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Observer

Observer in C++

Observer is a behavioral design pattern that allows one objects to notify other objects about changes in their state.

The Observer pattern provides a way to subscribe and unsubscribe to and from these events for any object that implements a subscriber interface.

Usage of the pattern in C++

Complexity:

Popularity:

Usage examples: The Observer pattern is pretty common in C++ code, especially in the GUI components. It provides a way to react to events happening in other objects without coupling to their classes.

Identification: The pattern can be recognized by subscription methods, that store objects in a list and by calls to the update method issued to objects in that list.

Conceptual Example

This example illustrates the structure of the Observer design pattern. It focuses on answering these questions:

  • What classes does it consist of?
  • What roles do these classes play?
  • In what way the elements of the pattern are related?

main.cc: Conceptual Example

/**
 * Observer Design Pattern
 *
 * Intent: Lets you define a subscription mechanism to notify multiple objects
 * about any events that happen to the object they're observing.
 *
 * Note that there's a lot of different terms with similar meaning associated
 * with this pattern. Just remember that the Subject is also called the
 * Publisher and the Observer is often called the Subscriber and vice versa.
 * Also the verbs "observe", "listen" or "track" usually mean the same thing.
 */

#include <iostream>
#include <list>
#include <string>

class IObserver {
 public:
  virtual ~IObserver(){};
  virtual void Update(const std::string &message_from_subject) = 0;
};

class ISubject {
 public:
  virtual ~ISubject(){};
  virtual void Attach(IObserver *observer) = 0;
  virtual void Detach(IObserver *observer) = 0;
  virtual void Notify() = 0;
};

/**
 * The Subject owns some important state and notifies observers when the state
 * changes.
 */

class Subject : public ISubject {
 public:
  virtual ~Subject() {
    std::cout << "Goodbye, I was the Subject.\n";
  }

  /**
   * The subscription management methods.
   */
  void Attach(IObserver *observer) override {
    list_observer_.push_back(observer);
  }
  void Detach(IObserver *observer) override {
    list_observer_.remove(observer);
  }
  void Notify() override {
    std::list<IObserver *>::iterator iterator = list_observer_.begin();
    HowManyObserver();
    while (iterator != list_observer_.end()) {
      (*iterator)->Update(message_);
      ++iterator;
    }
  }

  void CreateMessage(std::string message = "Empty") {
    this->message_ = message;
    Notify();
  }
  void HowManyObserver() {
    std::cout << "There are " << list_observer_.size() << " observers in the list.\n";
  }

  /**
   * Usually, the subscription logic is only a fraction of what a Subject can
   * really do. Subjects commonly hold some important business logic, that
   * triggers a notification method whenever something important is about to
   * happen (or after it).
   */
  void SomeBusinessLogic() {
    this->message_ = "change message message";
    Notify();
    std::cout << "I'm about to do some thing important\n";
  }

 private:
  std::list<IObserver *> list_observer_;
  std::string message_;
};

class Observer : public IObserver {
 public:
  Observer(Subject &subject) : subject_(subject) {
    this->subject_.Attach(this);
    std::cout << "Hi, I'm the Observer \"" << ++Observer::static_number_ << "\".\n";
    this->number_ = Observer::static_number_;
  }
  virtual ~Observer() {
    std::cout << "Goodbye, I was the Observer \"" << this->number_ << "\".\n";
  }

  void Update(const std::string &message_from_subject) override {
    message_from_subject_ = message_from_subject;
    PrintInfo();
  }
  void RemoveMeFromTheList() {
    subject_.Detach(this);
    std::cout << "Observer \"" << number_ << "\" removed from the list.\n";
  }
  void PrintInfo() {
    std::cout << "Observer \"" << this->number_ << "\": a new message is available --> " << this->message_from_subject_ << "\n";
  }

 private:
  std::string message_from_subject_;
  Subject &subject_;
  static int static_number_;
  int number_;
};

int Observer::static_number_ = 0;

void ClientCode() {
  Subject *subject = new Subject;
  Observer *observer1 = new Observer(*subject);
  Observer *observer2 = new Observer(*subject);
  Observer *observer3 = new Observer(*subject);
  Observer *observer4;
  Observer *observer5;

  subject->CreateMessage("Hello World! :D");
  observer3->RemoveMeFromTheList();

  subject->CreateMessage("The weather is hot today! :p");
  observer4 = new Observer(*subject);

  observer2->RemoveMeFromTheList();
  observer5 = new Observer(*subject);

  subject->CreateMessage("My new car is great! ;)");
  observer5->RemoveMeFromTheList();

  observer4->RemoveMeFromTheList();
  observer1->RemoveMeFromTheList();

  delete observer5;
  delete observer4;
  delete observer3;
  delete observer2;
  delete observer1;
  delete subject;
}

int main() {
  ClientCode();
  return 0;
}

Output.txt: Execution result

Hi, I'm the Observer "1".
Hi, I'm the Observer "2".
Hi, I'm the Observer "3".
There are 3 observers in the list.
Observer "1": a new message is available --> Hello World! :D
Observer "2": a new message is available --> Hello World! :D
Observer "3": a new message is available --> Hello World! :D
Observer "3" removed from the list.
There are 2 observers in the list.
Observer "1": a new message is available --> The weather is hot today! :p
Observer "2": a new message is available --> The weather is hot today! :p
Hi, I'm the Observer "4".
Observer "2" removed from the list.
Hi, I'm the Observer "5".
There are 3 observers in the list.
Observer "1": a new message is available --> My new car is great! ;)
Observer "4": a new message is available --> My new car is great! ;)
Observer "5": a new message is available --> My new car is great! ;)
Observer "5" removed from the list.
Observer "4" removed from the list.
Observer "1" removed from the list.
Goodbye, I was the Observer "5".
Goodbye, I was the Observer "4".
Goodbye, I was the Observer "3".
Goodbye, I was the Observer "2".
Goodbye, I was the Observer "1".
Goodbye, I was the Subject.

Observer in Other Languages

Design Patterns: Observer in Java Design Patterns: Observer in C# Design Patterns: Observer in PHP Design Patterns: Observer in Python Design Patterns: Observer in Ruby Design Patterns: Observer in Swift Design Patterns: Observer in TypeScript