Class template argument deduction (CTAD) and C++ COM wrappers: Initial explorations

Raymond Chen

A while back, we studied the duck typing requirements of C++ COM wrappers and summarized them in a table. Today we’ll look at a smaller point of comparison: Class template argument deduction, also known as CTAD, introduced in C++17.

CTAD lets you omit the <...> arguments of a class template under certain circumstances. For example, you can write

auto v = std::vector({ 1, 2, 3 });

instead of

auto v = std::vector<int>({ 1, 2, 3 });

You may even have been using this feature without realizing it:

auto lock1 = std::lock_guard(m_mutex1);
std::lock_guard lock2(m_mutex2);

These are shorthand for

auto lock1 = std::lock_guard<std::mutex>(m_mutex1);
std::lock_guard<std::mutex>( lock2(m_mutex2);

For C++ COM wrappers, a common pattern is constructing a smart pointer from a raw pointer. Let’s see how well these wrapper classes handle CTAD.

IWidget* p;

// _com_ptr_t: nope
auto smart = _com_ptr_t(p); // does not compile

// MFC IPTR/CIP: nope
auto smart = CIP(p); // does not compile
auto smart = CIP(p, TRUE); // does not compile

// ATL CComPtr: yes
auto smart = CComPtr(p); // deduces CComPtr<IWidget>

// WRL ComPtr: nope
auto smart = ComPtr(p): // does not compile

// wil com_ptr: maybe
auto smart = wil::com_ptr(p); // requires C++20

// C++/WinRT com_ptr: nope
auto smart = winrt::com_ptr(p); // does not compile

Note that these tests are unfair, because all of these libraries predate C++17!

We’ll spend the next few days looking at why CTAD doesn’t work, how the library authors could have supported CTAD (had they known about it), and what we as library consumers can do about it.


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • word merchant 0

    I’m eager to find out if the authors of ATL CComPtr had clairvoyance, deep skills, luck, some friends on the standards committee, or a heady combination of all of this.

    • Sigge Mannen 0

      ATL was always king, so i’m not surprised they managed this one as well

    • Paulo Pinto 1

      It is still the best way to do COM in C++, the later ones that followed it (WRL, C++/WinRT), have hardly done any improvements, specially if one is also authoring components and not only consuming them.

      Visual Studio tooling for COM in C++ has hardly been touched since ATL days (if we ignore C++/CX for that).

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