Guide: Reference Wrappers


There are situations where you may wish to overload a function with both non-referenced and referenced arguments. Unfortunately, this is not directly possible with c++, it usually results in an ambiguity.

class A {
template <typename T>
void f(T i) { cout << "Not a reference input" << endl; }
template <typename T>
void f(T &i) { cout << "A reference input" << endl; }

One way to resolve this is to create a wrapper with a pointer to the object inside it (we call this a reference wrapper) and pass it to the function as you would normally pass a copy. Once accepted, the function can use some metaprogramming logic to determine the fate of the accepted copy or reference wrapper.

Compiling & Linking

Include the following at the top of any translation unit that uses these container classes.

You will also need to link to -lecl_utilities.



The easiest way to generate a reference wrapper is via the convenience functions ref/cref. For example, below illustrates a referenced function object passed to a thread.

Thread thread(ref(function_object));

The cref call creates a constant reference, useful when your api will only accept a constant.

Accessing a reference wrapper is straight forward:

A a;
ReferenceWrapper<A> wrapper = ref(a);
A &a_ref = wrapper.reference();
A *a_ptr = wrapper.pointer();

It can also be directly passed off as the type it wraps.


Testing for reference wrapper objects can be done via the is_reference_wrapper trait.

bool result = is_reference_wrapper<int>::value

This is most useful when used as a template argument metafunction.


Author(s): Daniel Stonier
autogenerated on Thu Jun 6 2019 21:58:43