sort Examples
This page was last reviewed on Feb 6, 2024.
Dot Net Perls
Sort. Sorting elements in a Java collection (ordering them) is not always as simple as calling sort(). Instead we may need Comparable, and special methods.
Array.sort arranges elements in place. By default, sort() uses an ascending order. With objects, we use the Comparable interface, and implement its compareTo method.
Comparable example. Here we introduce a custom class, Item, and have it implement Comparable(Item). It specifies the compareTo method. In compareTo we return the result Integer.compare.
Info CompareTo returns an int that indicates whether the first object is larger, equal in size, or smaller than the second object.
Return CompareTo negative one, zero, or one if the first argument is smaller, equal, or larger than the second.
Result The Item objects are sorted in ascending order based on their "value" field.
import java.util.Arrays; class Item implements Comparable<Item> { public int value; public Item(int value) { this.value = value; } public int compareTo(Item item) { // Compare both value fields. return Integer.compare(this.value, item.value); } public String toString() { return "Value = " + value; } } public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { // Create array of four Item objects. Item[] items = new Item[4]; items[0] = new Item(100); items[1] = new Item(0); items[2] = new Item(200); items[3] = new Item(50); // Sort the Items with their Comparable interface methods. Arrays.sort(items); // Display our results. for (Item element : items) { System.out.println(element); } } }
Value = 0 Value = 50 Value = 100 Value = 200
Descending sort, Comparable. Consider this change to the compareTo method in the previous example. I reverse the order of this.value and item.value. This changes the sort to descending.
public int compareTo(Item item) { // Compare both value fields. return Integer.compare(item.value, this.value); }
Value = 200 Value = 100 Value = 50 Value = 0
Integer.compare. We often use Integer.compare, and similar methods like Double.compare, in compareTo methods. These methods return one of three values—they indicate relative size.
Integer Max
Important Negative one means "first is smaller." Positive one means "first is bigger." And zero means equal.
public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { System.out.println(Integer.compare(10, 1)); System.out.println(Integer.compare(1, 100)); System.out.println(Integer.compare(1, 1)); } }
1 [first is larger] -1 [first is smaller] 0 [both are equal]
Collections.sort. Suppose we have a collection (like a Vector, ArrayList) that needs sorting. We cannot directly use Arrays.sort here. Instead we invoke Collections.sort.
Note Collections.sort is part of java.util.Collections. The collection (in this program, Vector) is modified in-place.
import java.util.Collections; import java.util.Vector; public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { // Create Vector of three values. Vector<Integer> values = new Vector<>(); values.add(10); values.add(1); values.add(100); // Sort elements in vector. Collections.sort(values); // Display results. for (int value : values) { System.out.println(value); } } }
1 10 100
Lambda expression sort. It is possible to use a lambda expression argument to the Collections.sort method to sort elements in an ArrayList. Here we use records in an ArrayList, and sort by a field.
Result We sort the records in the ArrayList by the "number" int field, in ascending order, and display them.
import java.util.*; public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { // The record type. record Item (String name, int number) {} var items = new ArrayList<Item>(); // Add 3 elements to the ArrayList. items.add(new Item("bird", 10)); items.add(new Item("cat", 200)); items.add(new Item("worm", 5)); // Use lambda expression with sort. Collections.sort(items, (a, b) -> Integer.compare(a.number, b.number)); // Display the elements. for (var item : items) { System.out.println(item); } } }
Item[name=worm, number=5] Item[name=bird, number=10] Item[name=cat, number=200]
Alphabetize letters. Sometimes additional steps are needed to sort things. To sort chars in a String, we must first use toCharArray to convert it into a char array.
Then We call Arrays.sort. Finally we use the String class constructor create a new String from our modified array.
import java.util.Arrays; public class Program { static String alphabetize(String value) { // Convert String to array and sort its elements. char[] values = value.toCharArray(); Arrays.sort(values); return new String(values); } public static void main(String[] args) { // Alphabetize this String. System.out.println(alphabetize("zac")); } }
Comparator. We can sort elements according to a Comparator. We must create a class that implements the Comparator—the element type is specified within angle brackets.
Info We sort the strings in an array by their lengths, from low to high. We implement a Comparator called LengthComparator.
Note In compare(), we return the result of Integer.compare. We compare lengths.
Note 2 We pass our String array and an instance of our LengthComparator to Arrays.sort. This orders the array.
import java.util.Arrays; import java.util.Comparator; class LengthComparator implements Comparator<String> { public int compare(String arg0, String arg1) { // Use Integer.compare to compare the two Strings lengths. return Integer.compare(arg0.length(), arg1.length()); } } public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { String[] array = new String[5]; array[0] = "this"; array[1] = "array"; array[2] = "has"; array[3] = "five"; array[4] = "elements"; // Sort strings by their lengths with this LengthComparator. Arrays.sort(array, new LengthComparator()); // Display our results. for (String value : array) { System.out.println(value); } } }
has this five array elements
ParallelSort. This method sorts with threads. Using threads may help make sorting faster on large arrays. The method calls Arrays.sort when too few elements are present for threads to help.
Warning In my tests, parallelSort may not be faster than Arrays.sort. We must test parallelSort to see if it is faster in a program.
import java.util.Arrays; public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { // ... Create new array of 1000 random integers. int[] numbers = new int[1000]; for (int i = 0; i < numbers.length; i++) { numbers[i] = (int) (Math.random() * 1000); } // ... Use parallelSort on them. Arrays.parallelSort(numbers); // ... Display first and last number. System.out.println(numbers[0]); System.out.println(numbers[numbers.length - 1]); } }
1 998
ParallelSort, benchmark. This program tries to find out whether parallelSort is faster than sort. It allocates an int array of 1 million elements, and sets each third element to a number.
Version 1 This version of the code uses Arrays.parallelSort to sort the 1 million elements.
Version 2 This version uses the Arrays.sort method to sort the same elements on a single thread.
Result For a large int array like the one here, we see a performance advantage (on a computer with 4-core Intel desktop processor).
Tip The performance advantage of parallelSort is apparent on large arrays. The speedup is less than a factor of 2.
import java.util.Arrays; public class Program { public static void main(String[] args) { long t1 = System.currentTimeMillis(); // Version 1: use parallelSort on 1 million elements. for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++) { int[] values = new int[1000000]; for (int x = 0; x < values.length; x += 3) { values[x] = x; } Arrays.parallelSort(values); } long t2 = System.currentTimeMillis(); // Version 2: use sort on 1 million elements. for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++) { int[] values = new int[1000000]; for (int x = 0; x < values.length; x += 3) { values[x] = x; } Arrays.sort(values); } long t3 = System.currentTimeMillis(); // ... Times. System.out.println(t2 - t1); System.out.println(t3 - t2); } }
473 ms Arrays.parallelSort 735 ms Arrays.sort
With Arrays.sort, the low-level details of quick-sorting are provided. We focus on important high-level details, and this leads to clearer programs.
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Sam Allen is passionate about computer languages. In the past, his work has been recommended by Apple and Microsoft and he has studied computers at a selective university in the United States.
This page was last updated on Feb 6, 2024 (new example).
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