Asked  7 Months ago    Answers:  5   Viewed   108 times

I'm new to move semantics in C++11 and I don't know very well how to handle unique_ptr parameters in constructors or functions. Consider this class referencing itself:

#include <memory>

class Base

    typedef unique_ptr<Base> UPtr;

    Base(Base::UPtr n):next(std::move(n)){}

    virtual ~Base(){}

    void setNext(Base::UPtr n)
      next = std::move(n);

  protected :

    Base::UPtr next;


Is this how I should write functions taking unique_ptr arguments?

And do I need to use std::move in the calling code?

Base::UPtr b1;
Base::UPtr b2(new Base());

b1->setNext(b2); //should I write b1->setNext(std::move(b2)); instead?



Here are the possible ways to take a unique pointer as an argument, as well as their associated meaning.

(A) By Value

Base(std::unique_ptr<Base> n)
  : next(std::move(n)) {}

In order for the user to call this, they must do one of the following:

Base newBase(std::move(nextBase));
Base fromTemp(std::unique_ptr<Base>(new Base(...));

To take a unique pointer by value means that you are transferring ownership of the pointer to the function/object/etc in question. After newBase is constructed, nextBase is guaranteed to be empty. You don't own the object, and you don't even have a pointer to it anymore. It's gone.

This is ensured because we take the parameter by value. std::move doesn't actually move anything; it's just a fancy cast. std::move(nextBase) returns a Base&& that is an r-value reference to nextBase. That's all it does.

Because Base::Base(std::unique_ptr<Base> n) takes its argument by value rather than by r-value reference, C++ will automatically construct a temporary for us. It creates a std::unique_ptr<Base> from the Base&& that we gave the function via std::move(nextBase). It is the construction of this temporary that actually moves the value from nextBase into the function argument n.

(B) By non-const l-value reference

Base(std::unique_ptr<Base> &n)
  : next(std::move(n)) {}

This has to be called on an actual l-value (a named variable). It cannot be called with a temporary like this:

Base newBase(std::unique_ptr<Base>(new Base)); //Illegal in this case.

The meaning of this is the same as the meaning of any other use of non-const references: the function may or may not claim ownership of the pointer. Given this code:

Base newBase(nextBase);

There is no guarantee that nextBase is empty. It may be empty; it may not. It really depends on what Base::Base(std::unique_ptr<Base> &n) wants to do. Because of that, it's not very evident just from the function signature what's going to happen; you have to read the implementation (or associated documentation).

Because of that, I wouldn't suggest this as an interface.

(C) By const l-value reference

Base(std::unique_ptr<Base> const &n);

I don't show an implementation, because you cannot move from a const&. By passing a const&, you are saying that the function can access the Base via the pointer, but it cannot store it anywhere. It cannot claim ownership of it.

This can be useful. Not necessarily for your specific case, but it's always good to be able to hand someone a pointer and know that they cannot (without breaking rules of C++, like no casting away const) claim ownership of it. They can't store it. They can pass it to others, but those others have to abide by the same rules.

(D) By r-value reference

Base(std::unique_ptr<Base> &&n)
  : next(std::move(n)) {}

This is more or less identical to the "by non-const l-value reference" case. The differences are two things.

  1. You can pass a temporary:

    Base newBase(std::unique_ptr<Base>(new Base)); //legal now..
  2. You must use std::move when passing non-temporary arguments.

The latter is really the problem. If you see this line:

Base newBase(std::move(nextBase));

You have a reasonable expectation that, after this line completes, nextBase should be empty. It should have been moved from. After all, you have that std::move sitting there, telling you that movement has occurred.

The problem is that it hasn't. It is not guaranteed to have been moved from. It may have been moved from, but you will only know by looking at the source code. You cannot tell just from the function signature.


  • (A) By Value: If you mean for a function to claim ownership of a unique_ptr, take it by value.
  • (C) By const l-value reference: If you mean for a function to simply use the unique_ptr for the duration of that function's execution, take it by const&. Alternatively, pass a & or const& to the actual type pointed to, rather than using a unique_ptr.
  • (D) By r-value reference: If a function may or may not claim ownership (depending on internal code paths), then take it by &&. But I strongly advise against doing this whenever possible.

How to manipulate unique_ptr

You cannot copy a unique_ptr. You can only move it. The proper way to do this is with the std::move standard library function.

If you take a unique_ptr by value, you can move from it freely. But movement doesn't actually happen because of std::move. Take the following statement:

std::unique_ptr<Base> newPtr(std::move(oldPtr));

This is really two statements:

std::unique_ptr<Base> &&temporary = std::move(oldPtr);
std::unique_ptr<Base> newPtr(temporary);

(note: The above code does not technically compile, since non-temporary r-value references are not actually r-values. It is here for demo purposes only).

The temporary is just an r-value reference to oldPtr. It is in the constructor of newPtr where the movement happens. unique_ptr's move constructor (a constructor that takes a && to itself) is what does the actual movement.

If you have a unique_ptr value and you want to store it somewhere, you must use std::move to do the storage.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021
answered 7 Months ago

Standard Method (no library)

The arguments are stored in process.argv

Here are the node docs on handling command line args:

process.argv is an array containing the command line arguments. The first element will be 'node', the second element will be the name of the JavaScript file. The next elements will be any additional command line arguments.

// print process.argv
process.argv.forEach(function (val, index, array) {
  console.log(index + ': ' + val);

This will generate:

$ node process-2.js one two=three four
0: node
1: /Users/mjr/work/node/process-2.js
2: one
3: two=three
4: four
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
answered 7 Months ago
static void Main(string[] args)
  // For the sake of this example, we're just printing the arguments to the console.
  for (int i = 0; i < args.Length; i++) {
    Console.WriteLine("args[{0}] == {1}", i, args[i]);

The arguments will then be stored in the args string array:

$ AppB.exe firstArg secondArg thirdArg
args[0] == firstArg
args[1] == secondArg
args[2] == thirdArg
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
answered 7 Months ago

They really solve two similar but different problems.

A pointer container is a way to store objects in a container that just so happen to be pointers to allocated memory rather than values. They do everything in their power to hide the fact that they are a container of pointers. This means:

  • Entries in the container cannot be NULL.
  • Values you get from iterators and functions are references to the type, not pointers to the type.
  • Working with many standard algorithms can be... tricky. And by "tricky", I mean broken. Pointer containers have their own built-in algorithms.

However, the fact that pointer containers know that they're containers of pointers, they can offer some new functionality:

  • A clone member function that performs a deep copy, via the use of a certain "Cloneable" concept on the type of the object.
  • The ability of a container to release ownership of its objects (after a shallow copy, for example).
  • Built-in functions to transfer ownership to other containers.

They really are quite different concepts. There is a lot of stuff you would have to do manually that pointer containers can do automatically with specialized functions.

If you really need a container of pointers, then you can use containers of unique_ptr. But if you need to store a bunch of objects that you happen to heap allocate, and you want to play special games with them involving ownership and such, then the pointer containers are not a bad idea.

Saturday, July 3, 2021
answered 6 Months ago

You have three options:

  1. Give up ownership. This will leave your local variable without access to the dynamic object after the function call; the object has been transferred to the callee:

  2. Change the signature of f:

    void f(std::unique_ptr<Derived> const &);
  3. Change the type of your variable:

    std::unique_ptr<base> derived = std::unique_ptr<Derived>(new Derived);

    Or of course just:

    std::unique_ptr<base> derived(new Derived);

    Or even:

    std::unique_ptr<base> derived = std::make_unique<Derived>();
  4. Update: Or, as recommended in the comments, don't transfer ownership at all:

    void f(Base & b);
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Elijah W. Gagne
answered 5 Months ago
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