Using libc++

Usually, libc++ is packaged and shipped by a vendor through some delivery vehicle (operating system distribution, SDK, toolchain, etc) and users don’t need to do anything special in order to use the library.

This page contains information about configuration knobs that can be used by users when they know libc++ is used by their toolchain, and how to use libc++ when it is not the default library used by their toolchain.

Using a different version of the C++ Standard

Libc++ implements the various versions of the C++ Standard. Changing the version of the standard can be done by passing -std=c++XY to the compiler. Libc++ will automatically detect what Standard is being used and will provide functionality that matches that Standard in the library.

$ clang++ -std=c++17 test.cpp


Using -std=c++XY with a version of the Standard that has not been ratified yet is considered unstable. Libc++ reserves the right to make breaking changes to the library until the standard has been ratified.

Enabling experimental C++ Library features

Libc++ provides implementations of some experimental features. Experimental features are either Technical Specifications (TSes) or official features that were voted to the Standard but whose implementation is not complete or stable yet in libc++. Those are disabled by default because they are neither API nor ABI stable. However, the -fexperimental-library compiler flag can be defined to turn those features on.


Experimental libraries are experimental.
  • The contents of the <experimental/...> headers and the associated static library will not remain compatible between versions.
  • No guarantees of API or ABI stability are provided.
  • When the standardized version of an experimental feature is implemented, the experimental feature is removed two releases after the non-experimental version has shipped. The full policy is explained here.


On compilers that do not support the -fexperimental-library flag, users can define the _LIBCPP_ENABLE_EXPERIMENTAL macro and manually link against the appropriate static library (usually shipped as libc++experimental.a) to get access to experimental library features.

Using libc++ when it is not the system default

On systems where libc++ is provided but is not the default, Clang provides a flag called -stdlib= that can be used to decide which standard library is used. Using -stdlib=libc++ will select libc++:

$ clang++ -stdlib=libc++ test.cpp

On systems where libc++ is the library in use by default such as macOS and FreeBSD, this flag is not required.

Using a custom built libc++

Most compilers provide a way to disable the default behavior for finding the standard library and to override it with custom paths. With Clang, this can be done with:

$ clang++ -nostdinc++ -nostdlib++           \
          -isystem <install>/include/c++/v1 \
          -L <install>/lib                  \
          -Wl,-rpath,<install>/lib          \
          -lc++                             \

The option -Wl,-rpath,<install>/lib adds a runtime library search path, which causes the system’s dynamic linker to look for libc++ in <install>/lib whenever the program is loaded.

GCC does not support the -nostdlib++ flag, so one must use -nodefaultlibs instead. Since that removes all the standard system libraries and not just libc++, the system libraries must be re-added manually. For example:

$ g++ -nostdinc++ -nodefaultlibs           \
      -isystem <install>/include/c++/v1    \
      -L <install>/lib                     \
      -Wl,-rpath,<install>/lib             \
      -lc++ -lc++abi -lm -lc -lgcc_s -lgcc \

GDB Pretty printers for libc++

GDB does not support pretty-printing of libc++ symbols by default. However, libc++ does provide pretty-printers itself. Those can be used as:

$ gdb -ex "source <libcxx>/utils/gdb/libcxx/" \
      -ex "python register_libcxx_printer_loader()" \

include-what-you-use (IWYU)

libc++ provides an IWYU mapping file <>, which drastically improves the accuracy of the tool when using libc++. To use the mapping file with IWYU, you should run the tool like so:

$ include-what-you-use -Xiwyu /path/to/libcxx/include/libcxx.imp file.cpp

If you would prefer to not use that flag, then you can replace /path/to/include-what-you-use/share/libcxx.imp` file with the libc++-provided libcxx.imp file.

Enabling the “safe libc++” mode

Libc++ contains a number of assertions whose goal is to catch undefined behavior in the library, usually caused by precondition violations. Those assertions do not aim to be exhaustive – instead they aim to provide a good balance between safety and performance. In particular, these assertions do not change the complexity of algorithms. However, they might, in some cases, interfere with compiler optimizations.

By default, these assertions are turned off. Vendors can decide to turn them on while building the compiled library by defining LIBCXX_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=ON at CMake configuration time. When LIBCXX_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS is used, the compiled library will be built with assertions enabled, and user code will be built with assertions enabled by default. If LIBCXX_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=OFF at CMake configure time, the compiled library will not contain assertions and the default when building user code will be to have assertions disabled. As a user, you can consult your vendor to know whether assertions are enabled by default.

Furthermore, independently of any vendor-selected default, users can always control whether assertions are enabled in their code by defining _LIBCPP_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=0|1 before including any libc++ header (we recommend passing -D_LIBCPP_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=X to the compiler). Note that if the compiled library was built by the vendor without assertions, functions compiled inside the static or shared library won’t have assertions enabled even if the user defines _LIBCPP_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=1 (the same is true for the inverse case where the static or shared library was compiled with assertions but the user tries to disable them). However, most of the code in libc++ is in the headers, so the user-selected value for _LIBCPP_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS (if any) will usually be respected.

When an assertion fails, the program is aborted through a special verbose termination function. The library provides a default function that prints an error message and calls std::abort(). Note that this function is provided by the static or shared library, so it is only available when deploying to a platform where the compiled library is sufficiently recent. On older platforms, the program will terminate in an unspecified unsuccessful manner, but the quality of diagnostics won’t be great. However, users can also override that mechanism at two different levels. First, the mechanism can be overridden at compile-time by defining the _LIBCPP_VERBOSE_ABORT(format, args...) variadic macro. When that macro is defined, it will be called with a format string as the first argument, followed by a series of arguments to format using printf-style formatting. Compile-time customization may be interesting to get precise control over code generation, however it is also inconvenient to use in some cases. Indeed, compile-time customization of the verbose termination function requires that all translation units be compiled with a consistent definition for _LIBCPP_VERBOSE_ABORT to avoid ODR violations, which can add complexity in the build system of users.

Otherwise, if compile-time customization is not necessary, link-time customization of the handler is also possible, similarly to how replacing operator new works. This mechanism trades off fine-grained control over the call site where the termination is initiated in exchange for more ergonomics. Link-time customization is done by simply defining the following function in exactly one translation unit of your program:

void __libcpp_verbose_abort(char const* format, ...)

This mechanism is similar to how one can replace the default definition of operator new and operator delete. For example:

// In HelloWorldHandler.cpp
#include <version> // must include any libc++ header before defining the function (C compatibility headers excluded)

void std::__libcpp_verbose_abort(char const* format, ...) {
  va_list list;
  va_start(list, format);
  std::vfprintf(stderr, format, list);


// In HelloWorld.cpp
#include <vector>

int main() {
  std::vector<int> v;
  int& x = v[0]; // Your termination function will be called here if _LIBCPP_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=1

Also note that the verbose termination function should never return. Since assertions in libc++ catch undefined behavior, your code will proceed with undefined behavior if your function is called and does return.

Furthermore, exceptions should not be thrown from the function. Indeed, many functions in the library are noexcept, and any exception thrown from the termination function will result in std::terminate being called.

Libc++ Configuration Macros

Libc++ provides a number of configuration macros which can be used to enable or disable extended libc++ behavior, including enabling “debug mode” or thread safety annotations.

This macro is used to enable -Wthread-safety annotations on libc++’s std::mutex and std::lock_guard. By default, these annotations are disabled and must be manually enabled by the user.
This macro is used to disable all visibility annotations inside libc++. Defining this macro and then building libc++ with hidden visibility gives a build of libc++ which does not export any symbols, which can be useful when building statically for inclusion into another library.

This macro disables the additional diagnostics generated by libc++ using the diagnose_if attribute. These additional diagnostics include checks for:

  • Giving set, map, multiset, multimap and their unordered_ counterparts a comparator which is not const callable.
  • Giving an unordered associative container a hasher that is not const callable.

Microsoft’s C and C++ headers are fairly entangled, and some of their C++ headers are fairly hard to avoid. In particular, vcruntime_new.h gets pulled in from a lot of other headers and provides definitions which clash with libc++ headers, such as nothrow_t (note that nothrow_t is a struct, so there’s no way for libc++ to provide a compatible definition, since you can’t have multiple definitions).

By default, libc++ solves this problem by deferring to Microsoft’s vcruntime headers where needed. However, it may be undesirable to depend on vcruntime headers, since they may not always be available in cross-compilation setups, or they may clash with other headers. The _LIBCPP_NO_VCRUNTIME macro prevents libc++ from depending on vcruntime headers. Consequently, it also prevents libc++ headers from being interoperable with vcruntime headers (from the aforementioned clashes), so users of this macro are promising to not attempt to combine libc++ headers with the problematic vcruntime headers. This macro also currently prevents certain operator new/operator delete replacement scenarios from working, e.g. replacing operator new and expecting a non-replaced operator new[] to call the replaced operator new.

This macro disables library-extensions of [[nodiscard]]. See Extended Applications of [[nodiscard]] for more information.
This macro disables warnings when using deprecated components. For example, using std::auto_ptr when compiling in C++11 mode will normally trigger a warning saying that std::auto_ptr is deprecated. If the macro is defined, no warning will be emitted. By default, this macro is not defined.

C++17 Specific Configuration Macros

This macro is used to re-enable all the features removed in C++17. The effect is equivalent to manually defining each macro listed below.
This macro is used to re-enable auto_ptr.
This macro is used to re-enable the binder1st, binder2nd, pointer_to_unary_function, pointer_to_binary_function, mem_fun_t, mem_fun1_t, mem_fun_ref_t, mem_fun1_ref_t, const_mem_fun_t, const_mem_fun1_t, const_mem_fun_ref_t, and const_mem_fun1_ref_t class templates, and the bind1st, bind2nd, mem_fun, mem_fun_ref, and ptr_fun functions.
This macro is used to re-enable the random_shuffle algorithm.
This macro is used to re-enable set_unexpected, get_unexpected, and unexpected.

C++20 Specific Configuration Macros

This macro can be used to disable diagnostics emitted from functions marked [[nodiscard]] in dialects after C++17. See Extended Applications of [[nodiscard]] for more information.
This macro is used to re-enable all the features removed in C++20. The effect is equivalent to manually defining each macro listed below.
This macro is used to re-enable redundant members of allocator<T>, including pointer, reference, rebind, address, max_size, construct, destroy, and the two-argument overload of allocate.
This macro is used to re-enable the library-provided specializations of allocator<void> and allocator<const void>. Use it in conjunction with _LIBCPP_ENABLE_CXX20_REMOVED_ALLOCATOR_MEMBERS to ensure that removed members of allocator<void> can be accessed.
This macro is used to re-enable the argument_type, result_type, first_argument_type, and second_argument_type members of class templates such as plus, logical_not, hash, and owner_less.
This macro is used to re-enable not1, not2, unary_negate, and binary_negate.
This macro is used to re-enable raw_storage_iterator.
This macro is used to re-enable is_literal_type, is_literal_type_v, result_of and result_of_t.

Libc++ Extensions

This section documents various extensions provided by libc++, how they’re provided, and any information regarding how to use them.

Extended applications of [[nodiscard]]

The [[nodiscard]] attribute is intended to help users find bugs where function return values are ignored when they shouldn’t be. After C++17 the C++ standard has started to declared such library functions as [[nodiscard]]. However, this application is limited and applies only to dialects after C++17. Users who want help diagnosing misuses of STL functions may desire a more liberal application of [[nodiscard]].

For this reason libc++ provides an extension that does just that! The extension is enabled by default and can be disabled by defining _LIBCPP_DISABLE_NODISCARD_EXT. The extended applications of [[nodiscard]] takes two forms:

  1. Backporting [[nodiscard]] to entities declared as such by the standard in newer dialects, but not in the present one.
  2. Extended applications of [[nodiscard]], at the library’s discretion, applied to entities never declared as such by the standard.

Entities declared with _LIBCPP_NODISCARD_EXT

This section lists all extended applications of [[nodiscard]] to entities which no dialect declares as such (See the second form described above).

  • adjacent_find
  • all_of
  • any_of
  • binary_search
  • clamp
  • count_if
  • count
  • equal_range
  • equal
  • find_end
  • find_first_of
  • find_if_not
  • find_if
  • find
  • get_temporary_buffer
  • includes
  • is_heap_until
  • is_heap
  • is_partitioned
  • is_permutation
  • is_sorted_until
  • is_sorted
  • lexicographical_compare
  • lower_bound
  • max_element
  • max
  • min_element
  • min
  • minmax_element
  • minmax
  • mismatch
  • none_of
  • remove_if
  • remove
  • search_n
  • search
  • unique
  • upper_bound
  • ranges::adjacent_find
  • ranges::all_of
  • ranges::any_of
  • ranges::binary_search
  • ranges::clamp
  • ranges::count_if
  • ranges::count
  • ranges::equal_range
  • ranges::equal
  • ranges::find_end
  • ranges::find_first_of
  • ranges::find_if_not
  • ranges::find_if
  • ranges::find
  • ranges::get_temporary_buffer
  • ranges::includes
  • ranges::is_heap_until
  • ranges::is_heap
  • ranges::is_partitioned
  • ranges::is_permutation
  • ranges::is_sorted_until
  • ranges::is_sorted
  • ranges::lexicographical_compare
  • ranges::lower_bound
  • ranges::max_element
  • ranges::max
  • ranges::min_element
  • ranges::min
  • ranges::minmax_element
  • ranges::minmax
  • ranges::mismatch
  • ranges::none_of
  • ranges::remove_if
  • ranges::remove
  • ranges::search_n
  • ranges::search
  • ranges::unique
  • ranges::upper_bound
  • lock_guard’s constructors
  • as_const
  • bit_cast
  • forward
  • move
  • move_if_noexcept
  • identity::operator()
  • to_integer
  • to_underlying
  • signbit
  • fpclassify
  • isfinite
  • isinf
  • isnan
  • isnormal
  • isgreater
  • isgreaterequal
  • isless
  • islessequal
  • islessgreater
  • isunordered
  • ceil
  • fabs
  • floor
  • cbrt
  • copysign
  • fmax
  • fmin
  • nearbyint
  • rint
  • round
  • trunc

Extended integral type support

Several platforms support types that are not specified in the Standard, such as the 128-bit integral types __int128_t and __uint128_t. As an extension, libc++ does a best-effort attempt to support these types like other integral types, by supporting them notably in:

  • <bits>
  • <charconv>
  • <functional>
  • <type_traits>
  • <format>
  • <random>

Additional types supported in random distributions

The C++ Standard mentions that instantiating several random number distributions with types other than short, int, long, long long, and their unsigned versions is undefined. As an extension, libc++ supports instantiating binomial_distribution, discrete_distribution, geometric_distribution, negative_binomial_distribution, poisson_distribution, and uniform_int_distribution with int8_t, __int128_t and their unsigned versions.

Extensions to <format>

The exposition only type basic-format-string and its typedefs format-string and wformat-string became basic_format_string, format_string, and wformat_string in C++23. Libc++ makes these types available in C++20 as an extension.

For padding Unicode strings the format library relies on the Unicode Standard. Libc++ retroactively updates the Unicode Standard in older C++ versions. This allows the library to have better estimates for newly introduced Unicode code points, without requiring the user to use the latest C++ version in their code base. ======= Turning off ASan annotation in containers ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

__asan_annotate_container_with_allocator is a customization point to allow users to disable Address Sanitizer annotations for containers for specific allocators. This may be necessary for allocators that access allocated memory. This customization point exists only when _LIBCPP_HAS_ASAN_CONTAINER_ANNOTATIONS_FOR_ALL_ALLOCATORS Feature Test Macro is defined.

For allocators not running destructors, it is also possible to bulk-unpoison memory instead of disabling annotations altogether.

The struct may be specialized for user-defined allocators. It is a Cpp17UnaryTypeTrait with a base characteristic of true_type if the container is allowed to use annotations and false_type otherwise.

The annotations for a user_allocator can be disabled like this:

template <class T>
struct std::__asan_annotate_container_with_allocator<user_allocator<T>> : std::false_type {};

Why may I want to turn it off?

There are a few reasons why you may want to turn off annotations for an allocator. Unpoisoning may not be an option, if (for example) you are not maintaining the allocator.

  • You are using allocator, which does not call destructor during deallocation.
  • You are aware that memory allocated with an allocator may be accessed, even when unused by container.

Platform specific behavior


The stdout, stderr, and stdin file streams can be placed in Unicode mode by a suitable call to _setmode(). When in this mode, the sequence of bytes read from, or written to, these streams is interpreted as a sequence of little-endian wchar_t elements. Thus, use of std::cout, std::cerr, or std::cin with streams in Unicode mode will not behave as they usually do since bytes read or written won’t be interpreted as individual char elements. However, std::wcout, std::wcerr, and std::wcin will behave as expected.

Wide character stream such as std::wcin or std::wcout imbued with a locale behave differently than they otherwise do. By default, wide character streams don’t convert wide characters but input/output them as is. If a specific locale is imbued, the IO with the underlying stream happens with regular char elements, which are converted to/from wide characters according to the locale. Note that this doesn’t behave as expected if the stream has been set in Unicode mode.