The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Every type or class should have a printer

My personal rule:

Whenever I define a type, a class, or whatever, I define either a print function, or a to_string function.

class Foo {public:      std::string to_string() const {            std::string ret;            ret += “”;            ret += fmt(“field1=%d”,this->field1);            …            ret += “
            return ret;      } // or public:      friend std::ostream& operator<< (std::ostream& ostream, const Foo& this_value) {                ostream << “                                << “field1= “ << field1                                …                                << “”;
                return ostream;      } }

Sometimes I have to_string_compact(), to_string_verbose(), etc;
Unfortunately, it is harder to express that with the osttream operator<< syntax.

But the operator<< syntax can be more efficient – less allocation of temporary strings.

And the formatting can be easier.


The main reason why I don't use the operator<< everywhere is that I have rn into far too many broken ostreams. not so common any more, but was common for a while.


I have several times written tools to automatically generate these.


It is straightforward to generate to_string from operator<<, and vice versa.  Since operator<< can be more efficient, usually best to do the former.  But some ostreams can be inefficient.


Rarely you may want to make the operator<< a template, accepting an OSTREAM type - because I have run into libraries that look like streams, but which are not in the same type hierarchy, and which do not inherit from std::ostream.

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