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Compile-Time Integral Type Limits

The C++ Standard Library <limits> header supplies a class template numeric_limits<> with specializations for each fundamental type.

For integer types, the interesting members of std::numeric_limits<> are:

   static const bool is_specialized; // will be true for integers
   static T min() throw();
   static T max() throw();
   static const int digits;     // for integers, # value bits
   static const int digits10;     
   static const bool is_signed;
   static const bool is_integer; // will be true for integers
For many uses, these are sufficient. But min() and max() are problematical because they are not constant expressions (std::5.19), yet some usages require constant expressions.

The template class integer_traits addresses this problem.

Header integer_traits.hpp Synopsis

namespace boost {
  template<class T>
  class integer_traits : public std::numeric_limits<T>
    static const bool is_integral = false;

  // specializations for all integral types


Template class integer_traits is derived from std::numeric_limits. In general, it adds the single bool member is_integral with the compile-time constant value false. However, for all integral types T (std::3.9.1/7 [basic.fundamental]), there are specializations provided with the following compile-time constants defined:

const_minTequivalent to std::numeric_limits<T>::min()
const_maxTequivalent to std::numeric_limits<T>::max()

Note: A flag is_integral is provided, because a user-defined integer class should specialize std::numeric_limits<>::is_integer = true, nonetheless compile-time constants const_min and const_max cannot be provided for that user-defined class.

Test Program

The program integer_traits_test.cpp exercises the integer_traits class.


Beman Dawes, Ed Brey, Steve Cleary, and Nathan Myers discussed the integer traits idea on the boost mailing list in August 1999.

Revised 06 November 2007

Copyright Beman Dawes 2000

Distributed under the Boost Software License, Version 1.0. See