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C++ ‘Using’ vs ‘Typedef’

The C++, both using and typedef are used for creating type aliases, which allow you to define a new name for an existing data type. However, they have different syntax and some subtle differences in usage. Here’s a comparison between using and typedef:

typedef:

C++
typedef existing_type new_type_name;
  • Syntax: typedef is followed by the existing data type (existing_type) and the new name you want to create for it (new_type_name).
  • Scope: typedef creates a new type name within the current scope. It’s not block-scoped like variables, so it applies globally within that scope.
  • Compatibility: typedef is compatible with C and is an older way of creating type aliases in C++.
  • Usage Example:
C++
typedef int MyInt; // Creating an alias MyInt for int
MyInt x = 42;      // You can now use MyInt like int

using:

C++
using new_type_name = existing_type;
  • Syntax: using is followed by the new name you want to create for the type (new_type_name), then the assignment (=), and the existing data type (existing_type).
  • Scope: using creates a new type name within the current scope, just like typedef. It also allows for more complex type aliases using templates.
  • Compatibility: using is a more modern way of creating type aliases in C++ and is the preferred approach.
  • Usage Example:
C++
using MyInt = int; // Creating an alias MyInt for int
MyInt x = 42;      // You can now use MyInt like int

Key Differences:

  1. Syntax: The syntax for typedef involves placing the existing type before the new name, while using places the new name before the existing type.
  2. Readability: Many developers find the using syntax more readable, especially when defining complex type aliases.
  3. Template Aliases: using can be used to create template aliases, allowing you to create type aliases for templates with specific type arguments. This is not possible with typedef.
C++
template <typename T>
using Vec = std::vector<T>;
Vec<int> v; // Equivalent to std::vector<int> v;

In modern C++ code, it’s recommended to use using for type aliases because it offers more flexibility and is easier to read, especially when working with templates. However, if you’re maintaining or working with legacy codebases, you may encounter typedef as well.

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