Release Note

Beginning with Cgal R2.3, this package has a new design. The old design is still available for backwards compatibility and to support older compiler, such as MSVC++6.0. However its use is deprecated and the manual pages are not converted into this new manual format. Instead, see its old documentation in the manual of deprecated packages. The two designs are not interchangeable.


The concept of a halfedge data structure (abbreviated as HalfedgeDS, or HDS for template parameters) defines an edge-centered data structure capable of maintaining incidence information of vertices, edges, and faces, for example for planar maps or polyhedral surfaces. It is a combinatorial data structure, geometric interpretation is added by classes built on top of the halfedge data structure.

The data structure defined here is known as the FE-structure [Wei85], as halfedges [Män88, BFH95] or as the doubly connected edge list (DCEL) [dBvKOS97], although the original reference for the DCEL [MP78] describes a different data structure. The halfedge data structure can also be seen as one of the variants of the quad-edge data structure [GS85]. In general, the quad-edge data can represent non-orientable 2-manifolds, but the variant here is restricted to orientable 2-manifolds only. An overview and comparison of these different data structures together with a thorough description of the design implemented here can be found in [Ket99].

Each edge is represented by two halfedges with opposite orientations. Each halfedge can store a reference to an incident face and an incident vertex. For each face and each vertex an incident halfedge is stored. Reduced variants of the halfedge data structure can omit some of these incidences, for example the reference to halfedges in vertices or the storage of vertices at all. See Figure 24.2 for the incidences, the mandatory and optional member functions possible for vertices, halfedges, and faces.

Class Diagram
Figure 24.2:  The three classes Vertex, Halfedge, and Face of the halfedge data structure. Member functions with shaded background are mandatory. The others are optionally supported.

A HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> organizes the internal storage of its items. Examples are a list-based or a vector-based storage. The HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> exhibits most of the characteristics of the container class used internally, for example the iterator category. A vector resizes automatically when a new item exceeds the reserved space. Since resizing is an expensive operation for a HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> in general and only possible in a well defined state of the data structure (no dangling handles), it must be called explicitly in advance for a HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> before inserting new items beyond the current capacity. Classes built on top of a HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> are advised to call the reserve() member function before creating new items.


A HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> is a class template and will be used as argument for other class templates, for example CGAL::Polyhedron_3. The template parameters to instantiate the HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> will be provided by this other class template. Therefore, the three template parameters and their meaning are mandatory. We distinguish between the template HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> and an instantiation of it.

Traits is a traits class that will be passed to the item types in Items. It will not be used in HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> itself. Items is a model of the HalfedgeDSItems concept. Alloc is a standard allocator that fulfills all requirements of allocators for STL container classes. The rebind mechanism from Alloc will be used to create appropriate allocators internally. A default argument is mandatory for Alloc, for example, the macro CGAL_ALLOCATOR(int) from the <CGAL/memory.h> header file can be used as default allocator.


traits class.

model of HalfedgeDSItems concept.

size type.

difference type.

iterator category for all iterators.

allocator type Alloc.

model of HalfedgeDSVertex concept.

model of HalfedgeDSHalfedge concept.

model of HalfedgeDSFace concept.

The following handles and iterators have appropriate non-mutable counterparts, i.e., const_handle and const_iterator. The mutable types are assignable to their non-mutable counterparts. The iterators are assignable to the respective handle types. Wherever the handles appear in function parameter lists, the corresponding iterators can be used as well. Note: The handle types must have a default constructor that creates a unique and always the same handle value. It will be used in analogy to NULL for pointers.

handle to vertex.

handle to halfedge.

handle to face.

iterator over all vertices.

iterator over all halfedges.

iterator over all faces.

Types for Tagging Optional Features

The following types are equal to either CGAL::Tag_true or CGAL::Tag_false, depending on whether the named feature is supported or not.






removal of individual elements.

The following dependencies among these options must be regarded:

Vertices are supported Supports_halfedge_vertex CGAL::Tag_true.
Faces are supported Supports_halfedge_face CGAL::Tag_true.
Supports_vertex_halfedge CGAL::Tag_true Supports_halfedge_vertex CGAL::Tag_true.
Supports_vertex_point CGAL::Tag_true Supports_halfedge_vertex CGAL::Tag_true.
Supports_face_halfedge CGAL::Tag_true Supports_halfedge_face CGAL::Tag_true.

Static Member Functions

When writing an items type, such as a user defined vertex, certain functions need to create a handle but knowing only a pointer, for example, the this-pointer. The following static member functions of HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> create such a corresponding handle for an item type from a pointer. This conversion encapsulates possible adjustments for hidden data members in the true item type, such as linked-list pointers. Note that the user provides item types with the Items template argument, which may differ from the Vertex, Halfedge, and Face types defined in HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc>. If they differ, they are derived from the user provided item types. We denote the user item types with Vertex_base, Halfedge_base, and Face_base in the following. The fully qualified name for Vertex_base would be for example - assuming that the type Self refers to the instantiated HalfedgeDS -

      typedef typename Items::template Vertex_wrapper<Self,Traits> Vertex_wrapper;
      typedef typename Vertex_wrapper::Vertex Vertex_base;

Implementing these functions relies on the fundamental assumption that an iterator (or handle) of the internally used container class can be constructed from a pointer of a contained item only. This is true and controlled by us for CGAL::In_place_list. It is true for the std::vector of major STL distributions, but not necessarily guaranteed. We might switch to an internal implementation if need arises.

static Vertex_handle HalfedgeDS::vertex_handle ( Vertex_base* v)
static Vertex_const_handle HalfedgeDS::vertex_handle ( const Vertex_base* v)

static Halfedge_handle HalfedgeDS::halfedge_handle ( Halfedge_base* h)
static Halfedge_const_handle HalfedgeDS::halfedge_handle ( const Halfedge_base* h)

static Face_handle HalfedgeDS::face_handle ( Face_base* f)
static Face_const_handle HalfedgeDS::face_handle ( const Face_items* f)


HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> hds;
empty halfedge data structure.

HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> hds ( size_type v, size_type h, size_type f);
storage reserved for v vertices, h halfedges, and f faces.

HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> hds ( hds2);
copy constructor.
Precondition: hds2 contains no dangling handles.

HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc>& hds = hds2 assignment operator.
Precondition: hds2 contains no dangling handles.

void hds.reserve ( size_type v, size_type h, size_type f)
reserves storage for v vertices, h halfedges, and f faces. If all capacities are already greater or equal than the requested sizes nothing happens. Otherwise, hds will be resized and all handles, iterators and circulators invalidate.
Precondition: If resizing is necessary hds contains no dangling handles.

Access Member Functions

Size hds.size_of_vertices () number of vertices.
Size hds.size_of_halfedges () number of halfedges.
Size hds.size_of_faces () number of faces.
Size hds.capacity_of_vertices () space reserved for vertices.
Size hds.capacity_of_halfedges () space reserved for halfedges.
Size hds.capacity_of_faces () space reserved for faces.
size_t hds.bytes () bytes used for hds.
size_t hds.bytes_reserved () bytes reserved for hds.

allocator_type hds.get_allocator () allocator object.

The following member functions return the non-mutable iterator if hds is declared const.

Vertex_iterator hds.vertices_begin () iterator over all vertices.
Vertex_iterator hds.vertices_end ()
Halfedge_iterator hds.halfedges_begin () iterator over all halfedges
Halfedge_iterator hds.halfedges_end ()
Face_iterator hds.faces_begin () iterator over all faces.
Face_iterator hds.faces_end ()


Note that the vertex-related and the face-related member functions may not be provided for a HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> that does not support vertices or faces respectively.

Vertex_handle hds.vertices_push_back ( const Vertex& v)
appends a copy of v to hds. Returns a handle of the new vertex.

Halfedge_handle hds.edges_push_back ( const Halfedge& h, const Halfedge& g)
appends a copy of h and a copy of g to hds and makes them opposite to each other. Returns a handle of the copy of h.

Halfedge_handle hds.edges_push_back ( const Halfedge& h)
appends a copy of h and a copy of h->opposite() to hds and makes them opposite to each other. Returns a handle of the copy of h.
Precondition: h->opposite() denotes a halfedge.

Face_handle hds.faces_push_back ( const Face& f)
appends a copy of f to hds. Returns a handle of the new face.


Erasing single elements is optional and indicated with the type tag Supports_removal. The pop_back and the clear member functions are mandatory. If vertices or faces are not supported for a HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> the pop_back and the clear member functions must be provided as null operations.

void hds.vertices_pop_front () removes the first vertex if vertices are supported and Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.vertices_pop_back () removes the last vertex.

void hds.vertices_erase ( Vertex_handle v)
removes the vertex v if vertices are supported and Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.vertices_erase ( Vertex_handle first, Vertex_handle last)
removes the range of vertices [first,last) if vertices are supported and Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.edges_pop_front () removes the first two halfedges if Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.edges_pop_back () removes the last two halfedges.

void hds.edges_erase ( Halfedge_handle h)
removes the pair of halfedges h and h->opposite() if Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.edges_erase ( Halfedge_handle first, Halfedge_handle last)
removes the range of edges [first,last) if Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.faces_pop_front () removes the first face if faces are supported and Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.faces_pop_back () removes the last face.

void hds.faces_erase ( Face_handle f) removes the face f if faces are supported and Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.faces_erase ( Face_handle first, Face_handle last)
removes the range of faces [first,last) if faces are supported and Supports_removal CGAL::Tag_true.

void hds.vertices_clear () removes all vertices.
void hds.edges_clear () removes all halfedges.
void hds.faces_clear () removes all faces.

void hds.clear () removes all elements.

Operations with Border Halfedges

The following notion of border halfedges is particular useful where the halfedge data structure is used to model surfaces with boundary, i.e., surfaces with missing faces or open regions. Halfedges incident to an open region are called border halfedges. A halfedge is a border edge if the halfedge itself or its opposite halfedge is a border halfedge. The only requirement to work with border halfedges is that the Halfedge class provides a member function is_border() returning a bool. Usually, the halfedge data structure supports faces and the value of the default constructor of the face handle will indicate a border halfedge, but this may not be the only possibility. The is_border() predicate divides the edges into two classes, the border edges and the non-border edges. The following normalization reorganizes the sequential storage of the edges such that the non-border edges precede the border edges, and that for each border edge the latter of the two halfedges is a border halfedge (the first one might be a border halfedge too). The normalization stores the number of border halfedges, as well as the halfedge iterator where the border edges start at, within the halfedge data structure. These values will be invalid after further halfedge insertions or removals and changes in the border status of a halfedge. There is no automatic update required.

void hds.normalize_border () sorts halfedges such that the non-border edges precede the border edges. For each border edge that is incident to a face, the halfedge iterator will reference the halfedge incident to the face right before the halfedge incident to the open region.

Size hds.size_of_border_halfedges () const
number of border halfedges. An edge with no incident face counts as two border halfedges.
Precondition: normalize_border() has been called and no halfedge insertion or removal and no change in border status of the halfedges have occurred since then.

Size hds.size_of_border_edges () const number of border edges. If size_of_border_edges() is equal to size_of_border_halfedges() all border edges are incident to a face on one side and to an open region on the other side.
Precondition: normalize_border() has been called and no halfedge insertion or removal and no change in border status of the halfedges have occurred since then.

Halfedge_iterator hds.border_halfedges_begin () halfedge iterator starting with the border edges. The range [halfedges_begin(), border_halfedges_begin()) denotes all non-border edges. The range [border_halfedges_begin(), halfedges_end()) denotes all border edges.
Precondition: normalize_border() has been called and no halfedge insertion or removal and no change in border status of the halfedges have occurred since then.

Has Models


See Also



Classes parameterized with a halfedge data structure, such as CGAL::Polyhedron_3, need to declare a class template as one of its template parameters for the HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc>. For compilers not supporting this (i.e. the flag CGAL_CFG_NO_TMPL_IN_TMPL_PARAM is set), the following workaround is required, which defines a HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> as a normal class that contains a member class template named HDS, which is the actual halfedge data structure as defined here. The following program fragment illustrates this workaround:

    template <class Traits, class Items, class Alloc> 
    class HalfedgeDS {
        typedef HalfedgeDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> Self;
        HalfedgeDS_vector(); // constructors
    struct HalfedgeDS {
    template <class Traits, class Items, class Alloc> 
    class HDS {
        typedef HDS<Traits,Items,Alloc> Self;
        HDS(); // constructors
        // ... further member functions. Self denotes the HalfedgeDS.