move-only `std::function`


Example

std::function type erases down to a few operations. One of the things it requires is that the stored value be copyable.

This causes problems in a few contexts, like lambdas storing unique ptrs. If you are using the std::function in a context where copying doesn't matter, like a thread pool where you dispatch tasks to threads, this requirement can add overhead.

In particular, std::packaged_task<Sig> is a callable object that is move-only. You can store a std::packaged_task<R(Args...)> in a std::packaged_task<void(Args...)>, but that is a pretty heavy-weight and obscure way to create a move-only callable type-erasure class.

Thus the task. This demonstrates how you could write a simple std::function type. I omitted the copy constructor (which would involve adding a clone method to details::task_pimpl<...> as well).

template<class Sig>
struct task;

// putting it in a namespace allows us to specialize it nicely for void return value:
namespace details {
  template<class R, class...Args>
  struct task_pimpl {
    virtual R invoke(Args&&...args) const = 0;
    virtual ~task_pimpl() {};
    virtual const std::type_info& target_type() const = 0;
  };

  // store an F.  invoke(Args&&...) calls the f
  template<class F, class R, class...Args>
  struct task_pimpl_impl:task_pimpl<R,Args...> {
    F f;
    template<class Fin>
    task_pimpl_impl( Fin&& fin ):f(std::forward<Fin>(fin)) {}
    virtual R invoke(Args&&...args) const final override {
      return f(std::forward<Args>(args)...);
    }
    virtual const std::type_info& target_type() const final override {
      return typeid(F);
    }
  };

  // the void version discards the return value of f:
  template<class F, class...Args>
  struct task_pimpl_impl<F,void,Args...>:task_pimpl<void,Args...> {
    F f;
    template<class Fin>
    task_pimpl_impl( Fin&& fin ):f(std::forward<Fin>(fin)) {}
    virtual void invoke(Args&&...args) const final override {
      f(std::forward<Args>(args)...);
    }
    virtual const std::type_info& target_type() const final override {
      return typeid(F);
    }
  };
};

template<class R, class...Args>
struct task<R(Args...)> {
  // semi-regular:
  task()=default;
  task(task&&)=default;
  // no copy

private:
  // aliases to make some SFINAE code below less ugly:
  template<class F>
  using call_r = std::result_of_t<F const&(Args...)>;
  template<class F>
  using is_task = std::is_same<std::decay_t<F>, task>;
public:
  // can be constructed from a callable F
  template<class F,
    // that can be invoked with Args... and converted-to-R:
    class= decltype( (R)(std::declval<call_r<F>>()) ),
    // and is not this same type:
    std::enable_if_t<!is_task<F>{}, int>* = nullptr
  >
  task(F&& f):
    m_pImpl( make_pimpl(std::forward<F>(f)) )
  {}

  // the meat: the call operator        
  R operator()(Args... args)const {
        return m_pImpl->invoke( std::forward<Args>(args)... );
  }
  explicit operator bool() const {
    return (bool)m_pImpl;
  }
  void swap( task& o ) {
    std::swap( m_pImpl, o.m_pImpl );
  }
  template<class F>
  void assign( F&& f ) {
    m_pImpl = make_pimpl(std::forward<F>(f));    
  }
  // Part of the std::function interface:
  const std::type_info& target_type() const {
    if (!*this) return typeid(void);
    return m_pImpl->target_type();
  }
  template< class T >
  T* target() {
    return target_impl<T>();
  }
  template< class T >
  const T* target() const {
    return target_impl<T>();
  }
  // compare with nullptr    :    
  friend bool operator==( std::nullptr_t, task const& self ) { return !self; }
  friend bool operator==( task const& self, std::nullptr_t ) { return !self; }
  friend bool operator!=( std::nullptr_t, task const& self ) { return !!self; }
  friend bool operator!=( task const& self, std::nullptr_t ) { return !!self; }
private:
  template<class T>
  using pimpl_t = details::task_pimpl_impl<T, R, Args...>;

  template<class F>
  static auto make_pimpl( F&& f ) {
    using dF=std::decay_t<F>;
    using pImpl_t = pimpl_t<dF>;
    return std::make_unique<pImpl_t>(std::forward<F>(f));
  }
  std::unique_ptr<details::task_pimpl<R,Args...>> m_pImpl;

  template< class T >
  T* target_impl() const {
    return dynamic_cast<pimpl_t<T>*>(m_pImpl.get());
  }
};

To make this library-worthy, you'd want to add in a small buffer optimization, so it does not store every callable on the heap.

Adding SBO would require a non-default task(task&&), some std::aligned_storage_t within the class, a m_pImpl unique_ptr with a deleter that can be set to destroy-only (and not return the memory to the heap), and a emplace_move_to( void* ) = 0 in the task_pimpl.

live example of the above code (with no SBO).