This is an unofficial snapshot of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 WG21 Core Issues List revision 112e. See for the official list.


528. Why are incomplete class types not allowed with typeid?

Section:  [expr.typeid]     Status: NAD     Submitter: Dave Abrahams     Date: 18 May 2005 [expr.typeid] paragraph 4 says,

When typeid is applied to a type-id, the result refers to a std::type_info object representing the type of the type-id. If the type of the type-id is a reference type, the result of the typeid expression refers to a std::type_info object representing the referenced type. If the type of the type-id is a class type or a reference to a class type, the class shall be completely-defined.

I'm wondering whether this is not overly restrictive. I can't think of a reason to require that T be completely-defined in typeid(T) when T is a class type. In fact, several popular compilers enforce that restriction for typeid(T), but not for typeid(T&). Can anyone explain this?

Nathan Sidwell: I think this restriction is so that whenever the compiler has to emit a typeid object of a class type, it knows what the base classes are, and can therefore emit an array of pointers-to-base-class typeids. Such a tree is necessary to implement dynamic_cast and exception catching (in a commonly implemented and obvious manner). If the class could be incomplete, the compiler might have to emit a typeid for incomplete Foo in one object file and a typeid for complete Foo in another object file. The compilation system will then have to make sure that (a) those compare equal and (b) the complete Foo gets priority, if that is applicable.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with exceptions that means there still can be a need to emit typeids for incomplete class. Namely one can throw a pointer-to-pointer-to-incomplete. To implement the matching of pointer-to-derived being caught by pointer-to-base, it is necessary for the typeid of a pointer type to contain a pointer to the typeid of the pointed-to type. In order to do the qualification matching on a multi-level pointer type, one has a chain of pointer typeids that can terminate in the typeid of an incomplete type. You cannot simply NULL-terminate the chain, because one must distinguish between different incomplete types.

Dave Abrahams: So if implementations are still required to be able to do it, for all practical purposes, why aren't we letting the user have the benefits?

Notes from the April, 2006 meeting:

There was some concern expressed that this might be difficult under the IA64 ABI. It was also observed that while it is necessary to handle exceptions involving incomplete types, there is no requirement that the RTTI data structures be used for exception handling.

Rationale (2023-05-12)

This is an extension that requires a paper targeted at EWG, investigating any ABI concerns.