Base Tools

A handful of tools are available in the include/emp/base/ folder in Empirical. These mimic basic functionality available in C++ or its standard library, but provide extra protection against common memory use errors and additional information to the developer. These protections can be turned off by comiling with -DNDEBUG.


This file adds an emp_assert macro that can handle all of the same functionality as the standard library assert, but with additional features. Specifically, additional arguments may be added that are printed when the assert is triggered. For example, the line

emp_assert(i < 10, i);

if triggered, would print something to the effect of

Assert Error (In line 6): i < 10
i: [1844674]

Indicating that not only was i >= 10, but its current value is 1844674.

If compiled as part of a web app (with emscripten) emp_assert: will automatically use the JavaScript Alert function to indicate any assert failures. Asserts are all disabled (fully removed from compiled code) if compiled using the NDEBUG option (for most compilers, this deactivation is accomplished by using the -DNDEBUG flag at compile time.)

base/array.h and base/vector.h

These files setup the emp::array<...> and emp::vector<...> template objects, which behave almost identically to std::array<...> and std::vector<...>, respectively. The one difference is that they do bounds checking when they are indexed into or specific size matters. As with asserts, these additional bounds checks are removed when compiled with the NDEBUG option.


The emp::Ptr<...> template provides an alternate method of building pointers, but with the ability to turn on additional debugging facilities; unlike assert, array, and vector, no debugging is performed by default due to substantial run-time costs. For example declaring a variable as emp::Ptr<int> is the same as declaring it int *.

If the EMP_TRACK_MEM option is set (-DEMP_TRACK_MEM compiler flag) then all pointer usage is tracked and many simple memory errors will be identified during execution, such as using or deleting an unallocated pointer.

Most usage of the Ptr class is identical to raw pointers, including all operator. Differences include:

  • Rather than using new TYPE to allocate a new pointer, use emp::NewPtr<TYPE>

  • If allocating an array, use emp::NewArrayPtr<TYPE>(SIZE)

  • To delete use the .Delete() or .DeleteArray() member function (not delete or delete[]).

  • To cast one Ptr type to another, use the .Cast<TYPE> member function.

  • To dynamic cast (double-checking types and returning nullptr on failure), use .DynamicCast<TYPE>

To convert a Ptr-allocated pointer to the raw form, use the Raw() member function. Make sure that any pointer allocated as a Ptr type is also freed as a Ptr type.