Ranges Views: Lazy, Non-Mutating Iterations with Materialization

Views are non-owning ranges with complexity guarantees

Any type that provides the functions begin() and end(), where begin() returns an iterator and end() returns a sentinel, qualifies as a range. We concluded that all standard containers are ranges. Containers own their elements, so we can, therefore, call them owning ranges.

A view is also a range, that is, it provides begin() and end() functions. However, unlike containers, a view does not own the elements in the range that the view spans over.

The construction of a view is required to be a constant-time operation, O(1)O(1). It cannot perform any work that depends on the size of the underlying container. The same goes for assigning, copying, moving, and destructing a view. This makes it easy to reason about performance when using views to combine multiple algorithms. It also makes it impossible for views to own elements since that would require linear time complexity upon construction and destruction.

Views don’t mutate the underlying container

At first glance, a view might look like a mutated version of the input container. However, the container is not mutated at all: all the processing is performed in the iterators. A view is simply a proxy object that, when iterated, looks like a mutated container.

This also makes it possible for a view to expose elements of types that are different from the types of the input elements. The following snippet demonstrates how a view transforms the element type from int to std::string:

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