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11.6b — Hiding inherited functionality

Changing an inherited member’s access level

C++ gives us the ability to change an inherited member’s access specifier in the derived class. This is done by using a using declaration to identify the (scoped) base class member that is having its access changed in the derived class, under the new access specifier.

For example, consider the following Base:

Because Base::printValue() has been declared as protected, it can only be called by Base or its derived classes. The public can not access it.

Let’s define a Derived class that changes the access specifier of printValue() to public:

This means that this code will now work:

Two notes:

First, you can only change the access specifiers of base members the derived class would normally be able to access. Therefore, you can never change the access specifier of a base member from private to protected or public, because derived classes do not have access to private members of the base class.

Second, as of C++11, using-declarations are the preferred way of changing access levels. However, you can also change access levels by using an “access declaration”. This works identically to the using declaration method, but omits the “using” keyword. This access declaration way of redefining access is now considered deprecated, but you will likely see older code using this pattern, so it’s worth knowing about.

Hiding functionality

In C++, it is not possible to remove or restrict functionality from a base class other than by modifying the source code. However, in a derived class, it is possible to hide functionality that exists in the base class, so that it can not be accessed through the derived class. This can be done simply by changing the relevant access specifier.

For example, we can make a public member private:

Note that this allowed us to take a poorly designed base class and encapsulate its data in our derived class. Alternatively, instead of inheriting Base’s members publicly and making m_value private by overriding its access specifier, we could have inherited Base privately, which would have caused all of Base’s member to be inherited privately in the first place.

You can also mark member functions as deleted in the derived class, which ensures they can’t be called at all through a derived object:

In the above example, we’ve marked the getValue() function as deleted. This means that the compiler will complain when we try to call the derived version of the function. Note that the Base version of getValue() is still accessible though. This means that a Derived object can still access getValue() by upcasting the Derived object to a Base first:

11.7 -- Multiple inheritance [1]
Index [2]
11.6a -- Calling inherited functions and overriding behavior [3]