Containers (sometimes called collections) are a staple of computer programming. Every major programming language has fundamental containers, such as arrays or lists. Modern programming languages usually have an assortment of more powerful containers, such as trees, for more specialized needs.
The C++ library has a basic suite of containers (deques, lists, maps, sets, and vectors), but more important, it has generic algorithms, which are function templates that implement common algorithms, such as searching and sorting. The algorithms operate on iterators, which are an abstraction of pointers that apply to any container or other sequence.
This chapter presents an overview of the standard C++ containers, the iterators used to examine the containers, and the algorithms that can be used with the iterators. It covers how to use the standard containers, iterators, and algorithms, as well as how to write your own.
In this chapter, the mathematical notation of [first, last) is often used to denote a range. The square bracket marks an inclusive endpoint of a range, and the parenthesis marks an exclusive endpoint of a range. Thus, [first, last) means a range that extends from first to last, including first, but excluding last. Read more about ranges in "Iterators" later in this chapter.
For complete details about the various containers, iterators, and algorithms, see Chapter 13.