I recently had the need of "reflecting" multiple enum class constructs in order to get their elements' names as std::string objects or their element count. I came up with a C++11 variadic macro solution:

namespace ssvu
    namespace Internal
        inline std::vector<std::string> getSplittedEnumVarArgs(const std::string& mEnumVarArgs)
            std::vector<std::string> result;

            // getSplit returns a collection of substrings split at a certain token
            // Example: "a,b,c" -> {"a", "b", "c"}

            // getTrimmedStrLR removes whitespace from the beginning and the end of a string
            // Example: "  abc " -> "abc"

            for(const auto& s : getSplit(mEnumVarArgs, ',')) 
                result.emplace_back(getTrimmedStrLR(std::string(std::begin(s), find(s, '='))));

            return result;

        template<typename> struct ReflectedEnumImpl;

        template<template<typename> class T, typename TEnum> struct ReflectedEnumImpl<T<TEnum>>
            using EnumType = T<TEnum>;
            inline static const std::vector<std::string>& getElementsAsStrings() noexcept
                static std::vector<std::string> result(getSplittedEnumVarArgs(EnumType::getEnumString()));
                return result;
            inline static std::size_t getElementCount() noexcept
                return getElementsAsStrings().size();
            inline static const std::string& getElementAsString(TEnum mElement) noexcept
                // If the user changed the default enum values by using the `= ...'
                // syntax, this function will return wrong values and possibly
                // go out of bounds. Maybe this should throw an exception.
                assert(!contains(EnumType::getEnumString(), '='));

                return getElementsAsStrings()[std::size_t(mElement)];

    #define SSVU_REFLECTED_ENUM_DEFINE_MANAGER(mName) template<typename> class mName

    #define SSVU_REFLECTED_ENUM(mManagerName, mName, mUnderlying, ...) enum class mName : mUnderlying { __VA_ARGS__ }; \
        template<> class mManagerName<mName> : public ssvu::Internal::ReflectedEnumImpl<mManagerName<mName>> \
        { \
            friend ssvu::Internal::ReflectedEnumImpl<mManagerName<mName>>; \
            inline static const std::string& getEnumString(){ static std::string result{#__VA_ARGS__}; return result; } \

Example usage:

SSVU_REFLECTED_ENUM(ReflectedEnum, Colors, int, Red, Yellow, Green);

void tests()
    assert(int(Colors::Red) == 0);
    assert(int(Colors::Yellow) == 1);
    assert(int(Colors::Green) == 2);

    assert(ReflectedEnum<Colors>::getElementAsString(Colors::Red) == "Red");
    assert(ReflectedEnum<Colors>::getElementAsString(Colors::Yellow) == "Yellow");
    assert(ReflectedEnum<Colors>::getElementAsString(Colors::Green) == "Green");

What do you think?


  • Consider the case where the user defines custom values for the enum elements:

    SSVU_REFLECTED_ENUM(ReflectedEnum, Test, int, A = -2, B = 15, C = 0);

    Getting element count would still be possible, as it's easy to count variadic macro elements. However, getting an element's name as a string would require using a std::map instead of an array. Should I figure out a way to detect if the enum has custom values? Or should I ditch the array for an std::map altogheter?

    Or would an alternative syntax be better? Example:

    SSVU_REFLECTED_CUSTOM_ENUM(ReflectedEnum, Test, int, A, -2, B, 15, C, 0);

    Maybe this would be more flexible and easier to work with.

  • I have macro variadic args iteration facilities in my ssvu library. Do you think it's worthwhile figuring out a way to generate the enum string elements array at compile-time with macro metaprogramming? Or is the current solution good enough?


1 Answer 1


Just a few things to point out:

  • There's no need to use inline yourself. For modern compilers, it merely serves as a suggestion, but they can otherwise determine if and when it's really needed. Read this for more info.

  • You should use consistent naming for your namespaces (one is lowercase and the other is uppercase). I'd not use uppercase as it's commonly used for user-defined types.

  • getElementCount(), like the other accessors here, should also return const.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would even recommand to use the name details instead of Internal. It is commonly used to hide implementation details. \$\endgroup\$
    – Morwenn
    Apr 4, 2014 at 8:24

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