How to Use Variable Parameter Functions in C++

Most functions accept a fixed number of arguments. Some applications, however, require functions to accept variable parameters. A well-known example is the print function of C. For such cases, C++ offers a powerful solution that lets the compiler decipher the arguments at run time. Read on for a tutorial that demonstrates how to implement such functions.

Things You'll Need

  • Intermediate C++
  • C++ compiler with IDE, such as Microsoft Visual C++


    • 1

      Add the STDARG.H library file into your program. That's where you define the macros. On the first line of the file, insert #include < stdarg.h >.

    • 2

      Use the macros va_arg, va_start and v_end that collaborate with the va_type in stdarg.h.

    • 3

      Establish a variable of type va_list to function as a list marker.

    • 4

      Access the individual parameters by using the va_arg macro. Find a way to tell the va_arg macro what type of argument you want it to retrieve to supply the right number of bytes from the stack.

    • 5

      Cast the result from Step 4 to the type you want it to be.

    • 6

      Call the va_end macro to end the processing of variable parameters.

    • 7

      Look at the example below that demonstrates Steps 2 to 6. Function myprintf accepts a format string that specifies the type and position of each argument. Following the format string is the list of arguments. The function prints the arguments. For simplicity it can only process int, float and char:

      // declaration

      void myprintf( char format, ... );

      // defintion

      void myprintf( char
      format, ... ){

      va_list vl;

      int i;

      va_start( vl, args );

      for( i = 0; args[i] != '\0'; ++i ){

      union any_t {

      int i;

      float f;

      char c;

      } any;

      if( args[i]=='i' ){

      any.i = va_arg( vl, int );<br>
      printf( "%i\n", any.i );<br>


      if( args[i]=='f' ){

      any.f = va_arg( vl, float );<br>
      printf( "%f\n", any.f );<br>


      if( args[i]=='c' ){

      any.c = va_arg( vl, char );<br>
      printf( "%c\n", any.c );<br>



      throw SomeException;


      va_end( vl );


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