The so-called algorithms in the standard library distinguish C++ from other programming languages. Every major programming language has a set of containers, but in the traditional object-oriented approach, each container defines the operations that it permits, e.g., sorting, searching, and modifying. C++ turns object-oriented programming on its head and provides a set of function templates, called algorithms, that work with iterators, and therefore with almost any container.
The advantage of the C++ approach is that the library can contain a rich set of algorithms, and each algorithm can be written once and work with (almost) any kind of container. And when you define a custom container, it automatically works with the standard algorithms (assuming you implemented the container’s iterators correctly). The set of algorithms is easily extensible without touching the container classes. Another benefit is that the algorithms work with iterators, not containers, so even non-container iterators (such as the stream iterators) can participate.
C++ algorithms have one disadvantage, however. Remember that iterators, like pointers, can be unsafe. Algorithms use iterators, and therefore are equally unsafe. Pass the wrong iterator to an algorithm, and the algorithm cannot detect the error and produces undefined behavior. Fortunately, most uses of algorithms make it easy to avoid programming errors.
Most of the standard algorithms are declared in the
<algorithm> header, with some numerical ...