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# Refinement

Input Iterator is, in fact, a rather weak concept: that is, it imposes very few requirements. An Input Iterator must support a subset of pointer arithmetic (it must be possible to increment an Input Iterator using prefix and postfix operator++), but need not support all operations of pointer arithmetic. This is sufficient for find, but some other algorithms require that their arguments satisfy additional requirements. Reverse , for example, must be able to decrement its arguments as well as increment them; it uses the expression --last. In terms of concepts, we say that reverse 's arguments must be models of Bidirectional Iterator rather than Input Iterator.

The Bidirectional Iterator concept is very similar to the Input Iterator concept: it simply imposes some additional requirements. The types that are models of Bidirectional Iterator are a subset of the types that are models ofInput Iterator: every type that is a model of Bidirectional Iterator is also a model of Input Iterator. Int*, for example, is both a model of Bidirectional Iterator and a model of Input Iterator, but istream_iterator, is only a model of Input Iterator: it does not conform to the more stringent Bidirectional Iterator requirements.

We describe the relationship between Input Iterator and Bidirectional Iterator by saying that Bidirectional Iterator is a refinement of Input Iterator. Refinement of concepts is very much like inheritance of C++ classes; the main reason we use a different word, instead of just calling it "inheritance", is to emphasize that refinement applies to concepts rather than to actual types.

There are actually three more iterator concepts in addition to the two that we have already discussed: the five iterator concepts are Output Iterator, Input Iterator, Forward Iterator, Bidirectional Iterator, and Random Access Iterator; Forward Iterator is a refinement of Input Iterator, Bidirectional Iterator is a refinement of Forward Iterator, and Random Access Iterator is a refinement of Bidirectional Iterator. (Output Iterator is related to the other four concepts, but it is not part of the hierarchy of refinement: it is not a refinement of any of the other iterator concepts, and none of the other iterator concepts are refinements of it.) The Iterator Overview has more information about iterators in general.

Container classes, like iterators, are organized into a hierarchy of concepts. All containers are models of the concept Container; more refined concepts, such as Sequence and Associative Container, describe specific types of containers.

Concepts and Modeling | Standard Template Library Programmer`s Guide | Other parts of the STL