An alternative to std::function for when compile time is more important than runtime performance. Doesn't pull in any headers.

(#include <functional> pulls in 19k lines of code.)

This satisfies my needs, but I'm curious how it could be improved (without adding any dependencies).

class func;

// Alternative to std::function for when compile time is
// more important than runtime performance. Doesn't pull in
// any headers.
template<typename Result, typename... Arguments>
class func<Result (Arguments...)> {

  struct holder {
    virtual ~holder() {}
    virtual Result call(Arguments...) = 0;
    virtual holder* clone() = 0;

  template<typename Lambda>
  struct lambda_holder : public holder {
    virtual ~lambda_holder() {}
    Lambda lambda;
    lambda_holder(Lambda l) : lambda(l) { }
    Result call(Arguments... args) override {
      return lambda(args...);
    holder* clone() override {
      return new lambda_holder<Lambda>(lambda);


  func() { }

  func(const func& f) {
    holder = f.holder->clone();

  func& operator=(const func& f) {
    if(holder) { delete holder; }
    holder = f.holder ? f.holder->clone() : nullptr;
    return *this;

  // Create from a lambda.
  template<class F>
  func(F f) {
    holder = new lambda_holder<F>{f};

  ~func() {
    if(holder) { delete holder; }

  Result operator()(Arguments... args) const {
    return holder->call(args...);

  operator bool() const {
    return holder;


  holder *holder = nullptr;


  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you aim to have the same semantics as std::function? \$\endgroup\$
    – L. F.
    Jul 11, 2019 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @L.F. Not really. I'm not even familiar with the finer points. \$\endgroup\$
    – Taylor
    Jul 11, 2019 at 3:45

1 Answer 1

  1. Self-assignment may be expensive, but it should be a no-op instead of UB. I suggest copy-and-swap.

  2. Omitting move-semantics will most certainly cost you.

  3. Your naming of the internal class suggests all callables are lambdas. Not true!

  4. You cannot store any move-only callables. Admittedly std::function is also crippled in that respect. Just throw an exception if the non-copyable object needs to be copied.

  5. If your function has return-type void, it should simply discard the callables return-value. You don't.

  6. std::function throws an exception if empty when called. Using assert() is less than a pale imitation.

  7. delete p; if p is a null pointer is a no-op. No need to double-check.

  8. Conversion to bool should be explicit. Otherwise, conversion to any arithmetic type can happen.

  9. As you said, yours is less efficient. That's especially the case when std::function benefits from mandatory small-object-optimization.

  10. You don't use SFINAE when creating from a callable. That can be inconvenient.

  • \$\begingroup\$ std::function can't do (4) either, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Taylor
    Jul 11, 2019 at 1:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Taylor I don't think it can. But that hole is easily filled by deferring the error to runtime (throw exception when attempting to copy). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2019 at 2:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't care much about performance of copying the function, but could I get similar calling performance as std::function without too much effort? \$\endgroup\$
    – Taylor
    Jul 11, 2019 at 15:49

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