C++ has the standard template library or STL which adds an immense amount of functionality to the language. Let’s look at std::vector. A vector is a container that can hold data of the same type (e.g., double). It differs from an array that you might have used in other languages in that it is not a fixed size – it can grow as needed to hold more data.

Vectors are very useful to store data and loop over it, etc.

Information on the properties of C++ vectors can be found at the CPlusPlus vector page.

From that description, we see that vectors:

  • store the data contiguously in memory

  • can grow as needed (but occasionally, this means creating a new vector of larger size and copying data into it – a slow operation)

  • have a lot of functions that can work on them

  • can access any location directly

  • are very efficient at adding data to the end, but not efficient for inserting data in the middle

Your text has an example of creating a vector to store student grades and then computing an average. We’ll write our own version.

First lets see how to create a vector and add some data to it.

Here’s a simple example:

Listing 3 simple_vector.cpp
#include <iostream>
#include <vector>

int main() {
    std::vector<double> container;


    std::cout << container[3] << std::endl;


Notice the following:

  • We specify the data type when creating a vector

  • We use push_back to add data to the end of a vector. Here we are using the . operator to indicate that we are performing the push_back on the vector container that we created.

  • We access elements of a vector using [] with an index, and that indices start at 0.


Often we will want to loop over the elements contained in a vector, and C++ provides a range-based loop for this purpose. For example to loop over all elements and output them to the terminal, we could do:

for (auto e : container) {
    std::cout << e << std::endl;

Here we see a new keyword, auto. Each pass through this loop, e will take on the next value in our vector called container. The body of the loop is contained in the {...}.

C++ requires that we declare the data type of e. In this case, the compiler knows that it will have to be a double, since the vector is a vector of double s, so we can use the auto keyword to have the compiler automatically deduce the data type.

Let’s try this in our code.

There is another more classic type of loop in C++ that takes the form:

for (start; end; incremement) {
    // do stuff

For example, to loop from 0 to 9, we could do:

for (int i = 0; i < 10; ++i) {
   // do stuff depending on i

try it…

Try out the loop above, printing out the value of i each iteration.

Example: averaging grades

You text has an example of reading and averaging student grades. It uses a few more bits of C++ syntax (like conditional statements) that we’ll see in detail shortly. Let’s look over that code: