Monday, October 29, 2012

File wrapper class in C++ (2)

Last time I showed how to implement a File class. In the solution Brian (pictured on the right) and me used a second class as a wrapper around a standard FILE pointer. The two classes worked together by means of a shared_ptr. The shared_ptr ensured that the file would not be closed until there were no more references to the file wrapper object. Reread the last post to see what I'm talking about.

A reader of this blog pointed out that there is another solution, one that turns out far more idiomatic. The constructor of shared_ptr accepts an instance of a functor, named a Deleter. This functor will be called when the reference count drops to zero, and the object will be destructed. The resulting code looks like this:
#include <cstdio>
#include <tr1/memory>

class File {

    // conversion constructor
    File(FILE *f) : stream_(std::tr1::shared_ptr<FILE>(f,
        FileDeleter() )) { }

    // copy constructor copies the shared_ptr
    File(const File& f) : stream_(f.stream_) { }

    std::tr1::shared_ptr<FILE> stream_;

    // local functor closes the FILE upon destruction   
    class FileDeleter {
        void operator()(FILE *f) const {
            if (f != NULL)
Right here I inlined the FileDeleter class. You may also choose to put it outside the enclosing class, or it can even be implemented as a struct with operator()().

All in all, this solution is more elegant and more idiomatic than the previous one.