cppreg: quick start

Copyright Sendyne Corp., 2010-2018. All rights reserved (LICENSE).

This document is a brief introduction to cppreg and how to use it. For more details about the implementation refers to the API documentation.

How to use the library

There are two recommended ways to use cppreg in a project:

Although cppreg is entirely written in C++, there is little (if any) overhead in term of runtime performance if at least some level of optimization are enabled (mostly to take care of inlining). For GCC/Clang the following settings are recommended (and similar settings should be used for other compilers):


When developing firmware code for embedded MCUs it is customary that peripherals and devices are configured and operated through MMIO registers (for example, a UART or GPIO peripheral). For a given peripheral the related registers are often grouped together at a specific location in memory. cppreg makes it possible to map C++ constructs to such peripherals registers and fields in order to get safer and more expressive code. The following two examples illustrate how to define such constructs using cppreg.

Example: peripheral setup

Consider an arbitrary peripheral with the following registers:

Address (hex) Register Width (bits) Access
0xA400 0000 Setup register 8 R/W
0xA400 0001 RX data register 8 R
0xA400 0002 TX data register 8 W

The setup register bits are mapped as:

The RX and TX data registers both contain a single DATA field occupying the whole register. The DATA field is read-only for the RX register and write-only for the TX register.

The goal of cppreg is to facilitate the manipulation of such a peripheral. This can be done as follow:

#include <cppreg.h> // use cppreg-all.h instead if you are using the single header.
using namespace cppreg;

// Peripheral structure.
// This will contain all the peripheral registers definitions.
struct Peripheral {

    // Define a register pack type.
    // This is used to indicate that the register are packed together in memory.
    using periph_pack = RegisterPack<
        0xA400 0000,        // Base address of the pack (i.e., peripheral).
        3                   // Number of bytes for all peripheral registers.
    // Define the setup register and the fields.
    struct Setup : PackedRegister<
        periph_pack,                // Pack to which the register belongs to.
        RegBitSize::b8,             // Register size. 
        0                           // Offset in bits from the base.
    > {
        // When defining a Field-based type:
        // - the first template parameter is the owning register,
        // - the second template parameter is the field width in bits,
        // - the third template parameter is the offset in bits,
        // - the last parameter is the access policy.
        using Frequency = Field<Setup, 5u, 0u, read_write>;    // FREQ
        using Mode = Field<Setup, 2u, 5u, read_write>;         // MODE
        using Enable = Field<Setup, 1u, 7u, read_write>;       // EN
    // Define the RX data register.
    struct RX : PackedRegister<
        periph_pack,                // Pack to which the register belongs to.
        RegBitSize::b8,             // Register width in bits 
        8                           // Offset in bits from the base.
    > {
        using Data = Field<RX, 8u, 0u, read_only>;
    // Define the RX data register.
    struct TX : PackedRegister<
        periph_pack,                // Pack to which the register belongs to.
        RegBitSize::b8,             // Register width in bits 
        8 * 2                       // Offset in bits from the base.
    > {
        using Data = Field<TX, 8u, 0u, write_only>;


For more details about the various types (RegisterPack, PackedRegister, and Field see the API documentation).

Now let’s assume that we want to setup and enable the peripheral following the procedure:

  1. we first set the mode, say with value 0x2,
  2. then the frequency, say with value 0x1A,
  3. then write 1 to the enable field to start the peripheral,
  4. if the peripheral fails to start or stop this will be set to zero.

Once enabled we also want to implement a echo loop that will simply read data from the RX register and put them in the TX register so that the peripheral will echo whatever it receives.

This translates to:

// Setup and enable.

// Echo loopback.
while (true) {

    // Check if sill enabled.
    if (!Peripheral::Setup::Enable::is_set()) {

    // Read data.
    const auto incoming_data = Peripheral::RX::Data::read();
    // Echo the data.


A few remarks:

In this example, we can already see how cppreg limits the possibility of errors (see the API documentation for more details):

// Overflow checks.
Peripheral::Setup::Mode::write<0x4>();         // Would not compile because it overflows the MODE field.
Peripheral::Setup::Frequency::write<0xFF>();   // Idem. This overflows the FREQ field.

// Instead if you write:
Peripheral::Setup::Mode::write(0x4);           // Compile but writes 0x0 to the MODE field.
Peripheral::Setup::Frequency::write(0xFF);     // Compile but writes 0x1F to the FREQ field

// Access policies.
Peripheral::RX::Data::write<0x1>();            // Would not compile because read-only.
Peripheral::TX::Data::read();                  // Would not compile because write-only.

We can even add more expressive methods for our peripheral:

// Peripheral register.
struct PeripheralInterface : Peripheral {
    // Configuration with mode and frequency.
    template <Mode::type mode, Frequency::type f>
    inline static void configure() {
        // Using template parameters we can check for overflow at compile time.
    // Enable method.
    inline static void enable() {
    // Is enabled method.
    inline static bool is_enabled() {
        return Enable::is_set();
    // Disable method.
    inline static void disable() {
    // ...

PeripheralInterface::configure<0x2, 01A>();

Example: simple interface for GPIO pins

Let’s assume we are dealing with a 32 pins GPIO peripheral on some MCU and that the following memory map and registers are available:

Absolute address (hex) Register Width (bits) Access
0xF400 0000 Port data output register 32 R/W
0xF400 0004 Port set output register 32 W (always reads 0)
0xF400 0008 Port clear output register 32 W (always reads 0)
0xF400 000C Port toggle output register 32 W (always reads 0)
0xF400 0010 Port data input output register 32 W (always reads 0)
0xF400 0014 Port data direction output register 32 R/W

For each register, the 32 bits maps to the 32 pins of the GPIO peripheral (bit 0 maps to pin 0 and so on). In other words, each register is composed of 32 fields that maps to the GPIO pins.

Using cppreg we can define custom types for these registers and define an interface for the GPIO peripheral:

// GPIO peripheral namespace.
namespace gpio {

    // Register pack.
    // 6 x 32-bits = 6 x 4 bytes.
    using gpio_pack = RegisterPack<0xF4000000, 6 * 8>;
    // Data output register (PDOR).
    using pdor = PackedRegister<gpio_pack, RegBitSize::b32, 0 * 32>;

    // Set output register (PSOR).
    using psor = PackedRegister<gpio_pack, RegBitSize::b32, 1 * 32>;

    // Clear output register (PCOR).
    using pcor = PackedRegister<gpio_pack, RegBitSize::b32, 2 * 32>;

    // Toggle output register (PTOR).
    using ptor = PackedRegister<gpio_pack, RegBitSize::b32, 3 * 32>;

    // Data input register.
    using pdir = PackedRegister<gpio_pack, RegBitSize::b32, 4 * 32>;

    // Data direction output register.
    using pddr = PackedRegister<gpio_pack, RegBitSize::b32, 5 * 32>;


For the purpose of this example we further assume that we are only interested in two pins of the GPIO: we have a red LED on pin 14 and a blue LED on pin 16. We can now use the PackedRegister types defined above to map these pins to specific Field. Because the logic is independent of the pin number we can even define a generic LED interface:

// LEDs namespace.
namespace leds {

    // LED interface template.
    template <std::uint8_t Pin>
    struct LED_Interface {

        // Define the relevant fields.
        // Some of these fields are write only (e.g., PSOR) but we define them
        // as read write (it will always read zero but we will not read them).
        using pin_direction = Field<gpio::pddr, 1u, Pin, read_write>;
        using pin_set = Field<gpio::psor, 1u, Pin, read_write>;
        using pin_clear = Field<gpio::pcor, 1u, Pin, read_write>;
        using pin_toggle = Field<gpio::ptor, 1u, Pin, read_write>;

        // We also define some constants.
        constexpr static const gpio::pddr::type pin_output_dir = 1u;

        // We can now define the static methods of the interface.
        // The pin output direction is set in the init method.
        inline static void on() {
            pin_set::set();      // Set PSOR to 1.
        inline static void off() {
            pin_clear::set();    // Set PCOR to 1.
        inline static void toggle() {
            pin_toggle::set();   // Set PTOR to 1.
        inline static void init() {


    // Define the types for our two LEDs.
    using red = LED_Interface<14>;
    using blue = LED_Interface<16>;

At this point we have defined an interface to initialize and control the LEDs attached to two GPIO pins. Note that, at no moment we had to deal with masking or shifting operations. Furthermore, we only needed to deal with the register addresses when defining the mapping. At compile time cppreg also makes sure that the field actually fits within the register specifications (a Field-based type cannot overflow the register in which it is defined). Similarly, cppreg also checks that packed registers are properly aligned and fit within the pack.

Using this interface it becomes easy to write very expressive code such as:


// Turn on both LEDs.

// Wait a bit.
for (std::size_t i = 0; i < 500000; ++i)

// Turn off the blue LED.

A quick note: in this example some of the fields are write-only (set, clear and toggle); in general extra care has to be taken when dealing with write-only fields but for this example the implementation still work fine due to the nature of the GPIO registers. Check the API documentation for more details.