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August 10th, 19 0. There is a lot of hype and perhaps restraint to using modules in projects. The general blocker tends to be build support, but even with good build support there is a distinct lack of useful resources for practices around moving projects to using named modules not just header units.
In this blog we will take a small project I created, analyze its components, draft up a plan for modularizing it, and execute that plan.
I remember when I was younger, I used to love doing kid things like eating terrible fast food, but going to these restaurants had an additional perk: the play places! One of my favorite things to do was go to the ball pit, dive in, and make a giant splash of color. I shudder to think of going into one nowadays, but I have not forgotten how much fun they were. I have also recently become very inspired by OneLoneCoder on YouTube and his series on programming simple physics engines.
Without further ado, here is the code in all its include glory: Ball Pit! Without modules. Once CMake has generated the solution for you can open it using Visual Studio , use the familiar F5 loop and off you go!
Let us talk briefly about the traditional project structure of this code. We have the following, familiar, breakdown:. You also end up with a sizeable set of includes in our primary ball-pit. Since we made the decision to use header files you will notice that we get some declarations like this:. Where there is a strong desire not to implement this simple function in its own. The PGE header is isolated into its own bridge called pge-bridge.
Finally, for projects which utilize include as a code sharing mechanism, I like to employ the idea that each header file should stand completely on its own, meaning that if a header uses something like std::vector it cannot rely on that container being introduced through some other header, it must include it itself. This is good practice; it makes maintaining headers minimal as you move them around and use them in more places.
By default, MSBuild will key off any source files with a. Now, how do we get there? It is common for mature projects to have a similar structure and breakdown of components and it makes sense for maintainability reasons. Let us do exactly that by introducing some new files into the directory tree which reflects our header file layout making them empty for now :.
When tackling a project of any size you want to start as small as you possibly can. The first thing you need to do is add the content to your module interface:.
There is one last thing missing: we did not actually export anything! Take a look:. Finally, we add this new interface to the CMakeLists. Things should run the same as before except that we are one step closer to modularizing the project! Named modules are all about defining the surface area of your API. Now that we have a tool which allows us to hide implementation details that would otherwise be unnecessary for consumers, we can start to think about what the accessible parts of the API should be.
In this file we have the following declarations:. As such we can define the module like so:. Notice that we do not even need to export the declaration of the class RandomNumberGenerator. Do not be afraid to put compiled code in an interface, it is its own translation unit and obeys the rules of compiled code.
When we move code into a modules world, and in particular 3rd party code, we need to take some things into consideration: what part of the library do we want to expose? What runtime requirements are in the library if it is header only? With modules we start to have answers to these questions based on the requirements of our project. Integrating 3rd party library functionality into modularized projects is one of the most interesting parts of using modules because modules give us tools we never had before to deal with ODR One Definition Rule and name resolution.
It is easy to integrate into projects because it is a single header file and the interfaces are simple—which plays to our advantage in deciding what parts of the library we want to expose.
You will immediately notice that the color constants are mysteriously missing. This is because these constants are defined with static linkage in the header file so we cannot export them directly and the reason is buried in standardese. It is simpler to remember that you cannot export an internal linkage entity i.
The way to get around this is wrap them in a function which has module linkage:. Once we have these functions, we need to replace any instance of olc::COLOR with its respective call to our exported color function. And that is it! Just as before, you add this to the CMakeLists. Once you have gone through the exercise of modularizing more and more of the project you might find that your main program begins to reflect the header file version:.
To understand what I am talking about let us look at a header file equivalent of grouping common functionality. The problem, of course, is while this is convenient and you do not need to think about which specific file to include for your current project, you end up paying the cost of every header file in the package regardless of if you use it or not. We can also do the same for anything under Util.
This leads us to a rather, I think, respectable looking ball-pit. It was a little bit of a journey getting here, and there are learnings along the way. You can check out the code, configure, and build it the same as we covered earlier using Visual Studio version With modules there is an up-front cost in building our interfaces. With the old inclusion model, we did not have to build our include files explicitly only implicitly.
We end up building more up front, but the result is that we can REPL our main program and its components much, much faster. Here is a snapshot of the difference:. Note: these times were an average of 10 runs. You can see the results yourself by observing the c1xx. The process of using named modules in complex projects can be time consuming, but this type of refactor pays off in both reducing development costs associated with recompiling and code hygiene.
Named modules give us so much more than simply better compile times and in the above we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. Stay tuned for more modules educational content from us in the future! As always, we welcome your feedback. Feel free to send any comments through e-mail at visualcpp microsoft. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter starfreakclone. For suggestions or bug reports, let us know through DevComm. Comments are closed.
Glad to see another one of these modules post, converting a larger scenario with open source dependencies. If a large enough program uses this library, and one of its dependencies imports this library while another dependency includes it, will we properly get one instantiation of SomeSymbol code? Is that you are having the module interface take ownership over that class and as a result the module will own definitions within that class.
It is one of the reasons why you might see linker errors by doing this and why we recommend the using-declaration approach. Yes, this is expected because the using-declaration always expects a qualified name. If you want the sample to work you will need to do the following:. Builds fine now — TY. What version of Visual Studio are you using? The sample above will only work with Visual Studio Should there be any changes to the CMakeLists. Compiling a module interface will produce a. If so, how?
The answer to the first question is explained here. MSBuild is doing the heavy lifting for us in this case. Eventually CMake will do it all by itself though. Adding the. The way I got CMake to recognize the. I followed some SO questions which ultimately led me to the following pattern:.
This should be all you need to get started, then simply add your interfaces to the sources list so the resulting generated MSBuild can pick them up. When I try to use module Bridges. PGE, there are some thing strange. Can you tell me the series of steps that led to to this error? Great article. Is the cmake trick enough for linking a DLL built with modules as well? If I reference modules from the DLL in the executable, will msbuild know that those are from the other project?
So far, all we get are hints of shorter build times. Not everyone is willing to rearchitect their project for a hypothetical build speedup. You hint at other advantages in your conclusion. I would really appreciate it if you and other authors would focus more on the motivation for a feature BEFORE telling us how to use it. With all due respect, that seems like the natural order of presentation. I agree completely with Paul Topping.
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