Qt Signal Slot Priority

This method to define a signal is a little more elaborate as we'll see soon, but very handy. Methods connect This method connects the signal to a slot. The signal can connect to a function, which takes its arguments and does something with them. For all practical purposes, you'll only need to pass the slot function to connect. Slots and signals must have same parameters. Otherwise, the connection will not occur. Not only for connection, slot function must have same parameters with signal. For example, this sample doesn’t work: QObject::connect(ui.comboBox, SIGNAL (activated(int)), this, SLOT (onComboboxActivated)); But it works.

  1. Qt Signal Slot Priority Package
  2. Qt Signal Slot Priority Card
  3. Qt Signal Slot Priority Track
  4. Qt Signal Slot Priority Box



This page was used to describe the new signal and slot syntax during its development. The feature is now released with Qt 5.

  • Differences between String-Based and Functor-Based Connections (Official documentation)
  • Introduction (Woboq blog)
  • Implementation Details (Woboq blog)

Note: This is in addition to the old string-based syntax which remains valid.

  • 1Connecting in Qt 5
  • 2Disconnecting in Qt 5
  • 4Error reporting
  • 5Open questions

Connecting in Qt 5

There are several ways to connect a signal in Qt 5.

Old syntax

Qt 5 continues to support the old string-based syntax for connecting signals and slots defined in a QObject or any class that inherits from QObject (including QWidget)

New: connecting to QObject member

Here's Qt 5's new way to connect two QObjects and pass non-string objects:


  • Compile time check of the existence of the signals and slot, of the types, or if the Q_OBJECT is missing.
  • Argument can be by typedefs or with different namespace specifier, and it works.
  • Possibility to automatically cast the types if there is implicit conversion (e.g. from QString to QVariant)
  • It is possible to connect to any member function of QObject, not only slots.


  • More complicated syntax? (you need to specify the type of your object)
  • Very complicated syntax in cases of overloads? (see below)
  • Default arguments in slot is not supported anymore.

New: connecting to simple function

The new syntax can even connect to functions, not just QObjects:


  • Can be used with std::bind:
  • Can be used with C++11 lambda expressions:


  • There is no automatic disconnection when the 'receiver' is destroyed because it's a functor with no QObject. However, since 5.2 there is an overload which adds a 'context object'. When that object is destroyed, the connection is broken (the context is also used for the thread affinity: the lambda will be called in the thread of the event loop of the object used as context).

Disconnecting in Qt 5

As you might expect, there are some changes in how connections can be terminated in Qt 5, too.

Old way

You can disconnect in the old way (using SIGNAL, SLOT) but only if

  • You connected using the old way, or
  • If you want to disconnect all the slots from a given signal using wild card character

Symetric to the function pointer one

Only works if you connected with the symmetric call, with function pointers (Or you can also use 0 for wild card)In particular, does not work with static function, functors or lambda functions.

New way using QMetaObject::Connection

Works in all cases, including lambda functions or functors.

Asynchronous made easier

With C++11 it is possible to keep the code inline

Here's a QDialog without re-entering the eventloop, and keeping the code where it belongs:

Another example using QHttpServer : http://pastebin.com/pfbTMqUm

Error reporting

Tested with GCC.

Fortunately, IDEs like Qt Creator simplifies the function naming

Missing Q_OBJECT in class definition

Type mismatch

Open questions

Default arguments in slot

If you have code like this:

The old method allows you to connect that slot to a signal that does not have arguments.But I cannot know with template code if a function has default arguments or not.So this feature is disabled.

There was an implementation that falls back to the old method if there are more arguments in the slot than in the signal.This however is quite inconsistent, since the old method does not perform type-checking or type conversion. It was removed from the patch that has been merged.


As you might see in the example above, connecting to QAbstractSocket::error is not really beautiful since error has an overload, and taking the address of an overloaded function requires explicit casting, e.g. a connection that previously was made as follows:

connect(mySpinBox, SIGNAL(valueChanged(int)), mySlider, SLOT(setValue(int));

cannot be simply converted to:

...because QSpinBox has two signals named valueChanged() with different arguments. Instead, the new code needs to be:

Unfortunately, using an explicit cast here allows several types of errors to slip past the compiler. Adding a temporary variable assignment preserves these compile-time checks:

Some macro could help (with C++11 or typeof extensions). A template based solution was introduced in Qt 5.7: qOverload

The best thing is probably to recommend not to overload signals or slots …

… but we have been adding overloads in past minor releases of Qt because taking the address of a function was not a use case we support. But now this would be impossible without breaking the source compatibility.


Should QMetaObject::Connection have a disconnect() function?

The other problem is that there is no automatic disconnection for some object in the closure if we use the syntax that takes a closure.One could add a list of objects in the disconnection, or a new function like QMetaObject::Connection::require


Function such as QHostInfo::lookupHost or QTimer::singleShot or QFileDialog::open take a QObject receiver and char* slot.This does not work for the new method.If one wants to do callback C++ way, one should use std::functionBut we cannot use STL types in our ABI, so a QFunction should be done to copy std::function.In any case, this is irrelevant for QObject connections.

Retrieved from 'https://wiki.qt.io/index.php?title=New_Signal_Slot_Syntax&oldid=34943'

This is the sequel of my previous article explaining the implementation details of the signals and slots.In the Part 1, we have seenthe general principle and how it works with the old syntax.In this blog post, we will see the implementation details behind thenew function pointerbased syntax in Qt5.

New Syntax in Qt5

The new syntax looks like this:

Why the new syntax?

I already explained the advantages of the new syntax in adedicated blog entry.To summarize, the new syntax allows compile-time checking of the signals and slots. It also allowsautomatic conversion of the arguments if they do not have the same types.As a bonus, it enables the support for lambda expressions.

New overloads

There was only a few changes required to make that possible.
The main idea is to have new overloads to QObject::connect which take the pointersto functions as arguments instead of char*

There are three new static overloads of QObject::connect: (not actual code)

The first one is the one that is much closer to the old syntax: you connect a signal from the senderto a slot in a receiver object.The two other overloads are connecting a signal to a static function or a functor object withouta receiver.

They are very similar and we will only analyze the first one in this article.

Pointer to Member Functions

Before continuing my explanation, I would like to open a parenthesis totalk a bit about pointers to member functions.

Here is a simple sample code that declares a pointer to member function and calls it.

Pointers to member and pointers to member functions are usually part of the subset of C++ that is not much used and thus lesser known.
The good news is that you still do not really need to know much about them to use Qt and its new syntax. All you need to remember is to put the & before the name of the signal in your connect call. But you will not need to cope with the ::*, .* or ->* cryptic operators.

These cryptic operators allow you to declare a pointer to a member or access it.The type of such pointers includes the return type, the class which owns the member, the types of each argumentand the const-ness of the function.

You cannot really convert pointer to member functions to anything and in particular not tovoid* because they have a different sizeof.
If the function varies slightly in signature, you cannot convert from one to the other.For example, even converting from void (MyClass::*)(int) const tovoid (MyClass::*)(int) is not allowed.(You could do it with reinterpret_cast; but that would be an undefined behaviour if you callthem, according to the standard)

Pointer to member functions are not just like normal function pointers.A normal function pointer is just a normal pointer the address where thecode of that function lies.But pointer to member function need to store more information:member functions can be virtual and there is also an offset to apply to thehidden this in case of multiple inheritance.
sizeof of a pointer to a member function can evenvary depending of the class.This is why we need to take special care when manipulating them.

Type Traits: QtPrivate::FunctionPointer

Let me introduce you to the QtPrivate::FunctionPointer type trait.
A trait is basically a helper class that gives meta data about a given type.Another example of trait in Qt isQTypeInfo.

What we will need to know in order to implement the new syntax is information about a function pointer.

The template<typename T> struct FunctionPointer will give us informationabout T via its member.

  • ArgumentCount: An integer representing the number of arguments of the function.
  • Object: Exists only for pointer to member function. It is a typedef to the class of which the function is a member.
  • Arguments: Represents the list of argument. It is a typedef to a meta-programming list.
  • call(T &function, QObject *receiver, void **args): A static function that will call the function, applying the given parameters.

Qt still supports C++98 compiler which means we unfortunately cannot require support for variadic templates.Therefore we had to specialize our trait function for each number of arguments.We have four kinds of specializationd: normal function pointer, pointer to member function,pointer to const member function and functors.For each kind, we need to specialize for each number of arguments. We support up to six arguments.We also made a specialization using variadic templateso we support arbitrary number of arguments if the compiler supports variadic templates.

The implementation of FunctionPointer lies inqobjectdefs_impl.h.

Qt Signal Slot Priority Package


The implementation relies on a lot of template code. I am not going to explain all of it.

Here is the code of the first new overload fromqobject.h:

You notice in the function signature that sender and receiverare not just QObject* as the documentation points out. They are pointers totypename FunctionPointer::Object instead.This uses SFINAEto make this overload only enabled for pointers to member functionsbecause the Object only exists in FunctionPointer ifthe type is a pointer to member function.

Qt Signal Slot Priority Card

We then start with a bunch ofQ_STATIC_ASSERT.They should generate sensible compilation error messages when the user made a mistake.If the user did something wrong, it is important that he/she sees an error hereand not in the soup of template code in the _impl.h files.We want to hide the underlying implementation from the user who should not needto care about it.
That means that if you ever you see a confusing error in the implementation details,it should be considered as a bug that should be reported.

We then allocate a QSlotObject that is going to be passed to connectImpl().The QSlotObject is a wrapper around the slot that will help calling it. It alsoknows the type of the signal arguments so it can do the proper type conversion.
We use List_Left to only pass the same number as argument as the slot, which allows connectinga signal with many arguments to a slot with less arguments.

QObject::connectImpl is the private internal functionthat will perform the connection.It is similar to the original syntax, the difference is that instead of storing amethod index in the QObjectPrivate::Connection structure,we store a pointer to the QSlotObjectBase.

The reason why we pass &slot as a void** is only tobe able to compare it if the type is Qt::UniqueConnection.

We also pass the &signal as a void**.It is a pointer to the member function pointer. (Yes, a pointer to the pointer)

Signal Index

We need to make a relationship between the signal pointer and the signal index.
We use MOC for that. Yes, that means this new syntaxis still using the MOC and that there are no plans to get rid of it :-).

MOC will generate code in qt_static_metacallthat compares the parameter and returns the right index.connectImpl will call the qt_static_metacall function with thepointer to the function pointer.

Once we have the signal index, we can proceed like in the other syntax.

The QSlotObjectBase

QSlotObjectBase is the object passed to connectImplthat represents the slot.

Before showing the real code, this is what QObject::QSlotObjectBasewas in Qt5 alpha:

It is basically an interface that is meant to be re-implemented bytemplate classes implementing the call and comparison of thefunction pointers.

It is re-implemented by one of the QSlotObject, QStaticSlotObject orQFunctorSlotObject template class.

Fake Virtual Table

The problem with that is that each instantiation of those object would need to create a virtual table which contains not only pointer to virtual functionsbut also lot of information we do not need such asRTTI.That would result in lot of superfluous data and relocation in the binaries.

In order to avoid that, QSlotObjectBase was changed not to be a C++ polymorphic class.Virtual functions are emulated by hand.

The m_impl is a (normal) function pointer which performsthe three operations that were previously virtual functions. The 're-implementations'set it to their own implementation in the constructor.

Please do not go in your code and replace all your virtual functions by such ahack because you read here it was good.This is only done in this case because almost every call to connectwould generate a new different type (since the QSlotObject has template parameterswich depend on signature of the signal and the slot).

Protected, Public, or Private Signals.

Signals were protected in Qt4 and before. It was a design choice as signals should be emittedby the object when its change its state. They should not be emitted fromoutside the object and calling a signal on another object is almost always a bad idea.

However, with the new syntax, you need to be able take the addressof the signal from the point you make the connection.The compiler would only let you do that if you have access to that signal.Writing &Counter::valueChanged would generate a compiler errorif the signal was not public.

In Qt 5 we had to change signals from protected to public.This is unfortunate since this mean anyone can emit the signals.We found no way around it. We tried a trick with the emit keyword. We tried returning a special value.But nothing worked.I believe that the advantages of the new syntax overcome the problem that signals are now public.

Sometimes it is even desirable to have the signal private. This is the case for example inQAbstractItemModel, where otherwise, developers tend to emit signalfrom the derived class which is not what the API wants.There used to be a pre-processor trick that made signals privatebut it broke the new connection syntax.
A new hack has been introduced.QPrivateSignal is a dummy (empty) struct declared private in the Q_OBJECTmacro. It can be used as the last parameter of the signal. Because it is private, only the objecthas the right to construct it for calling the signal.MOC will ignore the QPrivateSignal last argument while generating signature information.See qabstractitemmodel.h for an example.

More Template Code

The rest of the code is inqobjectdefs_impl.h andqobject_impl.h.It is mostly standard dull template code.

I will not go into much more details in this article,but I will just go over few items that are worth mentioning.

Meta-Programming List

As pointed out earlier, FunctionPointer::Arguments is a listof the arguments. The code needs to operate on that list:iterate over each element, take only a part of it or select a given item.

That is why there isQtPrivate::List that can represent a list of types. Some helpers to operate on it areQtPrivate::List_Select andQtPrivate::List_Left, which give the N-th element in the list and a sub-list containingthe N first elements.

The implementation of List is different for compilers that support variadic templates and compilers that do not.

With variadic templates, it is atemplate<typename... T> struct List;. The list of arguments is just encapsulatedin the template parameters.
For example: the type of a list containing the arguments (int, QString, QObject*) would simply be:

Without variadic template, it is a LISP-style list: template<typename Head, typename Tail > struct List;where Tail can be either another List or void for the end of the list.
The same example as before would be:

ApplyReturnValue Trick

In the function FunctionPointer::call, the args[0] is meant to receive the return value of the slot.If the signal returns a value, it is a pointer to an object of the return type ofthe signal, else, it is 0.If the slot returns a value, we need to copy it in arg[0]. If it returns void, we do nothing.

Qt Signal Slot Priority Track

The problem is that it is not syntaxically correct to use thereturn value of a function that returns void.Should I have duplicated the already huge amount of code duplication: once for the voidreturn type and the other for the non-void?No, thanks to the comma operator.

In C++ you can do something like that:

You could have replaced the comma by a semicolon and everything would have been fine.

Qt Signal Slot Priority Box

Where it becomes interesting is when you call it with something that is not void:

There, the comma will actually call an operator that you even can overload.It is what we do inqobjectdefs_impl.h

ApplyReturnValue is just a wrapper around a void*. Then it can be usedin each helper. This is for example the case of a functor without arguments:

This code is inlined, so it will not cost anything at run-time.


This is it for this blog post. There is still a lot to talk about(I have not even mentioned QueuedConnection or thread safety yet), but I hope you found thisinterresting and that you learned here something that might help you as a programmer.

Update:The part 3 is available.