Combinations¶
This chapter describes functions for creating and manipulating combinations. A combination is represented by an array of integers in the range 0 to , where each value occurs at most once. The combination corresponds to indices of elements chosen from an element vector. Combinations are useful for iterating over all element subsets of a set.
The functions described in this chapter are defined in the header file
gsl_combination.h
.
The Combination struct¶

type gsl_combination¶
A combination is defined by a structure containing three components, the values of and , and a pointer to the combination array. The elements of the combination array are all of type
size_t
, and are stored in increasing order. Thegsl_combination
structure looks like this:typedef struct { size_t n; size_t k; size_t *data; } gsl_combination;
Combination allocation¶

gsl_combination *gsl_combination_alloc(size_t n, size_t k)¶
This function allocates memory for a new combination with parameters
n
,k
. The combination is not initialized and its elements are undefined. Use the functiongsl_combination_calloc()
if you want to create a combination which is initialized to the lexicographically first combination. A null pointer is returned if insufficient memory is available to create the combination.

gsl_combination *gsl_combination_calloc(size_t n, size_t k)¶
This function allocates memory for a new combination with parameters
n
,k
and initializes it to the lexicographically first combination. A null pointer is returned if insufficient memory is available to create the combination.

void gsl_combination_init_first(gsl_combination *c)¶
This function initializes the combination
c
to the lexicographically first combination, i.e. .

void gsl_combination_init_last(gsl_combination *c)¶
This function initializes the combination
c
to the lexicographically last combination, i.e. .

void gsl_combination_free(gsl_combination *c)¶
This function frees all the memory used by the combination
c
.

int gsl_combination_memcpy(gsl_combination *dest, const gsl_combination *src)¶
This function copies the elements of the combination
src
into the combinationdest
. The two combinations must have the same size.
Accessing combination elements¶
The following function can be used to access the elements of a combination.

size_t gsl_combination_get(const gsl_combination *c, const size_t i)¶
This function returns the value of the
i
th element of the combinationc
. Ifi
lies outside the allowed range of 0 to then the error handler is invoked and 0 is returned. An inline version of this function is used whenHAVE_INLINE
is defined.
Combination properties¶

size_t gsl_combination_n(const gsl_combination *c)¶
This function returns the range () of the combination c.

size_t gsl_combination_k(const gsl_combination *c)¶
This function returns the number of elements () in the combination
c
.

size_t *gsl_combination_data(const gsl_combination *c)¶
This function returns a pointer to the array of elements in the combination
c
.

int gsl_combination_valid(gsl_combination *c)¶
This function checks that the combination
c
is valid. Thek
elements should lie in the range 0 to , with each value occurring once at most and in increasing order.
Combination functions¶

int gsl_combination_next(gsl_combination *c)¶
This function advances the combination
c
to the next combination in lexicographic order and returnsGSL_SUCCESS
. If no further combinations are available it returnsGSL_FAILURE
and leavesc
unmodified. Starting with the first combination and repeatedly applying this function will iterate through all possible combinations of a given order.

int gsl_combination_prev(gsl_combination *c)¶
This function steps backwards from the combination
c
to the previous combination in lexicographic order, returningGSL_SUCCESS
. If no previous combination is available it returnsGSL_FAILURE
and leavesc
unmodified.
Reading and writing combinations¶
The library provides functions for reading and writing combinations to a file as binary data or formatted text.

int gsl_combination_fwrite(FILE *stream, const gsl_combination *c)¶
This function writes the elements of the combination
c
to the streamstream
in binary format. The function returnsGSL_EFAILED
if there was a problem writing to the file. Since the data is written in the native binary format it may not be portable between different architectures.

int gsl_combination_fread(FILE *stream, gsl_combination *c)¶
This function reads elements from the open stream
stream
into the combinationc
in binary format. The combinationc
must be preallocated with correct values of and since the function uses the size ofc
to determine how many bytes to read. The function returnsGSL_EFAILED
if there was a problem reading from the file. The data is assumed to have been written in the native binary format on the same architecture.

int gsl_combination_fprintf(FILE *stream, const gsl_combination *c, const char *format)¶
This function writes the elements of the combination
c
linebyline to the streamstream
using the format specifierformat
, which should be suitable for a type ofsize_t
. In ISO C99 the type modifierz
representssize_t
, so"%zu\n"
is a suitable format 1. The function returnsGSL_EFAILED
if there was a problem writing to the file.

int gsl_combination_fscanf(FILE *stream, gsl_combination *c)¶
This function reads formatted data from the stream
stream
into the combinationc
. The combinationc
must be preallocated with correct values of and since the function uses the size ofc
to determine how many numbers to read. The function returnsGSL_EFAILED
if there was a problem reading from the file.
Examples¶
The example program below prints all subsets of the set ordered by size. Subsets of the same size are ordered lexicographically.
#include <stdio.h>
#include <gsl/gsl_combination.h>
int
main (void)
{
gsl_combination * c;
size_t i;
printf ("All subsets of {0,1,2,3} by size:\n") ;
for (i = 0; i <= 4; i++)
{
c = gsl_combination_calloc (4, i);
do
{
printf ("{");
gsl_combination_fprintf (stdout, c, " %u");
printf (" }\n");
}
while (gsl_combination_next (c) == GSL_SUCCESS);
gsl_combination_free (c);
}
return 0;
}
Here is the output from the program,
All subsets of {0,1,2,3} by size:
{ }
{ 0 }
{ 1 }
{ 2 }
{ 3 }
{ 0 1 }
{ 0 2 }
{ 0 3 }
{ 1 2 }
{ 1 3 }
{ 2 3 }
{ 0 1 2 }
{ 0 1 3 }
{ 0 2 3 }
{ 1 2 3 }
{ 0 1 2 3 }
All 16 subsets are generated, and the subsets of each size are sorted lexicographically.
References and Further Reading¶
Further information on combinations can be found in,
Donald L. Kreher, Douglas R. Stinson, Combinatorial Algorithms: Generation, Enumeration and Search, 1998, CRC Press LLC, ISBN 084933988X
Footnotes
 1
In versions of the GNU C library prior to the ISO C99 standard, the type modifier
Z
was used instead.