Safely override C++ virtual functions


I have a base class with a virtual function and I want to override that function in a derived class. Is there some way to make the compiler check if the function I declared in the derived class actually overrides a function in the base class? I would like to add some macro or something that ensures that I didn't accidentally declare a new function, instead of overriding the old one.

Take this example:

class parent {
  virtual void handle_event(int something) const {
    // boring default code

class child : public parent {
  virtual void handle_event(int something) {
    // new exciting code

int main() {
  parent *p = new child();

Here parent::handle_event() is called instead of child::handle_event(), because the child's method misses the const declaration and therefore declares a new method. This could also be a typo in the function name or some minor difference in the parameters types. It can also easily happen if the interface of the base class changes and somewhere some derived class wasn't updated to reflect the change.

Is there some way to avoid this problem, can I somehow tell the compiler or some other tool to check this for me? Any helpful compiler flags (preferably for g++)? How do you avoid these problems?

1/30/2009 11:08:03 PM

Accepted Answer

Since g++ 4.7 it does understand the new C++11 override keyword:

class child : public parent {
      // force handle_event to override a existing function in parent
      // error out if the function with the correct signature does not exist
      void handle_event(int something) override;
12/27/2017 1:13:52 PM

Something like C#'s override keyword is not part of C++.

In gcc, -Woverloaded-virtual warns against hiding a base class virtual function with a function of the same name but a sufficiently different signature that it doesn't override it. It won't, though, protect you against failing to override a function due to mis-spelling the function name itself.

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