Operator Overloading

Operator overloading is a concept applied to object-oriented programming, which makes it easy for a programmer to use a function other than its initial intended use. We can make it more clear in this line, take the case that you want to use the symbol ‘+’ to concatenate strings. This will work if you use it as a unary operator. On normal, occasions it generates an error.

So why use operator overloading in your code?  In truth, operator overloading is of little use in your code as a programmer. It’s of great use to a person who reads the code. They can easily understand what the code all about is. Note, there will be a lot of people who will be accessing your class. But there can be only one developer, and that is you. Therefore, you should do whatever you can to please many others.

More examples of operator overloading.

The concept seems rather hard to grasp. That is why we shall focus on it. But here are more examples that you can always refer to at any instance.

1. Using the symbol ++ for increments or animations.

2. Using symbol* and / to multiply and divide two integers, respectively.

What operators can be overloaded?

Not all operators can be overloaded only some of them can be overloaded. They include,

A ternary operator

Member selector operator.

Scope operator.

Member pointer operator.

Sizeof.

Implementing operator overloading

For an operator to be overloaded, it can either be a static function or a friend function. In the case of a static function, it can only be applied if left operand uses an object belonging to that class. If it’s not, then the operator should be defined as a nonmember. The operator is made a friend function if it requires access to the protected members of the class.  Therefore we can conclude that operator overloading can be implemented in a class that can either be a non-member, a member, or a friend function.

Rules for operator overloading.

1. Existing operators can be overloaded. When it comes to new operators, it can be challenging.

2. Certain operators cannot be overloaded using the friend function. However, the member or static function can overload these operators.

3. Unary operators tend to differ in the arguments they take if overloaded using a friend and a member function. For the latter, it takes none but takes one for the former.

4. Binary operators

They take a single argument if overloading is through a member function but takes the binary arguments if overloading via the friends function.

Restrictions when implementing unary operators.

The number of operands does not change. For example, if it’s a unary operator, the operators remain the same. Likewise, when it comes to binary operators then operator overloading does not alter with the meanings of the procedure.

Guidelines to follow when implementing.

  • One of the most important, yet obvious points is to use common sense. Use operator overloading only when you interpret it as something that will help the users if it’s of no help then please don’t use it.
  • You should overload arithmetic operators if they make sense to the user.
  • The doctrine of least surprise. This refers to practicing but not overloading the operators which are not intuitive to the user.

Always try not to make semantic choices for your users. Leave it up to them to make the decision. It’s their choice as they will be the ones making the decision. It’s advisable to always suggest to them, but in the end, the decision should come from them.

Important points.

Operator overloading works when one of the operands is user-defined.

We can also create conversion operators which transform one data type to the other. But for this case, the overloaded conversion operator must always be a member function. There are no restrictions on the other operators.

Constructors called with a single argument normally work in the same manner as conversion operators.

Criticism against operator overloading.

Operator overloading has come under a lot of criticism in recent times because it allows the programmer to alter the semantics of the language. This creates an immense effect and it catches other programmers reading your code by surprise. Therefore, the programmer should ensure the utmost care when dealing with the operator overloading.

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