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Posted 9 Sep 2004

An object-oriented wrapper around function pointers

, 9 Sep 2004
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Function pointers provide a handy mechanism for 1<sup>st</sup> order functions but are rather complex in usage. This article gives a wrapper around those function pointers making the use of them easier.


Sometimes functions only differ in a few things you cannot express by using variables, what you really love to do is passing a function that can handle the 'special' case and keep your abstraction nice. In some languages like Scheme, you can pass functions as arguments; in C++, you have to use function pointers.

Function pointers are a good system for C, but not for C++; you have to define a non-class member or static class member... So, we cannot access non-static data members of a class without using global variables.

The solution is creating a wrapper around the function pointers that contains the function pointer and a pointer to the class.

Note: an alternative used by STL are function objects; I don't like this approach since it causes too much type-work ;).


I'll describe a short guide on how to incorporate/use the function pointer wrappers.

  1. Add the following statements to your header file: <PRE lang=c++>... #include "functor.h" ...
  2. (optional) Do a typedef of the templated function pointer, this makes it much easier to read :).

    It is recommended to make this typedef inside your class definition, to prevent polluting your global namespace. I usually place them in the private declarations of my class.

    <PRE lang=c++>typedef Functor<Test, void, int> Function;

    In this example, Test is the class that contains the function, void is the return value of the function, and int is the only argument of the function.

  3. Define your class, I added a quick sample of a class here: <PRE lang=c++>/* * header file */ class Test { public: void TestFunc(); private: void Add(int x); void Mul(int x); void DoSomething(int x, Function f); int value_; }; /* * source file */ void Test::Add(int x) { value_ += x; } void Test::Mul(int x) { value_ *= x; } void Test::DoSomething(int x, Function f) { // some very complicated code ... f(x); ... // lots of other code }

    In the example, you should note f(x), this is the calling of the function pointer wrapper. Looks exactly like a regular function call, but the f is an argument of the function.

  4. Create the function pointer wrapper: <PRE lang=c++>void Test::TestFunc() { // create the function pointer wrapper (functor) Function myadd(this, &Test::Add); Function mymul(this, &Test::Mul); // now do the action! DoSomething(5, myadd); }

    You create a wrapper object just by passing two arguments to the constructor: the host class of the functions, usually a this, and the name of the method that the wrapper should use.

    You can now pass the function to any method and call it as it was a normal function :)

Technical Stuff

The system of the wrapper is based on the usage of templates and operator overloading. Templates are used to make it more generic (i.e., to be able to create a wrapper for any function with a specified number of arguments). The operator overloading is used to simulate a regular procedure call, we overload the operator() to achieve this.

Known Limitations

The source code only contains a wrapper for 1 and 2 arguments. If you need more, you'll need to extend the classes or pass a struct/class that contains the data as single argument.


  • Compatibility with const member functions
  • Create an example project
  • Create an inline version for compatibility with VC++ 6 or lower.


  • Version 1.0.1 - September 12, 2004

    Some corrections based on suggestions of Roland Pibinger and KevinHall. Thanks!

  • Version 1.0.0 - September 9, 2004

    Initial release.


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Kenny Moens
Web Developer
Belgium Belgium
Kenny Moens is a student computer science at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), a university located in Brussels, Belgium.

He's been programming for about 10 years with experience in Pascal, Basic, Perl, PHP, C, C++, Java, Scheme, Lisp and Smalltalk.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralCompile Error Pin
haiwenliao11-Mar-09 17:24
memberhaiwenliao11-Mar-09 17:24 
GeneralSome Ideas Pin
Roland Pibinger13-Sep-04 11:33
memberRoland Pibinger13-Sep-04 11:33 
GeneralSome Remarks Pin
Roland Pibinger11-Sep-04 9:08
memberRoland Pibinger11-Sep-04 9:08 
GeneralSome small corrections to the article Pin
KevinHall10-Sep-04 6:16
memberKevinHall10-Sep-04 6:16 
GeneralRe: I don't agree with everything you say. Pin
KevinHall9-Sep-04 14:41
memberKevinHall9-Sep-04 14:41 
GeneralRe: I don't agree with everything you say. Pin
WREY10-Sep-04 4:21
memberWREY10-Sep-04 4:21 
GeneralRe: I don't agree with everything you say. Pin
KevinHall10-Sep-04 6:06
memberKevinHall10-Sep-04 6:06 
GeneralI didn't know that. Pin
WREY10-Sep-04 6:46
memberWREY10-Sep-04 6:46 
GeneralRe: I didn't know that. Pin
KevinHall10-Sep-04 6:59
memberKevinHall10-Sep-04 6:59 
GeneralThis might help. Pin
WREY10-Sep-04 9:10
memberWREY10-Sep-04 9:10 
GeneralRe: I don't agree with everything you say. Pin
Kenny Moens9-Sep-04 23:58
memberKenny Moens9-Sep-04 23:58 
GeneralNice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
KevinHall9-Sep-04 11:57
memberKevinHall9-Sep-04 11:57 
GeneralRe: Nice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
emilio_grv9-Sep-04 22:32
memberemilio_grv9-Sep-04 22:32 
GeneralRe: Nice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
KevinHall10-Sep-04 3:36
memberKevinHall10-Sep-04 3:36 
GeneralRe: Nice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
emilio_grv10-Sep-04 5:10
memberemilio_grv10-Sep-04 5:10 
GeneralRe: Nice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
KevinHall10-Sep-04 5:50
memberKevinHall10-Sep-04 5:50 
GeneralRe: Nice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
Kenny Moens10-Sep-04 0:02
memberKenny Moens10-Sep-04 0:02 
GeneralRe: Nice topic -- a lot of room for improvement though Pin
KevinHall10-Sep-04 6:20
memberKevinHall10-Sep-04 6:20 

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