Printing collections with std::iostream

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Basic printing

std::ostream_iterator allows to print contents of an STL container to any output stream without explicit loops. The second argument of std::ostream_iterator constructor sets the delimiter. For example, the following code:

std::vector<int> v = {1,2,3,4};
std::copy(v.begin(), v.end(), std::ostream_iterator<int>(std::cout, " ! "));

will print

1 ! 2 ! 3 ! 4 !

Implicit type cast

std::ostream_iterator allows to cast container’s content type implicitly. For example, let’s tune std::cout to print floating-point values with 3 digits after decimal point:

std::cout << std::setprecision(3);

and instantiate std::ostream_iterator with float, while the contained values remain int:

std::vector<int> v = {1,2,3,4};
std::copy(v.begin(), v.end(), std::ostream_iterator<float>(std::cout, " ! "));

so the code above yields

1.000 ! 2.000 ! 3.000 ! 4.000 !

despite std::vector holds ints.

Generation and transformation

std::generate, std::generate_n and std::transform functions provide a very powerful tool for on-the-fly data manipulation. For example, having a vector:

std::vector<int> v = {1,2,3,4,8,16};

we can easily print boolean value of “x is even” statement for each element:

std::boolalpha(std::cout); // print booleans alphabetically
std::transform(v.begin(), v.end(), std::ostream_iterator<bool>(std::cout, " "),
[](int val) {
    return (val % 2) == 0;

or print the squared element:

std::transform(v.begin(), v.end(), std::ostream_iterator<int>(std::cout, " "),
[](int val) {
    return val * val;

Printing N space-delimited random numbers:

const int N = 10;
std::generate_n(std::ostream_iterator<int>(std::cout, " "), N, std::rand);


As in the section about reading text files, almost all these considerations may be applied to native arrays. For example, let’s print squared values from a native array:

int v[] = {1,2,3,4,8,16};
std::transform(v, std::end(v), std::ostream_iterator<int>(std::cout, " "),
[](int val) {
    return val * val;

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