Are inline virtual functions really a non-sense?


Question

I got this question when I received a code review comment saying virtual functions need not be inline.

I thought inline virtual functions could come in handy in scenarios where functions are called on objects directly. But the counter-argument came to my mind is -- why would one want to define virtual and then use objects to call methods?

Is it best not to use inline virtual functions, since they're almost never expanded anyway?

Code snippet I used for analysis:

class Temp
{
public:

    virtual ~Temp()
    {
    }
    virtual void myVirtualFunction() const
    {
        cout<<"Temp::myVirtualFunction"<<endl;
    }

};

class TempDerived : public Temp
{
public:

    void myVirtualFunction() const
    {
        cout<<"TempDerived::myVirtualFunction"<<endl;
    }

};

int main(void) 
{
    TempDerived aDerivedObj;
    //Compiler thinks it's safe to expand the virtual functions
    aDerivedObj.myVirtualFunction();

    //type of object Temp points to is always known;
    //does compiler still expand virtual functions?
    //I doubt compiler would be this much intelligent!
    Temp* pTemp = &aDerivedObj;
    pTemp->myVirtualFunction();

    return 0;
}
1
163
7/8/2013 5:43:03 PM

Accepted Answer

Virtual functions can be inlined sometimes. An excerpt from the excellent C++ faq:

"The only time an inline virtual call can be inlined is when the compiler knows the "exact class" of the object which is the target of the virtual function call. This can happen only when the compiler has an actual object rather than a pointer or reference to an object. I.e., either with a local object, a global/static object, or a fully contained object inside a composite."

142
4/2/2016 4:48:04 PM

C++11 has added final. This changes the accepted answer: it's no longer necessary to know the exact class of the object, it's sufficient to know the object has at least the class type in which the function was declared final:

class A { 
  virtual void foo();
};
class B : public A {
  inline virtual void foo() final { } 
};
class C : public B
{
};

void bar(B const& b) {
  A const& a = b; // Allowed, every B is an A.
  a.foo(); // Call to B::foo() can be inlined, even if b is actually a class C.
}

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