The Boost C++ Libraries

Chapter 15. Boost.Unordered

Boost.Unordered provides the classes boost::unordered_set, boost::unordered_multiset, boost::unordered_map, and boost::unordered_multimap. These classes are identical to the hash containers that were added to the standard library with C++11. Thus, you can ignore the containers from Boost.Unordered if you work with a development environment supporting C++11.

Example 15.1. Using boost::unordered_set
#include <boost/unordered_set.hpp>
#include <string>
#include <iostream>

int main()
  typedef boost::unordered_set<std::string> unordered_set;
  unordered_set set;


  for (const std::string &s : set)
    std::cout << s << '\n';

  std::cout << set.size() << '\n';
  std::cout << set.max_size() << '\n';

  std::cout << std::boolalpha << (set.find("cat") != set.end()) << '\n';
  std::cout << set.count("shark") << '\n';

boost::unordered_set can be replaced with std::unordered_set in Example 15.1. boost::unordered_set doesn’t differ from std::unordered_set.

Example 15.2. Using boost::unordered_map
#include <boost/unordered_map.hpp>
#include <string>
#include <iostream>

int main()
  typedef boost::unordered_map<std::string, int> unordered_map;
  unordered_map map;

  map.emplace("cat", 4);
  map.emplace("shark", 0);
  map.emplace("spider", 8);

  for (const auto &p : map)
    std::cout << p.first << ";" << p.second << '\n';

  std::cout << map.size() << '\n';
  std::cout << map.max_size() << '\n';

  std::cout << std::boolalpha << (map.find("cat") != map.end()) << '\n';
  std::cout << map.count("shark") << '\n';

Example 15.2 uses boost::unordered_map to store the names and the number of legs for several animals. Once again, boost::unordered_map could be replaced with std::unordered_map.

Example 15.3. User-defined type with Boost.Unordered
#include <boost/unordered_set.hpp>
#include <string>
#include <cstddef>

struct animal
  std::string name;
  int legs;

bool operator==(const animal &lhs, const animal &rhs)
  return == && lhs.legs == rhs.legs;

std::size_t hash_value(const animal &a)
  std::size_t seed = 0;
  boost::hash_combine(seed, a.legs);
  return seed;

int main()
  typedef boost::unordered_set<animal> unordered_set;
  unordered_set animals;

  animals.insert({"cat", 4});
  animals.insert({"shark", 0});
  animals.insert({"spider", 8});

In Example 15.3 elements of type animal are stored in a container of type boost::unordered_set. Because the hash function of boost::unordered_set doesn’t know the class animal, hash values can’t be automatically calculated for elements of this type. That’s why a hash function must be defined – otherwise the example can’t be compiled.

The name of the hash function to define is hash_value(). It must expect as its sole parameter an object of the type the hash value should be calculated for. The type of the return value of hash_value() must be std::size_t.

The function hash_value() is automatically called when the hash value has to be calculated for an object. This function is defined for various types in the Boost libraries, including std::string. For user-defined types like animal, it must be defined by the developer.

Usually, the definition of hash_value() is rather simple: Hash values are created by accessing the member variables of an object one after another. This is done with the function boost::hash_combine(), which is provided by Boost.Hash and defined in boost/functional/hash.hpp. You don’t have to include this header file if you use Boost.Unordered because all containers from this library access Boost.Hash to calculate hash values.

In addition to defining hash_value(), you need to make sure two objects can be compared using ==. That’s why the operator operator== is overloaded for animal in Example 15.3.

The hash containers from the C++11 standard library use a hash function from the header file functional. The hash containers from Boost.Unordered expect the hash function hash_value(). Whether you use Boost.Hash within hash_value() doesn’t matter. Boost.Hash makes sense because functions like boost::hash_combine() make it easier to calculate hash values from multiple member variables step by step. However, this is only an implementation detail of hash_value(). Apart from the different hash functions used, the hash containers from Boost.Unordered and the standard library are basically equivalent.