Smart Pointers and std::unique_ptr

Mixing Smart and Raw Pointers

Is it okay to mix smart pointers and raw pointers in the same program?

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Yes, it is common and often necessary to mix smart pointers and raw pointers in the same program. The key is to establish clear conventions around ownership and responsibility.

When a function uses a raw pointer, it is typically signaling that it wants access to the resource, but is not taking ownership of it. For example:

#include <memory>
#include <iostream>

void PrintName(std::string* Name) {
  std::cout << *Name << '\n';

int main() {
  auto Name{std::make_unique<std::string>(

Here, main is maintaining ownership of the resource, and PrintName is simply accessing it.

Conversely, when ownership needs to be transferred, smart pointers are used:

#include <memory>
#include <utility>
#include <iostream>

void StoreNameElsewhere(std::unique_ptr<
  std::string> Name) {
  // Store name in file, database etc
  std::cout << "Storing " << *Name << "\n";

int main() {
  auto Name{std::make_unique<std::string>(
Storing Gandalf

In summary:

  • Use smart pointers for ownership
  • Use raw pointers for non-owning access
  • Be clear about whether a function is taking ownership or not
  • Don't delete resources you don't own

Answers to questions are automatically generated and may not have been reviewed.

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