Doc. no.: P2714R0
Date: 2022-1-12
Audience: LEWG
Reply-to: Zhihao Yuan <>
Tomasz Kamiński <>

Bind front and back to NTTP callables

1. Abstract

Users of std::bind_front and std::bind_back pay what they don’t use when binding arguments to functions, member functions, and sometimes customization point objects. The paper proposes to allow passing callable objects as arguments for non-type template parameters in bind_front and bind_back to guarantee zero cost in those use cases. The paper also applies the same technique to std::not_fn.

2. Motivation

The need for partial function application[1] is ubiquitous. Consider the following example modified from Qt 5:

connect(sender, &Sender::valueChanged,
        std::bind_front(&Receiver::updateValue, receiver, "Value"));


connect(sender, &Sender::valueChanged,
        std::bind_front<&Receiver::updateValue>(receiver, "Value"));

This paper proposes new overloads to bind_front and bind_back that move the binding target to template parameters for the following needs.

Reduce the cost of binding arguments to functions and member functions

Typically, binding arguments to a function using C++20 std::bind_front requires storing a function pointer along with the arguments, even though the language knows precisely which function to call without a need to dereference the pointer.

auto fn = std::bind_front(update_cb, receiver);
static_assert(sizeof(fn) > sizeof(receiver));

auto meth = std::bind_front(&Receiver::updateValue, receiver);
static_assert(sizeof(meth) > sizeof(receiver));

Similarly, binding arguments to a member function often requires more storage and easily exceeds type-erased callback (such as std::function)'s SBO buffer capacity. But again, the compiler knows this call pattern at compile-time.

The call wrapper objects created by bind_front (and bind_back) are of unspecified types that are not meant to be assignable. In other words, the design consideration to support replacing the value of the object “of the same type” at run-time doesn’t exist. We, as users, don’t want to pay performance and space costs for something we don’t want to use and can’t use.

Simplify implementation and debug codegen

Captureless lambda gain traction as first-class functions that are safe to use and come with better defaults, which fall into the category of callables of empty classes. Ordinary users would expect binding arguments to empty objects to be indifferent from adding data members to an empty class.

auto captureless = [](FILE *, void *, size_t) { return 0; };
static_assert(sizeof(std::bind_front(captureless, stdin)) == sizeof(stdin));

But what cost implementations to give this guarantee in bind_front? Here is a breakdown:

Impl. Layout
tuple<Target, BoundArgs...> state_entities;
_Compressed_pair<Target, tuple<BoundArgs...>> state_entities;
[[no_unique_address]] Target target;
tuple<BoundArgs...> bound_args;
[... bound_args(args)]  // lambda captures

A sample implementation can be found at the end of the article.

By not storing the call targets, this guarantee is by construction rather than a choice of QoI. Suppose an implementation takes a further step to lower std::forward, std::forward_like, and std::invoke as if they were intrinsics.[2] There will be no intermediate layers to bloat debug information when accessing these binders’ state entities.

Improve the readability of expressions that use bind_front and bind_back

The invoke-like call expressions such as invoke(func, a, b, ...) are becoming conventional in C++. However, unless you’re a Lisp fan, you may still find that func(a, b, ...) is the “right” way and bind_front<func>(a, b) to be more natural. The latter form encodes necessary information for a casual reader to distinguish between the target and the bound arguments.

Such a visual distinction matters equally well to bind_back<func>(a, b), as bind_back(func, a, b) has an implied “insertion point” for the actual arguments to the call wrapper.

3. Discussion

3.1 Why not use a lambda?

The question is probably not asking, “why not use a lambda in C++23,” since today’s lambda does not propagate noexcept and constraints, nor forwards captures and arguments easily. Assume that we will have a “perfect lambda” in C++26, where applying ‘⤷’ in front of a parameter forwards the argument and laying ‘⤷’ in front of a capture forwards the member using closure’s value category. &... is a parameter index pack that expands to &1, &2, … So this will allow you to write

[=][do_work(⤷bnd1, ⤷bnd2,&...)]

instead of

bind_front<do_work>(bnd1, bnd2)

Will I choose the “perfect lambda” instead? Maybe not. Not because the “perfect lambda” is not terse enough. The difference is every symbol in the bind_front expression is about why the call wrapper is needed here in the code, while every token in the “perfect lambda” is to explain how this is done. Partial application is an established idea; people will keep picking up functools.partial, although Python’s lambda is sufficiently clean and complete.

3.2 Should std::bind take an NTTP?

Compared to the later added std::bind_front and std::bind_back, std::bind is sub-optimal, and I do not want to encourage its uses. It is too sparse to find a use of std::bind that actually bound something but cannot be replaced by bind_front and bind_back. The unique value of std::bind comes from its capability of reordering arguments. Being said that, it is likely to be a lower-hanging fruit if we want to introduce a terse lambda that uses parameter indices.[3]

3.3 Should std::not_fn take an NTTP?

A callback may want to negate its boolean result before being type-erased, and introducing not_fn<f>() seems to be an intuitive answer. But is that the only answer?

It’s not hard to implement not_fn in a way such that the value of not_fn(f) is of a structural type if f is of a structural type. Therefore, if you demand a combination of partial application and negation whose call pattern is known at compile-time, you can use bind_front<not_fn(f)>(a, b).

This can turn into a hostile workaround if I ask users to write bind_front<not_fn(f)>() when only negation is wanted; not_fn<f>() expresses the original intention directly.

Partial C++20 P2714
Y bind_front(not_fn(f), a, b) bind_front<not_fn<f>()>(a, b)
N not_fn(f) not_fn<f>()

It also raises the question of whether we need an fn<f>() that encapsulates the f’s call pattern without negation. It can be deemed an NTTP version of std::mem_fn, except for not being limited to member pointers.

The paper proposes not_fn<f>(). Whether to require perfect forward call wrappers to propagate the structural property when all of their state entities are of structural types deserves a paper on its own, especially when a core issue is about to get involved.

4. Design Decisions

4.1 Extend the overload sets

Doing so allows the new APIs to reuse the existing names, bind_front and bind_back, enabling the users who are already familiar with these names to make a small change and see benefits.

As a design alternative, it was suggested that adding operator() to std::nontype[4] can give a similar outcome:


connect(sender, &Sender::valueChanged,
                        receiver, "Value"));


connect(sender, &Sender::valueChanged,
        std::bind_front<&Receiver::updateValue>(receiver, "Value"));

The soundness behind the suggestion was that all vendors‡ had implemented EBO in bind_front; that is to say, the specializations of nontype_t could be optimized without effort. However, as shown at the beginning of the article, “no effort” means a lot of effort – to generate code and debug information. Though an implementation can create overloads to treat nontype_t<f> differently, the users get the same thing, only with a convoluted spelling.

The design decision extends to not_fn as well. std::not_fn is a function template, meaning the same name cannot be redeclared as a variable. Unsurprisingly, keeping users’ familiarity with the existing name outweighs the benefit of saving a pair of parentheses.

Except for libstdc++ until GCC 13. See aee1P35b4Compiler Explorer.

4.2 Reject targets of null pointers at compile-time

You won’t get a null pointer to function or a null pointer to member via a function-to-pointer conversion or an & operator in this language. Still, the targets of these types may be computed at compile-time:

// error: static_assert failed: 'f != nullptr'

The new overloads have such information ahead of time and can easily diagnose it. function_ref’s constructor that initializes from nontype<f> applies the identical practice.

5. Wording

The wording is relative to N4917.

Append the following to [func.bind.partial], function templates bind_front and bind_back:

template<auto f, class... Args>
  constexpr unspecified bind_front(Args&&... args);
template<auto f, class... Args>
  constexpr unspecified bind_back(Args&&... args);

Within this subclause:


Preconditions: For each Ti in BoundArgs, if Ti is an object type, Ti meets the Cpp17MoveConstructible requirements.

Returns: A perfect forwarding call wrapper ([func.require]) g that does not have target object, and has call pattern:

Throws: Any exception thrown by the initialization of bound_args.

Append the following to [func.not.fn], function template not_fn:

template<auto f> constexpr unspecified not_fn() noexcept;

In the text that follows:

Mandates: If is_pointer_v<F> || is_member_pointer_v<F> is true, then f != nullptr is true.

Returns: A perfect forwarding call wrapper ([func.require]) g that does not have state entities, and has call pattern !invoke(f, call_args...).

Add the signatures to [functional.syn], header <functional> synopsis:


  // [func.not.fn], function template not_fn
  template<class F> constexpr unspecified not_fn(F&& f);     // freestanding
  template<auto f> constexpr unspecified not_fn() noexcept;  // freestanding

  // [func.bind.partial], function templates bind_front and bind_back
  template<class F, class... Args>
    constexpr unspecified bind_front(F&&, Args&&...);        // freestanding
  template<class F, class... Args>
    constexpr unspecified bind_back(F&&, Args&&...);         // freestanding

  template<auto f, class... Args>
    constexpr unspecified bind_front(Args&&...);             // freestanding
  template<auto f, class... Args>
    constexpr unspecified bind_back(Args&&...);              // freestanding


5.1 Feature test macro

Update values in [version.syn], header <version> synopsis:

#define __cpp_lib_bind_back         202202L20XXXXL // also in <functional>
#define __cpp_lib_bind_front        201907L20XXXXL // also in <functional>
#define __cpp_lib_not_fn            201603L20XXXXL // also in <functional>

6. Implementation Experience

The snippet below is a full implementation of the proposed bind_front overload. You can play with this and the rest of the proposal in aGbTe8frjCompiler Explorer.

template<class T, class U>
struct __copy_const : conditional<is_const_v<T>, U const, U> {};

template<class T, class U,
         class X = __copy_const<remove_reference_t<T>, U>::type>
struct __copy_value_category
    : conditional<is_lvalue_reference_v<T&&>, X&, X&&> {};

template<class T, class U>
struct type_forward_like : __copy_value_category<T, remove_reference_t<U>> {};

template<class T, class U>
using type_forward_like_t = type_forward_like<T, U>::type;

template<auto f, class... Args>
constexpr auto bind_front(Args&&... args) {
    using F = decltype(f);
    if constexpr (is_pointer_v<F> or is_member_pointer_v<F>)
        static_assert(f != nullptr);
        [... bound_args(std::forward<Args>(args))]<class Self, class... T>(
            this Self&&,
            T&&... call_args)
                 F, type_forward_like_t<Self, decay_t<Args>>..., T...>)
            -> invoke_result_t<F, type_forward_like_t<Self, decay_t<Args>>...,
                               T...> {
            return std::invoke(f, std::forward_like<Self>(bound_args)...,

7. References

  1. Kamiński, Tomasz. P0356R5 Simplified partial function application. ↩︎

  2. DaCamara, Cameron. Improving the State of Debug Performance in C++. ↩︎

  3. Vector of Bool. A Macro-Based Terse Lambda Expression. ↩︎

  4. Romeo, et al. P0792R13 function_ref: a type-erased callable reference. ↩︎