C++ FAQ Celebrating Twenty-One Years of the C++ FAQ!!!
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Section 34:
[34.4] How can I build a <favorite container> of objects of different types?

You can't, but you can fake it pretty well. In C/C++ all arrays are homogeneous (i.e., the elements are all the same type). However, with an extra layer of indirection you can give the appearance of a heterogeneous container (a heterogeneous container is a container where the contained objects are of different types).

There are two cases with heterogeneous containers.

The first case occurs when all objects you want to store in a container are publicly derived from a common base class. You can then declare/define your container to hold pointers to the base class. You indirectly store a derived class object in a container by storing the object's address as an element in the container. You can then access objects in the container indirectly through the pointers (enjoying polymorphic behavior). If you need to know the exact type of the object in the container you can use dynamic_cast<> or typeid(). You'll probably need the Virtual Constructor Idiom to copy a container of disparate object types. The downside of this approach is that it makes memory management a little more problematic (who "owns" the pointed-to objects? if you delete these pointed-to objects when you destroy the container, how can you guarantee that no one else has a copy of one of these pointers? if you don't delete these pointed-to objects when you destroy the container, how can you be sure that someone else will eventually do the deleteing?). It also makes copying the container more complex (may actually break the container's copying functions since you don't want to copy the pointers, at least not when the container "owns" the pointed-to objects).

The second case occurs when the object types are disjoint — they do not share a common base class. The approach here is to use a handle class. The container is a container of handle objects (by value or by pointer, your choice; by value is easier). Each handle object knows how to "hold on to" (i.e., maintain a pointer to) one of the objects you want to put in the container. You can use either a single handle class with several different types of pointers as instance data, or a hierarchy of handle classes that shadow the various types you wish to contain (requires the container be of handle base class pointers). The downside of this approach is that it opens up the handle class(es) to maintenance every time you change the set of types that can be contained. The benefit is that you can use the handle class(es) to encapsulate most of the ugliness of memory management and object lifetime. Thus using handle objects may be beneficial even in the first case.