Is struct packing deterministic?

The compiler is deterministic; if it weren’t, separate compilation would be impossible. Two different translation units with the same struct declaration will work together; that is guaranteed by ยง6.2.7/1: Compatible types and composite types.

Moreover, two different compilers on the same platform should interoperate, although this is not guaranteed by the standard. (It’s a quality of implementation issue.) To allow inter-operability, compiler writers agree on a platform ABI (Application Binary Interface) which will include a precise specification of how composite types are represented. In this way, it is possible for a program compiled with one compiler to use library modules compiled with a different compiler.

But you are not just interested in determinism; you also want the layout of two different types to be the same.

According to the standard, two struct types are compatible if their members (taken in order) are compatible, and if their tags and member names are the same. Since your example structs have different tags and names, they are not compatible even though their member types are, so you cannot use one where the other is required.

It may seem odd that the standard allows tags and member names to affect compatibility. The standard requires that the members of a struct be laid out in declaration order, so names cannot change the order of members within the struct. Why, then, could they affect padding? I don’t know of any compiler where they do, but the standard’s flexibility is based on the principle that the requirements should be the minimum necessary to guarantee correct execution. Aliasing differently tagged structs is not permitted within a translation unit, so there is no need to condone it between different translation units. And so the standard does not allow it. (It would be legitimate for an implementation to insert information about the type in a struct‘s padding bytes, even if it needed to deterministically add padding to provide space for such information. The only restriction is that padding cannot be placed before the first member of a struct.)

A platform ABI is likely to specify the layout of a composite type without reference to its tag or member names. On a particular platform, with a platform ABI which has such a specification and a compiler documented to conform to the platform ABI, you could get away with the aliasing, although it would not be technically correct, and obviously the preconditions make it non-portable.

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