Delegating constructors

Many classes have multiple constructors that do similar things—for example, validate parameters:

class class_c {
public:
    int max;
    int min;
    int middle;

    class_c() {}
    class_c(int my_max) {
        max = my_max > 0 ? my_max : 10;
    }
    class_c(int my_max, int my_min) {
        max = my_max > 0 ? my_max : 10;
        min = my_min > 0 && my_min < max ? my_min : 1;
    }
    class_c(int my_max, int my_min, int my_middle) {
        max = my_max > 0 ? my_max : 10;
        min = my_min > 0 && my_min < max ? my_min : 1;
        middle = my_middle < max && my_middle > min ? my_middle : 5;
    }
};

You could reduce the repetitive code by adding a function that does all of the validation, but the code for class_c would be easier to understand and maintain if one constructor could delegate some of the work to another one. To add delegating constructors, use the constructor (. . .) : constructor (. . .) syntax:

class class_c {
public:
    int max;
    int min;
    int middle;

    class_c(int my_max) {
        max = my_max > 0 ? my_max : 10;
    }
    class_c(int my_max, int my_min) : class_c(my_max) {
        min = my_min > 0 && my_min < max ? my_min : 1;
    }
    class_c(int my_max, int my_min, int my_middle) : class_c (my_max, my_min){
        middle = my_middle < max && my_middle > min ? my_middle : 5;
}
};
int main() {

    class_c c1{ 1, 3, 2 };
}

As you step through the previous example, notice that the constructor class_c(int, int, int) first calls the constructor class_c(int, int), which in turn calls class_c(int). Each of the constructors performs only the work that is not performed by the other constructors.

The first constructor that's called initializes the object so that all of its members are initialized at that point. You can’t do member initialization in a constructor that delegates to another constructor, as shown here:

class class_a {
public:
    class_a() {}
    // member initialization here, no delegate
    class_a(string str) : m_string{ str } {}

    //can’t do member initialization here
    // error C3511: a call to a delegating constructor shall be the only member-initializer
    class_a(string str, double dbl) : class_a(str) , m_double{ dbl } {}

    // only member assignment
    class_a(string str, double dbl) : class_a(str) { m_double = dbl; }
    double m_double{ 1.0 };
    string m_string;
};

The next example shows the use of non-static data-member initializers. Notice that if a constructor also initializes a given data member, the member initializer is overridden:

class class_a {
public:
    class_a() {}
    class_a(string str) : m_string{ str } {}
    class_a(string str, double dbl) : class_a(str) { m_double = dbl; }
    double m_double{ 1.0 };
    string m_string{ m_double < 10.0 ? "alpha" : "beta" };
};

int main() {
    class_a a{ "hello", 2.0 };  //expect a.m_double == 2.0, a.m_string == "hello"
    int y = 4;
}

The constructor delegation syntax doesn't prevent the accidental creation of constructor recursion—Constructor1 calls Constructor2 which calls Constructor1—and no errors are thrown until there is a stack overflow. It's your responsibility to avoid cycles.

class class_f{
public:
    int max;
    int min;

    // don't do this
    class_f() : class_f(6, 3){ }
    class_f(int my_max, int my_min) : class_f() { }
};