I'm starting with a short introduction of what I know from the C language:

  • a pointer is a type that stores an adress or a NULL
  • the * operator reads the left value of the variable on its right and use this value as address and reads the value of the variable at that address
  • the & operator generate a pointer to the variable on its right

So I was thinking that in C++ the pointers can work this way too, but I was wrong. To generate a pointer to a static method I have to do this:

#include <iostream>

class Foo{
    static void dummy(void){ std::cout << "I'm dummy" << std::endl; };

int main(){
    void (*p)();
    p = Foo::dummy; // step 1
    p = &(Foo::dummy); // step 2
    p = Foo; // step 3

Now I have several questions:

  • Why does step 1 work?
  • Why does step 2 work too? Looks like a "pointer to pointer" for p to me, very different from step 1.
  • Why is step 3 the only one that doesn't work, and is the only one that makes some sort of sense to me, honestly?
  • How can I write an array of pointers or a pointer to pointers structure to store methods (static or non-static from real objects)?
  • What is the best syntax and coding style for generating a pointer to a method?

2 Answers 2


what is the best syntax and coding style for generating a pointer to a method?

Don't. Use std::function<void()>.

Now, on to the steps. Step 1 is technically illegal, but your compiler allowed it by implicitly taking the address for you. Step 2 is how it should be done. The name of a static function (in this case, Foo::dummy) is a function lvalue and must have it's address taken to be legal C++ and yield a function pointer.

Step 3 simply doesn't make any sense at all. You're trying to assign ... a run-time function pointer ... to a type? That makes no sense whatsoever. And then you try to access ... a member ... of a function pointer? Does not compute.

There are two parts to the answer "What do I do when I want to X in C++?". The first part, for C veterans only, is "Forget whatever you think you learned in C". The second part is about doing X.

how can i write an array of pointers or a pointer to pointers structure to store methods ( static or non-static from real objects )

std::vector<std::function<void()>> arr;

le done.

  • 1
    Function to function-pointer conversion is a standard conversion (including for static member functions) (§4.3), I'm pretty sure step 1 is entirely valid (and identical to step 2 in semantics).
    – Mat
    Jun 24, 2012 at 5:36
  • @Mat: That's what I thought. Otherwise, C++ would break C backwards compatibility for no good reason.
    – tdammers
    Jun 24, 2012 at 9:06

what is the best syntax and coding style for generating a pointer to a method?

According to C++ Faq lite's paragraph about "Pointers to member functions", in general you should use a typedef to create the pointer, and a macro when calling the member function (points 33.5 and 33.6 respectively).
This makes it simpler to call the method on a given object.

In your example you are using a static method, so you don't need an object to call it.
However here is what your code would look like following these recommendations, when calling a non static member function :

// define the macro to use pointer to methods
#define CALL_MEMBER_FN(object,ptrToMember)  ((object).*(ptrToMember))

class Foo{
    void dummy1(void){ std::cout << "I'm dummy 1" << std::endl; };
    void dummy2(void){ std::cout << "I'm dummy 2" << std::endl; };

int main(){
    // define the PointerToFooMember type. Note that you can use it for dummy1 and dummy2 as well
    typedef void(Foo::*PointerToFooMember)();
    PointerToFooMember ptr = &Foo::dummy1;

    // create an object to call the method later
    Foo foo;

    // call the method
    CALL_MEMBER_FN(foo, ptr)();
  • -1 for needless macro and poor use of Standard facilities. L2 std::bind.
    – DeadMG
    Jun 24, 2012 at 2:54
  • In some environments (embedded for example), you sometimes have less access to the std functions (including std::bind), so the macro version could be helpful to some people. However I would be very interested if you could provide us a version of the above code sample rewritten using std::bind.
    – wip
    Jun 24, 2012 at 2:59
  • 1
    Should be roughly like std::bind(ptr, foo). Maybe a std::ref in there if you want to refer to foo instead of copy. As for embedded, it makes up barely over 1% of the software industry. It's not applicable to general-case answers. If you don't specify limitations on the Standard library in the question, they do not exist. Oh, and the macro could be replaced with a template, not to mention that it's less verbose without, so even if you don't have std::bind it's very poor.
    – DeadMG
    Jun 24, 2012 at 3:02

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