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Mon May 14 14:17:49 PDT 2012
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    Introducing C++ Vectors and Arrays

      This is a short introduction to the standard vectors available in C++. Vectors are a powerful yet simple data structure.

      There is a PDF version [ vectors.pdf ] suitable for an ereader.

      Quick Reference

      Vectors are good when we have an unknown sequence of similar items to store and we want to access them by their sequence numbers.

      Vectors are held in a special library and can be used in a file that has

       		#include <vector>
      at its beginning. It uses the "std" namespace so you will need "using ...;" statements.
      Declarationvector<type> v(initial_size);
      Accessors v.empty(), v.size(), v.front(), v.back()
      Mutators v.push_back(T), v.pop_back()
      Operatorsv[int], v.at(int), v1=v2;, v1==v2

      (Close Table)

      Key Facts

      You need to remember the following facts about vectors:
      1. A vector is an object that contains a sequence of other objects inside it.
      2. The objects inside must all take up the same amount of storage.
      3. They are numbered starting with 0.
      4. If the whole vector is called v then the items in it are written v[0], v[1], v[2], ...
      5. The last item is v[v.size()-1] NOT v[v.size()].
      6. New items can be "pushed" onto the end of the vector.
      7. The last item can be "popped" off of a vector.
      8. Vectors can therefore change size.
      9. We can find out the current size of a vector: v.size()
      10. Vectors can be empty. If so v.empty() is true.
      11. If a vector is empty then v[i] and v.pop.... crash.
      12. Vectors are empty. by default, when created.
      13. Vectors shouls be passed by reference whenever possible.


      Suppose that T is any type or class - say int, float, double, or the name of a class, then
       	vector<T> v;
      declares a new and empty vector called v. Given object v declare like the above you can do the following things with it:


      Suppose that we want to input an unknown number of numbers and then print them out forwards and then backwards, using a vector. We will push ints onto the back of a vector called v. We will then print each item in v in turn. Finally we will print the vector backwards. You can download the code from [ vectors.cpp ] but here are the highlights. First we must declare the facilities we want to use
       	#include <iostream>
       	#include <vector>
       	using namespace std;
       	void print( const vector<int>& ) ;//utility function outputs a vector of ints
       	void print_backwards( const vector<int> &);
      Then we describe the main program:
       	int main()
       		vector<int> v;
       		int number;
       		cout <<"Input some numbers and then end the input\n";
      Finally the two procedures that print out the data:
       	void print_backwards( const vector<int> &a)
       		for(int i=a.size()-1; i>=0; --i)
       			cout << a[i] << " ";
       		cout << endl;
       		cout << "----------------"<<endl;
       	void print( const vector<int>& a)
       		for(int i=0; i<a.size(); ++i)
       			cout << a[i] << " ";
       		cout << endl;
       		cout << "----------------"<<endl;


      Down load (with a shift-click!) the above code from [ vectors.cpp ] , test it, and modify it to print out all the even numbered items (0,2,4,6,...) and then all the odd ones(1,3,5,...).


      The oldest example of a Container in C++ is an array. In C you had arrays and you would write code like this:
       	const int MAX = 10;
       	float a[MAX];
       	for(int i=0; i<MAX; ++i)
      Arrays are like vectors except that:
      1. They have a fixed size specified in the declaration.
      2. They are faster than vectors.
      3. You can not add or delete items from an array.
      4. The syntax is simpler.
      5. The absolutely no safety belt: if an index has wrong value, you crash.


      The designers of the C++ library made sure that the <string> library shares a lot of common features with <vector> and other sequential containers. The main differences are (1) <string>s can only hold characters, and (2)<string>s have some useful extra operations available.


      It helps to draw diagrams of vectors and work out by hand, on these diagrams what an algorithm, or your program is doing. Pretending to be a computer can teach you a lot about a complex computation.


    1. container::=A data structure which contains a number of data items that can gain and lose items as the program runs. Examples include vectors, lists, stacks, ...

    2. increment::operation=moving an iterator/pointer/index on to the next iterator/pointer/index value commonly symbolized by ++ in C-like languages.

    3. operation::=something that can be applied to an object to extract information from it or to change its state.

    4. random_access::=being able to do things to items in a container in an unpredictable order typically by using an integer as an index or subscript.

    5. vector::container=a vector is a sequential container that is optimized to allow efficient random_access of items by using an index. Vectors are are given in a contiguous block of storage space. Vectors are useful whenever data must be stored in one order accessed in a different one. A vector is a dynamic array - an array that can grow when needed. [ Vectors ]


        You must always #include <vector> if you use the word vector.

        You must be sure that all indices or subscripts stay between 0 and size()-1 inclusive.

        Trying to change the size of an array does not work.

        If a program compiles, loads, crashes, and there is a subscript operator ([...]) then check to see if the subscripted item has been put into the container before the subscripted element is accessed. A very common error is to declare a vector with no length and to use [...] as if it created new elements. It doesn't. Use 'push_back(..)' to add new elements to a vector.

        If you are unable to show that a subscript is in range then use a condition like the following to guard thing[i] from errors:

         		0<= i && i < thing.size()

        If a program compiles, loads and crashes and it has a pop_back, function than make sure that there is an item to be "popped"! In code you can use the empty function to guard statements that contain "pop" from blowing up.

        On some older compilers and libraries when you need a <string> as well as <vector> you need to

         		#include <string>
        before including the list or vector rather in the reverse order! Older string library appear to define some special versions of vector and list operators and the older compilers can not make up its mind which to use.

        If the standard <vector> is not found then you are using an older C++ compiler.

        You can have vectors of vectors:

         		vector < vector <int> > matrix;
        but you must put at least one space between the two ">" symbols. The following is wrong:
         		vector < vector <int>> matrix;

      . . . . . . . . . ( end of section Errors) <<Contents | End>>

    . . . . . . . . . ( end of section Introducing C++ Vectors and Arrays) <<Contents | End>>


  1. Algorithm::=A precise description of a series of steps to attain a goal, [ Algorithm ] (Wikipedia).
  2. Class::=A description of a type of object that includes the data it knows and the functions it can execute.
  3. Function::programming=A selfcontained and named piece of program that knows how to do something.
  4. Gnu::="Gnu's Not Unix", a long running open source project that supplies a very popular and free C++ compiler.
  5. OOP::="Object-Oriented Programming", Current paradigm for programming.
  6. Semantics::=Rules determining the meaning of correct statements in a language.
  7. SP::="Structured Programming", a previous paradigm for programming.
  8. Syntax::=The rules determining the correctness and structure of statements in a language, grammar.
  9. Q::software="A program I wrote to make software easier to develop",
  10. TBA::="To Be Announced", something I should do.
  11. TBD::="To Be Done", something you have to do.
  12. UML::="Unified Modeling Language", industry standard design and documentation diagrams.
  13. void::C++Keyword="Indicates a function that has no return".