A first example of using Boost

January 14, 2013

(This article was first published on Rcpp Gallery, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Boost is, to quote the quote by Sutter and Alexandrescu which adornes the Boost website, …one of the most highly regarded and expertly designed C++ library projects in the world.

The impact of Boost on C++ cannot be overstated. Boost is, at its core, a collection of thoroughly designed and peer-reviewed libraries. Some of these have been included into the new C++11 standard (see our intro post on C++11) as for example lambda functions which we illustrated in another post on C++11.

Boost is mostly implemented using templates. That means headers files only, and compile-time – but not linking. Which is perfect for example posts like these.

Many, many Boost libraries are useful, and we could fill a series of posts. Here, as an introduction, we going to use two simple functions from the Boost.Math library to compute greatest common denominator and least common multiple.

I should note that I write this post on a machine with Boost headers in a standard system location. So stuff just works. If you have to install Boost from source, and into a non-standard location, you may need to add a -I flag, not unlike how added the C++11 flag in this post .

#include   // one file, automatically found here

using namespace Rcpp;
// [[Rcpp::export]]
int computeGCD(int a, int b) {
    return boost::math::gcd(a, b);

// [[Rcpp::export]]
int computeLCM(int a, int b) {
    return boost::math::lcm(a, b);

We can test these:

a <- 6
b <- 15
cat( c(computeGCD(a,b), computeLCM(a,b)), "\n")
3 30 
a <- 96
b <- 484
cat( c(computeGCD(a,b), computeLCM(a,b)), "\n")
4 11616 

And as kindly suggested and submitted by Kohske Takahashi, we can also benchmark this against an R solution using the numbers package:


a <- 962
b <- 4842

res <- benchmark(r1 = c(computeGCD(a,b), computeLCM(a,b)),
                 r2 = c(GCD(a,b), LCM(a,b)),
                 replications = 5000)
  test replications elapsed relative
1   r1         5000   0.054    1.000
2   r2         5000   0.421    7.796

This shows a nice performance gain.

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