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cozzie

C++ templates, are they worth it?

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Hi,
Just out of curiosity. I'm "just" a fanatic hobbyist and up till now developed my own 3d engine. With from a hobby point of view enough flexibility and fun stuff. Up till now it's nicely OOP designed, 80/20 data driven and "const correct" (structure is a gift :))

Now I was wondering, would it be interesting/ pay off to learn c++ templates:
- what will it bring?
- does my code get better readable or memory efficient?
- and what more?

I recently swapped most of my dynamic memory allocations by using vectors (except where it doesn't bring anything).

Who can convince me?

Ps: I'm not planning using templates yet because I dont need them at the moment for what I'm trying to achieve
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Thanks, I didn't think about it that way using vectors. Where I'm basically using some of the benefits of templates. When I find myself writing functions over and over for several types, I'll get into it.
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Without templates, you'd have to know the types of your monsters in advance / right at the moment when you're implementing "will_first_monster_win" -- and then rewrite it / provide overloads / etc. each time you add new monster type. Or just settle for a boring game with fixed monster types :-(

 

Well I'd argue that it would be rare to have code that call these functions with explicitly those monster types :-). More likely you'd use runtime polymorphism here (e.g. a Monster base class that has a strength property), since the calling code would most likely/hopefully be ignorant of the specific monster type.

 

But, your general point of possibly replacing runtime polymorphism with compile-time polymorphism stands. Templates can offer an alternative to virtual function calls (speeding things up since an indirection through a vtable isn't needed).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template_metaprogramming#Static_polymorphism

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You should not stop learning C++. Go for templates:

  • Templates allow generic programming
  • Templates are the base for many useful C++ idioms (an example of list)
  • Templates allow generic meta-programming
  • Templates are type-safe
  • Templates allow static code inspection (see SFINAE)
  • Templates represent a powerful concept that helps fighting DRY violations and refactor code
  • Templates are evaluated by the compiler not at run-time
  • The use of templates is fun and can lead you to many interesting code design problematic
  • Many high quality code architectures use templates (C++ standard library for instance)
  • ...
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In the places where you didn't replace raw allocation with vectors because you felt there was no gain, are you sure that code is exception safe?
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Templates have nightmarishly awful syntax and can be used to produced wholly illegible code almost instantaneously with little to no effort. On the other hand, once you have the stuff written (if you did it sanely) then the places where you make use of it are clear and efficient. Just learn how they work and fiddle with it for a while. They're not that complicated, but people use them to make horrific, awful things that work very well. For example, vector is a template class, and you can see how useful it is. If you look at the code that implements it you may vomit, but making use of it feels natural and effective.

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I recently swapped most of my dynamic memory allocations by using vectors (except where it doesn't bring anything).

 

What do you mean by "Except where it doesn't bring anything"? Why would you use C array in a C++ code? With zero optimizations, I don't believe the performance would be so much different, as std::vector is just a wrapper around C style array? However the functionality you get with STD arrays is totally worth performance. 

 

And to answer your question about templates, of course learn it. Templates can be scary (it was for me); however once you get comfortable with it, you can write codes that are very flexible. 

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First learn to make good use of templates indirectly, e.g. as someone mentioned, through using vector, map, pair etc. Then once you're very comfortable with that, you might want to start getting involved with them directly i.e. seeing how they are written and then writing your own.

The same advice I give for learning OOP and classes fwiw.

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well, templates can partially be replaced by the new "auto" type in c++

 

No, I don't think so. Not in C++11 anyways. The use of the 'auto' keyword can make it so that you don't have to state an explicit template type more than once when once will do, but since auto is not a type itself -- it only infers the type of an expression known to the compiler -- it needs a type on which to act on in the first place, template or otherwise.

 

In C++14 I believe they've allowed for auto parameters in lambdas for sure (and I think other functions too), and for return types -- and that can be used for something that's vaguely a subset of templates. But its AFAIK just shorthand for actual templates, you can't access variadic template parameters, can't specialize, and you can't even constrain types at all (maybe with traits-lite? I'm not sure). Its very, very limited.

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