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Thinking in C++
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The constructor initializer list

You’ve seen how important it is in C++ to guarantee proper initialization, and it’s no different during composition and inheritance. When an object is created, the compiler guarantees that constructors for all of its subobjects are called. In the examples so far, all of the subobjects have default constructors, and that’s what the compiler automatically calls. But what happens if your subobjects don’t have default constructors, or if you want to change a default argument in a constructor? This is a problem because the new class constructor doesn’t have permission to access the private data elements of the subobject, so it can’t initialize them directly.

The solution is simple: Call the constructor for the subobject. C++ provides a special syntax for this, the constructor initializer list. The form of the constructor initializer list echoes the act of inheritance. With inheritance, you put the base classes after a colon and before the opening brace of the class body. In the constructor initializer list, you put the calls to subobject constructors after the constructor argument list and a colon, but before the opening brace of the function body. For a class MyType, inherited from Bar, this might look like this:

MyType::MyType(int i) : Bar(i) { // ...

if Bar has a constructor that takes a single int argument.

Thinking in C++
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire