Serializing and Deserializing Objects in C++

Serializing and deserializing objects are essential techniques in programming that allow us to convert complex data structures into a format suitable for storage or transmission. In the realm of C++, serialization and deserialization play a vital role in persisting objects to disk or sending them over a network.

What is Serialization?

Serialization refers to the process of converting an object into a stream of bytes. These bytes represent the object's state and can be stored or transmitted across different systems or platforms. In C++, the most common serialization approach involves representing objects as a sequence of bytes using a combination of pointers, addresses, and memory representation.

To serialize an object, we typically traverse its attributes and convert them into a byte stream. This process may involve converting primitive data types, arrays, or even nested objects. The resulting byte stream can then be saved to disk as a file or transmitted over a network connection.

The Serialization Process

C++ provides several ways to serialize objects, and one common approach is to overload the << operator for istream and ostream classes. By implementing these operators, we can define serialization logic for custom objects and utilize the C++ input/output streams.

Let's consider an example where we have a Person class with attributes like name, age, and address. To serialize this class, we can define the << operator as a friend function inside the Person class. This operator can access private attributes and write them to an output stream.

class Person {
    std::string name;
    int age;
    std::string address;

    friend std::ostream& operator<<(std::ostream& os, const Person& person) {
        os << << "|" << person.age << "|" << person.address;
        return os;

In the above code snippet, we define the << operator to write the Person object's state to the output stream. We separate object attributes using a delimiter (e.g., |), but you can choose any suitable delimiter based on your preferences.

Deserialization: The Reverse Process

Deserialization is the inverse process of serialization, where we reconstruct an object from a byte stream. In C++, deserialization typically involves traversing the byte stream, extracting individual elements, and initializing the object's attributes accordingly.

Continuing with our Person example, let's define the >> operator for the istream class to implement the deserialization logic.

class Person {
    std::string name;
    int age;
    std::string address;

    friend std::istream& operator>>(std::istream& is, Person& person) {
        std::getline(is,, '|');
        is >> person.age;
        std::getline(is, person.address);
        return is;

In the above code snippet, we define the >> operator to read from an input stream and initialize the Person object's attributes accordingly. We assume that each attribute is separated by the delimiter we used during serialization.

Usage Example

Let's demonstrate how serialization and deserialization can be used in practice:

int main() {
    Person person1; = "John Doe";
    person1.age = 30;
    person1.address = "123 Main St";

    // Serialization
    std::ofstream file("person.txt");
    file << person1;

    // Deserialization
    std::ifstream inputFile("person.txt");
    Person person2;
    inputFile >> person2;

    // Verify the deserialized object
    std::cout << "Deserialized Person:" << std::endl;
    std::cout << "Name: " << << std::endl;
    std::cout << "Age: " << person2.age << std::endl;
    std::cout << "Address: " << person2.address << std::endl;

    return 0;

In the above code, we create a Person object, serialize it by writing it to a file, and then deserialize it back into a new Person object. Finally, we print the attributes of the deserialized object to ensure it matches the original object.


Serialization and deserialization are invaluable techniques when it comes to persisting or transmitting complex objects in C++. By properly implementing the << and >> operator overloads, we can easily convert objects into a byte stream and reconstruct them back when required. Understanding serialization and deserialization opens up possibilities for data storage, network communication, and much more in the world of C++ programming.

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