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Sandor Dargo
Sandor Dargo

Posted on • Originally published at sandordargo.com

6 C++23 features improving string and string_view

In this blog post, let's collect a couple of changes that are going to be shipped with C++23 and are all related to strings or string_views.

std::string and std::string_view have contains

One of C++20's useful addition to maps were the contains member function. We could replace the cumbersome to read query of myMap.find(key) != myMap.end() with the very easy to understand myMap.contains(key). With C++23, std::string and std::string_view will have similar capabilities. You can call contains() with either a string or a character and it will return true or false depending on whether the queried string or string_view contains the input parameter.

#include <iostream>
#include <string>
#include <iomanip>

int main() {
    std::string s{"there is a needle in the haystack"};
    std::string_view sv{"acdef"};

    if (s.contains("needle")) {
        std::cout << "we found a needle in: " << std::quoted(s) << '\n';
    }

    if (!sv.contains('b')) {
        std::cout << "we did not find a 'b' in: " << std::quoted(sv) << '\n';
    }
}
/*
we found a needle in: "there is a needle in the haystack"
we did not find a 'b' in: "acdef"
*/
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No more undefined behaviour due to construction from nullptr

In an earlier newsletter, we discussed that initializing a string from a nullptr is undefined behaviour. In practice, this might happen when you convert a const char * to a string. What happens then? It depends on the compiler, gcc for example, throws a runtime exception.

Thanks to P2166R1, this is not something to worry about.

Instead of undefined behaviour, the constructor and assignment operator overloaded with nullptr_t are deleted and therefore compilation fails when you attempt to construct a new string out of a nullptr.

std::string s(nullptr);
/*
<source>:18:26: error: use of deleted function 'std::__cxx11::basic_string<_CharT, _Traits, _Alloc>::basic_string(std::nullptr_t) [with _CharT = char; _Traits = std::char_traits<char>; _Alloc = std::allocator<char>; std::nullptr_t = std::nullptr_t]'
   18 |     std::string s(nullptr);
      |                          ^
/opt/compiler-explorer/gcc-12.1.0/include/c++/12.1.0/bits/basic_string.h:734:7: note: declared here
  734 |       basic_string(nullptr_t) = delete;
      |       ^~~~~~~~~~~~
*/
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While this change is good and points in a good direction, not all of our problems disappear with nullptrs. Taking a nullptr and a size in the constructor (e.g. std::string s(nullptr, 3)) is still valid and remains undefined behaviour.

These changes are also valid for string_view.

Build std::string_view from ranges

With C++23, our favourite string_view doesn't only loses a constructor (the overload with a nullptr gets deleted), but also receives a new one. Soon, we'll be able to construct one out of a range directly.

So far, if we wanted to create a string_view out of a "range", we had to invoke the constructor with a begin and and end iterators: std::string_view sv(myRange.begin(), myRange.end());. Now we'll be able to directly construct a string_view based on a range: std::string_view sv(myRange);.

basic_string::resize_and_overwrite()

One of the main reasons to use C++ is its high performance. An area where we often use the language in a non-efficient way is string handling. C++23 will bring us another string member function that will help us to handle strings in a more performant way.

std::string::resize_and_overwrite() takes two parameters, a count and an operation and does the following (while returns nothing):

  • if the count is smaller or equal to the size() ofthe string, it erases the last size() - count elements
  • if count is larger than size(), appends n - size() default-initialized elements
  • it also invokes erase(begin() + op(data(), count), end()).

In other words, resize_and_overwrite() will make sure that the given string has continuous storage containing count + 1 characters.

If op() throws, the behaviour is undefined. It's also undefined if it tries to modify count.

But what can be an operation?

An operation is a function or function object to set the new contents of the string and it takes two parameters. The first one is the pointer to the first character in the string's storage and the second one is the same as count, the maximal possible new size of the string. It should return the actual new length of the string.

You have to pay attention that this operation doesn't modify the maximum size, does not try to set a longer string and doesn't modify the address of the first character either. That would mean undefined behaviour.

If correctly used, it'll help add some new content or rewrite the existing one. Or you can actually remove content. To illustrate this latter example, let's have a look at the second example of the original documentation.

std::string s { "Food: " };
s.resize_and_overwrite(10, [](char* buf, int n) {
    return std::find(buf, buf + n, ':') - buf;
});
std::cout << "2. " << std::quoted(s) << '\n';
// 2. "Food"
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Even though s is resized to 10, the operation will return the position of : in the string meaning that it will be truncated from that point.

A new tool to help us write performant string handling code.

Require span & basic_string_view to be TriviallyCopyable

P2251R1 updates the requirements the standard has for std::span and std::string_view. Starting from C++23 they must satisfy the TriviallyCopyable concepts.

As both of these objects already have default copy assignment operators and constructs and also destructors and besides they only expose a size_t and a raw pointer, it is implied that these types can be trivially copyable and in fact, the major compilers already implemented them as so.

Ensuring this trait for the future makes sure developers can continue depending on these characteristics and less courageous developers can start using them as such for example in heterogeneous computing.

: string-stream with std::span-based buffer

C++23 is introducing the <spanstream> header. Streams are an old part of the C++ standard library. Nowadays stringtreams are widely used. Strings (and vectors) store data outside of themselves. When the data to be stored grows, the storage and the already stored data might be automatically and dynamically reallocated. This is often acceptable, but when it's not, we need another option.

<spanstream> is going to provide such an option, they provide fixed buffers. You have to take care of the allocation when you create your stream, but you don't have to worry about the costly reallocation of the underlying buffer once it's exhausted. When I wrote that you have to take care of the bugger allocation, I really meant it. The buffer is not owned by the stream object, its life has to be managed by the programmer.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article and you also got excited by all these various string/string_view related features that C++23 is going to bring us. What are you waiting for the most?

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Top comments (1)

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Pierre Gradot

The fact that std::string::contains appears only in C++23 somehow makes me speechless...

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