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A library for C++ reflection and introspection


Reflection metadata

All reflection metadata is processed by DRLParser, a python script that takes input about a proejct (Compilation options, include dirs, etc) and scans the project headers, generating C++ header files with the reflection information of the corresponding input header. All generated code is C++11 compatible.

CMake integration

Users should not worry about DRLParser and its input, a set of cmake scripts is given to simplify reflection in user projects. Just include siplasplas.cmake and invoke configure_siplasplas_reflection() with your target:

add_library(MyLibrary myLib.cpp)

target_include_directories(MyLibrary PUBLIC include/)
target_compile_options(MyLibrary PRIVATE -std=c++11 -Wall)


This will add a custom pre-build target that automatically runs DRLParser and generates reflection metadata headers before building your library.

Static reflection

SIplasplas provides a template-based API to access to static reflection information of user defined types:

// particle.hpp

class Particle
    struct Position
        float x, y, z;

    struct Color
        float a, r, g, b;

    enum class State

    Position position;
    Color color;
    State state;

siplasplas uses a libclang based script to generate C++ code with all the metadata. After running this script, include both the user header and the generated header:

#include <particle.hpp>
#include <reflection/particle.hpp> // Reflection data (generated code)

std::vector<Particle> particles;

std::ostream& operator<<(std::ostream& os, const Particle::Position& position)
    using PositionClass = cpp::static_reflection::Class<Particle::Position>;

    os << "{";

    // For each coordinate in the Position class...
    cpp::foreach_type<PositionClass::Fields>([&](auto type)
        using Field = cpp::meta::type_t<decltype(type)>;

        os << Field::spelling() << ": "            // Field name ("x", "y", "z")
           << cpp::invoke(Field::get(), position)  // Field value (Like C++17 invoke with member object ptr)
           << " ";

    return os << "}";

std::ostream& operator<<(std::ostream& os, const Particle::Color& color)
    using ColorClass = cpp::static_reflection::Class<Particle::Color>;

    os << "{";

    // For each channel in the Color class...
    cpp::foreach_type<ColorClass::Fields>([&](auto type)
        using Field = cpp::meta::type_t<decltype(type)>;

        os << Field::spelling() << ": "             // channel name (r, g, b, ...)
           << cpp::invoke(Field::get(), color)*255  // channel value
           << " ";

    return os << "}";

std::ostream& operator<<(std::ostream& os, const Particle::State& state)
    // Use static reflection to get the name of the enum value:
    return os << cpp::static_reflection::Enum<Particle::State>::toString(state);

int main()
    for(const auto& particle : particles)
        std::cout << "position: " << particle.position << std::endl;
        std::cout << "color: " << particle.color << std::endl;
        std::cout << "state: " << particle.state << std::endl;

The static reflection API currently supports:

  • User defined class types: Source information, set of public non-static member objects and functions, member types.
  • User defined enumeration types: Set of enum constants values, enum constants names, to/from string methods
  • User defined functions

Dynamic reflection

Siplasplas also supports dynamic reflection in the form of a simple entity based component system:

cpp::dynamic_reflection::Runtime runtime = loadDynamicReflection();

// Get dynamic reflection info of the class ::Particle::Position:
cpp::dynamic_reflection::Class&  positionClass = runtime.class_("Particle").class_("Position");

// Manipulate a particle object using dynamic reflection:
Particle particle;
positionCLass.field_("x").get(particle.position) = 42.0f; // particle.position.x = 42

// You can also create objects dynamically:
auto particle2 = runtime.class_("Particle").create();

// Returned objects are dynamically manipulable too:
particle2["color"]["r"] = 0.5f;

The dynamic reflection API can be used to load APIs from external libraries at runtime in a straightforward way:

int main()
    cpp::DynamicLibrary lib{""};
    cpp::dynamic_reflection::Runtimeloader loader{lib};
    cpp::dynamic_reflection::Runtime& runtime = loader.runtime();

    auto myObject = runtime.class_("MyClass").create();

    // Invoke MyClass::function with params 1 and "hello":
    myObject("function")(1, std::string("hello!"));

Other features:

Siplasplas offers other features, building blocks for the APIs explained above, including:

  • Type erasure: A module dedicated to type erasure, with classes designed to manipulate type erased functions, member object pointers, and objects.

  • Signals: Siplasplas implements a simple message passing system for inter-thread communication.

  • CMake API: With the ultimate goal of providing the basis for a work in progress runtime C++ compilation module, siplasplas implements a C++ API to configure and build existing CMake projects.

  • Utilities: Dynamic library loading, aligned malloc, assertions, function type introspection, metaprogramming, hashing, etc. Lots of stuff!

Supported compilers

siplasplas has been tested in GCC 5.1/5.2/6.1, Clang 3.6/3.7/3.8, and Visual Studio 2015.


Documentation is available here

The documentation is available in Doxygen and Standardese format, each one with multiple versions corresponding to the latest documentation of each siplasplas release and active branch.


NOTE: siplasplas is a work in progress project subject to changes. We don't currently provide any kind of API or ABI stability guarantee, nor a production-ready installation process. The following instructions are to build siplasplas from sources.


You can build siplasplas from sources:

$ git clone --recursive
$ cd siplasplas
$ mkdir build
$ cd build
$ cmake ..
$ cmake --build .

Or download the bootstrap cmake script and point it to one of the siplasplas releases:

set(SIPLASPLAS_PACKAGE_URL <url to siplasplas release package>)
set(SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_VERSION 3.8.0) # libclang version
set(SIPLASPLAS_DOWNLOAD_LIBCLANG ON) # Download and configure libclang automatically


This will download and configure a siplasplas installation in your buildtree. After including bootstrap.cmake, a FindSiplasplas.cmake module is available in your module path to link against the different siplasplas modules:


target_link_libraries(MyLibrary PUBLIC siplasplas-reflection-dynamic)

The module defines one imported library for each siplasplas module. All inter-module dependencies are already solved.


  • Python 2.7: The siplasplas relfection engine uses a libclang-based parser witten in python. Python 2.7 and pip for Python 2.7 are neccesary. All dependencies are handled automatically (Seeconfiguration bellow).

  • Mercurial: The Entropia Filesystem Watcher dependency is hosted on bitbucket using Mercurial for source control. Mercurial is needed to download the dependency.

  • Doxygen: Needed only if documentation build is enabled. See configuration bellow.

  • Libclang: Siplasplas will use the libclang library distributed as part of the system clang installation by default, but it can be configured to download and build libclang automatically. See configuration.


All siplasplas dependencies are managed automatically through CMake, users don't have to worry about installing deps. Anyway, here is the list of the thrid party dependencies of siplasplas:

siplasplas also depends on some python modules:

Download and configure the project

Clone the siplasplas repository

$ git clone --recursive

Create a build/ directory inside the local repository

$ cd siplasplas
$ mkdir build

Run cmake in the build directory

$ cd build
$ cmake ..

Make sure you installed all the requirements before running cmake, siplasplas configuration may fail if one or more of that requirements is missing.

To build the library, invoke the default build target:

$ cmake --build . # Or just "make" if using Makefiles generator


The default cmake invocation will build siplasplas as dynamic libraries (one per module) using the default generator. Also, siplasplas configuration can be modified using some options and variables:

The syntax to pass variables to cmake during configuration is -D<VARIABLE>=<VALUE>, for example:


  • CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE: Build type to be used to build the project (Debug, Release, etc). Set to Debug by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_VERBOSE_CONFIG: Configure siplasplas using detailed output. OFF by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_LIBRARIES_STATIC: Build static libraries. FALSE by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_BUILD_EXAMPLES: Build siplasplas examples in addition to libraries. OFF by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_BUILD_TESTS: Build siplasplas unit tests. OFF by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_BUILD_DOCS: Generate targets to build siplasplas documentation. OFF by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_INSTALL_DRLPARSER_DEPENDENCIES: Install reflection parser python dependencies. ON by default. This needs pip version 2.7 installled. Dependencies can be manually installed too, there's is a requirements.txt file in <siplasplas sources>/src/reflection/parser/. The requirements file doesn't cover the clang dependency, you must install the clang package with the same version of your installed libclang. For example, given:

    $ clang --version
    clang version 3.8.0 (tags/RELEASE_380/final)

    you must install clang==3.8.0 package for Python 2.7.

  • SIPLASPLAS_DOWNLOAD_LIBCLANG: Download libclang from LLVM repository. If enabled, siplasplas will download LLVM+Clang version ${SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_VERSION} from the LLVM repositories. This overrides SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_INCLUDE_DIR, SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_SYSTEM_INCLUDE_DIR, and SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_LIBRARY variables. OFF by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_VERSION: Version of libclang used by the reflection parser. Inferred from the installed clang version by default.

    NOTE: siplasplas has been tested with libclang 3.7 and 3.8 only. siplasplas sources use C++14 features, a clang version with C++14 support is needed. Actually, the siplasplas configuration uses -std=c++14 option, which limits the range of supported versions.

  • SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_INCLUDE_DIR: Path to the LLVM includes. When building docs, Standardese tool is built using this configuraton too. Inferred by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_SYSTEM_INCLUDE_DIR: Path to the installed clang includes. When building docs, Standardese tool is built using this configuraton too. Inferred by default.

  • SIPLASPLAS_LIBCLANG_LIBRARY: Path to the libclang library. When building docs, Standardese tool is built using this configuraton too. Inferred by default.


Many thanks to:

  • Jonathan "foonathan" Müller, as always
  • George "Concepticide" Makrydakis, for feedback, debates, and "Guys, what the fuck is gitter?"
  • Diego Rodriguez Losada, for feedback, palmeritas, and blue boxes
  • Asier González, for holding on for six months in my C++ course, which eventually became this project
  • To all my ByThech WM&IP team mates, for having to suffer me saying "this with reflection would be so easy!" every single day, and specifically to Javier Martín and Antonio Pérez for feedback
  • All my twitter followers, still there even with docens of tweets a day about reflection! Seriously, some of the best people of the C++ community are there and give me a lot of feedback and ideas
  • Jens Weller and the Fortune God, thanks for accepting my Meeting C++ 2016 talk about siplasplas


siplasplas project is released under the MIT open source license. This license applies to all C++ sources, CMake scripts, and any other file except explicitly stated.

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