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View Thread: Templated STL container pretty printer
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    Sven Groot

    There's the lazy solution:

    std::vector<int> v;
    std::copy(v.begin(), v.end(), std::ostream_iterator<int>(cout, ", "));

    But that has the problem of printing an extra comma at the end.

    More generically, you can do:

    template<typename T>
    ostream& write_container(ostream &s, const T &container)
        bool first = true;
        cout << "{ ";
        for( typename T::const_iterator it = container.begin(); it != container.end(); ++it )
            if( first )
                first = false;
                cout << ", ";
            cout << *it;
        cout << " }";
        return s;

    However, you cannot overload operator<< to do this. Since containers have no common base class, the only way to do this is using templates, and the above template declaration matches basically any type. Doing the above with operator<< would make operator<< ambiguous for any type with its own operator<<, and produce some seriously weird errors.

    If you insist on overloading operator<<, I think the solution using boost::enable_if giving on SO is just about the best you can do.