Nested classes (C++ only)

A nested class is declared within the scope of another class. The name of a nested class is local to its enclosing class. Unless you use explicit pointers, references, or object names, declarations in a nested class can only use visible constructs, including type names, static members, and enumerators from the enclosing class and global variables.

Member functions of a nested class follow regular access rules and have no special access privileges to members of their enclosing classes. Member functions of the enclosing class have no special access to members of a nested class. The following example demonstrates this:

class A {
  int x;

  class B { };

  class C {

    // The compiler cannot allow the following
    // declaration because A::B is private:
    //   B b;

    int y;
    void f(A* p, int i) {

    // The compiler cannot allow the following
    // statement because A::x is private:
    //   p->x = i;

    }
  };

  void g(C* p) {

    // The compiler cannot allow the following
    // statement because C::y is private:
    //   int z = p->y;
  }
};

int main() { }

The compiler would not allow the declaration of object b because class A::B is private. The compiler would not allow the statement p->x = i because A::x is private. The compiler would not allow the statement int z = p->y because C::y is private.

You can define member functions and static data members of a nested class in namespace scope. For example, in the following code fragment, you can access the static members x and y and member functions f() and g() of the nested class nested by using a qualified type name. Qualified type names allow you to define a typedef to represent a qualified class name. You can then use the typedef with the :: (scope resolution) operator to refer to a nested class or class member, as shown in the following example:

class outside
{
public:
      class nested
      {
      public:
            static int x;
            static int y;
            int f();
            int g();
      };
};
int outside::nested::x = 5;
int outside::nested::f() { return 0; };

typedef outside::nested outnest;       // define a typedef
int outnest::y = 10;                   // use typedef with ::
int outnest::g() { return 0; };

However, using a typedef to represent a nested class name hides information and may make the code harder to understand.

You cannot use a typedef name in an elaborated type specifier. To illustrate, you cannot use the following declaration in the above example:

  class outnest obj;

A nested class may inherit from private members of its enclosing class. The following example demonstrates this:

class A {
private:
  class B { };
  B *z;

  class C : private B {
  private:
      B y;
//      A::B y2;
      C *x;
//      A::C *x2;
    };
};

The nested class A::C inherits from A::B. The compiler does not allow the declarations A::B y2 and A::C *x2 because both A::B and A::C are private.

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