Functions with Variable Argument Lists (C++)

Function declarations in which the last member of is the ellipsis (...) can take a variable number of arguments. In these cases, C++ provides type checking only for the explicitly declared arguments. You can use variable argument lists when you need to make a function so general that even the number and types of arguments can vary. The family of functions is an example of functions that use variable argument lists.printfargument-declaration-list

Functions with variable arguments

To access arguments after those declared, use the macros contained in the standard include file <stdarg.h> as described below.

Microsoft Specific

Microsoft C++ allows the ellipsis to be specified as an argument if the ellipsis is the last argument and the ellipsis is preceded by a comma. Therefore, the declaration int Func( int i, ... ); is legal, but int Func( int i ... ); is not.

END Microsoft Specific

Declaration of a function that takes a variable number of arguments requires at least one placeholder argument, even if it is not used. If this placeholder argument is not supplied, there is no way to access the remaining arguments.

When arguments of type char are passed as variable arguments, they are converted to type int. Similarly, when arguments of type float are passed as variable arguments, they are converted to type double. Arguments of other types are subject to the usual integral and floating-point promotions. See Standard Conversions for more information.

Functions that require variable lists are declared by using the ellipsis (...) in the argument list. Use the types and macros that are described in the <stdarg.h> include file to access arguments that are passed by a variable list. For more information about these macros, see va_arg, va_copy, va_end, va_start. in the documentation for the C Run-Time Library.

The following example shows how the macros work together with the type (declared in <stdarg.h>):

// variable_argument_lists.cpp
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdarg.h>

//  Declaration, but not definition, of ShowVar.
void ShowVar( char *szTypes, ... );
int main() {
   ShowVar( "fcsi", 32.4f, 'a', "Test string", 4 );

//  ShowVar takes a format string of the form
//   "ifcs", where each character specifies the
//   type of the argument in that position.
//  i = int
//  f = float
//  c = char
//  s = string (char *)
//  Following the format specification is a variable
//  list of arguments. Each argument corresponds to
//  a format character in the format string to which
// the szTypes parameter points
void ShowVar( char *szTypes, ... ) {
   va_list vl;
   int i;

   //  szTypes is the last argument specified; you must access
   //  all others using the variable-argument macros.
   va_start( vl, szTypes );

   // Step through the list.
   for( i = 0; szTypes[i] != '\0'; ++i ) {
      union Printable_t {
         int     i;
         float   f;
         char    c;
         char   *s;
      } Printable;

      switch( szTypes[i] ) {   // Type to expect.
         case 'i':
            Printable.i = va_arg( vl, int );
            printf_s( "%i\n", Printable.i );

         case 'f':
             Printable.f = va_arg( vl, double );
             printf_s( "%f\n", Printable.f );

         case 'c':
             Printable.c = va_arg( vl, char );
             printf_s( "%c\n", Printable.c );

         case 's':
             Printable.s = va_arg( vl, char * );
             printf_s( "%s\n", Printable.s );

   va_end( vl );
// 32.400002
// a
// Test string

The previous example illustrates these important concepts:

  1. You must establish a list marker as a variable of type va_list before any variable arguments are accessed. In the previous example, the marker is called vl.

  2. The individual arguments are accessed by using the va_arg macro. You must tell the va_arg macro the type of argument to retrieve so that it can transfer the correct number of bytes from the stack. If you specify an incorrect type of a size different from that supplied by the calling program to va_arg, the results are unpredictable.

  3. You should explicitly cast the result obtained by using the va_arg macro to the type that you want.

You must call the macro to terminate variable-argument processing.va_end