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Ch 7.

Operator Overloading

Timothy Budd

Introduction
Almost all operators in C++ can be overloaded with new meanings. Operators may not look like functions but can hide function invocations. You cannot overload the meaning of operators if all arguments are primitive data types, nor can you change the precedence or associativity of operators.
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Figure 7.1 Overloadable Operators in C++


+ ^ || < = &= []
& ++ <= += |= ()

| -== -= ^= ->

* ~ << != *= <<= new

/ ! >> > /=

% && , >= %= >>= delete

Ch 7. Operator Overloading

Overloaded Functions or Methods


Operators can be defined either as functions or as member functions. How to decide which option is preferable
An ordinary function is normally not permitted access to the private portions of the class, whereas a member function is allowed such access. Implicit conversions will be performed for both right and left arguments if the operator is defined in functional form, but only for the right argument if the operator is defined as a member function.
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Figure 7.2 Comparison Defined as an Ordinary Function


class box { public:
box (int v) : value(v) { } int value;

};
// define meaning of comparison for boxes bool operator < (box & left, box & right) { return left.value < right.value; }

Ch 7. Operator Overloading

Figure 7.3 Comparison Defined as a Member Function


class box { public: box (int v) : value(v) { } // define meaning of comparison for boxes bool operator < (box & right) { return value < right.value; } private: int value;
};
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Simple Binary Operators


const rational operator + (const rational & left, const rational & right) { // return sum of two rational numbers rational result ( left.numerator() * right.denominator() + right.numerator() * left.denominator(), left.denominator() * right.denominator()); return result; }
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Simple Binary Operators


Unary operations are either defined as a noargument ordinary function or as a no-argument member function. Always return a constant value, unless you want the result to be a target for an assignment.
rational a(2,3), b(7,8); (a + b) = b; // error: constant result cannot be reassigned
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The Comparison Operators


bool operator < (const rational & left, const rational & right) { // less than comparison of two rational numbers return left.numerator() * right.denominator() < right.numerator() * left.denominator(); }
// define greater than in terms of less than template <class T> bool operator > (T & left, T & right) { return right < left; }

Ch 7. Operator Overloading

The Increment and Decrement Operators


If the increment operator is overloaded, you should define both the prefix and postfix forms. Whenever you have a choice, always invoke the prefix form of the increment operator as it is usually simpler.

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class box { public: box (int v) : value(v) { } // prefix versions, ++aBox int operator ++ () { value++; return value; } int operator -- () { value--; return value; } int operator ++ (int) // postfix versions aBox++ { int result = value; // step 1, save old value value++; // step 2, update value return result; // step 3, return original } int operator -- (int) { int result = value; value--; return result; } private: int value; };
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class box { public: ... const box & operator ++ () { value++; return *this; } } box mybox(3); mybox++++; // error - cannot increment constant value mybox+++= 7; // error - cannot assign to constant value mybox++ = 7; // error - cannot assign to constant value

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Avoid expressions whose meanings are not completely clear.


int i = 5; int x = i + ++i; // ambiguous result

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The Shift Operators


The shift operators are overloaded in exactly the same fashion as the binary arithmetic operators.
cout << "m " << m << " n " << n << " average " << (n+m)/2.0 << '\n';

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ostream & operator << (ostream & out, const rational & value) { // print representation of rational number on an output stream out << value.numerator() << '/' << value.denominator(); return out; }

Avoid the right shift of signed integer values.

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The Assignment Operator


The assignment, comma, and address-of operators will be constructors will be constructed automatically if the programmer does not specify an alternative.
class box { public: box () { value = 0; } box (int i) { value = i; } int value; }; box a(7); box b; b = a;

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Always redefine the assignment operator in classes that include a pointer value.
const box & operator = (box & left, const box & right) { left.value = right.value; return left; } const box & operator = (box & left, int right) { left.value = right; return left; } box c; c = a; b = 2 + (a = 3);
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Always check for self-assignment.


a = a; // make certain this works

const string string::operator = (const string & right) { if (this == right) // check for self assignment return right; ... }
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Despite the use of the assignment symbol, constructors do not use the assignment operator.
box d = c; // uses copy constructor

If addition and assignment are both overloaded, then += should be overloaded as well.
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class bigbox : public box { public: bigbox (int i, double d) : box(i), dvalue(d) { } void operator = (bigbox & right) { value = right.value; dvalue = right.dvalue; } protected: double dvalue; }; box a(3); bigbox b(3, 4.0); a = b; // legal, but sliced, box assignment, b = a; // not legal, argument must be a bigbox
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The Compound Assignment Operators


Whenever possible, define one operator in terms of another.
AnObject operator + (const AnObject & left, const AnObject & right) { AnObject clone(left); // copy the left argument clone += right; // combine with right return clone; // return updated value }

const AnObject & operator += (AnObject & left, const AnObject & right) { AnObject sum = left + right; left = sum; return left; } Ch 7. Operator Overloading 21

The Subscript Operator


Subscript operator is often defined for classes that represent a container abstraction.
class safeArray { public: safeArray (int s) { size = s; values = new int[size]; } int & operator [ ] (unsigned int i) { assert(i < size); return values[i]; } private: unsigned int size; int * values; };
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The real vector data type does not check subscript ranges.
safeArray v(10); v[2] = 7; v[3] = v[2] + 12;

When returning a referenc, make sure that the value will continue to exist after the function exists.
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The Parenthesis Operator


Function Object: an object that can be used as though it were a function.
class LargerThan { public: // constructor LargerThan (int v) { val = v; } // the function call operator bool operator () (int test) { return test > val; } private: int val; };
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LargerThan tester(12);

int i = ... ;
if (tester(i)) // true if i is larger than 12

A temporary object can be created by simply naming the class and any arguments to the constructor.
list<int>::iterator found = find_if (aList.begin(), aList.end(), LargerThan(12));
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The Address-of Operator


Rate to use, but when it yields a value of type void produces a class of objects that cannot have their address computed, it is useful.
class box { public: box () { i = 7; } private: int i; }; box a; box * b; // b is a pointer to a box b = & a; // b now points to a
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The Logical Connectives


Short-circuit evaluation means that in some situations only the left argument is evaluated, and the right argument is not even examined. There is no way to overload the logical operators and preserve the short-circuit evaluation.
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The Comma Operator


The for statements in Java and C++ use the same syntax and achieve a similar result but use different mechanisms.
int i, j; for (i = 0, j = 1; x[i] != 0; i++) if (x[i] == x[j]) j++;

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Mistakenly taping a comma instead of a period can be a very subtle programming error.
x = 7,12; class box { template <class T> const T & operator , (T & right) { return right; } };
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An overloaded comma operator can never have the same short-circuit semantics as the original.
class box { public: box (int v) : val(v) { } int value () { return val; } int operator , (box & right) { return right.value(); } private: int val; };
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The Arrow Operator


Overloading arrow operator is useful in creating objects that have a pointer-like behavior. The arrow operator can be defined only as a member function, and the return type must either be a pointer to a class type or an object for which the member access arrow is itself defined. A smart pointer is an object that can be used in the manner of a pointer.
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Example of Arrow Operator


class countPointer { public: countPointer(Window * w) { count = 0; win = w; } Window * operator->() { count++; return win; } private: Window * win; int count; };
Window * x = new Window(...); // create the underlying value countPointer p(x); // create a counting pointer value p->setSize(300, 400); // invoke method in class window
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Conversion Operators
Conversions from user types are defined by conversion operators; conversions to user types are defined by using constructors.
operator double (const rational & val) { return val.numerator() / (double) val.denominator(); }
rational r (2, 3); double d; d = 3.14 * double(r); // cast converts fraction to double
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Example of Conversion Operators


class rational { ... operator double () const { return numerator() / (double) denominator(); } ... };

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Memory management Operators


It is possible to overload the memory management operators new and delete, obtaining even more control over these tasks than is provided by the default implementations.

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Disallowing Operators
An operator declared as private can be used only within a class definition.
class box { public: box (int v) : val(v) { } int value () { return val; } private: void operator = (box & right) { } }

box aBox (2); // create a new box box bBox (3); // and another
aBox = bBox; // error -- assignment is private
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Implicit Functions and Invocations


Implicit function definitions and implicit function invocations are invoked without the programmer directly requesting it.

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Implicitly Created Operations


The default construct, copy constructor, destructor, assignment operator, address operator, and comma operator will all be given implicit meanings unless overridden by the programmer.
class emptyBox : public box { private: box aField; };

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class emptyBox : public box { public: // constructors emptyBox () : box() , aField() { } emptyBox (const emptyBox & right) : box(right), aField(right.aField) { } ~emptyBox() // destructor { // implicit deletion of aField // implicit call on parent class destructor } const emptyBox & operator = (const emptyBox & right) {// operators aField = right.aField; box::operator = (right); return *this; } emptyBox * operator & () { return * this; } template <class T> const T & operator , (const T & right) { return right; } private: box aField; };
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Implicit Constructors
If no constructor are specified, an implicit default constructor constructor will be created. First, invoke the default constructor for the parent class if the current class was formed by using inheritance. The function will recursively apply default initialization rules for every data field. An implicit copy constructor is created if no other copy constructor is specified, even if other constructors have been defined.
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Implicit Destructors
First, invoke destructors for every data field and then invoke the destructor for the parent class. Fields are destroyed in the opposite order listed in the class body. An implicit destructors is never considered virtual.
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Implicit Assignment Operator


Created implicitly, takes as an argument a value of the same type as the class and recursively assigns each data field from the corresponding fields in the argument object. If there is parent class, the assignment operator for the parent class is then invoked.

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Implicit Address and Comma


The implicit address simply returns a reference to the current object. The implicit comma operator simply returns a reference to the argument object.

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Implicit Function Invocations


Implicit function invocation can greatly increase a programs execution time. A copy constructor always invoked to pass a by-value object.

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class box { public: box () { value = 0; } box (int i) { value = i; } box (box & a) { value = a.value; } ~box() { } // destructor void operator = (box & right) { value = right.value;} operator int () { return value; } private: int value; }; box operator + (box & left, box & right) { return box(((int) left) + (int) right); }
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int foo (box abox) { box bbox; bbox = abox + 1; return bbox; } int main() { box mybox(3); mybox = 4; mybox = foo (mybox + 1); return 0; }
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box mybox(3); // integer constructor mybox = 4; // integer constructor to create temporary // assignment of temporary to variable // destructor on temporary mybox = foo (mybox + 1); // start of statement // integer constructor to create temporary // binary addition of boxes

box operator + (box

& left, box & right)

return box(((int) left) + (int) right); // inside addition operator // conversion of left box to integer // conversion of right box to integer // integer constructor for temporary // return from addition operator mybox = foo (mybox + 1); // continuation of statement box bbox; // inside function foo // default constructor to create variable
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bbox = abox + 1; // start execution // integer constructor to create temporary for constant // binary addition operator for boxes box operator + (box & left, box & right) return box(((int) left) + (int) right); // inside addition operator // conversion of left box to integer // conversion of right box to integer // integer constructor for temporary bbox = abox + 1; // continue execution // assignment for boxes // destructor for temporary // conversion from box to integer // destructor for local variable bbox // return from function // destructor for temporary argument mybox = foo (mybox + 1); // continuation of statement // integer constructor converting result to box // assignment operation // destructor of temporary value // destructor of variable mybox
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class string { public: // constructors string (char * c) ... string (const string & s) ... string (int i) ... }; string aString = 'a'; class string { public: // constructors string (char * c) ... string (const string & s) ... explicit string (int i) ... }; Ch 7. Operator Overloading

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