Two weeks ago, I had a pleasure to give a talk at our local C++ User Group in Cracow. This time I spoke about vocabulary types from C++17: std::optional, std::variant and std::any.

The Talk

During the presentation, I tried to explain the motivation and some most crucial use cases for the new types that we got in C++17.

For example for std::variant we can experiment with the code for computing roots of an equation:

// aX^2 + bX + c
? ? ? FindRoots(double a, double b, double c)
    const auto delta = b * b - 4.0 * a * c;

    if (delta > EPSILON)
        const auto p = sqrt(delta);
        const auto x1 = (-b + p) / (2.0 * a);
        const auto x2 = (-b - p) / (2.0 * a);
        return ? ?
    else if (delta < -EPSILON)
        return ? ? // no roots in real numbers...

    return -b / (2.0 * a);    

What type should we return? How to transfer the information that we might have none, one or two roots of the equation?

Some options:

  • use int as the return type and return number of roots, then take two double pointers or references to output the results.
  • return vector<double> with the results
  • return tuple<int, double, double> (integer for the number of results and then two possible values).

Or we can use std::variant:

// aX^2 + bX + c
using TRoots = std::variant<std::monostate, 
                            std::pair<double, double>>;

TRoots FindRoots(double a, double b, double c)
    const auto delta = b*b-4.0*a*c;

    if (delta > EPSILON)
        auto p = sqrt(delta);
        double x1 = (-b + p)/(2*a);
        double x2 = (-b - p)/(2*a);
        return std::pair(x1, x2);
    else if (delta < -EPSILON)
        return std::monostate();

    return -b/(2*a);         

Now, with std::variant we can express all the possible options without any hacks or output parameters.

What do you think about such design?

The Slides

Vocabulary Types in C++17 from Bartlomiej Filipek

Extra Info

If you want to learn more about those types, you can also read the following blog posts:

Plus each of the types has a separate chapter in my book: