In section 1 of this topic, we provided the fundamental functions for trees, namely those than construct and destroy them. There are, however, some other tree functions that make a tree library more complete. We'll discuss a few of them here.

We have said that it is important to "hide" all of the details of an implementation from the user. With that in mind, if that user is ever going to need to check whether the tree is empty, then having a condition (tree == NULL) would not be allowed. This implies that the programmer knows that a NULL tree means an empty tree, and this is an implementation detail. A more "black box" approach would be to have a boolean function that returned a value indicating whether the tree was empty.

int is_empty(tree_t *tree) { return (tree == NULL); }

Here we've taken the condition that the programmer would have put into the program and wrapped it in a function that explains what the condition does.

Another boolean function that applies to a condition that comes up often tells whether or not a given node is a leaf. The condition to check is simply whether or not a node has any descendents. In other words, we simply need to check to see if both children of the given node are NULL, which guarantees that it has no descendants.

int is_leaf (tree_t *tree) { return (tree != NULL && tree->left == NULL && tree->right == NULL); }

Here we make use of short circuit evaluation. When evaluating the condition to return, the computer goes through each of the boolean expressions and if any one of them is false, it will return false immediately. This is how we guarantee that we never dereference a NULL pointer.

Another useful function is one to compute the depth of a tree. Again, as we did with the destroy_tree function, we will use recursion. We know that if the tree is empty, then the depth must be zero. Otherwise, the depth will be one more than whichever is greater, the depth of the left subtree or of the right subtree. To produce a function we simply translate these steps into C.

int depth (tree_t *tree) { int left_depth, right_depth; if (is_empty(tree)) { return 0; } left_depth = depth (tree->left); right_depth = depth (tree->right); return 1 + (left_depth > right_depth? left_depth : right_depth); }

There is almost no end to additional helper functions you could write for trees. Doing the practice problems will hopefully trigger ideas for a few more. The three we have provided should serve as examples for all of the potential functions you may need. In addition, they should provide a framework for how to go about thinking of necessary functions. In general, you should first decide whether you need to go through the entire tree (or a section of it) to solve the function and if so you should try to think of the problem recursively.