An iterator is a function that can generate, or yield, multiple values (consecutively or in parallel) via its yield statements.

Open issue.

The parallel iterator story is under development. It is expected that the specification will be expanded regarding parallel iterators soon.

Iterator Definitions

The syntax to declare an iterator is given by:

  privacy-specifier[OPT] 'iter' iterator-name argument-list[OPT] yield-intent[OPT] yield-type[OPT] where-clause[OPT]


  'const ref'

  : type-expression


The syntax of an iterator declaration is similar to a procedure declaration, with some key differences:

  • The keyword iter is used instead of the keyword proc.

  • The name of the iterator cannot overload any operator.

  • yield statements may appear in the body of an iterator, but not in a procedure.

  • A return statement in the body of an iterator is not allowed to have an expression.

  • The intent and type specified after the argument list refer to the type yielded, not the type returned (see previous bullet). However, they are syntactically the same as a return-intent and a return-type.

Open issue.

Iterators that yield types or params are not currently supported.

The Yield Statement

The yield statement can only appear in iterators. The syntax of the yield statement is given by

  'yield' expression ;

When an iterator is executed and a yield is encountered, the value of the yield expression is returned to the iterator’s callsite. However, the state of execution of the iterator is logically saved such that its execution continues from the point immediately following the yield statement. A yield statement in an iterator that yields references must yield an lvalue expression.

When a return is encountered, the iterator finishes without yielding another index value. The return statements appearing in an iterator are not permitted to have a return expression. An iterator also completes after the last statement in the iterator is executed. An iterator need not contain any yield statements.

Iterator Calls

Iterators are invoked using regular call expressions:


All details of iterator calls, including argument passing, function resolution, the use of parentheses versus brackets to delimit the parameter list, and so on, are identical to procedure calls as described in the Procedures Chapter.

However, the result of an iterator call depends upon its context, as described below.

Iterators in For and Forall Loops

When an iterator is accessed via a for or forall loop, the iterator is evaluated alongside the loop body in an interleaved manner. For each iteration, the iterator yields a value and the body is executed.

Iterators as Arrays

Capturing an iterator into a new variable creates a new rectangular array storing the same elements that the iterator yielded.

An iterator can be captured by:

  • storing it into a new var or const variable declaration

  • passing it to function formal argument accepting it with in intent

In both cases, the variable or formal argument needs to be untyped or have a compatible rectangular array type.

In other words, an iterator can be implicitly converted into an array with matching shape and element type (see also Implicit Conversions).

When an iterator is assigned to an existing array, the array and the iterator will be iterated over with zippered iteration (Zipper Iteration) and the array elements assigned to the yielded value.

Example (as-arrays.chpl).

Given this iterator

iter squares(n: int): int {
  for i in 1..n do
    yield i * i;
var A = squares(5);

then the variable A will be an array storing:

1 4 9 16 25

Iterators and Generics

An iterator call expression can be passed to a generic function argument that has neither a declared type nor default value (Formal Arguments without Types). In this case the iterator is passed without being evaluated. Within the generic function the corresponding formal argument can be used as an iterator, e.g. in for loops. The arguments to the iterator call expression, if any, are evaluated at the call site, i.e. prior to passing the iterator to the generic function.

Recursive Iterators

Recursive iterators are allowed. A recursive iterator invocation is typically made by iterating over it in a loop.

Example (recursive.chpl).

A post-order traversal of a tree data structure could be written like this:

iter postorder(tree: Tree?): string {
  if tree != nil {
    for child in postorder(tree!.left) do
      yield child;
    for child in postorder(tree!.right) do
      yield child;
    yield tree!.data;

By contrast, using calls postorder(tree.left) and postorder(tree.right) as stand-alone statements would result in generating temporary arrays containing the outcomes of these recursive calls, which would then be discarded.

Iterator Promotion of Scalar Functions

Iterator calls may be passed to a scalar function argument whose type matches the iterator’s yielded type. This results in a promotion of the scalar function as described in Promotion.

Example (iteratorPromotion.chpl).

Given a function addOne(x:int) that accepts int values and an iterator firstN() that yields int values, addOne() can be called with firstN() as its actual argument. This pattern creates a new iterator that yields the result of applying addOne() to each value yielded by firstN().

proc addOne(x:int) {
  return x + 1;
iter firstN(n:int) {
  for i in 1..n {
    yield i;
for number in addOne(firstN(10)) {

Parallel Iterators

Iterators used in explicit forall-statements or -expressions must be parallel iterators. Reductions, scans and promotion over serial iterators will be serialized.

Parallel iterators are defined for standard constructs in Chapel such as ranges, domains, and arrays, thereby allowing these constructs to be used with forall-statements and -expressions.

The left-most iteratable expression in a forall-statement or -expression determines the number of tasks, the iterations each task executes, and the locales on which these tasks execute. For ranges, default domains, and default arrays, these values can be controlled via configuration constants (Configuration Constants for Default Data Parallelism).

Domains and arrays defined using distributed domain maps will typically implement forall loops with multiple tasks on multiple locales. For ranges, default domains, and default arrays, all tasks are executed on the current locale.

A more detailed definition of parallel iterators is forthcoming.