First Class Functions

Understanding Complex Function Pointer Syntax

C++ function pointer syntax can get quite complex, especially with things like typedef and using directives. How can I decipher complex function pointer syntax?

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Function pointer syntax in C++ can indeed be quite daunting, especially when typedefs, using directives, and function parameters are involved. Here's a step-by-step approach to deciphering complex function pointer syntax:

  1. Start from the identifier and read from right to left.
  2. When you encounter an asterisk , it means "pointer to".
  3. When you encounter parentheses (), it means "function taking parameters and returning".
  4. Typedefs and using directives replace the actual type.

Let's look at an example:

typedef int (*Comparator)(const void*, const void*);

Reading from right to left:

  • const void*¬†- a const void pointer
  • const void*, const void*¬†- two const void pointers
  • (const void*, const void*)¬†- function taking two const void pointers
  • int (*)(const void*, const void*)¬†- pointer to function taking two const void pointers and returning int
  • int (*Comparator)(const void*, const void*)¬†- Comparator is a typedef for a pointer to function taking two const void pointers and returning int

Another example:

using Callback = void (*)(int, int);
  • int, int¬†- two ints
  • (int, int)¬†- function taking two ints
  • void (*)(int, int)¬†- pointer to function taking two ints and returning void
  • using Callback = void (*)(int, int)¬†- Callback is an alias for a pointer to function taking two ints and returning void

One more example:

int *(*(*fp)(int))[10];
  • [10]¬†- array of 10 elements
  • (*)[10]¬†- pointer to array of 10 elements
  • int *(*)[10]¬†- pointer to array of 10 pointers to int
  • (int)¬†- function taking int
  • (*fp)(int)¬†- fp is a pointer to function taking int
  • int *(*(*fp)(int))[10]¬†- fp is a pointer to function taking int and returning pointer to array of 10 pointers to int

The key is to break it down step by step and read from right to left. With practice, you'll get more comfortable with deciphering these complex types.

In modern C++, typedefs and complex function pointer syntax are often avoided in favor of using directives and std::function, which provide a more readable syntax. But understanding the underlying syntax is still valuable for reading legacy code and gaining a deeper understanding of the language.

This Question is from the Lesson:

First Class Functions

Learn about first-class functions in C++: a feature that lets you store functions in variables, pass them to other functions, and return them, opening up new design possibilities

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This Question is from the Lesson:

First Class Functions

Learn about first-class functions in C++: a feature that lets you store functions in variables, pass them to other functions, and return them, opening up new design possibilities

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