Flaming Dangerzone

Size matters, part 4

Now that we can map all indices back and forth between the interface and the storage we can start fleshing out the interface of our tuple. A worthy goal is to provide exactly the same interface as the standard tuple class, so that we can use ours as a drop-in replacement.

To member or not to member

As planned, our tuple will just delegate the actual storage to a standard tuple. That will be the sole contents of our tuple. We could simply write something like the following.

template <typename... T>
struct tuple {
    // interface goes here
    OptimalStorage<T...> storage;

There is one thing I don’t like about this though: it does not preserve some properties of the underlying tuple, namely whether it is an empty type or not. This implementation will never be an empty type, because it has a member. It does not matter if that member is of an empty type.

    "test is only meaningful if the standard tuple can be an empty type");
    // both libc++'s and libstdc++'s tuples are empty types when possible
static_assert(not std::is_empty<tuple<>>::value,
    "our tuple is not an empty type when it should");

This is a minor issue, but if we want to have a drop-in replacement, we want to preserve as much as the original behaviour as possible.

We can preserve emptiness inheriting from the optimal storage instead. Since we do not want to expose the storage, and do not want implicit conversions to mess things up, we are going to inherit privately.

template <typename... T>
struct tuple : private OptimalStorage<T...> {
    // let's drop in a few typedefs while I'm at it ;)
    using storage_type = OptimalStorage<T...>;
    using to_interface = MapToInterface<T...>;
    using to_storage = MapToStorage<T...>;
    // interface goes here

The interface of a tuple

The interface of a standard tuple is pretty big, but there are only a few members that require special attention in terms of implementation. If we take a look at it we can see that most members are actually constructors. There’s very little to do with a tuple other than constructing and accessing elements. Some important parts of the interface are provided as non-member functions (get, three factories, relational operators, and tuple_cat). And then we have the type traits like std::tuple_element that we will want to specialize in the std namespace.

Let’s go through all of the members and non-members to get a general overview of their implementations.

As we can see, there a couple of trivial directly delegating implementations, some that delegate with a map from interface to storage, some that delegate with a map from storage to interface, and then there’s std::tuple_cat.

Element access

Let’s skip all the trivial stuff and start with the simplest non-trivial one: get. There are three overloads, for different kinds of reference: &, &&, and const&. These will need access to the underlying tuple, so we will declare it a friend of our tuple.

When we have a call like get<I>(t), we need to map I to a storage index and then just call the std::get on that index. For that we can use tuple_element on the map we computed since our maps are actually tuples . That leaves us with the following implementations.

template <std::size_t I, typename... T>
using ToStorageIndex = TupleElement<I, MapToStorage<T...>>;

template <std::size_t I, typename... T>
TupleElement<I, tuple<T...>>& get(tuple<T...>& t) noexcept {
    return std::get<ToStorageIndex<I, T...>::value>(t);
    // std::get will access the private base; we are with friends here!
template <std::size_t I, typename... T>
TupleElement<I, tuple<T...>>&& get(tuple<T...>&& t) noexcept {
    return std::get<ToStorageIndex<I, T...>::value>(std::move(t));
    // we need to get an rvalue reference, so we use std::move
template <std::size_t I, typename... T>
TupleElement<I, tuple<T...>> const& get(tuple<T...> const& t) noexcept {
    return std::get<ToStorageIndex<I, T...>::value>(t);

Note how the return types don’t need to map anything: we always want to use the interface indices on the interface.

There is currently a bug in GCC 4.7.2 that causes trouble for carrying a pack of indices as a std::tuple, so it may be necessary to use a few workarounds. One alternative involves using a custom type to pack the indices and a specialization of std::tuple_element for that type.

Shuffle and forward

As should be obvious by now, we will need some way to forward a pack of arguments appropriately shuffled according to one of our maps.

Recall that our maps are just packs of indices. With a pack of indices as a variadic template parameter pack we can simply expand to std::get<I> or similar and we have all the elements in the desired order. For that to work we also need to have the arguments as a tuple. We will assume it is a tuple of references because we want perfect forwarding all over (i.e. it will be the result of std::forward_as_tuple).

This function to shuffle and forward a tuple will need to return the shuffled tuple. It is rather easy to make an alias to compute that shuffled tuple for the return type. Then we just need to forward the element at each index given in the map into a new tuple of references.

template <typename Tuple, std::size_t... I>
using ShuffleTuple = std::tuple<TupleElement<I, Tuple>...>;

template <std::size_t... I, typename Tuple>
ShuffleTuple<Tuple, I...> forward_shuffled_tuple(indices<I...>, Tuple&& t) {
    return std::forward_as_tuple(std::get<I>(std::forward<Tuple>(t))...);

Since we will need this for the tuple constructors as well, let us write a version that takes the arguments as a variadic pack, instead of a tuple. All it needs to do is to forward them as a tuple into the function above.

template <std::size_t... I, typename... T>
ShuffleTuple<std::tuple<T&&...>, I...> forward_shuffled(indices<I...> map, T&&... t) {
    return forward_shuffled_tuple(map, std::forward_as_tuple(std::forward<T>(t)...));

There is one important thing to note in the return type. We cannot use std::tuple<T...>, because when, for example, we pass in an int rvalue, T is deduced as int, not as int&& (and T&& becomes int&&). So we use std::tuple<T&&...> to make sure we have a tuple of references and the reference collapsing rules make sure the references are of the right kind.

Now it’s easy to implement all those constructors: all that is needed is to pass along the map.

explicit tuple(T const&... t)
: storage_type { forward_shuffled(to_interface{}, t...) } {
    // static assertion to get decent errors
        "all tuple element types must be copy constructible");
template <typename... U,
          EnableIf<std::is_convertible<U, T>...>...>
explicit tuple(U&&... u)
: storage_type { forward_shuffled(to_interface{}, std::forward<U>(u)...) } {
    static_assert(sizeof...(T) == sizeof...(U),
        "number of constructor parameters must match tuple size");

The constructors that take tuples of different elements will need appropriate our helper functions to use our get function instead of std::get. ADL can help us here.

template <std::size_t... I, typename Tuple>
ShuffleTuple<Tuple, I...> forward_shuffled_tuple(indices<I...>, Tuple&& t) {
    using std::get; // bring std::get into scope
    return std::forward_as_tuple(get<I>(std::forward<Tuple>(t))...);

Dealing with reference wrappers

We are almost done with the non-boring work. I will just make a short stop to talk about make_tuple. As can be read in the documentation, make_tuple has some special treatment for reference_wrapper.

Without reference_wrapper we would never be able to make a tuple where some elements are references using make_tuple. make_tuple is important because it saves us from writing out tuple types and lets them be inferred. By default it always deduces non-reference types, but it lets us use reference_wrapper to have it deduce an actual reference.

int n = 1;
auto t = std::make_tuple(std::ref(n), n);
static_assert(std::is_same<decltype(t), std::tuple<int&, int>,
    "make_tuple unwraps reference_wrappers");

To get this for our version of make_tuple we need to write a trait that turns reference_wrapper<T> into T& and that decays all other types into value types.

template <typename T>
struct unwrap_reference
: identity<T> {};

template <typename T>
struct unwrap_reference<std::reference_wrapper<T>>
: identity<T&> {};

template <typename T>
struct decay_reference : unwrap_reference<Decay<T>> {};
template <typename T>
using DecayReference = typename decay_reference<T>::type;

With this writing make_tuple is now very simple. Reference wrappers convert implicitly to references, so we can simply forward them directly; only the return type needs to be right.

template <typename... T>
tuple<DecayReference<T>...> make_tuple(T&&... t) {
    return tuple<DecayReference<T>...>(std::forward<T>(t)...);

That’s not all, folks!

Most of the rest of the implementation is either trivial, or extremely similar to what we implemented already. Some workarounds may be needed to work around bugs in the implementations of variadic templates.

The only function worth of mention now is tuple_cat. This one is quite tricky, so I will leave it for the next installment.