What exactly is nullptr?


We now have C++11 with many new features. An interesting and confusing one (at least for me) is the new nullptr.

Well, no need anymore for the nasty macro NULL.

int* x = nullptr;
myclass* obj = nullptr;

Still, I am not getting how nullptr works. For example, Wikipedia article says:

C++11 corrects this by introducing a new keyword to serve as a distinguished null pointer constant: nullptr. It is of type nullptr_t, which is implicitly convertible and comparable to any pointer type or pointer-to-member type. It is not implicitly convertible or comparable to integral types, except for bool.

How is it a keyword and an instance of a type?

Also, do you have another example (beside the Wikipedia one) where nullptr is superior to good old 0?

10/9/2013 12:36:57 PM

Accepted Answer

How is it a keyword and an instance of a type?

This isn't surprising. Both true and false are keywords and as literals they have a type ( bool ). nullptr is a pointer literal of type std::nullptr_t, and it's a prvalue (you cannot take the address of it using &).

  • 4.10 about pointer conversion says that a prvalue of type std::nullptr_t is a null pointer constant, and that an integral null pointer constant can be converted to std::nullptr_t. The opposite direction is not allowed. This allows overloading a function for both pointers and integers, and passing nullptr to select the pointer version. Passing NULL or 0 would confusingly select the int version.

  • A cast of nullptr_t to an integral type needs a reinterpret_cast, and has the same semantics as a cast of (void*)0 to an integral type (mapping implementation defined). A reinterpret_cast cannot convert nullptr_t to any pointer type. Rely on the implicit conversion if possible or use static_cast.

  • The Standard requires that sizeof(nullptr_t) be sizeof(void*).

11/25/2012 4:21:04 AM

From nullptr: A Type-safe and Clear-Cut Null Pointer:

The new C++09 nullptr keyword designates an rvalue constant that serves as a universal null pointer literal, replacing the buggy and weakly-typed literal 0 and the infamous NULL macro. nullptr thus puts an end to more than 30 years of embarrassment, ambiguity, and bugs. The following sections present the nullptr facility and show how it can remedy the ailments of NULL and 0.

Other references:

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