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C++ Map: Standard Template Library

Reading time 3 min
Published Sep 3, 2019
Updated Sep 27, 2019

TL;DR – C++ map is an associative container used for storing and sorting elements.

What is a C++ Map?

C++ map is an associative container that is used to store and sort elements in an orderly fashion. It’s a part of the C++ Standard Template Library. Using the map, you can effortlessly search for elements based on their keys.

Keys and values are essential to a C++ map. This is because elements are key-value pairs that follow a specific sequence. You can add or delete keys, but you can’t alter them. Values, on the contrary, can be changed.

Note: since the keys are unique, no two values can have the same keys.

C++ Map Syntax

The map syntax parameters are:

  • Key specifies the keys that are going to be saved in the map.
  • T represents the content that associates with the key.
  • Compare is a binary predicate. It takes two keys as arguments and returns a bool.
  • Alloc defines the storage allocation model. Usually it goes by the default value.
template < class Key,                                     // map::key_type
           class T,                                       // map::mapped_type
           class Compare = less<Key>,                     // map::key_compare
           class Alloc = allocator<pair<const Key,T> >    // map::allocator_type
           > class map;
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Creating a Map in C++

When it comes to making a map, remember that the keys and their corresponding values always come in pairs. It won’t work if you only insert the key or just the value.

You can easily create a map with:

typedef pair<const Key, T> value_type;
    class Key,
    class T,
    class Compare = std::less<Key>,
    class Allocator = std::allocator<std::pair<const Key, T> >
> class map;

namespace pmr {
    template <class Key, class T, class Compare = std::less<Key>>
    using map = std::map<Key, T, Compare,
                         std::pmr::polymorphic_allocator<std::pair<const Key,T>>>

Basic C++ Map Functions

Just like any other programming language, C++ needs functions for the programs to work. Functions are specific instructions or blocks of code that tell how, what, where, and when a task should be done. Same goes with the map in C++.

Here are some basic functions related to C++ maps that can help you get started:

Function Definition
begin() Returns a bidirectional iterator (the pointer) to the first element of the map container. It should run in constant time.
end() Returns the bidirectional iterator just past the end of the map. You’ll have to decrement the iterator before you can access the last element of the container.
empty() Checks if the map container is empty or not. Returns TRUE if the container has no elements and FALSE if otherwise.
insert({key, element}) Adds some data or an element with a particular key into the map.
find(key) Runs in logarithmic time and returns an iterator to where the key is present in the map. If the key is not found, the iterator is returned to the end of the map.
size() Returns the total amount of elements present in the map container.
erase() eEliminates keys and elements at any given position or range in the map.
clear() Runs in linear time, this function deletes all elements from the map and leaves 0 as its size.

C++ Map: Useful Tips

  • C++ Maps let you store data with any type of key, not just a numerical key.
  • To dynamically handle its storage needs, the map uses an allocator object.
  • Maps are also implemented as binary search trees.