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<pre class='metadata'>
Title: Bit-casting object representations
Shortname: P0476
Revision: 2
Audience: LWG
Status: P
Group: WG21
!Source: <a href=""></a>
!Implementation: <a href=""></a>
Editor: JF Bastien, Apple,
Abstract: Obtaining equivalent object representations The Right Way™.
Date: 2017-11-10
Markup Shorthands: markdown yes
This paper is a revision of [[P0476r1]], addressing LEWG comments from the 2017
Toronto meeting as well as comments from LEWG and LWG from the 2017 Albuquerque
meeting. See [[#rev]] for details.
Background {#bg}
Low-level code often seeks to interpret objects of one type as another: keep the
same bits, but obtain an object of a different type. Doing so correctly is
error-prone: using `reinterpret_cast` or `union` runs afoul of type-aliasing
rules yet these are the intuitive solutions developers mistakenly turn to.
Attuned developers use `aligned_storage` with `memcpy`, avoiding alignment
pitfalls and allowing them to bit-cast non-default-constructible types.
This proposal uses appropriate concepts to prevent misuse. As the sample
implementation demonstrates we could as well use `static_assert` or template
SFINAE, but the timing of this library feature will likely coincide with
concept's standardization.
Furthermore, it is currently impossible to implement a `constexpr` bit-cast
function, as `memcpy` itself isn't `constexpr`. Marking the proposed function as
`constexpr` doesn't require or prevent `memcpy` from becoming `constexpr`, but
requires compiler support. This leaves implementations free to use their own
internal solution (e.g. LLVM has <a
href="">a `bitcast`
We should standardize this oft-used idiom, and avoid the pitfalls once and for
Proposed Wording {#word}
Below, substitute the `�` character with a number or name the editor finds
appropriate for the sub-section.
In [**headers**] add the header `<bit>` to:
* Table 16 — C++ library headers
* Table 19 — C++ headers for freestanding implementations
In the numerics section, add the following:
29.� Bit manipulation library [**bit**] {#bit}
29.�.1 General [**bit.general**] {#bitgen}
The header `<bit>` provides components to access, manipulate and process both
individual bits and bit sequences.
29.�.2 Header `<bit>` synopsis [**bit.syn**] {#bitsyn}
namespace std {
// 29.�.3 bit_cast
template<typename To, typename From>
constexpr To bit_cast(const From& from) noexcept;
29.�.3 Function template `bit_cast` [**bit.cast**] {#bitcast}
template<typename To, typename From>
constexpr To bit_cast(const From& from) noexcept;
This function shall not participate in overload resolution unless:
<li>`sizeof(To) == sizeof(From)` is `true`;</li>
<li>`is_trivially_copyable_v<To>` is `true`; and</li>
<li>`is_trivially_copyable_v<From>` is `true`.</li>
This function shall be `constexpr` if and only if `To`, `From`, and the types
of all subobjects of `To` and `From` are types `T` such that:
<li>`is_union_v<T>` is `false`;</li>
<li>`is_pointer_v<T>` is `false`;</li>
<li>`is_member_pointer_v<T>` is `false`;</li>
<li>`is_volatile_v<T>` is `false`; and</li>
<li>`T` has no non-static data members of reference type.</li>
An object of type `To`. Each bit of the value representation of the result
is equal to the corresponding bit in the object representation of
`from`. Padding bits of the `To` object are unspecified. If there is no
value of type `To` corresponding to the value representation produced, the
behavior is undefined. If there are multiple such values, which value is
produced is unspecified.
Feature testing {#test}
The `__cpp_lib_bit_cast` feature test macro should be added.
Appendix {#appendix}
The Standard's [**basic.types**] section explicitly blesses `memcpy`:
For any trivially copyable type `T`, if two pointers to `T` point to distinct
`T` objects `obj1` and `obj2`, where neither `obj1` nor `obj2` is a base-class
subobject, if the *underlying bytes* (1.7) making up `obj1` are copied into
`obj2`, `obj2` shall subsequently hold the same value as `obj1`.
T* t1p;
T* t2p;
// provided that t2p points to an initialized object ...
std::memcpy(t1p, t2p, sizeof(T));
// at this point, every subobject of trivially copyable type in *t1p contains
// the same value as the corresponding subobject in *t2p
— *end example*]
Whereas section [**class.union**] says:
In a union, at most one of the non-static data members can be
active at any time, that is, the value of at most one of the
non-static data members can be stored in a union at any time.
Revision History {#rev}
r1 ➡ r2 {#r1r2}
The paper was reviewed by LEWG at the 2017 Toronto meeting and feedback was
provided. In the 2017 Albuquerque meeting LEWG provided feedback regarding usage
of concepts while discussing [[P0802r0]], and EWG reviewed the paper:
* Use "shall not participate in overload resolution" wording instead of a
requires clause.
* The author was asked to explore naming. LEWG took a poll in Albuquerque and
voted to keep `bit_cast`.
* There was strong sentiment that this facility should be available in
freestanding implementations. LEWG is changing its guidance regarding
freestanding header granularity, but until guidance is actually changed it
was decided that a currently freestanding header should be used. LEWG took a
poll in Albuquerque, and the new `<bit>` header was chosen instead of
* Call out that `constexpr` requires compiler support.
* Make `constexpr` conditional, similar to variant's [variant.ctor] wording,
based on an EWG straw poll in Albuquerque.
* LWG review made the `constexpr` remark recursive, and tuned the return
wording, asking CWG to review the changes.
* LWG review requested that this paper also add the `<bit>` header, and let
the editor resolve races if multiple papers add the header concurrently.
* CWG substantially tuned the wording.
r0 ➡ r1 {#r0r1}
The paper was reviewed by LEWG at the 2016 Issaquah meeting:
* Remove the standard layout requirement—trivially copyable suffices for the `memcpy` requirement.
* We discussed removing `constexpr`, but there was no consent either way. There was some suggestion that it’ll be hard for implementers, but there's also some desire (by the same implementers) to have those features available in order to support things like `constexpr` instances of `std::variant`.
* The pointer-forbidding logic was removed. It was initially there to help developers when a better tool is available, but it's easily worked around (e.g. with a `struct` containing a pointer). Note that this doesn't prevent `constexpr` versions of `bit_cast`: the implementation is allowed to error out on `bit_cast` of pointer.
* Some discussion about concepts-usage, but it seems like mostly an LWG issue and we're reasonably sure that concepts will land before this or in a compatible vehicle.
Straw polls:
* Do we want to see [[P0476r0]] again? unanimous consent.
* `bit_cast` should allow pointer types in `To` and `From`. **SF F N A SA** 4 5 4 2 1
* `bit_cast` should be `constexpr`? **SF F N A SA** 4 3 7 2 3
Acknowledgement {#ack}
Thanks to Saam Barati, Jeffrey Yasskin, and Sam Benzaquen for their early review
and suggested improvements.