When and when not to use templates

This is a discussion on When and when not to use templates within the C++ Programming forums, part of the General Programming Boards category; A fairly large project im currently working on originally extensively used templates. Then I decided to change a portion of ...

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    When and when not to use templates

    A fairly large project im currently working on originally extensively used templates. Then I decided to change a portion of it to use regular arguments instead (for inheritence purposes). Then I realized the benifit of using arguments were useless in this case and then I changed it back. Now Im starting to consider changing it back to use regular arguments again!

    My question is what is a good method to determine whether you should use templates or regular arguments, ignoring the cases when using the choice to use templates is obvious
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    Toaster Zach L.'s Avatar
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    No hard and fast rules, but here are a few guidelines I use:

    When to use templates:
    - When efficiency is a concern. (An example, I made a PRNG class a while back - simple linear congruential generator - and I wanted to optimize some of the special cases for better efficiency).
    - For compile time checks and typedefing (traits classes for example).
    - When the internal algorithms of an program can be changed, but rarely are (STL allocators for example).

    When not to use them:
    - When it will cause a proliferation of new types and it can be avoided through inheritance or normal parameters (without causing the same proliferation of classes).

    Anyways... thats generally what I do.
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    Perhaps a quote from "Effective C++" might help:
    Does the type T affect the behavior of the class? If T does not affect the behavior, you can use a template. If T does affect the behavior, you'll need virtual functions, and therefore use inheritance

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    Skunkmeister Stoned_Coder's Avatar
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    You can happily mix inheritance and templates almost to your hearts content. Check out James Coplein's Curiously Recurring Template Pattern to see a template relationship that uses templates in one direction and normal inheritance in the other.
    Check out the ATL and WTL source to see that in action.
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    Senior Member joshdick's Avatar
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    I write template functions when a function does something generic that it could do to several different types. I also write them so that I can just write one function instead of one for every type of argument I want it to accept.

    Maybe I'm being naive, but wouldn't you just make a function a template whenever you want it to accept more than one data type? That seems like the obvious answer to me. Feel free to prove me wrong so that I may learn.
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  6. #6
    Comment your source code! Lynux-Penguin's Avatar
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    The answer depends on you. If you are ADDING templates to a project, it is a grueling task of finding where and what you have to change. If you are starting and you are wondering if you should use templates, its up to you.
    Ask:
    "What is a template used for?"
    "Is that what I am doing?"
    "What will it accomplish?"
    "Will it slow me down?"
    "Will it make errors appear?"
    Stuff like that and weigh the options. If your asking if you should, you might as well right?

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  7. #7
    Toaster Zach L.'s Avatar
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    Also remember that template parameters need not be types.
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    Thanks for all your replies, they were very helpful.
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