Jorg Brown <>
Document P1714R1 $Id: proposal.html,v 1.50 2019/07/19 02:12:37 jorg Exp $

P1714: NTTP are incomplete without float, double, and long double! (Revision 1)

Revision history


For decades, template parameters could be either types or constants of certain trivial types: integers, enums, pointers, etc. Notably absent from this list were floating-point values. Recently, the adoption of P0732 has allowed constants of class type to be used as template parameters. Furthermore, P0476 allows us to perform constexpr bit-casting of floating-point values. And in the decades since floating-point types were banned from use as template parameters, compile-time computation of floating-point values has advanced dramatically.

This paper, P1714. proposes to include floating-point values into the list of acceptable template parameters.

I. Motivation and Scope.

Consider the pow() function. The most general implementation uses log and exp:

double pow(double base, double exponent) {
  return exp(log(base) * exponent);
This has several disadvantages, one being that if exponent is an integer, the exactness available through multiplication isn't achieved due to round-off error in exp and log. So we end up in the unfortunate situation that raising an integer to an integral power sometimes produces a result that is very close to, but not equal to, an integer. Similarly, often a number is raised to the power 1/2 in an attempt to obtain a square root, esp. by programmers from other languages who are unaware that the standard library offers an extremely accurate square-root instruction.

But suppose we could specify the exponent:

template<double exponent>
double pow(double base);
The default implementation of such a function could use the log/exp solution, while the code could be specialized for common integer powers and binary fractions (1/2, 1/4) to produce far more accurate results - and to produce them faster. There's just one problem: the floating-point exponent is not allowed as a template parameter.

With the new facilities of C++20, we can work around this problem: (Working demo at Compiler Explorer)

template<typename T> struct AsTemplateArg {
  std::array<char, sizeof(T)> buffer = {};
  constexpr AsTemplateArg(const std::array<char, sizeof(T)> buf) : buffer(buf) {}
  constexpr AsTemplateArg(T t) : AsTemplateArg(std::bit_cast<std::array<char, sizeof(T)> >(t)) {}
  constexpr operator T() const { return std::bit_cast<T>(this->buffer); }

template<AsTemplateArg<double> exponent>
double pow(double base) {
  return exp(log(base) * double{exponent});

double pow<AsTemplateArg<double>{1.0}>(double base) {
  return base;

But why? Let's just let the compiler do what it can do very easily, rather than force the use of a bunch of bit-cast boilerplate.

Impact on the Standard

Portions of the standard which currently prohibit use of floating-point constants as template parameters shall be removed.

Proposed Wording

Note: All changes are relative to the 2019-06-13 working draft of C++20.

Modify 13.1 Template parameters [temp.param] as follows:

Modify paragraph 4 to add floating-point:

A non-type template-parameter shall have one of the following (optionally cv-qualified) types:

-- a literal type that has strong structural equality ([]),

-- a floating-point type.

-- an lvalue reference type,

-- a type that contains a placeholder type ([]), or

-- a placeholder for a deduced class type ([dcl.type.class.deduct]).

Delete paragraph 7 (which begins with "A non-type template-parameter shall not be declared to..."]

Modify 13.5 Type equivalence [temp.type] paragraph 1 as follows:

Two template-ids refer to the same class, function, or variable if, after converting each template-argument to match the kind and type of its corresponding template-parameter, if needed,

-- their template-names, operator-function-ids, or literal-operator-ids refer to the same template and

-- their corresponding type template-argumentstemplate arguments are the same type and

-- their corresponding non-type template-argumentstemplate arguments of pointer-to-member type refer to the same class member or are both the null member pointer value and

-- their corresponding non-type template-argumentstemplate arguments of reference type refer to the same object or function and

-- their corresponding non-type template arguments of floating-point type have identical value representations and

-- their remaining corresponding non-type template-argumentstemplate arguments have the same type and value after conversion to the type of the template-parameter, where they are considered to have the same value if they compare equal with the == operator ([expr.eq]), and

-- their corresponding template template-arguments refer to the same template.

I propose to update the existing feature test macro, __cpp_nontype_template_parameter_class, for this feature.

Alternatives Considered

Originally the suggested design was to decompose a floating-point type into sign, exponent, and mantissa, and then use the existing P0732 wording to allow that triplet of values to represent the floating-point constant in question. This was changed because:

1) It's more work for the compiler. All compilers must already know how to represent floating-point values in bit form for their target architecture, in case the user declares a global floating-point value with an initial value. And that bytewise representation satisfies P0732's requirements for template parameter, no decomposition needed.

2) Such a decomposition does not distinguish between positive zero and negative zero, which would prohibit the implementation of a function such as pow, which distinguishes between positive and negative zero. Even printf is defined to treat +0.0 and -0.0 differently.

3) Such a decomposition proves difficult for INF and NaN values, especially since P0533 has not yet been adopted.


Using bit-level equality rather than the type's underlying operator== means that if you specialize a template that uses float/double parameters, using 0.0 as your specialization, then your specialization will not impact code that passes -0.0 as a parameter. (But note that the difference between 0.0 and -0.0 is observable at runtime. For example, 1/0.0 produces +INFINITY, while 1/-0.0 produces -INFINITY)

There is a related impact with NaNs; attempting to specialize such a template using a value of NaN or -NaN will only specialize those two NaNs, rather than the full range of NaNs that exist. Nevertheless, this is not expected to be an issue; expressions which produce infinities and nans are not allowed at compile-time. Also, if a user wants to have different template behavior for NaNs, it's a simple matter of adding:

if constexpr(!(float_param == float_param)) {
  // Handle NaN