Document numberP2497R0
Reply-toJonathan Wakely <>

Testing for success or failure of <charconv> functions


Every time I use to_chars or from_chars I find checking == std::errc{} really clunky. Doing !static_cast<bool>( isn't any better. For std::error_code we have an explicit conversion to bool, so you can do if (ec) but that doesn't work for the low-level std::errc.

Can we improve it?

This proposal addresses C++23 NB comment GB-083.


When to_chars and from_chars were first added to the C++17 draft, by P0067R5 ("Elementary string conversions"), errors were reported via a data member, ec, of type std::error_code.

To resolve LWG 2955 ("to_chars / from_chars depend on std::string"), the type of the ec member was changed to std::errc by P0682R1 ("Repairing elementary string conversions"). As noted in the paper, "the usage pattern of the functions deteriorates". To check for errors requires comparing against std::errc{} (because there is no errc constant with that value) or explicitly casting to bool:

    auto [ptr, ec] = std::to_chars(p, last, 42);
    if (ec == std::errc{}) // or !static_cast<bool>(ec)

Neither option is very readable in my opinion. Unfortunately, the P0682 API change made those functions less ergonomic, and that was never repaired. I would like to address that now.

Proposed solution

When I wrote C++23 NB comment GB-083 on this topic I suggested overloading operator! for std::errc. That would allow testing the to_chars_result::ec member directly. However, that would be novel for standard library enumeration types, and the conversion would be valid for any std::errc value, which is not actually necessary if all we want is to improve the to_chars and from_chars APIs.

The other downside of overloading operator! for errc is that you would be able to check for an error easily, with if (!ec). But to check for no error you would need to do if (!!ec). This asymmetry would be annoying.

Additionally, testing "error is false" seems less direct and less expressive than "result is true". I want to know if the function was successful, not if the result's error is false.

In Kona, LEWG expressed a preference (which I agreed with) for adding explicit operator bool() to to_chars_result and from_chars_result. That makes it much more convenient to check for a successful result:

if (auto res = std::to_chars(p, last, 42))

It doesn't help when structured bindings are used though, because in that case there is no to_chars_result that can be converted to bool:

auto [ptr, ec] = std::to_chars(p, last, 42);
if (???)

This would mean either you have to choose between using structured bindings or using the conversion operator, or you have to have an extra variable to be able to use both:

if (auto res = std::to_chars(p, last, 42)
  auto [ptr, _] = res;

This is unfortunate, but I think it's still an improvement on what we have in C++20 today.


Do nothing

We've lived with it since C++17, so we could reject the NB comment and do nothing. Personally, I haven't been happy living with it since C++17 so I don't want to continue with that.

Overloaded operator!(errc)

Drawbacks discussed above.

Named function ok(errc)

A named function for checking an errc value, such as bool ok(errc), has few benefits over the overloaded operator, except for not requiring !! to test for truthiness.

Named member functions

Instead of adding to_chars_result::operaror bool() const we could add bool to_chars_result::ok() const. This would be consistent with the calendar types in <chrono>, so isn't entirely novel. However, those are value types and they still contain a value even if it isn't "OK". It doesn't really make sense to convert a chrono::month to true or false, so a named function to check for a valid value is appropriate there.

For to_chars_result and from_chars_result we're talking about results of a function, and there's a much more obvious mapping to a boolean value. If the function was successful, the result should be "true", and if the function failed, the result should be "false". I don't think a named function has any advantage here.

Something something std::expected

It might seem like we could use std::expected<char*, std::errc> for to_chars_result, or at least add a conversion to that std::expected type. If we'd had std::expected in C++17 maybe that's what we'd have done. However it's not true that the result is either a pointer or an error. The ptr member has a defined value in the error cases, and for from_chars it has a different value depending on the specific type of error.

We could still choose to add a conversion to std::expected which would work for the most common cases (certainly for the success case), and if you care about the specific value of ptr in the failure cases, just don't use the conversion. That might be something to consider as an extension later, but I don't think it is a better choice than the bool conversion being proposed here.

Proposed wording

This wording is relative to N4917.

Update the value of the __cpp_lib_to_chars macro in [version.syn].

Modify [charconv.syn] as indicated:

    // 22.13.2, primitive numerical output conversion
    struct to_chars_result {
      char* ptr;
      errc ec;
      friend bool operator==(const to_chars_result&, const to_chars_result&) = default;
      constexpr explicit operator bool() const noexcept { return ec == errc{}; }


    // 22.13.3, primitive numerical input conversion
    struct from_chars_result {
      const char* ptr;
      errc ec;
      friend bool operator==(const from_chars_result&, const from_chars_result&) = default;
      constexpr explicit operator bool() const noexcept { return ec == errc{}; }