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Templates

From cppreference.com
< cpp‎ | language

A template is a C++ entity that defines one of the following:

Templates are parametrized by one or more template parameters, of three kinds: type template parameters, non-type template parameters, and template template parameters.

When template arguments are provided or, for function templates only, deduced, they are substituted for the template parameters to obtain a specialization of the template, that is, a specific type or a specific function lvalue. Specializations may also be provided explicitly: full specializations are allowed for both class and function templates, partial specializations are only allowed for class templates.

When a class template specialization is referenced in context that requires a complete object type, or when a function template specialization is referenced in context that requires a function definition to exist, the template is instantiated (the code for it is actually compiled), unless the template was already explicitly specialized or explicitly instantiated. Instantiation of a class template doesn't instantiate any of its member functions unless they are also used. At link time, identical instantiations generated by different translation units are merged.

The definition of a template must be visible at the point of implicit instantiation, which is why template libraries typically provide all template definitions in the headers (e.g. most boost libraries are header-only)