# Iterator library

< cpp

C++
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Iterator library
Iterator concepts
 indirectly_readable(C++20) indirectly_writable(C++20) weakly_incrementable(C++20) incrementable(C++20) input_or_output_iterator(C++20) sentinel_for(C++20) sized_sentinel_for(C++20)
 input_iterator(C++20) output_iterator(C++20) forward_iterator(C++20) bidirectional_iterator(C++20) random_access_iterator(C++20) contiguous_iterator(C++20)
Iterator primitives
Algorithm concepts and utilities
Indirect callable concepts
 indirect_unary_predicate(C++20)
 indirect_binary_predicate(C++20) indirect_strict_weak_order(C++20)
Common algorithm requirements
 indirectly_movable(C++20) indirectly_movable_storable(C++20) indirectly_copyable(C++20) indirectly_copyable_storable(C++20)
 indirectly_swappable(C++20) indirectly_comparable(C++20) permutable(C++20) mergeable(C++20) sortable(C++20)
Utilities
 indirect_result_t(C++20)
 projected(C++20)
 reverse_iterator move_iterator(C++11) move_sentinel(C++20) common_iterator(C++20) counted_iterator(C++20) basic_const_iterator(C++23) const_iterator(C++23) const_sentinel(C++23) back_insert_iterator front_insert_iterator insert_iterator
 make_reverse_iterator(C++14) make_move_iterator(C++11) default_sentinel_tdefault_sentinel(C++20)(C++20) unreachable_sentinel_tunreachable_sentinel(C++20)(C++20) make_const_iterator(C++23) make_const_sentinel(C++23) back_inserter front_inserter inserter
Stream iterators
Iterator customization points
Iterator operations
Range access
 begincbegin(C++11)(C++14) endcend(C++11)(C++14) sizessize(C++17)(C++20)
 rbegincrbegin(C++14)(C++14) rendcrend(C++14)(C++14) empty(C++17) data(C++17)

Iterators are a generalization of pointers that allow a C++ program to work with different data structures (for example, containers and ranges (since C++20)) in a uniform manner. The iterator library provides definitions for iterators, as well as iterator traits, adaptors, and utility functions.

Since iterators are an abstraction of pointers, their semantics are a generalization of most of the semantics of pointers in C++. This ensures that every function template that takes iterators works as well with regular pointers.

## Contents

### Iterator categories

There are five (until C++17)six (since C++17) kinds of iterators: LegacyInputIterator, LegacyOutputIterator, LegacyForwardIterator, LegacyBidirectionalIterator, LegacyRandomAccessIterator (since C++17).

Instead of being defined by specific types, each category of iterator is defined by the operations that can be performed on it. This definition means that any type that supports the necessary operations can be used as an iterator -- for example, a pointer supports all of the operations required by LegacyRandomAccessIterator, so a pointer can be used anywhere a LegacyRandomAccessIterator is expected.

All of the iterator categories (except LegacyOutputIterator) can be organized into a hierarchy, where more powerful iterator categories (e.g. LegacyRandomAccessIterator) support the operations of less powerful categories (e.g. LegacyInputIterator). If an iterator falls into one of these categories and also satisfies the requirements of LegacyOutputIterator, then it is called a mutable iterator and supports both input and output. Non-mutable iterators are called constant iterators.

 Iterators are called constexpr iterators if all operations provided to meet iterator category requirements are constexpr functions. (since C++20)
Iterator category Operations and storage requirement
access
contiguous
storage
without
multiple
passes
with
multiple
passes
LegacyOutputIterator Required Required
LegacyInputIterator
(mutable if supports write operation)
Required Required
LegacyForwardIterator
(also satisfies LegacyInputIterator)
Required Required Required
LegacyBidirectionalIterator
(also satisfies LegacyForwardIterator)
Required Required Required Required
LegacyRandomAccessIterator
(also satisfies LegacyBidirectionalIterator)
Required Required Required Required Required
LegacyContiguousIterator[1]
(also satisfies LegacyRandomAccessIterator)
Required Required Required Required Required Required
1. LegacyContiguousIterator category was only formally specified in C++17, but the iterators of std::vector, std::basic_string, std::array, and std::valarray, as well as pointers into C arrays are often treated as a separate category in pre-C++17 code.

Note: A type supporting the required operations in a row of the table above does not necessarily fall into the corresponding category, see the category page for the complete list of requirements.

### Definitions

#### Types and writability

An input iterator i supports the expression *i, resulting in a value of some object type T, called the value type of the iterator.

An output iterator i has a non-empty set of types that are writable (until C++20)indirectly_writable (since C++20) to the iterator; for each such type T, the expression *i = o is valid where o is a value of type T.

For every iterator type X for which equality is defined (until C++20), there is a corresponding signed integer (until C++20)integer-like (since C++20) type called the difference type of the iterator.

#### Dereferenceability and validity

Just as a regular pointer to an array guarantees that there is a pointer value pointing past the last element of the array, so for any iterator type there is an iterator value that points past the last element of a corresponding sequence. Such a value is called a past-the-end value.

Values of an iterator i for which the expression *i is defined are called dereferenceable. The standard library never assumes that past-the-end values are dereferenceable.

Iterators can also have singular values that are not associated with any sequence. Results of most expressions are undefined for singular values; the only exceptions are

• the assignment of a non-singular value to an iterator that holds a singular value,
• destroying an iterator that holds a singular value, and,
• for iterators that meet the DefaultConstructible requirements, using a value-initialized iterator as the source of a copy or move (since C++11) operation.

In these cases the singular value is overwritten the same way as any other value. Dereferenceable values are always non-singular.

An invalid iterator is an iterator that may be singular.

#### Ranges

Most of the standard library’s algorithmic templates that operate on data structures have interfaces that use ranges.

An iterator j is called reachable from an iterator i if and only if there is a finite sequence of applications of the expression ++i that makes i == j. If j is reachable from i, they refer to elements of the same sequence.

A range is a pair of iterators that designate the beginning and end of the computation. A range [i, i) is an empty range; in general, a range [i, j) refers to the elements in the data structure starting with the element pointed to by i and up to but not including the element pointed to by j.

Range [i, j) is valid if and only if j is reachable from i.

(until C++20)

A range is either

• a comparable range [i, s), an iterator i and a sentinel s that designate the beginning and end of the computation (i and s can have different types), or
• a counted range i + [0, n), an iterator i and a count n that designate the beginning and the number of elements to which the computation is to be applied.
##### Comparable range

An iterator and a sentinel denoting a range are comparable. [i, s) is empty if i == s; otherwise, [i, s) refers to the elements in the data structure starting with the element pointed to by i and up to but not including the element, if any, pointed to by the first iterator j such that j == s.

A sentinel s is called reachable from an iterator i if and only if there is a finite sequence of applications of the expression ++i that makes i == s.

If s is reachable from i, [i, s) denotes a valid range.

##### Counted range

A counted range i + [0, n) is empty if n == 0; otherwise, i + [0, n) refers to the n elements in the data structure starting with the element pointed to by i and up to but not including the element, if any, pointed to by the result of n applications of ++i.

A counted range i + [0, n) is valid if and only if

• n == 0; or
• all of the following conditions are satisfied:
• n is positive,
• i is dereferenceable, and
• ++i + [0, --n) is valid.
(since C++20)

The result of the application of functions in the standard library to invalid ranges is undefined.

### Iterator concepts

C++20 introduces a new system of iterators based on concepts that are different from C++17 iterators. While the basic taxonomy remains similar, the requirements for individual iterator categories are somewhat different.

 Defined in namespace std indirectly_readable(C++20) specifies that a type is indirectly readable by applying operator * (concept)  indirectly_writable(C++20) specifies that a value can be written to an iterator's referenced object (concept)  weakly_incrementable(C++20) specifies that a semiregular type can be incremented with pre- and post-increment operators (concept)  incrementable(C++20) specifies that the increment operation on a weakly_incrementable type is equality-preserving and that the type is equality_comparable (concept)  input_or_output_iterator(C++20) specifies that objects of a type can be incremented and dereferenced (concept)  sentinel_for(C++20) specifies a type is a sentinel for an input_or_output_iterator type (concept)  sized_sentinel_for(C++20) specifies that the - operator can be applied to an iterator and a sentinel to calculate their difference in constant time (concept)  input_iterator(C++20) specifies that a type is an input iterator, that is, its referenced values can be read and it can be both pre- and post-incremented (concept)  output_iterator(C++20) specifies that a type is an output iterator for a given value type, that is, values of that type can be written to it and it can be both pre- and post-incremented (concept)  forward_iterator(C++20) specifies that an input_iterator is a forward iterator, supporting equality comparison and multi-pass (concept)  bidirectional_iterator(C++20) specifies that a forward_iterator is a bidirectional iterator, supporting movement backwards (concept)  random_access_iterator(C++20) specifies that a bidirectional_iterator is a random-access iterator, supporting advancement in constant time and subscripting (concept)  contiguous_iterator(C++20) specifies that a random_access_iterator is a contiguous iterator, referring to elements that are contiguous in memory (concept) 

### Iterator associated types

 Defined in namespace std incrementable_traits(C++20) computes the difference type of a weakly_incrementable type (class template)  indirectly_readable_traits(C++20) computes the value type of an indirectly_readable type (class template)  iter_value_titer_reference_titer_const_reference_titer_difference_titer_rvalue_reference_titer_common_reference_t(C++20)(C++20)(C++23)(C++20)(C++20)(C++20) computes the associated types of an iterator (alias template) 

### Iterator primitives

 iterator_traits provides uniform interface to the properties of an iterator (class template)  empty class types used to indicate iterator categories (class)  iterator(deprecated in C++17) base class to ease the definition of required types for simple iterators (class template) 

### Iterator customization points

 Defined in namespace std::ranges iter_move(C++20) casts the result of dereferencing an object to its associated rvalue reference type (customization point object)  iter_swap(C++20) swaps the values referenced by two dereferenceable objects (customization point object) 

### Algorithm concepts and utilities

C++20 also provides a set of concepts and related utility templates designed to ease constraining common algorithm operations.

Defined in header <iterator>
Defined in namespace std
##### Indirect callable concepts
specifies that a callable type can be invoked with the result of dereferencing an indirectly_readable type
(concept) 
specifies that a callable type, when invoked with the result of dereferencing an indirectly_readable type, satisfies predicate
(concept) 
specifies that a callable type, when invoked with the result of dereferencing two indirectly_readable types, satisfies predicate
(concept) 
specifies that a callable type, when invoked with the result of dereferencing two indirectly_readable types, satisfies equivalence_relation
(concept) 
specifies that a callable type, when invoked with the result of dereferencing two indirectly_readable types, satisfies strict_weak_order
(concept) 
##### Common algorithm requirements
specifies that values may be moved from an indirectly_readable type to an indirectly_writable type
(concept) 
specifies that values may be moved from an indirectly_readable type to an indirectly_writable type and that the move may be performed via an intermediate object
(concept) 
specifies that values may be copied from an indirectly_readable type to an indirectly_writable type
(concept) 
specifies that values may be copied from an indirectly_readable type to an indirectly_writable type and that the copy may be performed via an intermediate object
(concept) 
specifies that the values referenced by two indirectly_readable types can be swapped
(concept) 
specifies that the values referenced by two indirectly_readable types can be compared
(concept) 
specifies the common requirements of algorithms that reorder elements in place
(concept) 
(C++20)
specifies the requirements of algorithms that merge sorted sequences into an output sequence by copying elements
(concept) 
(C++20)
specifies the common requirements of algorithms that permute sequences into ordered sequences
(concept) 
##### Utilities
computes the result of invoking a callable object on the result of dereferencing some set of indirectly_readable types
(alias template) 
(C++20)
helper template for specifying the constraints on algorithms that accept projections
(class template) 

 reverse_iterator iterator adaptor for reverse-order traversal (class template)  make_reverse_iterator(C++14) creates a std::reverse_iterator of type inferred from the argument (function template)  move_iterator(C++11) iterator adaptor which dereferences to an rvalue reference (class template)  move_sentinel(C++20) sentinel adaptor for use with std::move_iterator (class template)  make_move_iterator(C++11) creates a std::move_iterator of type inferred from the argument (function template)  common_iterator(C++20) adapts an iterator type and its sentinel into a common iterator type (class template)  default_sentinel_t(C++20) default sentinel for use with iterators that know the bound of their range (class)  counted_iterator(C++20) iterator adaptor that tracks the distance to the end of the range (class template)  unreachable_sentinel_t(C++20) sentinel that always compares unequal to any weakly_incrementable type (class)  back_insert_iterator iterator adaptor for insertion at the end of a container (class template)  back_inserter creates a std::back_insert_iterator of type inferred from the argument (function template)  front_insert_iterator iterator adaptor for insertion at the front of a container (class template)  front_inserter creates a std::front_insert_iterator of type inferred from the argument (function template)  insert_iterator iterator adaptor for insertion into a container (class template)  inserter creates a std::insert_iterator of type inferred from the argument (function template) 

### Stream iterators

 istream_iterator input iterator that reads from std::basic_istream (class template)  ostream_iterator output iterator that writes to std::basic_ostream (class template)  istreambuf_iterator input iterator that reads from std::basic_streambuf (class template)  ostreambuf_iterator output iterator that writes to std::basic_streambuf (class template) 

### Iterator operations

 Defined in header  advance advances an iterator by given distance (function template)  distance returns the distance between two iterators (function template)  next(C++11) increment an iterator (function template)  prev(C++11) decrement an iterator (function template)  ranges::advance(C++20) advances an iterator by given distance or to a given bound (niebloid)  ranges::distance(C++20) returns the distance between an iterator and a sentinel, or between the beginning and end of a range (niebloid)  ranges::next(C++20) increment an iterator by a given distance or to a bound (niebloid)  ranges::prev(C++20) decrement an iterator by a given distance or to a bound (niebloid) 

### Range access

These non-member functions provide a generic interface for containers, plain arrays, and std::initializer_list.

 Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in header  Defined in namespace std begincbegin(C++11)(C++14) returns an iterator to the beginning of a container or array (function template)  endcend(C++11)(C++14) returns an iterator to the end of a container or array (function template)  rbegincrbegin(C++14) returns a reverse iterator to the beginning of a container or array (function template)  rendcrend(C++14) returns a reverse end iterator for a container or array (function template)  sizessize(C++17)(C++20) returns the size of a container or array (function template)  empty(C++17) checks whether the container is empty (function template)  data(C++17) obtains the pointer to the underlying array (function template) 

### Defect reports

The following behavior-changing defect reports were applied retroactively to previously published C++ standards.

DR Applied to Behavior as published Correct behavior
LWG 208 C++98 past-the-end iterators were always non-singular they can be singular
LWG 278 C++98 the validity of an iterator was not defined defined to be always non-singular
LWG 324 C++98 output iterators had value types output iterators have writable types instead
LWG 407 C++98 singular iterators could not be destroyed allowed
LWG 408
(N3066)
C++98 singular iterators could not be copied allowed if they are value-initialized
CWG 1181 C++98 array types could not be value types they can