std::back_inserter in C++

std::back_inserter constructs a back-insert iterator that inserts new elements at the end of the container to which it is applied. It is defined inside the header file .

A back-insert iterator is a special type of output iterator designed to allow algorithms that usually overwrite elements (such as copy) to instead insert new elements automatically at the end of the container.

Syntax:



std::back_inserter (Container& x);

x: Container in which new elements will 
be inserted at the end.

Returns: A back_insert_iterator that inserts 
elements at the end of container x.
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// C++ program to demonstrate std::back_inserter
#include <iostream>
#include <iterator>
#include <vector>
#include <algorithm>
using namespace std;
int main()
{
    // Declaring first container
    vector<int> v1 = { 1, 2, 3 };
  
    // Declaring second container for
    // copying values
    vector<int> v2 = { 4, 5, 6 };
  
    // Using std::back_inserter inside std::copy
    std::copy(v1.begin(), v1.end(), std::back_inserter(v2));
    // v2 now contains 4 5 6 1 2 3
  
    // Displaying v1 and v2
    cout << "v1 = ";
  
    int i;
    for (i = 0; i < 3; ++i) {
        cout << v1[i] << " ";
    }
  
    cout << "\nv2 = ";
    for (i = 0; i < 6; ++i) {
        cout << v2[i] << " ";
    }
  
    return 0;
}

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Output:

v1 = 1 2 3
v2 = 4 5 6 1 2 3

How is it helpful ?

  • No prior Knowledge of size of container required : One of the scenario where such a function can be extremely helpful is when we don’t know the size of the container, i.e., how many elements will be inserted into it, so one way is to make that container of extremely large size, but the most efficient way will be to use std::back_inserter() in such a case, without declaring the size of the container.
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    // C++ program to demonstrate std::back_inserter
    #include <iostream>
    #include <iterator>
    #include <vector>
    #include <algorithm>
    using namespace std;
    int main()
    {
        // Declaring first container
        vector<int> v1 = { 1, 2, 3 };
      
        // Declaring second container without specifying
        // its size
        vector<int> v2;
      
        // Using std::back_inserter inside std::copy
        std::copy(v1.begin(), v1.end(), std::back_inserter(v2));
        // v2 now contains 1 2 3
      
        // Displaying v1 and v2
        cout << "v1 = ";
      
        int i;
        for (i = 0; i < 3; ++i) {
            cout << v1[i] << " ";
        }
      
        cout << "\nv2 = ";
        for (i = 0; i < 3; ++i) {
            cout << v2[i] << " ";
        }
      
        return 0;
    }

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    Output:

    v1 = 1 2 3
    v2 = 1 2 3
    

    Explanation: Here, we had to copy v1 into v2, but let’s say we are in some scenario where we donot know how many elements will be copied into v2, so we willnot specify its size and later on copy into it using std::back_inserter().

    Why not v2.begin() in place of back_inserter()?? Many of you will be thinking that why haven’t we used v2.begin() in place of std::back_inserter(v2), then you need to rethink that since we have not declared the size of v2, therefore, there are no elements in it, and so there will be no beginning and therefore, v2.begin() will throw an error here.

Points to Remember:

  1. One of the pitfalls of std::back_inserter is that it can be used with only those containers that have push_back as one of its methods like in case of vector, list and deque.
  2. push_back() vs back_inserter(): Now, you may be thinking that push_back() and back_inserter are similar, but they are not. When you have to pass an iterator in the algorithm, then you should use back_inserter like in above case, while for normally inserting the values at the end of the container, push_back() can be used.
  3. In place of using std::back_inserter, we can create a back_insert_iterator and then use it as eventually, std::back_inserter returns a back_insert_iterator only.

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    // C++ program to demonstrate back_insert_iterator
    #include <iostream>
    #include <iterator>
    #include <vector>
    #include <algorithm>
    using namespace std;
    int main()
    {
        // Declaring first container
        vector<int> v1 = { 1, 2, 3 };
      
        // Declaring second container for
        // copying values
        vector<int> v2 = { 4, 5, 6 };
      
        // Declaring a back_insert_iterator
        std::back_insert_iterator<std::vector<int> > back_i1(v2);
      
        // Using the iterator in the copy()
        std::copy(v1.begin(), v1.end(), back_i1);
        // v2 now contains 4 5 6 1 2 3
      
        // Displaying v1 and v2
        cout << "v1 = ";
      
        int i;
        for (i = 0; i < 3; ++i) {
            cout << v1[i] << " ";
        }
      
        cout << "\nv2 = ";
        for (i = 0; i < 6; ++i) {
            cout << v2[i] << " ";
        }
      
        return 0;
    }

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    Output:

    v1 = 1 2 3
    v2 = 4 5 6 1 2 3
    

This article is contributed by Mrigendra Singh. If you like GeeksforGeeks and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using contribute.geeksforgeeks.org or mail your article to contribute@geeksforgeeks.org. See your article appearing on the GeeksforGeeks main page and help other Geeks.

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