# Namespaces

Used to prevent name collisions when using multiple libraries, a namespace is a declarative prefix for functions, classes, types, etc.

# What are namespaces?

A C++ namespace is a collection of C++ entities (functions, classes, variables), whose names are prefixed by the name of the namespace. When writing code within a namespace, named entities belonging to that namespace need not be prefixed with the namespace name, but entities outside of it must use the fully qualified name. The fully qualified name has the format <namespace>::<entity>. Example:

namespace Example
{
  const int test = 5;

  const int test2 = test + 12; //Works within `Example` namespace
}

const int test3 = test + 3; //Fails; `test` not found outside of namespace.

const int test3 = Example::test + 3; //Works; fully qualified name used.

Namespaces are useful for grouping related definitions together. Take the analogy of a shopping mall. Generally a shopping mall is split up into several stores, each store selling items from a specific category. One store might sell electronics, while another store might sell shoes. These logical separations in store types help the shoppers find the items they're looking for. Namespaces help c++ programmers, like shoppers, find the functions, classes, and variables they're looking for by organizing them in a logical manner. Example:

namespace Electronics
{
    int TotalStock;
    class Headphones
    {
        // Description of a Headphone (color, brand, model number, etc.)
    };
    class Television
    {
        // Description of a Television (color, brand, model number, etc.)
    };
}

namespace Shoes
{
    int TotalStock;
    class Sandal
    {
        // Description of a Sandal (color, brand, model number, etc.)
    };
    class Slipper
    {
        // Description of a Slipper (color, brand, model number, etc.)
    };
}

There is a single namespace predefined, which is the global namespace that has no name, but can be denoted by ::. Example:

void bar() {
    // defined in global namespace
}
namespace foo {
    void bar() {
        // defined in namespace foo
    }
    void barbar() {
        bar();   // calls foo::bar()
        ::bar(); // calls bar() defined in global namespace
    }
}

# Argument Dependent Lookup

When calling a function without an explicit namespace qualifier, the compiler can choose to call a function within a namespace if one of the parameter types to that function is also in that namespace. This is called "Argument Dependent Lookup", or ADL:

namespace Test
{
  int call(int i);

  class SomeClass {...};

  int call_too(const SomeClass &data);
}

call(5); //Fails. Not a qualified function name.

Test::SomeClass data;

call_too(data); //Succeeds

call fails because none of its parameter types come from the Test namespace. call_too works because SomeClass is a member of Test and therefore it qualifies for ADL rules.

# When does ADL not occur

ADL does not occur if normal unqualified lookup finds a class member, a function that has been declared at block scope, or something that is not of function type. For example:

void foo();
namespace N {
    struct X {};
    void foo(X ) { std::cout << '1'; }
    void qux(X ) { std::cout << '2'; }
}

struct C {
    void foo() {}
    void bar() {
        foo(N::X{}); // error: ADL is disabled and C::foo() takes no arguments
    }
};

void bar() {
    extern void foo(); // redeclares ::foo
    foo(N::X{});       // error: ADL is disabled and ::foo() doesn't take any arguments
}

int qux;

void baz() {
    qux(N::X{}); // error: variable declaration disables ADL for "qux"
}

# Extending namespaces

A useful feature of namespaces is that you can expand them (add members to it).

namespace Foo
{
    void bar() {}
}

//some other stuff

namespace Foo
{
    void bar2() {}
}

# Using directive

The keyword 'using' has three flavors. Combined with keyword 'namespace' you write a 'using directive':

If you don't want to write Foo:: in front of every stuff in the namespace Foo, you can use using namespace Foo; to import every single thing out of Foo.

namespace Foo
{
    void bar() {}
    void baz() {}
}

//Have to use Foo::bar()
Foo::bar();

//Import Foo
using namespace Foo;
bar(); //OK
baz(); //OK

It is also possible to import selected entities in a namespace rather than the whole namespace:

using Foo::bar;
bar(); //OK, was specifically imported
baz(); // Not OK, was not imported

A word of caution: using namespaces in header files is seen as bad style in most cases. If this is done, the namespace is imported in every file that includes the header. Since there is no way of "un-using" a namespace, this can lead to namespace pollution (more or unexpected symbols in the global namespace) or, worse, conflicts. See this example for an illustration of the problem:

/***** foo.h *****/
namespace Foo
{
    class C;
}

/***** bar.h *****/
namespace Bar
{
    class C;
}

/***** baz.h *****/
#include "foo.h"
using namespace Foo;

/***** main.cpp *****/
#include "bar.h"
#include "baz.h"

using namespace Bar;
C c; // error: Ambiguity between Bar::C and Foo::C

A using-directive cannot occur at class scope.

# Making namespaces

Creating a namespace is really easy:

//Creates namespace foo
namespace Foo
{
    //Declares function bar in namespace foo
    void bar() {}
}

To call bar, you have to specify the namespace first, followed by the scope resolution operator :::

Foo::bar();

It is allowed to create one namespace in another, for example:

namespace A
{
    namespace B
    {
        namespace C
        {
            void bar() {}
        }
    }
}

The above code could be simplified to the following:

namespace A::B::C
{
    void bar() {}
}

# Unnamed/anonymous namespaces

An unnamed namespace can be used to ensure names have internal linkage (can only be referred to by the current translation unit). Such a namespace is defined in the same way as any other namespace, but without the name:

namespace {
    int foo = 42;
}

foo is only visible in the translation unit in which it appears.

It is recommended to never use unnamed namespaces in header files as this gives a version of the content for every translation unit it is included in. This is especially important if you define non-const globals.

// foo.h
namespace {
    std::string globalString;
}

// 1.cpp
#include "foo.h" //< Generates unnamed_namespace{1.cpp}::globalString ...

globalString = "Initialize";

// 2.cpp
#include "foo.h" //< Generates unnamed_namespace{2.cpp}::globalString ...

std::cout << globalString; //< Will always print the empty string

# Compact nested namespaces

namespace a {
  namespace b {
    template<class T>
    struct qualifies : std::false_type {};
  }
}

namespace other {
  struct bob {};
}

namespace a::b {
  template<>
  struct qualifies<::other::bob> : std::true_type {};
}

You can enter both the a and b namespaces in one step with namespace a::b starting in C++17.

# Inline namespace

inline namespace includes the content of the inlined namespace in the enclosing namespace, so

namespace Outer
{
    inline namespace Inner
    {
        void foo();
    }
}

is mostly equivalent to

namespace Outer
{

    namespace Inner
    {
        void foo();
    }

    using Inner::foo;
}

but element from Outer::Inner:: and those associated into Outer:: are identical.

So following is equivalent

Outer::foo();
Outer::Inner::foo();

The alternative using namespace Inner; would not be equivalent for some tricky parts as template specialization:

For

#include <outer.h> // See below

class MyCustomType;
namespace Outer
{
    template <>
    void foo<MyCustomType>() { std::cout << "Specialization"; }
}

  • The inline namespace allows the specialization of `Outer::foo`
    // outer.h
    // include guard omitted for simplification
    
    namespace Outer
    {
        inline namespace Inner
        {
            template <typename T>
            void foo() { std::cout << "Generic"; }
        }
    }
    
    
  • Whereas the `using namespace` doesn't allow the specialization of `Outer::foo`
    // outer.h
    // include guard omitted for simplification
    
    namespace Outer
    {
        namespace Inner
        {
            template <typename T>
            void foo() { std::cout << "Generic"; }
        }
        using namespace Inner;
        // Specialization of `Outer::foo` is not possible
        // it should be `Outer::Inner::foo`.
    }
    
    
  • Inline namespace is a way to allow several version to cohabit and defaulting to the inline one

    namespace MyNamespace
    {
        // Inline the last version
        inline namespace Version2
        {
            void foo(); // New version
            void bar();
        }
    
        namespace Version1 // The old one
        {
            void foo();
        }
    
    }
    
    

    And with usage

    MyNamespace::Version1::foo(); // old version
    MyNamespace::Version2::foo(); // new version
    MyNamespace::foo();           // default version : MyNamespace::Version1::foo();
    
    

    # Namespace alias

    A namespace can be given an alias (i.e., another name for the same namespace) using the namespace identifier = syntax. Members of the aliased namespace can be accessed by qualifying them with the name of the alias. In the following example, the nested namespace AReallyLongName::AnotherReallyLongName is inconvenient to type, so the function qux locally declares an alias N. Members of that namespace can then be accessed simply using N::.

    namespace AReallyLongName {
        namespace AnotherReallyLongName {
            int foo();
            int bar();
            void baz(int x, int y);
        }
    }
    void qux() {
        namespace N = AReallyLongName::AnotherReallyLongName;
        N::baz(N::foo(), N::bar());
    }
    
    

    # Aliasing a long namespace

    This is usually used for renaming or shortening long namespace references such referring to components of a library.

    namespace boost
    {
        namespace multiprecision
        {
            class Number ...
        }
    }
    
    namespace Name1 = boost::multiprecision;
    
    
    //    Both Type declarations are equivalent
    boost::multiprecision::Number X   //    Writing the full namespace path, longer
    Name1::Number Y                   //    using the name alias, shorter
    
    

    # Alias Declaration scope

    Alias Declaration are affected by preceding using statements

    namespace boost
    {
        namespace multiprecision
        {
            class Number ...
        }
    }
    
    
    using namespace boost;
    
    //   Both Namespace are equivalent 
    namespace Name1 = boost::multiprecision;
    namespace Name2 = multiprecision;
    
    

    However, it is easier to get confused over which namespace you are aliasing when you have something like this:

    namespace boost
    {
        namespace multiprecision
        {
            class Number ...
        }
    }
    
    namespace numeric
    {
        namespace multiprecision
        {
            class Number ...
        }
    }
    
    using namespace numeric;
    using namespace boost;
    
    //    Not recommended as 
    //    its not explicitly clear whether Name1 refers to
    //    numeric::multiprecision or boost::multiprecision
    namespace Name1 = multiprecision;
    
    //    For clarity, its recommended to use absolute paths
    //    instead
    namespace Name2 = numeric::multiprecision;
    namespace Name3 = boost::multiprecision;
    
    

    # Syntax

    • namespace identifier(opt) { declaration-seq }
    • inline namespace identifier(opt) { declaration-seq } /* since C++11 */
    • inline(opt) namespace attribute-specifier-seq identifier(opt) { declaration-seq } /* since C++17 */
    • namespace enclosing-namespace-specifier :: identifier { declaration-seq } /* since C++17 */
    • namespace identifier = qualified-namespace-specifier;
    • using namespace nested-name-specifier(opt) namespace-name;
    • attribute-specifier-seq using namespace nested-name-specifier(opt) namespace-name; /* since C++11 */

    # Remarks

    The keyword namespace has three different meanings depending on context:

  • When followed by an optional name and a brace-enclosed sequence of declarations, it [defines a new namespace](http://stackoverflow.com/documentation/c%2b%2b/495/namespaces) or [extends an existing namespace](http://stackoverflow.com/documentation/c%2b%2b/495/namespaces/1623/extending-namespaces) with those declarations. If the name is omitted, the namespace is an [unnamed namespace](http://stackoverflow.com/documentation/c%2b%2b/495/namespaces/4851/unnamed-anonymous-namespaces).
  • When followed by a name and an equal sign, it declares a [namespace alias](http://stackoverflow.com/documentation/c%2b%2b/495/namespaces/28691/namespace-alias).
  • When preceded by `using` and followed by a namespace name, it forms a [**using directive**](http://stackoverflow.com/documentation/c%2b%2b/495/namespaces/1624/using-namespaces#t=201608060458446751916), which allows names in the given namespace to be found by unqualified name lookup (but does not redeclare those names in the current scope). A **using-directive** cannot occur at class scope.
  • using namespace std; is discouraged. Why? Because namespace std is huge! This means that there is a high chance that names will collide:

    //Really bad!
    using namespace std;
    
    //Calculates p^e and outputs it to std::cout
    void pow(double p, double e) { /*...*/ }
    
    //Calls pow
    pow(5.0, 2.0); //Error! There is already a pow function in namespace std with the same signature,
                   //so the call is ambiguous