In C++, there are 2 related but conceptually different ways to format data. One is by setting various format status flags defined inside the ios class or by calling ios member functions, and the other is by using special functions called stream manipulators that can be included as part of an I/O expression.

  1. The following lists the flags available in the ios class, their interpretations, and examples, using a variable 'x':
  2. Flags Interpretation/Example

    1. skipws discard leading white-space characters when reading input

    cin >> setiosflags(ios::skipws) >> x;

    2. left left-justify the display of the next item in the output stream

    cout << setiosflags(ios::left) << x;

    3. right right-justify the display of the next item in the output stream

    cout << setiosflags(ios::right) << x;

    4. internal pad the following numeric value with spaces inserted between any sign or base character,

    and display the sign left-justified and the magnitude right-justified

    cout << setiosflags(ios::internal) << x;

    5. dec display or read the next value in base 10

    cout << setiosflags(ios::dec) << x;

    cin >> setiosflags(ios::dec) >> x;

    6. oct display or read the next value in base 8

    cout << setiosflags(ios::oct) << x;

    cin >> setiosflags(ios::dec) >> x;

    7. hex display or read the next value in base 16

    cout << setiosflags(ios::hex) << x;

    cin >> setiosflags(ios::hex) >> x;

    8. showbase show the base of the next numeric value(e.g., 1F as 0x1F)

    cout << setiosflags(ios::showbase) << x;

    9. uppercase display the characters in the following value in uppercase

    cout << setiosflags(ios::uppercase) << x;

    10. showpos precede the display of the next value with a '+' sign

    cout << setiosflags(ios::showpos) << x;

    11. scientific show the following floating-point value in scientific notation

    cout << setiosflags(ios::scientific) << x;

    12. fixed display the following value as floating-point, even if fraction is 0 (zero)

    cout << setiosflags(ios::fixed) << x;

    13. unitbuf flush the C++ I/O system after each output operation

    cout << setiosflags(ios::unitbuf) << x;

    14. boolalpha display the following boolean value // not yet supported in the ios class

    cout << setiosflags(ios::boolalpha) << x;

  3. Format flags can also be set using the setf( ) function, which is a member function of the ios class, as in:
  4. main( )



    cout.setf(ios::showbase); // or cout.setf(ios::hex | ios::showbase);

    cout << 100; // displays 0x64


  5. format flags can also be set using an overloaded form of the setf( ) function, as in the following example, which sets showpos and showpoint, and then resets both flags and sets showpoint again:
  6. format: long setf(long flags1, long flags2); (flag2's are cleared, then flag1's are set if they also

    appeared in flags2)

    main( )


    cout.setf(ios::showpos | ios::showpoint); // set both flags

    cout << 10.00 << '\n'; // displays +10.000000

    cout.setf(ios::showpoint, ios::showpos | ios::showpoint); // clear showpoint and showpos, and

    // then reset showpoint

    cout << 10.00 // showpos = 0, showpoint = 1 à display 10.000000


  7. Format flags can be cleared using the unsetf( ) member function of the ios class. this function will clear
  8. the designated flags and return the value of the flags prior to being reset, as a 'long' value:

    main( )


    cout.setf(ios::uppercase | ios::scientific);

    cout << 100.12; // displays 1.0012E+02

    cout.unsetf(ios::uppercase); // clear the 'uppercase' flag

    cout << '\n' << 100.12; // displays 1.0012e+02


  9. All default format flags associated with a stream can be set simultaneously using the flags( ) function in the ios class. The following example constructs a flag mask that turns on showpos, showbase, oct, and right. For most implementations, these flags have the values 0x0400, 0x0080, 0x0020, and 0x0004, which when added together produce the value 0x04A4 used in the example program below:
  10. #include<iostream.h>

    main( )


    long f = 0x04A4;



  11. C++ also has some parameterized stream manipulators
  12. 1. setw set the display width of the following value

    cout << setw(4) << x;

    2. setiosflags set the flags in the ios class according to the parameters

    cout << setiosflags(ios::fixed | ios::showpoint);

    cin >> setiosflags(ios::ws | ios::dec);

    3. setprecision set the display precision of the next value

    cout << setprecision(2);

    4. setfill fill all white spaces with the character argument

    cout << setfill('a');

    5. resetiosflags turn off the flags specified in the parameter (input, output)

    cout << resetiosflags(ios::showpos | ios::showpoint);

    cin >> resetiosflags(ios::ws | ios::hex);

    6. setbase set the base specified in the parameter

    cout << setbase(16);

  13. The ios class also has some parameterized member functions to set format bits:

Function Function = Stream manipulator

A. width(x); cout.width(4); cout << setw(4);

cin.width(4); cin >> setw(4);

B. precision(x); cout.precision(2); cout << setprecision(2);

C. fill('a'); cout.fill('a'); cout << setfill('a');

The duration of any member function or stream manipulator is compiler-dependent per the 1996 ANSI C++ standards. Check the compiler's manuals.

This page was last updated on 01.28.2000.