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Map Traits

Icl maps differ in their behavior dependent on how they handle identity elements of the associated type CodomainT.

Remarks on Identity Elements

In the pseudo code snippets below 0 will be used to denote identity elements, which can be different objects like const double 0.0, empty sets, empty strings, null-vectors etc. dependent of the instance type for parameter CodomainT. The existence of an identity element wrt. an operator+= is a requirement for template type CodomainT.



identity element










In these cases the identity element value is delivered by the default constructor of the maps CodomainT type. But there are well known exceptions like e.g. numeric multiplication:



identity element




Therefore icl functors, that serve as Combiner parameters of icl Maps implement a static function identity_element() to make sure that the correct identity_element() is used in the implementation of aggregate on overlap.

inplace_times<int>::identity_element() == 1
// or more general
inplace_times<T>::identity_element() == unit_element<T>::value()

Definedness and Storage of Identity Elements

There are two properties or traits of icl maps that can be chosen by a template parameter Traits. The first trait relates to the definedness of the map. Icl maps can be partial or total on the set of values given by domain type DomainT.

The second trait is related to the representation of identity elements in the map. An icl map can be a identity absorber or a identity enricher.

For the template parameter Traits of icl Maps we have the following four values.

identity absorber

identity enricher


partial_absorber (default)





Map Traits motivated

Map traits are a late extension to the icl. Interval maps have been used for a couple of years in a variety of applications at Cortex Software GmbH with an implementation that resembled the default trait. Only the deeper analysis of the icl's aggregating Map's concept in the course of preparation of the library for boost led to the introduction of map Traits.

Add-Subtract Antinomy in Aggregating Maps

Constitutional for the absorber/enricher propery is a little antinomy.

We can insert value pairs to the map by adding them to the map via operations add, += or +:

{} + {(k,1)} == {(k,1)} // addition

Further addition on common keys triggers aggregation:

{(k,1)} + {(k,1)} == {(k,2)} // aggregation for common key k

A subtraction of existing pairs

{(k,2)} - {(k,2)} == {(k,0)} // aggregation for common key k

yields value pairs that are associated with 0-values or identity elements.

So once a value pair is created for a key k it can not be removed from the map via subtraction (subtract, -= or -).

The very basic fact on sets, that we can remove what we have previously added

x - x = {}

does not apply.

This is the motivation for the identity absorber Trait. A identity absorber map handles value pairs that carry identity elements as non-existent, which saves the law:

x - x = {}

Yet this introduces a new problem: With such a identity absorber we are by definition unable to store a value (k,0) in the map. This may be unfavorable because it is not inline with the behavior of stl::maps and this is not necessarily expected by clients of the library.

The solution to the problem is the introduction of the identity enricher Trait, so the user can choose a map variant according to her needs.

Partial and Total Maps

The idea of a identity absorbing map is, that an associated identity element value of a pair (k,0) codes non-existence for it's key k. So the pair (k,0) immediately tunnels from a map where it may emerge into the realm of non existence.

{(k,0)} == {}

If identity elements do not code non-existence but existence with null quantification, we can also think of a map that has an associated identity element for every key k that has no associated value different from 0. So in contrast to modelling all neutral value pairs (k,0) as being non-existent we can model all neutral value pairs (k,0) as being implicitly existent.

A map that is modelled in this way, is one large vector with a value v for every key k of it's domain type DomainT. But only non-identity values are actually stored. This is the motivation for the definedness-Trait on icl Maps.

A partial map models the intuitive view that only value pairs are existent, that are stored in the map. A total map exploits the possibility that all value pairs that are not stored can be considered as being existent and quantified with the identity element.

Pragmatical Aspects of Map Traits

From a pragmatic perspective value pairs that carry identity elements as mapped values can often be ignored. If we count, for instance, the number of overlaps of inserted intervals in an interval_map (see example overlap counter), most of the time, we are not interested in whether an overlap has been counted 0 times or has not been counted at all. A identity enricher map is only needed, if we want to distinct between non-existence and 0-quantification.

The following distinction can not be made for a partial_absorber map but it can be made for an partial_enricher map:

(k,v) does not exist in the map: Pair (k,v) has NOT been dealt with
(k,0) key k carries 0          : Pair (k,v) has     been dealt with resulting in v=0

Sometimes this subtle distinction is needed. Then a partial_enricher is the right choice. Also, If we want to give two icl::Maps a common set of keys in order to, say, iterate synchronously over both maps, we need enrichers.