Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All you need to know about QuickSort

It would be true to say that Quicksort is one of the most popular sorting algorithms. You can find it implemented on the most of the languages and it is present in almost any core library. In Java and Go Quicksort is default sorting algorithm for some data types and it is used in in C++ STL (Introsoft which is used there begins with Quicksort). Such popularity can be explained by the fact that on average, Quicksort is one of the fastest known sorting algorithms. Interestingly that complexity of Quicksort is not less than it is for other algorithms like MergeSort or HeapSort. The best case performance is O(nlogn) and on the worst case it gives O(n^2). Latter, luckily, is exceptional case for the proper implementation. Quicksort performance is gained by the main loop which tends to make excellent usage of CPU caches. Another reason of popularity is that it doesn't need allocation of additional memory.

Personally for me Quicksort appeared as one of the most complex sorting algorithms. The basic idea is pretty simple and usually takes just a few minutes to implement. But that version, of course, if not practically usable. When it comes to details and to efficiency, it is getting more and more complicated.

Quicksort was first discovered by C.A.R. Hoare in 1962 (see "Quicksort," Computer Journal 5, 1, 1962) and in following years algorithm slightly mutated. The most known version is Three-way Quicksort. The most comprehensive of widely known ones is Dual-Pivot Quicksort. Both algorithms will be covered in that post.