In this blog post we'll review four standard ways to handle the case when you need a list with a size which is only known at runtime.

## Use a generic List allocated on the heap

import std::io;
import std::collections::list;

// We create a generic List that holds doubles:
define DoubleList = List<double>;

fn double test_list_on_heap(int len)
{
DoubleList list;   // By default will allocate on the heap
defer list.free(); // Free memory at exit with a defer statement.
for (int i = 0; i < len; i++)
{
// Append each element
list.push(i + 1.0);
}
double sum = 0;
foreach (d : list) sum += d;
return sum;
}


We can use list.init(len) if we have some default length in mind, otherwise it's not necessary.

## Use a generic List allocated with the temp allocator

Here we instead use the temp allocator to allocate and manage memory. The @pool() { ... } construct will release all temporary allocations inside of the body block.

fn double test_list_on_temp_allocator(int len)
{
@pool()
{
DoubleList list;
list.tinit();   // Init using the temp allocator
for (int i = 0; i < len; i++)
{
list.push(i + 1.0);
}
double sum = 0;
foreach (d : list) sum += d;
// No need to free explicitly!
return sum;
};
}


## Allocate an array on the heap

This is the conventional way to do it in C if the length is unknown. Note how we can use defer to write the allocation and the free together to avoid forgetting freeing if there are multiple exits.

fn double test_array_on_heap(int len)
{
double[] arr = array::alloc(double, len);
defer mem::free(arr); // Free at function exit.
for (int i = 0; i < len; i++)
{
arr[i] = i + 1.0;
}
double sum = 0;
foreach (d : arr) sum += d;
return sum;
}


## Allocate an array on the temp allocator

Using the temp allocator is as close to doing allocations for free if we need arbitrarily long lists:

fn double test_array_on_temp_allocator(int len)
{
@pool()
{
// The array will be released when exiting pool()
double[] arr = array::talloc(double, len);
for (int i = 0; i < len; i++)
{
arr[i] = i + 1.0;
}
double sum = 0;
foreach (d : arr) sum += d;
return sum;
};
}


## Summary

We looked at four standard ways to use arbitrarily long lists in C3. Two of them used a growable list, which is important if you might not know the exact length in advance. The other two use simple arrays.

This also contrasted using the temp allocator with the heap allocator. In a later blog post I'll discuss the allocators in more detail.

A gist with the full code can be found here.