From: Daveed Vandevoorde (daveed@edg.com)
Date: 2017-02-02


As constexpr functions become increasingly used for non-trivial computations, the lack of any form of dynamic allocation becomes increasingly limiting. Permitting the use of an ::operator new in constant-expressions is interesting and probably not impossible, but it brings many specification subtleties and implementation difficulties. Rather than attempting that ambitious project, I’m proposing a new resizable container type std::constexpr_vector<T>, that is a literal type “by fiat”. Objects of such a type can only be created in constant-expression evaluation contexts and only for types T that are literal types. Its interface is similar to that of std::vector<T> (without any mention of allocators), but invoking a mutating operation on a constexpr_vector is only permitted if the vector’s lifetime begins and ends during the current constant-expression evaluation.


The following is valid:

constexpr constexpr_vector<int> x;  // Okay.
constexpr constexpr_vector<int> y{ 1, 2, 3 };  // Okay.

but the following is not:

const constexpr_vector<int> xe;  // Invalid: not constexpr

because the latter attempts to create a constexpr_vector in a non-constexpr context. We’ll discuss below what “invalid” should mean.

In a constexpr function, it is possible to mutate a constexpr_vector:

using Ints = std::constexpr_vector<int>;
constexpr auto series(int n)->Ints {
  Ints r{};
  for (int k; k<n; ++k) r.push_back(k);
  return r;

Such a function can only be invoked in a constant-expression context:

constexpr Ints digits = series(10);  // Okay.
const int twenty = *(series(21).end()-1);  // Invalid.

Literal class types can embed a std::constexpr_vector:

template<typename T> struct hash_table {
  std::constexpr_vector<T> table;

but the resulting type is subject to the same constexpr context requirements:

const hash_table my_map{ ... };  // Invalid.

The contents of a constexpr constexpr_vector can be accessed as constant expressions. For example:

constexpr Ints digits = series(100);
std::array<int, digits.size()>
        digits_array(digits.begin(), digits.end());

What does invalid mean

Consider this example:

constexpr void f(int n) {
  if (n > 0) {
    constexpr_vector<int> x{};
extern int N;
int main() {

A priori, there is nothing invalid about the definition of f: constexpr_vector objects can potentially be created in constexpr functions. The call to f in main is not a constant-expression, however, which makes the potential creation of a constexpr_vector during that call suspect. On the other hand, it is very possible that N will never be positive, and that therefore no constexpr_vector is ever created.

How, then, should we make the case where N is strictly positive invalid?

More generally, how much effort should an implementation spend on diagnosing the cases that are obviously wrong?

I propose the following:

There are alternatives:


namespace std {
  template<typename T> struct constexpr_vector {
    using value_type = T;
    using pointer = T*;
    using const_pointer = T const*;
    using reference = T&;
    using const_reference = T const&;
    using size_type = std::size_t;
    using difference_type = st:ptrdiff_t;
    using iterator = T*;
    using const_iterator = T const*;
    using reverse_iterator = std::reverse_iterator<T*>;
    using const_reverse_iterator = std::reverse_iterator<T const*>;

    constexpr constexpr_vector();
        constexpr explicit constexpr_vector(size_type);
        constexpr explicit constexpr_vector(size_type, T const&);
        template<typename InputIterator> constexpr
      constexpr_vector(InputIterator first,
                       InputIterator last);
    constexpr constexpr_vector(constexpr_vector const&);
    constexpr constexpr_vector(constexpr_vector&&);
    constexpr constexpr_vector(initializer_list<T>);
    // No user-provided destructor.

    constexpr constexpr_vector& operator=(constexpr_vector const&);
    constexpr constexpr_vector& operator=(constexpr_vector&&);
    constexpr constexpr_vector& operator=(initializer_list<T>);
    template<typenae InputIterator> constexpr
      assign(InputIterator first, InputIterator last);
    constexpr void assign(size_type, T const&);
    constexpr void assign(initializer_list<T>);

    constexpr iterator begin();
    constexpr const_iterator begin() const;
    constexpr iterator end();
    constexpr const_iterator end() const;
    constexpr reverse_iterator rbegin();
    constexpr reverse_const_iterator rbegin() const;
    constexpr reverse_iterator rend();
    constexpr reverse_const_iterator rend() const; 
    constexpr const_iterator cbegin() const;
    constexpr const_iterator cend() const;
    constexpr reverse_const_iterator crbegin() const;
    constexpr reverse_const_iterator crend() const;        

    constexpr bool empty() const;
    constexpr size_type size() const;
    constexpr size_type max_size() const;
    constexpr size_type capacity() const;
    constexpr void resize(size_type);
    constexpr void resize(size_type, T const&);
    constexpr void reserve(size_type);
    constexpr void shrink_to_fit();

    constexpr reference operator[](size_type);
    constexpr const_reference operator[](size_type) const;
    constexpr reference at(size_type);
    constexpr const_reference at(size_type) const;
    constexpr reference front();
    constexpr const_reference front(size_type) const;
    constexpr reference back();
    constexpr const_reference back(size_type) const;

    constexpr T* data();
    constexpr T const* data() const;

    template<typename ... Args> constexpr
      reference emplace_back(Args&&...);
    constexpr void push_back(T const&);
    constexpr void push_back(T&&);
    constexpr void pop_back();
    template<typename ... Args> constexpr
      iterator emplace(const_iterator, Args&&...);
    constexpr iterator insert(const_iterator, T const&);
    constexpr iterator insert(const_iterator, T&&);
    constexpr iterator insert(const_iterator, size_type, T const&);
    template<typename InputIterator> constexpr
      iterator insert(const_iterator, InputIterator, InputIterator);
    constexpr iterator insert(const_iterator, initializer_list<T>);
    constexpr iterator erase(const_iterator);
    constexpr iterator erase(const_iterator, const_iterator);
    constexpr void swap(vector&);
    constexpr void clear();