c++ class - Address of the pointed element whatever the iterator type/pointer is passed

get value (4)

What would be the most generic syntax for the following function :

template<IteratorType> void myFunction(const IteratorType& myIterator)
    _ptr = &myIterator[0];

It take an iterator myIterator (it can be a raw pointer) and the goal is to assign the address of the object pointed by myIterator to a raw pointer _ptr. Currently I use &myIterator[0] but I realized that only random access iterators have the operator [].

So is there a syntax that will work with all type of standard iterators and pointers ?


You can dereference pointer and then take address of object.

template<IteratorType> void myFunction(const IteratorType& myIterator)
    _ptr = &(*myIterator);

All iterators are required to have operator * (24.2.2:2), so you can write

_ptr = &*myIterator;

However, this is not valid for output iterators, where *r is only valid on the left hand side of an assignment operation (24.2.4:2).

Also note that it is not necessarily true that *r will provide a value that & can sensibly be applied to; the specialization std::vector<bool> (23.3.7) has a reference type that is not bool &, for example. In your case the assignment _ptr = &*myIterator would catch this, assuming that _ptr is an appropriate pointer type, and you would get a compile failure.

According to standard * operator return a reference so in my opinion the best way is &*myIterator, but since the class may overloaded the & operator the best way is std::addressof(*myIterator) that work for all classes

What's a C++ reference (for C programmers)

A reference can be thought of as a constant pointer (not to be confused with a pointer to a constant value!) with automatic indirection, ie the compiler will apply the * operator for you.

All references must be initialized with a non-null value or compilation will fail. It's neither possible to get the address of a reference - the address operator will return the address of the referenced value instead - nor is it possible to do arithmetics on references.

C programmers might dislike C++ references as it will no longer be obvious when indirection happens or if an argument gets passed by value or by pointer without looking at function signatures.

C++ programmers might dislike using pointers as they are considered unsafe - although references aren't really any safer than constant pointers except in the most trivial cases - lack the convenience of automatic indirection and carry a different semantic connotation.

Consider the following statement from the C++ FAQ:

Even though a reference is often implemented using an address in the underlying assembly language, please do not think of a reference as a funny looking pointer to an object. A reference is the object. It is not a pointer to the object, nor a copy of the object. It is the object.

But if a reference really were the object, how could there be dangling references? In unmanaged languages, it's impossible for references to be any 'safer' than pointers - there generally just isn't a way to reliably alias values across scope boundaries!

Why I consider C++ references useful

Coming from a C background, C++ references may look like a somewhat silly concept, but one should still use them instead of pointers where possible: Automatic indirection is convenient, and references become especially useful when dealing with RAII - but not because of any perceived safety advantage, but rather because they make writing idiomatic code less awkward.

RAII is one of the central concepts of C++, but it interacts non-trivially with copying semantics. Passing objects by reference avoids these issues as no copying is involved. If references were not present in the language, you'd have to use pointers instead, which are more cumbersome to use, thus violating the language design principle that the best-practice solution should be easier than the alternatives.

c++ pointers iterator object-address