I'm trying to implement a HashTable. In fact, I want a HashSet with Persons that have a name and a phoneNumber, both string. I understood the theory with collisions and everything but I don't know how to really implement something. This is what I've done so far:

#ifndef HASHSET_H_
#define HASHSET_H_

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;
#include <cstdio>

template <typename Element>
class HashSet{
    class Node{
        Element info;
        Node* next;
        Node(){ //constructor
        Node(Node* next, Element info){ //parameters constructor
        Node(const Node& node){ //copy constructor
        ~Node(){} //destructor
        Element getInfo(){
            return this->info;
        Node* getNext(){
            return this->next;
        void setInfo(Element newE){
        void setNext(Node* value){
    Node** head;
    int hashSize;
    int bucketSize; //holds the total elements of a cell
    int totElems; //total number of elements in the hashset
    bool IsEmptyAtGivenKey(int key);
    bool HashSetIsFull();
    int HashFunction(string e);
    int HashSetSize();

template<typename Element>
    this->head=new Node*[hashSize];
    for(int i=0; i< hashSize; i++){

template<typename Element>
bool HashSet<Element>::IsEmptyAtGivenKey(int key){
    if(key>=0 and key < hashSize){
        return head[key]==NULL;
    return true;

template<typename Element>
int HashSet<Element>::HashFunction(string e){
    int length = e.size();
    int sum;
    for(int i=0; i < length; i++){

    int hashCode = sum % hashSize;
    return hashCode;

#endif /* HASHSET_H_ */

Is it any good? Any advice that will help me improve is welcome!

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's quite good, everything makes sense, but you can't insert or delete values from your HashSet, that kinds of defeats the point. \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Pradet May 6 '13 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be able to help you, we need to understand your goal here. Is the objective is to learn about hash tables? Or hashing functions? Or is it homework? Any reason why you didn't implement insertion/deletion? \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Pradet May 6 '13 at 12:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @QuentinPradet It is for school. Yes, I know I need to implement the insert, delete, search functions but I wanted to know if it's any good what I've done so far. The reason I didn't implement these functions is that I don't really understand the array of arrays part(the separate chaining) This part Node** head; I took it from the Internet but I didn't really get it. A pointer to pointer!? :( Thanks! :) \$\endgroup\$ – user1849859 May 6 '13 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ programmingnotes.freeweq.com/?p=2999 ? In this context, Node** is an array of array: each element of the array is a bucket corresponding to a key. Since you can have multiple values per key, you need another arrow for those. It would be clearer if you used std::vector here. \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Pradet May 6 '13 at 12:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @QuentinPradet I am not allowed to use std::vector. Thanks! :) \$\endgroup\$ – user1849859 May 6 '13 at 12:41
  • You're attempting to read values from uninitialized variables which has undefined behavior:

    int sum; // uninitialized`  
    for(int i=0; i < length; i++){`  
        sum+=e[i]; // reading from uninitialized variable "sum"

    Read this

  • From "HASHSET_H_" I gather it's a header file. You should never use using namespace std; in a header file (and chances are it's a bad idea to use it anywhere else, too -- unless you're porting legacy 1980s C code to C++):

    Link 1
    Link 2

  • If you can use C++11 then nullptr is a better choice than NULL: read this

    // Note, however, that if you're NOT using C++11, then the following is a potential performance problem: int HashSet<Element>::HashFunction(string e) Pre-C++11 this can create unnecessary copy, so prefer to pass-by-const-reference in C++98/03 instead.


    no copy (elided)

  • int is a wrong type for a variable holding size or count (such as hashSize, bucketSize, totElems). In particular, this is very bad: int length = e.size(); Not only you're using a wrong type, but potentially also losing performance due to unsigned-to-signed conversion // which, perhaps more importantly, is completely unnecessary and only makes the code harder to read -- are you suggesting that length can be negative? If not, then don't use int.

    Prefer std::size_t instead (defined in header <cstddef>):

    Link 1
    Link 2

  • Make sure to use meaningful variable names. This includes not using ambiguous abbreviations. totElems is not a good name. totalElementsCount is better.

  • Additional idea: make sure to pick a naming convention and stick to it. For instance, some of your functions start with uppercase character, like IsEmptyAtGivenKey, but some with a lowercase character, like setInfo. It's better if they all follow the same convention (e.g., all functions start with lowercase, all types start with uppercase, etc.).

    As a hint, read the "Naming" section from Google C++ Style Guide.

    // Extra hint: feel free to completely ignore the other sections, or even take them as examples of what NOT to do (like the one on exceptions), unless you're working at Google with Google's code base.

  • Manual memory management is troubling.

    I've read from your comments that this is for school, so chances are the class / teaching methods simply aren't exactly up-to-date (thinking teaching C before C++ is a good idea is often a good indicator), but IRL invoking raw new (such as here: new Node*[hashSize];) without a very good reason is nowadays unnecessary and considered a bad practice.

    If you want to learn best practices, start with this.

    // Not to repeat myself from my previous answer, here's a link to it, if you'd like more information on memory management specifically: here.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ int HashSet<Element>::HashFunction(string e) will create a copy in C++11. Move semantics require an rvalue reference (string&& e). \$\endgroup\$ – Yuushi May 7 '13 at 1:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yuushi Interesting, I've tested with a minimal example: * seems to invoke move constructor when std::move is applied: coliru.stacked-crooked.com/… ; * but indeed invokes copy constructor otherwise: coliru.stacked-crooked.com/… ; What's the sensible default to assume? \$\endgroup\$ – Matt May 7 '13 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ EDIT: done, thanks for the catch! // Given that const-ref optimizes better, I'm inclined toward editing my answer to recommend it here: tinyurl.com/cu5kzhp \$\endgroup\$ – Matt May 7 '13 at 18:09

A few more things:

Avoid "obvious" comments: things like "constructor" and "copy constructor" are completely superfluous to anyone that knows C++. Remember, good comments should be there to guide the reader through why something works the way it does, or perhaps for a particularly tricky bit of code.

Prefer using member initialization to initialization in the constructor body. For example:


should instead be:

  : next(NULL)
{ }

This works similarly for the copy constructor. Member initialization can be more efficient, and is the only way to initialize some things (reference or const members, for example).

There's not a huge amount of point to having next and info being private in Node when the class itself is already private. Encapsulation is great for user-facing interfaces, but for simple things like Node, it goes too far. You're now required to write 4 boilerplate set/get functions - to me, a net negative (although I suppose beware this advice at a university that won't let you use things as basic as std::vector - they may simply have a mandate that "all member variables must be protected/private" - no matter if it is actually a good idea or not).

Generally, there is little point separating out template definitions from declarations. (Almost) all template classes are simply defined inline in their header file - that is, the definition accompanies the declaration. You also seem to be missing the implementations for two functions: int HashSetSize() and bool HashSetIsFull().

Some of your functions don't make much sense to me - IsEmptyAtGivenKey(int key) seems like an implementation detail - the user of a hash table shouldn't have to know or care if a given bucket is empty or not. In fact, they likely shouldn't know or care how many buckets there are in the first place - only the load factor of the table is really important.

HashFunction(string e) (which should pass the string by const-reference - const string& e) - is supposed to do...what? Hash the given string? But I thought the HashTable contained elements of type Element? The name is also very confusing - is this giving the table a new hash function? As far as I can tell, this should probably be modified and renamed:

template<typename Element>
int HashSet<Element>::Hash(const Element& e)

and should probably be private - the hashing itself is again an implementation detail.

You are missing destructors, copy constructors and copy assignment operators in your HashSet implementation. Without a destructor it leaks memory, without the other 2, any use of operator= or the copy construction will do the wrong thing. At the very least, you should have a destructor for your HashSet:

    //delete everything head points to
    //Have temporary node point to head
    //head = head->next
    //delete temporary node

Likewise, you should either implement HashSet(const HashSet& rhs) and HashSet& operator=(const HashSet& rhs) or declare them both private so that they cannot be incorrectly used.


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