C++ Erasing down to a contiguous buffer of T


Example

Not all type erasure involves virtual inheritance, allocations, placement new, or even function pointers.

What makes type erasure type erasure is that it describes a (set of) behavior(s), and takes any type that supports that behavior and wraps it up. All information that isn't in that set of behaviors is "forgotten" or "erased".

An array_view takes its incoming range or container type and erases everything except the fact it is a contiguous buffer of T.

// helper traits for SFINAE:
template<class T>
using data_t = decltype( std::declval<T>().data() );

template<class Src, class T>
using compatible_data = std::integral_constant<bool, std::is_same< data_t<Src>, T* >{} || std::is_same< data_t<Src>, std::remove_const_t<T>* >{}>;

template<class T>
struct array_view {
  // the core of the class:
  T* b=nullptr;
  T* e=nullptr;
  T* begin() const { return b; }
  T* end() const { return e; }

  // provide the expected methods of a good contiguous range:
  T* data() const { return begin(); }
  bool empty() const { return begin()==end(); }
  std::size_t size() const { return end()-begin(); }

  T& operator[](std::size_t i)const{ return begin()[i]; }
  T& front()const{ return *begin(); }
  T& back()const{ return *(end()-1); }

  // useful helpers that let you generate other ranges from this one
  // quickly and safely:
  array_view without_front( std::size_t i=1 ) const {
    i = (std::min)(i, size());
    return {begin()+i, end()};
  }
  array_view without_back( std::size_t i=1 ) const {
    i = (std::min)(i, size());
    return {begin(), end()-i};
  }

  // array_view is plain old data, so default copy:
  array_view(array_view const&)=default;
  // generates a null, empty range:
  array_view()=default;

  // final constructor:
  array_view(T* s, T* f):b(s),e(f) {}
  // start and length is useful in my experience:
  array_view(T* s, std::size_t length):array_view(s, s+length) {}

  // SFINAE constructor that takes any .data() supporting container
  // or other range in one fell swoop:
  template<class Src,
    std::enable_if_t< compatible_data<std::remove_reference_t<Src>&, T >{}, int>* =nullptr,
    std::enable_if_t< !std::is_same<std::decay_t<Src>, array_view >{}, int>* =nullptr
  >
  array_view( Src&& src ):
    array_view( src.data(), src.size() )
  {}

  // array constructor:
  template<std::size_t N>
  array_view( T(&arr)[N] ):array_view(arr, N) {}

  // initializer list, allowing {} based:
  template<class U,
    std::enable_if_t< std::is_same<const U, T>{}, int>* =nullptr
  >
  array_view( std::initializer_list<U> il ):array_view(il.begin(), il.end()) {}
};

an array_view takes any container that supports .data() returning a pointer to T and a .size() method, or an array, and erases it down to being a random-access range over contiguous Ts.

It can take a std::vector<T>, a std::string<T> a std::array<T, N> a T[37], an initializer list (including {} based ones), or something else you make up that supports it (via T* x.data() and size_t x.size()).

In this case, the data we can extract from the thing we are erasing, together with our "view" non-owning state, means we don't have to allocate memory or write custom type-dependent functions.

Live example.

An improvement would be to use a non-member data and a non-member size in an ADL-enabled context.