Downcasting shared_ptr to shared_ptr?


Update: the shared_ptr in this example is like the one in Boost, but it doesn't support shared_polymorphic_downcast (or dynamic_pointer_cast or static_pointer_cast for that matter)!

I'm trying to initialize a shared pointer to a derived class without losing the reference count:

struct Base { };
struct Derived : public Base { };
shared_ptr<Base> base(new Base());
shared_ptr<Derived> derived;

// error: invalid conversion from 'Base* const' to 'Derived*'
derived = base;  

So far, so good. I didn't expect C++ to implicitly convert Base* to Derived*. However, I do want the functionality expressed by the code (that is, maintaining the reference count while downcasting the base pointer). My first thought was to provide a cast operator in Base so that an implicit conversion to Derived could take place (for pedants: I would check that the down cast is valid, don't worry):

struct Base {
  operator Derived* ();
// ...
Base::operator Derived* () {
  return down_cast<Derived*>(this);

Well, it didn't help. It seems the compiler completely ignored my typecast operator. Any ideas how I could make the shared_ptr assignment work? For extra points: what kind of type Base* const is? const Base* I understand, but Base* const? What does const refer to in this case?

8/31/2009 5:39:19 PM

You can use dynamic_pointer_cast. It is supported by std::shared_ptr.

std::shared_ptr<Base> base (new Derived());
std::shared_ptr<Derived> derived =
               std::dynamic_pointer_cast<Derived> (base);

Also, I don't recommend using cast operator in the base class. Implicit casting like this may become the source of bugs and errors.

-Update: If the type is not polymorphic, std::static_pointer_cast may be used.

4/16/2015 2:43:42 AM

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