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From: Greg Chicares (chicares_at_[hidden])
Date: 2001-08-29 07:14:40

Paul Mclachlan wrote:
> At 20:49 08 Aug 2001 -0400, Greg Chicares wrote:
> > I would like to be able to write
> >
> > S s;
> > s["i0"] = "999.9"; // truncates to int
> > s["i1"] = "888e3"; // converts to int
> > s["d0"] = "777"; // converts to double
> > s["s0"] = "hello";
> >
> > Is anyone interested in seeing the implementation?
> I'm interested - do you have it handy?

I've uploaded '' to the Files area for comments.

Since I may have overlooked some obvious things in this first draft,
I'd rather defer writing fancy HTML documentation that might need to
be discarded; but the following sketch explains my present line of

A pointer to member data T S::*pmd bears two types. Typically a class
has various data member types, so we may have U S::*, V S::*, etc.

It is natural to hold the named members in a map for each class S.
boost::any lets us "flatten" the data type so that a map can hold
pointers to T, U, V... members of S. But once that's done, we can
never get back a typed reference to the original data type without
specifying that type explicitly[1]--in which case we've gained little.

To achieve the desired syntax
  s["pmd-name"] = string-value
requires an object s (known to be of type S) and knowledge of type T
so that we can use boost::lexical_cast to convert the string-value.
Type T is knowable only inside boost::any::holder<T>, so we add an
operator=(std::string const&) to a customized boost::any (renamed
any_member). To make type S available for this operator=, we make it
a template parameter of any_member, and hold a pointer [2] to s.

Then we create a class MemberSymbolTable to hold the map and provide
an operator[], derive S from MemberSymbolTable<S>, and add statements
to S::S() to populate the map with members of S or its base classes.

Future directions:

Support assigment to pointer members, and perhaps to UDT members that
have their own operator=(std::string const&).

Offering operator=() suggests supporting other things like
operator==(), stream insertion and extraction operators, and perhaps

An accessor for the map may permit other useful idioms. For instance,
if S has pointer members, the default operator= etc. generally won't
suffice; instead of writing one that assigns each member by name, we
might iterate assignment across the map.

Toon Knapen asked whether this technique might work for the tuples
library. I'll try to explore that this weekend.

I acknowlege a major debt to Kevlin Henney whose work I have
mangled here.

[1] Actually, we can create collections of types via template
metaprogramming, but those collections can be indexed only by
compile-time constants--though not by string literals. This direction
is not followed because, given input e.g. from cgi-bin like
  ("int0", "42")
we want to execute 'int0 = 42;', but the particular data member here
is known only at run time.

[2] If we didn't make any_member contain the object of type S, then
we could save some storage by making the map static. But then we'd
have to pass the identity of the object when performing operator=(),
making the syntax ugly, and that overrides space efficiency.

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