Named operators

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You can extend C++ with named operators that are “quoted” by standard C++ operators.

First we start with a dozen-line library:

namespace named_operator {
  template<class D>struct make_operator{constexpr make_operator(){}};

  template<class T, char, class O> struct half_apply { T&& lhs; };

  template<class Lhs, class Op>
  half_apply<Lhs, '*', Op> operator*( Lhs&& lhs, make_operator<Op> ) {
    return {std::forward<Lhs>(lhs)};

  template<class Lhs, class Op, class Rhs>
  auto operator*( half_apply<Lhs, '*', Op>&& lhs, Rhs&& rhs )
  -> decltype( named_invoke( std::forward<Lhs>(lhs.lhs), Op{}, std::forward<Rhs>(rhs) ) )
    return named_invoke( std::forward<Lhs>(lhs.lhs), Op{}, std::forward<Rhs>(rhs) );

this doesn’t do anything yet.

First, appending vectors

namespace my_ns {
  struct append_t : named_operator::make_operator<append_t> {};
  constexpr append_t append{};
  template<class T, class A0, class A1>
  std::vector<T, A0> named_invoke( std::vector<T, A0> lhs, append_t, std::vector<T, A1> const& rhs ) {
      lhs.insert( lhs.end(), rhs.begin(), rhs.end() );
      return std::move(lhs);
using my_ns::append;

std::vector<int> a {1,2,3};
std::vector<int> b {4,5,6};

auto c = a *append* b;

The core here is that we define an append object of type append_t:named_operator::make_operator<append_t>.

We then overload named_invoke( lhs, append_t, rhs ) for the types we want on the right and left.

The library overloads lhs*append_t, returning a temporary half_apply object. It also overloads half_apply*rhs to call named_invoke( lhs, append_t, rhs ).

We simply have to create the proper append_t token and do an ADL-friendly named_invoke of the proper signature, and everything hooks up and works.

For a more complex example, suppose you want to have element-wise multiplication of elements of a std::array:

template<class=void, std::size_t...Is>
auto indexer( std::index_sequence<Is...> ) {
  return [](auto&& f) {
    return f( std::integral_constant<std::size_t, Is>{}... );
template<std::size_t N>
auto indexer() { return indexer( std::make_index_sequence<N>{} ); }

namespace my_ns {
  struct e_times_t : named_operator::make_operator<e_times_t> {};
  constexpr e_times_t e_times{};

  template<class L, class R, std::size_t N,
    class Out=std::decay_t<decltype( std::declval<L const&>()*std::declval<R const&>() )>
  std::array<Out, N> named_invoke( std::array<L, N> const& lhs, e_times_t, std::array<R, N> const& rhs ) {
    using result_type = std::array<Out, N>;
    auto index_over_N = indexer<N>();
    return index_over_N([&](>result_type {
      return {{
        (lhs[is] * rhs[is])...

live example.

This element-wise array code can be extended to work on tuples or pairs or C-style arrays, or even variable length containers if you decide what to do if the lengths don’t match.

You could also an element-wise operator type and get lhs *element_wise<'+'>* rhs.

Writing a *dot* and *cross* product operators are also obvious uses.

The use of \* can be extended to support other delimiters, like \+. The delimeter precidence determines the precidence of the named operator, which may be important when translating physics equations over to C++ with minimal use of extra ()s.

With a slight change in the library above, we can support ->*then* operators and extend std::function prior to the standard being updated, or write monadic ->*bind*. It could also have a stateful named operator, where we carefully pass the Op down to the final invoke function, permitting:

named_operator<'*'> append = [](auto lhs, auto&& rhs) {
  using std::begin; using std::end;
  lhs.insert( end(lhs), begin(rhs), end(rhs) );
  return std::move(lhs);

generating a named container-appending operator in C++17.

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