Variable number of parameters in function in C++


Question

How I can have variable number of parameters in my function in C++.

Analog in C#:

public void Foo(params int[] a) {
    for (int i = 0; i < a.Length; i++)
        Console.WriteLine(a[i]);
}

public void UseFoo() {
    Foo();
    Foo(1);
    Foo(1, 2);
}

Analog in Java:

public void Foo(int... a) {
    for (int i = 0; i < a.length; i++)
        System.out.println(a[i]);
}

public void UseFoo() {
    Foo();
    Foo(1);
    Foo(2);
}
1
31
10/16/2009 6:50:36 PM

Accepted Answer

These are called Variadic functions. Wikipedia lists example code for C++.

To portably implement variadic functions in the C programming language, the standard stdarg.h header file should be used. The older varargs.h header has been deprecated in favor of stdarg.h. In C++, the header file cstdarg should be used.

To create a variadic function, an ellipsis (...) must be placed at the end of a parameter list. Inside the body of the function, a variable of type va_list must be defined. Then the macros va_start(va_list, last fixed param), va_arg(va_list, cast type), va_end(va_list) can be used. For example:

#include <stdarg.h>

double average(int count, ...)
{
    va_list ap;
    int j;
    double tot = 0;
    va_start(ap, count); //Requires the last fixed parameter (to get the address)
    for(j=0; j<count; j++)
        tot+=va_arg(ap, double); //Requires the type to cast to. Increments ap to the next argument.
    va_end(ap);
    return tot/count;
}
43
10/16/2009 6:47:06 PM

The real C++ solution is variadic templates. You'll need a fairly recent compiler and enable C++11 support if needed.

Two ways to handle the "do the same thing with all function arguments" problem: recursively, and with an ugly (but very very Standards compliant) solution.

The recursive solution looks somewhat like this:

template<typename... ArgTypes>
void print(ArgTypes... args);
template<typename T, typename... ArgTypes>
void print(T t, ArgTypes... args)
{
  std::cout << t;
  print(args...);
}
template<> void print() {} // end recursion

It generates one symbol for each collection of arguments, and then one for each step into the recursion. This is suboptimal to say the least, so the awesome C++ people here at SO thought of a great trick abusing the side effect of a list initialization:

struct expand_type {
  template<typename... T>
  expand_type(T&&...) {}
};
template<typename... ArgTypes>
void print(ArgTypes... args)
{ 
  expand_type{ 0, (std::cout << args, 0)... };
}

Code isn't generated for a million slightly different template instantiations, and as a bonus, you get preserved order of you function arguments. See the other answer for the nitty gritty details of this solution.


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