RE: The long arrow operator in C++

I came accross Ivan Čukić’s post on the long arrow operator for C++, where he jokingly proposes the use of --->, ----->, etc. for dereferencing nested pointer-like structures.

Like most jokes, there’s a nugget of truth behind it, and I decided to tackle the problem of nested structures with my own crazy C++.

My take allows the user to write the following code:

auto hello1(wrap<vec2> w) {
    return w->x + w->y;

auto hello2(wrap<wrap<vec2>> w) {
    return w->x + w->y;

auto hello3(wrap<wrap<wrap<vec2>>> w) {
    return w->x + w->y;

// ... etc

Essentially, the -> collapses an arbitrary number of wrap applications into a single one. But how?

Here’s how.

template <typename T>
struct wrap {
    auto operator->() {
        if constexpr (is_wrap_v<T>) {  // impl of is_wrap_v below
            return value.operator->();
        } else {
            return &value;

    T value;

We make use of C++17’s if constexpr feature to statically determine whether we’ve reached a “pure” value or we need to continue unwrapping.

The full code can be found here, and thanks to the amazing Compiler Explorer you can try it for yourself here.

One possible generalization is to replace is_wrap_v<T> with a has_operator_arrow_v<T> which returns true if T provides operator->.

Modern C++ is fun!