How to: Use safe_cast in C++/CLI

This article shows how to use safe_cast in C++/CLI applications. For information about safe_cast in C++/CX, see safe_cast (C++ Component Extensions).

An upcast is a cast from a derived type to one of its base classes. This cast is safe and does not require an explicit cast notation. The following sample shows how to perform an upcast, with safe_cast and without it.

// safe_upcast.cpp
// compile with: /clr
using namespace System;
interface class A {
   void Test();
};

ref struct B : public A {
   virtual void Test() {
      Console::WriteLine("in B::Test");
   }

   void Test2() {
      Console::WriteLine("in B::Test2");
   }
};

ref struct C : public B {
   virtual void Test() override {
      Console::WriteLine("in C::Test");
   };
};

int main() {
   C ^ c = gcnew C;

   // implicit upcast
   B ^ b = c;
   b->Test();
   b->Test2();

   // upcast with safe_cast
   b = nullptr;
   b = safe_cast<B^>(c);
   b->Test();
   b->Test2();
}
in C::Test
in B::Test2
in C::Test
in B::Test2

A downcast is a cast from a base class to a class that's derived from the base class. A downcast is safe only if the object that's addressed at runtime is actually addressing a derived class object. Unlike static_cast, safe_cast performs a dynamic check and throws InvalidCastException if the conversion fails.

// safe_downcast.cpp
// compile with: /clr
using namespace System;

interface class A { void Test(); };

ref struct B : public A {
   virtual void Test() { 
      Console::WriteLine("in B::Test()");
   }

   void Test2() { 
      Console::WriteLine("in B::Test2()");
   }
};

ref struct C : public B {
   virtual void Test() override { 
      Console::WriteLine("in C::Test()");
   }
};

interface class I {};

value struct V : public I {};

int main() {
   A^ a = gcnew C();
   a->Test();
   B^ b = safe_cast<B^>(a);
   b->Test();
   b->Test2();

   V v; 
   I^ i = v;   // i boxes V
   V^ refv = safe_cast<V^>(i); 
   
   Object^ o = gcnew B;
   A^ a2= safe_cast<A^>(o);
}
in C::Test()
in C::Test()
in B::Test2()

The next sample shows how you can use safe_cast to invoke user-defined conversions.

// safe_cast_udc.cpp
// compile with: /clr
using namespace System;
value struct V;

ref struct R {
   int x;
   R() {
      x = 1;
   }

   R(int argx) {
      x = argx;
   }

   static operator R::V^(R^ r);
};

value struct V {
   int x;
   static operator R^(V& v) {
      Console::WriteLine("in operator R^(V& v)");
      R^ r = gcnew R();
      r->x = v.x;  
      return r;
   }

   V(int argx) {
      x = argx;
   }
};

   R::operator V^(R^ r) {
      Console::WriteLine("in operator V^(R^ r)");
      return gcnew V(r->x);
   }

int main() {
   bool fReturnVal = false;
   V v(2);
   R^ r = safe_cast<R^>(v);   // should invoke UDC
   V^ v2 = safe_cast<V^>(r);   // should invoke UDC
}
in operator R^(V& v
in operator V^(R^ r)

Boxing

Boxing is defined as a compiler-injected, user-defined conversion. Therefore, you can use safe_cast to box a value on the CLR heap.

The following sample shows boxing with simple and user-defined value types. A safe_cast boxes a value type variable that's on the native stack so that it can be assigned to a variable on the garbage-collected heap.

// safe_cast_boxing.cpp
// compile with: /clr
using namespace System;

interface struct I {};

value struct V : public I { 
   int m_x;

   V(int i) : m_x(i) {}
};

int main() {
   // box a value type
   V v(100);
   I^ i = safe_cast<I^>(v);

   int x = 100;
   V^ refv = safe_cast<V^>(v);
   int^ refi = safe_cast<int^>(x);
}

The next sample shows that boxing has priority over a user-defined conversion in a safe_cast operation.

// safe_cast_boxing_2.cpp
// compile with: /clr
static bool fRetval = true;

interface struct I {};
value struct V : public I {
   int x;

   V(int argx) {
      x = argx;
   }

   static operator I^(V v) {
      fRetval = false;
      I^ pi = v;
      return pi;
   }
};

ref struct R {
   R() {}
   R(V^ pv) {}
};

int main() {
   V v(10);
   I^ pv = safe_cast<I^>(v);   // boxing will occur, not UDC "operator I^"
}

Unboxing

Unboxing is defined as a compiler-injected, user-defined conversion. Therefore, you can use safe_cast to unbox a value on the CLR heap.

Unboxing is a user-defined conversion, but unlike boxing, unboxing must be explicit—that is, it must be performed by a static_cast, C-style cast, or safe_cast; unboxing cannot be performed implicitly.

// safe_cast_unboxing.cpp
// compile with: /clr
int main() {
   System::Object ^ o = 42;
   int x = safe_cast<int>(o);
}

The following sample shows unboxing with value types and primitive types.

// safe_cast_unboxing_2.cpp
// compile with: /clr
using namespace System;

interface struct I {};

value struct VI : public I {};

void test1() {
   Object^ o = 5;
   int x = safe_cast<Int32>(o);
}

value struct V {
   int x;
   String^ s;
};

void test2() {
   V localv;
   Object^ o = localv;
   V unboxv = safe_cast<V>(o);
}

void test3() {
   V localv;
   V^ o2 = localv;
   V unboxv2 = safe_cast<V>(o2);
}

void test4() {
   I^ refi = VI();
   VI vi  = safe_cast<VI>(refi);
}

int main() {
   test1();
   test2();
   test3();
   test4();
}

The next sample shows how you can use safe_cast to perform a downcast with a generic type.

// safe_cast_generic_types.cpp
// compile with: /clr
interface struct I {};

generic<class T> where T:I
ref struct Base {
   T t;
   void test1() {}
};

generic<class T> where T:I
ref struct Derived:public Base <T> {};

ref struct R:public I {};

typedef Base<R^> GBase_R;
typedef Derived<R^> GDerived_R;

int main() {
   GBase_R^ br = gcnew GDerived_R();
   GDerived_R^ dr = safe_cast<GDerived_R^>(br);
}
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