Lambda in Cpp

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We have previously looked at Functors and Function Pointers, next is Lambdas

A lambda expression in C++ is a way to define an anonymous function right at the place where it is needed

Think of lambdas as a shorthand for writing a functor without needing to define a struct or class.

Basic Structure

A lambda expression looks like this:

[ /* capture list */ ]( /* parameters */ ) -> /* return type */ {
    // function body
  • Capture List: Specifies which variables from the outside scope you want to use inside the lambda. You can capture by value (copying the value) or by reference.
  • Parameters: Just like function parameters, these are the inputs to your lambda.
  • Return Type: This is optional. Most of the time, the compiler can deduce the return type based on the code inside your lambda.
  • Function Body: The code that gets executed when the lambda is called.

From the previous post with functors we can have a custom sort like this:

struct DescendingOrder {
    bool operator()(int a, int b) {
        return a > b;

std::vector<int> myVector = {1, 5, 3, 4, 2};
std::sort(myVector.begin(), myVector.end(), DescendingOrder());

Now, let's use a lambda to do the same thing more concisely:

std::vector<int> myVector = {4, 1, 3, 5, 2};
std::sort(myVector.begin(), myVector.end(), [](int a, int b) {
    return a > b;

Here, [](int a, int b) { return a > b; } is the lambda expression. It's a compact, anonymous function that we pass directly to std::sort

Breaking Down the Lambda

[]: This is the capture list. Since we're not using any external variables inside the lambda, it's empty.

(int a, int b): These are parameters, just like in any function. Our lambda takes two integers to compare.

{ return a > b; }: This is the function body. It performs the comparison.

Capture List in Detail

The capture list controls how the lambda can access variables from its surrounding scope:

  • [=]: Capture all external variables by value.
  • [&]: Capture all external variables by reference.
  • [x]: Capture variable x by value.
  • [&x]: Capture variable x by reference.
  • [=, &x]: Capture most variables by value, but capture x by reference.
Why Use Lambdas?

Lambdas are handy for short, one-off functions, especially when using algorithms that expect function objects or when you need a quick callback. They keep your code concise and readable by keeping the logic right where it's used, avoiding the need to jump around the codebase to understand what's happening.

okay I know you might be wondering, when do I use function pointers, functors and when do I use Lambdas ??

My guidelines for choosing
  1. For simple, stateless calls where performance is critical, and the function will not change, a function pointer might be appropriate.
  2. When maintaining state or when the operation is complex enough to warrant its named type, consider a functor.
  3. For inline, possibly stateful operations that are concise and local to where they are used, lambdas are often the best choice.'