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C++ Templates
Introduction

Many C++ programs use common data structures like stacks, queues and lists. A program may require a queue of customers and a queue of messages. One could easily implement a queue of customers, then take the existing code and implement a queue of messages. The program grows, and now there is a need for a queue of orders. So just take the queue of messages and convert that to a queue of orders (Copy, paste, find, replace????). Need to make some changes to the queue implementation? Not a very easy task, since the code has been duplicated in many places. Re-inventing source code is not an intelligent approach in an object oriented environment which encourages re-usability. It seems to make more sense to implement a queue that can contain any arbitrary type rather than duplicating code. How does one do that? The answer is to use type parameterization, more commonly referred to as templates.

C++ templates allow one to implement a generic Queue<T> template that has a type parameter T. T can be replaced with actual types, for example, Queue<Customers>, and C++ will generate the class Queue<Customers>. Changing the implementation of the Queue becomes relatively simple. Once the changes are implemented in the template Queue<T>, they are immediately reflected in the classes Queue<Customers>, Queue<Messages>, and Queue<Orders>.

Templates are very useful when implementing generic constructs like vectors, stacks, lists, queues which can be used with any arbitrary type. C++ templates provide a way to re-use source code as opposed to inheritance and composition which provide a way to re-use object code.

C++ provides two kinds of templates: class templates and function templates. Use function templates to write generic functions that can be used with arbitrary types. For example, one can write searching and sorting routines which can be used with any arbitrary type. The Standard Template Library generic algorithms have been implemented as function templates, and the containers have been implemented as class templates.


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