What I’m reading now: "C++ Template Metaprogramming"

I’m currently reading “C++ Template Metaprogramming“. It’s off to a great start.

The basic idea (so far) is that:

  1. You can write entire algorithms / programs in C++ templates, which are then executed as the compiler instantiates the template. 

  2. There is a discipline, structure, organization to these programs.

  3. The template programs are generally recursive and heavily use template specialization for the base case. 

Here’s a simple example of writing Factorial like this.

// Simple demo of writing Factorial via a template
#include “stdafx.h”

// Recursive case: Factorial(N) = Factorial(N-1) * N
template <int N>
struct Factorial
static const int value = Factorial<N-1>::value * N;

// Use Template Specialization for base case: Factorial(1) = 1
template <>
struct Factorial<1>
static const int value = 1;

void _tmain(int argc, _TCHAR* argv[])
int v = Factorial<5>::value;

printf(“%d\n”, v); // prints 120

In this case, Factorial<5> is completely computed at compile time.  Code generated for Factorial<5> is:

int v = Factorial<5>::value;
004113AE mov dword ptr [v],78h // 78h = 120 = 5 factorial

printf(“%d\n”, v); // prints 120


The Boost libraries heavily make use of these techniques. And it will certainly be helpful in fully appreciating what happens in STL.

Comments (4)

  1. Dan McKinley says:

    *obligatory snide lisp/scheme macro comment*

  2. Brian Tyler says:

    I’m always so conflicted with templates. On one hand, you have STL. On the other hand, you have ATL…I guess it comes down to the fundamental truth: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

  3. Another good book in the series is Andrei Alexandrescu’s Modern C++ Design, which presents some of these template metaprogramming techniques and others along with design patterns (C++ and GoF).

    Some of his ideas were also incorporated into Boost, but the book’s result is a library called Loki, which can be found here:


  4. When people are asking for a debugger for language X, practically it means that the usage of language