unique_function: a move-only std::function

Published Proposal,

This version:
Ryan McDougall <mcdougall.ryan@gmail.com>
Matt Calabrese <metaprogrammingtheworld@gmail.com>
ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG21 14882: Programming Language — C++


This paper proposes a conservative, move-only equivalent of std::function.

1. Brief History

This paper started as a proposal by David Krauss, N4543[1], from 2015 and there has been an open issue in the LEWG bugzilla requesting such a facility since 2014[2].

Since then, the paper has gone through 4 revisions and has been considered in small groups in LEWG multiple times. Gradual feedback has led to the conservative proposal seen here. The most-recent draft prior to this was a late-paper written and presented by Ryan McDougall in LEWGI in San Diego[3]. It included multiple references to implementations of move-only functions and made a strong case for the importance of a move-only form of std::function.

Feebdack given was encouragement for targetting C++20.

2. Overview

This conservative unique_function is intended to be the same as std::function, with the exceptions of the following:

  1. It is move-only.

  2. It does not have the const-correctness bug of std::function detailed in n4348.[4]

  3. It provides minimal support for cv/ref qualified function types.

  4. It does not have the target_type and target accessors (direction requested by users and implementors).

3. Summary of Changes

The following is not formal wording. It is an explanation of how this template and its specializations would differ from the specification of std::function relative to the WP from the most recent mailing, N4778.[5]

Add (for simplicity, class-definitions are not inlined here):


template<class Sig> class unique_function; // not defined

template<class R, class... ArgTypes>
  class unique_function<R(ArgTypes...)>;

template<class R, class... ArgTypes>
  class unique_function<R(ArgTypes...) const>;

template<class R, class... ArgTypes>
  class unique_function<R(ArgTypes...)&&>;

In [func.wrap.func.con]

Do not provide a copy constructor:

unique_function(const unique_function& f);

Do not provide a copy-assigment operator:

unique_function& operator=(const unique_function& f);

In [func.wrap.func] specify the following wording for aid in describing the provided unique_function partial specializations.

Let QUAL_OPT be an exposition-only macro defined to be a textual representation
of the qualifiers of the function type parameter of unique_function.

  For unique_function<void() const>
    - QUAL_OPT is const
  For unique_function<void() &&>
    - QUAL_OPT is &&

  For unique_function<void()>
    - QUAL_OPT is

Let QUAL_OPT_REF be an exposition-only macro defined in the following manner:
    - If the function type parameter of unique_function is reference
      qualified, let QUAL_OPT_REF be defined as QUAL_OPT.

    - Otherwise, let QUAL_OPT_REF be defined as QUAL_OPT&.

  For unique_function<void() const>
    - QUAL_OPT_REF is const&

  For unique_function<void() &&>
    - QUAL_OPT_REF is &&

  For unique_function<void()>
    - QUAL_OPT_REF is &

Update the function signature of operator() to match the template parameter exactly, and invoke the contained Callable with the correct cv qualification and value category (this prevents duplicating the const-correctness issues of std::function).

In [func.wrap.func.inv]

R operator()(ArgTypes... args)const QUAL_OPT;

Returns: INVOKE<R>( static_cast<remove_cvref_t<decltype(f)> QUAL_OPT_REF>( f ) , std​::​forward<ArgTypes>(args)...) , where f is the unqualified target object of *this ,

Throws: bad_­function_­call if !*this ; otherwise, any exception thrown by the wrapped callable object.

In [func.wrap.func.con] regarding the constructor taking a Callable, have a movability requirement instead of a copyability requirement and also require the correct kind of Callable:

template<class F> unique_function(F f)

Requires: F shall be Cpp17CopyConstructible Cpp17MoveConstructible

Remarks: This constructor shall not participate in overload resolution unless

decay_­t<F> QUAL_OPT_REF is Lvalue- Callable for argument types ArgTypes... and return type R .

Do the same for the converting assignment:

template<class F> unique_function& operator=(F&& f);

Effects: As if by: unique_function(std​::​forward<F>(f)).swap(*this);

Returns: *this.

Remarks: This assignment operator shall not participate in overload resolution unless decay_­t<F> QUAL_OPT_REF is Lvalue- Callable for argument types ArgTypes... and return type R .

Additionally, we suggest not including target and target_type , while being open to the possibility of proposing it for C++23:

const type_info& target_type() const noexcept;

template<class T> T* target() noexcept;
template<class T> const T* target() const noexcept;

4. Implementation Experience

There are many implementations of a move-only std::function with a design that is similar to this. What is presented is a conservative subset of those implementations.

Previous revisions of this paper have included publicly accessible move-only function implementations, notably including implementations in HPX, Folly, and LLVM.

5. Suggested Polls

Proposal as-is?

Proposal with target and target_type *not* removed?

Proposal without the && specialization?

Proposal without the const specialization (no way to invoke a const unique_function<void()>).

Proposal with a more complete set of cv/ref specializations?

Name bikeshedding:

6. References

[1]: David Krauss: N4543 "A polymorphic wrapper for all Callable objects" http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/docs/papers/2015/n4543.pdf

[2]: Geoffrey Romer: "Bug 34 - Need type-erased wrappers for move-only callable objects" https://issues.isocpp.org/show_bug.cgi?id=34

[3]: Ryan McDougall: P0288R2 "The Need for std::unique_function" https://wg21.link/p0288r2

[4]: Geoffrey Romer: N4348 "Making std::function safe for concurrency" www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/docs/papers/2015/n4348.html

[5]: Richard Smith: N4778 "Working Draft, Standard for Programming Language C++" http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/docs/papers/2018/n4778.pdf