Go to the previous, next section.

Stream Classes

The previous chapter referred in passing to the classes ostream and istream, for output and input respectively. These classes share certain properties, captured in their base class ios.

Shared properties: class ios

The base class ios provides methods to test and manage the state of input or output streams.

ios delegates the job of actually reading and writing bytes to the abstract class streambuf, which is designed to provide buffered streams (compatible with C, in the GNU implementation). See section Using the streambuf Layer, for information on the facilities available at the streambuf level.

Constructor: ios::ios ([streambuf* sb [, ostream* tie])

The ios constructor by default initializes a new ios, and if you supply a streambuf sb to associate with it, sets the state good in the new ios object. It also sets the default properties of the new object.

You can also supply an optional second argument tie to the constructor: if present, it is an initial value for ios::tie, to associate the new ios object with another stream.

Destructor: ios::~ios ()

The ios destructor is virtual, permitting application-specific behavior when a stream is closed--typically, the destructor frees any storage associated with the stream and releases any other associated objects.

Checking the state of a stream

Use this collection of methods to test for (or signal) errors and other exceptional conditions of streams:

Method: ios::operator void* () const

You can do a quick check on the state of the most recent operation on a stream by examining a pointer to the stream itself. The pointer is arbitrary except for its truth value; it is true if no failures have occurred (ios::fail is not true). For example, you might ask for input on cin only if all prior output operations succeeded:

if (cout)
{
  // Everything OK so far
  cin >> new_value;
  ...
}

Method: ios::operator ! () const

In case it is more convenient to check whether something has failed, the operator ! returns true if ios::fail is true (an operation has failed). For example, you might issue an error message if input failed:

if (!cin)
{
  // Oops
  cerr << "Eh?\n";
}

Method: iostate ios::rdstate () const

Return the state flags for this stream. The value is from the enumeration iostate. You can test for any combination of

goodbit
There are no indications of exceptional states on this stream.

eofbit
End of file.

failbit
An operation has failed on this stream; this usually indicates bad format of input.

badbit
The stream is unusable.

Method: void ios::setstate (iostate state)

Set the state flag for this stream to state in addition to any state flags already set. Synonym (for upward compatibility): ios::set.

See ios::clear to set the stream state without regard to existing state flags. See ios::good, ios::eof, ios::fail, and ios::bad, to test the state.

Method: int ios::good () const

Test the state flags associated with this stream; true if no error indicators are set.

Method: int ios::bad () const

Test whether a stream is marked as unusable. (Whether ios::badbit is set.)

Method: int ios::eof () const

True if end of file was reached on this stream. (If ios::eofbit is set.)

Method: int ios::fail () const

Test for any kind of failure on this stream: either some operation failed, or the stream is marked as bad. (If either ios::failbit or ios::badbit is set.)

Method: void ios::clear (iostate state)

Set the state indication for this stream to the argument state. You may call ios::clear with no argument, in which case the state is set to good (no errors pending).

See ios::good, ios::eof, ios::fail, and ios::bad, to test the state; see ios::set or ios::setstate for an alternative way of setting the state.

Choices in formatting

These methods control (or report on) settings for some details of controlling streams, primarily to do with formatting output:

Method: char ios::fill () const

Report on the padding character in use.

Method: char ios::fill (char padding)

Set the padding character. You can also use the manipulator setfill. See section Changing stream properties using manipulators.

Default: blank.

Method: int ios::precision () const

Report the number of significant digits currently in use for output of floating point numbers.

Default: 6.

Method: int ios::precision (int signif)

Set the number of significant digits (for input and output numeric conversions) to signif.

You can also use the manipulator setprecision for this purpose. See section Changing stream properties using manipulators.

Method: int ios::width () const

Report the current output field width setting (the number of characters to write on the next `<<' output operation).

Default: 0, which means to use as many characters as necessary.

Method: int ios::width (int num)

Set the input field width setting to num. Return the previous value for this stream.

This value resets to zero (the default) every time you use `<<'; it is essentially an additional implicit argument to that operator. You can also use the manipulator setw for this purpose. See section Changing stream properties using manipulators.

Method: fmtflags ios::flags () const

Return the current value of the complete collection of flags controlling the format state. These are the flags and their meanings when set:

ios::dec
ios::oct
ios::hex
What numeric base to use in converting integers from internal to display representation, or vice versa: decimal, octal, or hexadecimal, respectively. (You can change the base using the manipulator setbase, or any of the manipulators dec, oct, or hex; see section Changing stream properties using manipulators.)

On input, if none of these flags is set, read numeric constants according to the prefix: decimal if no prefix (or a `.' suffix), octal if a `0' prefix is present, hexadecimal if a `0x' prefix is present.

Default: dec.

ios::fixed
Avoid scientific notation, and always show a fixed number of digits after the decimal point, according to the output precision in effect. Use ios::precision to set precision.

ios::left
ios::right
ios::internal
Where output is to appear in a fixed-width field; left-justified, right-justified, or with padding in the middle (e.g. between a numeric sign and the associated value), respectively.

ios::scientific
Use scientific (exponential) notation to display numbers.

ios::showbase
Display the conventional prefix as a visual indicator of the conversion base: no prefix for decimal, `0' for octal, `0x' for hexadecimal.

ios::showpoint
Display a decimal point and trailing zeros after it to fill out numeric fields, even when redundant.

ios::showpos
Display a positive sign on display of positive numbers.

ios::skipws
Skip white space. (On by default).

ios::stdio
Flush the C stdio streams stdout and stderr after each output operation (for programs that mix C and C++ output conventions).

ios::unitbuf
Flush after each output operation.

ios::uppercase
Use upper-case characters for the non-numeral elements in numeric displays; for instance, `0X7A' rather than `0x7a', or `3.14E+09' rather than `3.14e+09'.

Method: fmtflags ios::flags (fmtflags value)

Set value as the complete collection of flags controlling the format state. The flag values are described under `ios::flags ()'.

Use ios::setf or ios::unsetf to change one property at a time.

Method: fmtflags ios::setf (fmtflags flag)

Set one particular flag (of those described for `ios::flags ()'; return the complete collection of flags previously in effect. (Use ios::unsetf to cancel.)

Method: fmtflags ios::setf (fmtflags flag, fmtflags mask)

Clear the flag values indicated by mask, then set any of them that are also in flag. (Flag values are described for `ios::flags ()'.) Return the complete collection of flags previously in effect. (See ios::unsetf for another way of clearing flags.)

Method: fmtflags ios::unsetf (fmtflags flag)

Make certain flag (a combination of flag values described for `ios::flags ()') is not set for this stream; converse of ios::setf. Returns the old values of those flags.

Changing stream properties using manipulators

For convenience, manipulators provide a way to change certain properties of streams, or otherwise affect them, in the middle of expressions involving `<<' or `>>'. For example, you might write

cout << "|" << setfill('*') << setw(5) << 234 << "|";

to produce `|**234|' as output.

Manipulator: ws

Skip whitespace.

Manipulator: flush

Flush an output stream. For example, `cout << ... <<flush;' has the same effect as `cout << ...; cout.flush();'.

Manipulator: endl

Write an end of line character `\n', then flushes the output stream.

Manipulator: ends

Write `\0' (the string terminator character).

Manipulator: setprecision (int signif)

You can change the value of ios::precision in `<<' expressions with the manipulator `setprecision(signif)'; for example,

cout << setprecision(2) << 4.567;

prints `4.6'. Requires `#include <iomanip.h>'.

Manipulator: setw (int n)

You can change the value of ios::width in `<<' expressions with the manipulator `setw(n)'; for example,

cout << setw(5) << 234;

prints ` 234' with two leading blanks. Requires `#include <iomanip.h>'.

Manipulator: setbase (int base)

Where base is one of 10 (decimal), 8 (octal), or 16 (hexadecimal), change the base value for numeric representations. Requires `#include <iomanip.h>'.

Manipulator: dec

Select decimal base; equivalent to `setbase(10)'.

Manipulator: hex

Select hexadecimal base; equivalent to `setbase(16)'.

Manipulator: oct

Select octal base; equivalent to `setbase(8)'.

Manipulator: setfill (char padding)

Set the padding character, in the same way as ios::fill. Requires `#include <iomanip.h>'.

Extended data fields

A related collection of methods allows you to extend this collection of flags and parameters for your own applications, without risk of conflict between them:

Method: static fmtflags ios::bitalloc ()

Reserve a bit (the single bit on in the result) to use as a flag. Using bitalloc guards against conflict between two packages that use ios objects for different purposes.

This method is available for upward compatibility, but is not in the ANSI working paper. The number of bits available is limited; a return value of 0 means no bit is available.

Method: static int ios::xalloc ()

Reserve space for a long integer or pointer parameter. The result is a unique nonnegative integer. You can use it as an index to ios::iword or ios::pword. Use xalloc to arrange for arbitrary special-purpose data in your ios objects, without risk of conflict between packages designed for different purposes.

Method: long& ios::iword (int index)

Return a reference to arbitrary data, of long integer type, stored in an ios instance. index, conventionally returned from ios::xalloc, identifies what particular data you need.

Method: long ios::iword (int index) const

Return the actual value of a long integer stored in an ios.

Method: void*& ios::pword (int index)

Return a reference to an arbitrary pointer, stored in an ios instance. index, originally returned from ios::xalloc, identifies what particular pointer you need.

Method: void* ios::pword (int index) const

Return the actual value of a pointer stored in an ios.

Synchronizing related streams

You can use these methods to synchronize related streams with one another:

Method: ostream* ios::tie () const

Report on what output stream, if any, is to be flushed before accessing this one. A pointer value of 0 means no stream is tied.

Method: ostream* ios::tie (ostream* assoc)

Declare that output stream assoc must be flushed before accessing this stream.

Method: int ios::sync_with_stdio ([int switch])

Unless iostreams and C stdio are designed to work together, you may have to choose between efficient C++ streams output and output compatible with C stdio. Use `ios::sync_with_stdio()' to select C compatibility.

The argument switch is a GNU extension; use 0 as the argument to choose output that is not necessarily compatible with C stdio. The default value for switch is 1.

If you install the stdio implementation that comes with GNU libio, there are compatible input/output facilities for both C and C++. In that situation, this method is unnecessary--but you may still want to write programs that call it, for portability.

Reaching the underlying streambuf

Finally, you can use this method to access the underlying object:

Method: streambuf* ios::rdbuf () const

Return a pointer to the streambuf object that underlies this ios.

Managing output streams: class ostream

Objects of class ostream inherit the generic methods from ios, and in addition have the following methods available. Declarations for this class come from `iostream.h'.

Constructor: ostream::ostream ()

The simplest form of the constructor for an ostream simply allocates a new ios object.

Constructor: ostream::ostream (streambuf* sb [, ostream tie])

This alternative constructor requires a first argument sb of type streambuf*, to use an existing open stream for output. It also accepts an optional second argument tie, to specify a related ostream* as the initial value for ios::tie.

If you give the ostream a streambuf explicitly, using this constructor, the sb is not destroyed (or deleted or closed) when the ostream is destroyed.

Writing on an ostream

These methods write on an ostream (you may also use the operator <<; see section Operators and Default Streams).

Method: ostream& ostream::put (char c)

Write the single character c.

Method: ostream& ostream::write (string, int length)

Write length characters of a string to this ostream, beginning at the pointer string.

string may have any of these types: char*, unsigned char*, signed char*.

Method: ostream& ostream::form (const char *format, ...)

A GNU extension, similar to fprintf(file, format, ...).

format is a printf-style format control string, which is used to format the (variable number of) arguments, printing the result on this ostream. See ostream::vform for a version that uses an argument list rather than a variable number of arguments.

Method: ostream& ostream::vform (const char *format, va_list args)

A GNU extension, similar to vfprintf(file, format, args).

format is a printf-style format control string, which is used to format the argument list args, printing the result on this ostream. See ostream::form for a version that uses a variable number of arguments rather than an argument list.

Repositioning an ostream

You can control the output position (on output streams that actually support positions, typically files) with these methods:

Method: streampos ostream::tellp ()

Return the current write position in the stream.

Method: ostream& ostream::seekp (streampos loc)

Reset the output position to loc (which is usually the result of a previous call to ostream::tellp). loc specifies an absolute position in the output stream.

Method: ostream& ostream::seekp (streamoff loc, rel)

Reset the output position to loc, relative to the beginning, end, or current output position in the stream, as indicated by rel (a value from the enumeration ios::seekdir):

beg
Interpret loc as an absolute offset from the beginning of the file.

cur
Interpret loc as an offset relative to the current output position.

end
Interpret loc as an offset from the current end of the output stream.

Miscellaneous ostream utilities

You may need to use these ostream methods for housekeeping:

Method: ostream& flush ()

Deliver any pending buffered output for this ostream.

Method: int ostream::opfx ()

opfx is a prefix method for operations on ostream objects; it is designed to be called before any further processing. See ostream::osfx for the converse.

opfx tests that the stream is in state good, and if so flushes any stream tied to this one.

The result is 1 when opfx succeeds; else (if the stream state is not good), the result is 0.

Method: void ostream::osfx ()

osfx is a suffix method for operations on ostream objects; it is designed to be called at the conclusion of any processing. All the ostream methods end by calling osfx. See ostream::opfx for the converse.

If the unitbuf flag is set for this stream, osfx flushes any buffered output for it.

If the stdio flag is set for this stream, osfx flushes any output buffered for the C output streams `stdout' and `stderr'.

Managing input streams: class istream

Class istream objects are specialized for input; as for ostream, they are derived from ios, so you can use any of the general-purpose methods from that base class. Declarations for this class also come from `iostream.h'.

Constructor: istream::istream ()

When used without arguments, the istream constructor simply allocates a new ios object and initializes the input counter (the value reported by istream::gcount) to 0.

Constructor: istream::istream (streambuf *sb [, ostream tie])

You can also call the constructor with one or two arguments. The first argument sb is a streambuf*; if you supply this pointer, the constructor uses that streambuf for input. You can use the second optional argument tie to specify a related output stream as the initial value for ios::tie.

If you give the istream a streambuf explicitly, using this constructor, the sb is not destroyed (or deleted or closed) when the ostream is destroyed.

Reading one character

Use these methods to read a single character from the input stream:

Method: int istream::get ()

Read a single character (or EOF) from the input stream, returning it (coerced to an unsigned char) as the result.

Method: istream& istream::get (char& c)

Read a single character from the input stream, into &c.

Method: int istream::peek ()

Return the next available input character, but without changing the current input position.

Reading strings

Use these methods to read strings (for example, a line at a time) from the input stream:

Method: istream& istream::get (char* c, int len [, char delim])

Read a string from the input stream, into the array at c.

The remaining arguments limit how much to read: up to `len-1' characters, or up to (but not including) the first occurrence in the input of a particular delimiter character delim---newline (\n) by default. (Naturally, if the stream reaches end of file first, that too will terminate reading.)

If delim was present in the input, it remains available as if unread; to discard it instead, see iostream::getline.

get writes `\0' at the end of the string, regardless of which condition terminates the read.

Method: istream& istream::get (streambuf& sb [, char delim])

Read characters from the input stream and copy them on the streambuf object sb. Copying ends either just before the next instance of the delimiter character delim (newline \n by default), or when either stream ends. If delim was present in the input, it remains available as if unread.

Method: istream& istream::getline (charptr, int len [, char delim])

Read a line from the input stream, into the array at charptr. charptr may be any of three kinds of pointer: char*, unsigned char*, or signed char*.

The remaining arguments limit how much to read: up to (but not including) the first occurrence in the input of a line delimiter character delim---newline (\n) by default, or up to `len-1' characters (or to end of file, if that happens sooner).

If getline succeeds in reading a "full line", it also discards the trailing delimiter character from the input stream. (To preserve it as available input, see the similar form of iostream::get.)

If delim was not found before len characters or end of file, getline sets the ios::fail flag, as well as the ios::eof flag if appropriate.

getline writes a null character at the end of the string, regardless of which condition terminates the read.

Method: istream& istream::read (pointer, int len)

Read len bytes into the location at pointer, unless the input ends first.

pointer may be of type char*, void*, unsigned char*, or signed char*.

If the istream ends before reading len bytes, read sets the ios::fail flag.

Method: istream& istream::gets (char **s [, char delim])

A GNU extension, to read an arbitrarily long string from the current input position to the next instance of the delim character (newline \n by default).

To permit reading a string of arbitrary length, gets allocates whatever memory is required. Notice that the first argument s is an address to record a character pointer, rather than the pointer itself.

Method: istream& istream::scan (const char *format ...)

A GNU extension, similar to fscanf(file, format, ...). The format is a scanf-style format control string, which is used to read the variables in the remainder of the argument list from the istream.

Method: istream& istream::vscan (const char *format, va_list args)

Like istream::scan, but takes a single va_list argument.

Repositioning an istream

Use these methods to control the current input position:

Method: streampos istream::tellg ()

Return the current read position, so that you can save it and return to it later with istream::seekg.

Method: istream& istream::seekg (streampos p)

Reset the input pointer (if the input device permits it) to p, usually the result of an earlier call to istream::tellg.

Method: istream& istream::seekg (streamoff offset, ios::seek_dir ref)

Reset the input pointer (if the input device permits it) to offset characters from the beginning of the input, the current position, or the end of input. Specify how to interpret offset with one of these values for the second argument:

ios::beg
Interpret loc as an absolute offset from the beginning of the file.

ios::cur
Interpret loc as an offset relative to the current output position.

ios::end
Interpret loc as an offset from the current end of the output stream.

Miscellaneous istream utilities

Use these methods for housekeeping on istream objects:

Method: int istream::gcount ()

Report how many characters were read from this istream in the last unformatted input operation.

Method: int istream::ipfx (int keepwhite)

Ensure that the istream object is ready for reading; check for errors and end of file and flush any tied stream. ipfx skips whitespace if you specify 0 as the keepwhite argument, and ios::skipws is set for this stream.

To avoid skipping whitespace (regardless of the skipws setting on the stream), use 1 as the argument.

Call istream::ipfx to simplify writing your own methods for reading istream objects.

Method: void istream::isfx ()

A placeholder for compliance with the draft ANSI standard; this method does nothing whatever.

If you wish to write portable standard-conforming code on istream objects, call isfx after any operation that reads from an istream; if istream::ipfx has any special effects that must be cancelled when done, istream::isfx will cancel them.

Method: istream& istream::ignore ([int n] [, int delim])

Discard some number of characters pending input. The first optional argument n specifies how many characters to skip. The second optional argument delim specifies a "boundary" character: ignore returns immediately if this character appears in the input.

By default, delim is EOF; that is, if you do not specify a second argument, only the count n restricts how much to ignore (while input is still available).

If you do not specify how many characters to ignore, ignore returns after discarding only one character.

Method: istream& istream::putback (char ch)

Attempts to back up one character, replacing the character backed-up over by ch. Returns EOF if this is not allowed. Putting back the most recently read character is always allowed. (This method corresponds to the C function ungetc.)

Method: istream& istream::unget ()

Attempt to back up one character.

Input and output together: class iostream

If you need to use the same stream for input and output, you can use an object of the class iostream, which is derived from both istream and ostream.

The constructors for iostream behave just like the constructors for istream.

Constructor: iostream::iostream ()

When used without arguments, the iostream constructor simply allocates a new ios object, and initializes the input counter (the value reported by istream::gcount) to 0.

Constructor: iostream::iostream (streambuf* sb [, ostream* tie])

You can also call a constructor with one or two arguments. The first argument sb is a streambuf*; if you supply this pointer, the constructor uses that streambuf for input and output.

You can use the optional second argument tie (an ostream*) to specify a related output stream as the initial value for ios::tie.

As for ostream and istream, iostream simply uses the ios destructor. However, an iostream is not deleted by its destructor.

You can use all the istream, ostream, and ios methods with an iostream object.

Go to the previous, next section.