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Collections 

The Microsoft Foundation Class Library provides collection classes to manage groups of objects. These classes are of two types:

NoteTip

The nontemplate collection classes have been provided by MFC beginning with MFC version 1.0. If your code already uses these classes, you can continue to use them. If you write new type-safe collection classes for your own data types, consider using the newer template-based classes.

Collection Shapes

A collection class is characterized by its "shape" and by the types of its elements. The shape refers to the way the objects are organized and stored by the collection. MFC provides three basic collection shapes: lists, arrays, and maps (also known as dictionaries). You can pick the collection shape most suited to your particular programming problem.

Each of the three provided collection shapes is described briefly below. The table Collection Shape Features in Recommendations for Choosing a Collection Class compares the features of the shapes to help you decide which is best for your program.

  • List

    The list class provides an ordered, nonindexed list of elements, implemented as a doubly linked list. A list has a "head" and a "tail," and adding or removing elements from the head or tail, or inserting or deleting elements in the middle, is very fast.

  • Array

    The array class provides a dynamically sized, ordered, and integer-indexed array of objects.

  • Map (also known as a dictionary)

    A map is a collection that associates a key object with a value object.

The Template-Based Collection Classes

The easiest way to implement a type-safe collection that contains objects of any type is to use one of the MFC template-based classes. For examples of these classes, see the MFC sample COLLECT.

The following table lists the MFC template-based collection classes.

Collection Template Classes
Collection contents Arrays Lists Maps

Collections of objects of any type

CArray

CList

CMap

Collections of pointers to objects of any type

CTypedPtrArray

CTypedPtrList

CTypedPtrMap

The Collection Classes Not Based on Templates

If your application already uses MFC nontemplate classes, you can continue to use them, although for new collections you should consider using the template-based classes. The following table lists the MFC collection classes not based on templates.

Nontemplate Collection Classes
Arrays Lists Maps

CObArray

CObList

CMapPtrToWord

CByteArray

CPtrList

CMapPtrToPtr

CDWordArray

CStringList

CMapStringToOb

CPtrArray

 

CMapStringToPtr

CStringArray

 

CMapStringToString

CWordArray

 

CMapWordToOb

CUIntArray

 

CMapWordToPtr

The table Characteristics of MFC Collection Classes in the article Recommendations for Choosing a Collection Class describes the MFC collection classes in terms of their characteristics (other than shape):

  • Whether the class uses C++ templates

  • Whether the elements stored in the collection can be serialized

  • Whether the elements stored in the collection can be dumped for diagnostics

  • Whether the collection is type-safe

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See Also

Concepts

General MFC Topics

Other Resources

MFC Concepts

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