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Materials for the C++ Template Metaprogramming one-day workshop
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.gitignore Renamed README, added .idea/ to .gitignore Dec 24, 2015

C++ Template Metaprogramming workshop

This document contains accompanying labs for the C++ metaprogramming workshop by Sasha Goldshtein (@goldshtn), delivered at the December 2015 SDP.

Solutions for all labs are available in the solutions.h file. Try to only consult the solutions if you get stuck in a particular lab.

Lab 1: Variadic templates -- Euclidean distance on tuples

std::tuple is a standard library type that represents a collection of heterogenous elements. It is an extension of the old-fashioned std::pair type for more than two types. Here are some basic operations you can perform with tuples:

std::tuple<int, std::string, double> tup(42, "Alfred", 3.14);
tup = make_tuple(17, "Henrietta", 0.0);
std::string name = std::get<1>(tup);

Implement the following function, that finds the Euclidean distance between two points in n-dimensional space represented by tuples of integers or floating-point values:

template <typename Tup1, typename Tup2>
double euclidean_distance(Tup1 const &tup1, Tup2 const &tup2);

Euclidean distance is defined by the following formula: sqrt( (x[0] - y[0])^2 + ... + (x[n] - y[n])^2 ), in other words the square root of the sum of square differences pair-wise between two points.

Usage example:

auto distance = euclidean_distance(make_tuple(1, 2), make_tuple(4, 6));
// distance should be sqrt(3^2 + 4^2) = 5


  • Use the std::get<I>(tup) function to obtain a tuple element at index I
  • Note that the std::get<I> function works only if the parameter I is a compile-time constant; you can't just write a for loop that goes over all the elements in the tuple :-)
  • The inner calculation can be recursive in terms of the current tuple element index with a base case 0
  • Even if the tuples have a mix of integers and floating-point elements, do all the calculations with doubles
  • To find the number of elements in a tuple, use the std::tuple_size class template (e.g. if Tup1 is a type of a tuple, std::tuple_size<Tup1>::value is the number of elements in the tuple)

If you're really stuck, fill in the following skeleton that contains the core of the recursive solution:

template <int I> struct helper {
  template <typename Tup1, typename Tup2>
  static double sum_squared_deltas(Tup1 const& tup1, Tup2 const& tup2) { ... }
template <> struct helper<0> {
  template <typename Tup1, typename Tup2>
  static double sum_squared_deltas(Tup1 const& tup1, Tup2 const& tup2) { ... }

Lab 2: Compile-time computation -- get<T> for tuples

C++ 14 introduces a very useful function for working with tuples: get<T>. Here's an example of how it works. Note that if the type doesn't appear exactly once in the tuple, the result should be a compilation error (not a runtime exception).

auto tup = std::make_tuple(4.0, "Evelyn", 52);
std::get<double>(tup) = 3.0;
std::cout << std::get<int>(tup) << '\n';

If you already have a standard library that supports C++ 14, good for you, but we’re still going to implement this facility ourselves. Here is the general sketch of a possible solution:

  • Build a class template count that you can invoke as follows: count<T, T1, T2, ..., Tn>::value which returns the number of times T appears in the list of types that follow. This can be done by a simple specialization for count<T> and count<T, Head, Tail...>.

  • Build a class template find that you can invoke as follows: find<T, T1, T2, ..., Tn>::value which returns the first index at which the type T appears in the list of types that follow. This can be done in a very similar way to count. (If T doesn't appear in the list of types specified, you can cause a compile-time error or simply return -1.)

Now, the get<T> function can use these helpers to call the standard get<I> function:

template <typename T, typename... Ts>
T& get(std::tuple<Ts...>& tup) {
  static_assert(count<T, Ts...>::value == 1, "T must appear exactly once");
  return std::get<find<T, Ts...>::value>(tup);

Lab 3: Trait and member detection -- operator== constraint for linear search

We would like to assert the necessary constraint when performing a linear search (such as what the STL find algorithm does). Specifically, the element we're looking for must be "equatable" (using operator==) to the elements in the input sequence.

Starting from the following code, add a static assertion that verifies the above constraint (in other words, checks that val can be compared to *first using operator==).

template <typename It, typename T>
It linear_search(It first, It last, T const& val) {
  for (; first != last && !(val == *first); ++first)
  return first;

There is no single correct solution, because there are many options. For example, you can try using the void_t approach, or the constexpr-function-based approach, to detect whether the necessary member exists.

Note: Visual Studio 2015 doesn't have full support for expression SFINAE yet, which means your code might fail if you use the standard void_t approach. Try a different compiler, or Visual Studio 2015 Update 2.

Lab 4: Trait and member detection -- strings aren't containers, arrays are

The solution we built for detecting containers (is_container) is adequate for classic STL containers like vector and map, but it has two issues:

  • It thinks string is a container, because it has a nested ::iterator type. Although it is technically correct, we don't really want to treat strings as containers for the purpose of serialization or debug-printing.

  • It thinks built-in arrays (like int[5]) are not containers, because they don't have a nested ::iterator type. Again, for the purpose of serialization we would actually want to treat built-in arrays as containers.

Begin from the following is_container detector and fix the two problems above. Test your changes by using static assertions and also by using the dump method to print out a string and an array, and make sure you get the desired behavior.

// NOTE: Your standard library might already define void_t, in which case this declaration is not required
template <typename T>
using void_t = void;

template <typename T, typename = void>
struct is_container : std::false_type {

template <typename T>
struct is_container<T, void_t<typename T::iterator>> : std::true_type {

template <typename T>
void dump(std::ostream& os, T const& val);

template <typename T>
void dump(std::ostream& os, T const& val, std::true_type) {
    os << "<<< begin container of type " << typeid(T).name() << " >>>\n";
    for (auto const& elem : val) {
        dump(os, elem);
    os << "<<< end container >>>\n";

template <typename T>
void dump(std::ostream& os, T const& val, std::false_type) {
    os << "plain value: " << val << '\n';

template <typename T>
void dump(std::ostream& os, T const& val) {
    dump(os, val, std::integral_constant<bool, is_container<T>::value>{});

Hint: specialize is_container for strings and arrays. Specifically, strings are instantiations of the std::basic_string<CharT, Traits, Allocator> template, and arrays can be detected by specializing for their type and element count: template <typename T, size_t N> struct is_container<T[N]> ....

Lab 5: Overload management with enable_if

A common pattern with library classes that want to eliminate unnecessary copies is a constructor that takes a universal reference (also known as forwarding reference). By using a universal reference and std::forward, rvalue objects can be moved while lvalue objects can be copied into their final destination inside the newly constructed instance. For example, consider the following window class, which is initialized with a toolbar:

class window {
    toolbar toolbar_;
    template <typename Toolbar>
    window(Toolbar&& toolbar) : toolbar_{ std::forward<Toolbar>(toolbar) } {
    window(window const& other) {
        /* some copy construction */
    window(window&& other) {
        /* some move construction */
    /* some additional methods */

Perhaps surprisingly, there is a serious problem here that is known as shadowing. Namely, the template constructor can shadow the copy constructor. The following code does not compile:

toolbar tb;
window w{ tb };
window w2{ w };

error: excess elements in struct initializer
window(Toolbar&& toolbar) : toolbar_{ std::forward<Toolbar>(toolbar) } {

The culprit is that the compiler chooses the template overload because it can be specialized to form a better match: the w expression has type window&, which the template constructor can match exactly, whereas the copy constructor can only match after adding the const qualifier.

To solve this problem, the template constructor needs to be removed from the overload set when the type is widget. Use enable_if to do so.

Hint: use std::is_same.

Lab 6: Integer sequences

Implement a function array_to_tuple that takes an array and returns a tuple that contains the same elements, in the same order.

Hint: use an index_sequence and apply it to the array. Specifically, create a function that takes the array and a variadic size_t... Ix template parameter, and then expand arr[Ix]....

Implement a function invoke that takes a function and a tuple, and returns the result of invoking that function with the tuple's elements as arguments.

Hint: similarly to the previous task, use an index_sequence and expand std::get<Ix>(tup)....

Revisit Lab 1 (Euclidean distance) and implement it using index_sequence instead of the manual recursive solution.

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