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Insertion Sort In Java: Java Explained

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Insertion sort is an efficient, in-place comparison sorting algorithm used to sort a list of elements in ascending order. Insertion sort is often compared to selection and bubble sort algorithms, which are similar in nature. It is commonly used for smaller data sets due to its time complexity. In this article, we’ll discuss what insertion sort is, how it works, its implementation in Java, advantages and disadvantages, comparison with other sorting algorithms, and tips for optimizing performance.

What Is Insertion Sort?

Insertion sort is a simple and efficient sorting algorithm that works incrementally, building up the sort one element at a time. It works similarly to how a person organizes a hand of cards: looking at each card one at a time and inserting it into the proper place in his/her hand. In terms of coding, it’s most commonly represented with a while loop along with a pass-through index.

When compared to other sorting algorithms such as bubble sort and selection sort, insertion sort has the advantage of being able to quickly sort a partially sorted list. This makes insertion sort well-suited for use cases where the data is already mostly ordered or need to have few elements sorted within a larger set.

Insertion sort is also relatively easy to implement, as it only requires a few lines of code. Additionally, it is a stable sorting algorithm, meaning that it preserves the relative order of elements with equal keys. This makes it a great choice for sorting data that contains multiple elements with the same value.

How Insertion Sort Works

Insertion sort works by selecting one element from the list at a time and comparing it to the elements on its left side, beginning from the second element in the list. If the chosen element is smaller than any of the elements its been compared to, it’s moved to its proper place. This process repeated until all of the elements in the list have been compared and sorted accordingly.

To better illustrate how insertion sort works, let’s use an example. Consider a list of numbers that needs to be sorted in ascending order: {5,1,4,2,8}. This is the list before being sorted:

  • 5
  • 1
  • 4
  • 2
  • 8

We’ll begin by selecting the second element in the list, which is 1. Since 1 is less than 5, it’s moved to its proper place in front of 5. Now our list looks like this:

  • 1
  • 5
  • 4
  • 2
  • 8

We then move on to the next element in the list which is 4. Since 4 is less than 5, it’s moved to its proper place in front of 5. The list now looks like this:

  • 1
  • 4
  • 5
  • 2
  • 8

We repeat this process for each element in the list until no more elements need to be sorted. The resulting list has been sorted in ascending order:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
  • 5
  • 8

Insertion sort is an efficient sorting algorithm that can be used to sort a variety of data types. It is especially useful for sorting small lists of data, as it is relatively quick and easy to implement. Additionally, insertion sort is a stable sorting algorithm, meaning that the relative order of elements with equal values is preserved.

Benefits of Insertion Sort

Insertion sort has some distinct advantages when compared to other sorting algorithms, such as bubble and selection sorts. Firstly, insertion sort only requires one element to be shifted, which can reduce comparisons and substitutions in certain cases. Secondly, insertion sort is more efficient when applied to partially sorted datasets since it only needs to insert elements into the correct position.

Finally, insertion sort does not require any additional memory for storing or organizing data. This makes it particularly well-suited in scenarios where memory is limited.

In addition, insertion sort is a stable sorting algorithm, meaning that elements with the same value remain in the same order after sorting. This is an important feature for certain applications, such as sorting a list of names alphabetically.

Implementation of Insertion Sort in Java

Insertion sort can be implemented in Java with a simple for loop. In the code snippet below, we’ll use an array of integers as an example:

for(int i = 1; i < array.length; i++) {     int j = i - 1;     int temp = array[i];     while(j >= 0 && temp < array[j]) {         array[j + 1] = array[j];         j--;     }     array[j+1] = temp; } 

This code starts by creating a loop that iterates over each element in the array. Next, a value is stored into a temporary variable ( ‘temp’ ) and compared to elements on its left side. If any elements are larger than ‘temp’ , they are shifted to the right until ‘temp’ finds its rightful place in the array.

Once the loop is complete, the array will be sorted in ascending order. Insertion sort is a simple and efficient sorting algorithm, but it is not suitable for large datasets due to its complexity. It is best used for small datasets or when the data is already partially sorted.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Insertion Sort

Insertion sort is relatively simple compared to other sorting algorithms but also has some limitations. Advantages include its ability to quickly sort a partially sorted list and its lack of need for additional memory when sorting data.

The main disadvantages of insertion sort stem from its time complexity which quickly increases with larger data sets. For example, when sorting 10 items with insertion sort, it would take approximately 45 comparisons while sorting 30 items would require 465 comparisons. This is much slower than other sorting methods.

In addition, insertion sort is not suitable for large data sets due to its complexity. It is also not suitable for data sets that are constantly changing, as it requires the data to be re-sorted each time a change is made. Finally, insertion sort is not suitable for data sets that contain many duplicate elements, as it will take longer to sort them.

Comparison with Other Sorting Algorithms

Insertion sort is similar to other sorting algorithms like selection and bubble sorts but also has some areas where it stands out. It has an advantage when applied to partially sorted lists as it only needs to insert elements into the correct position whereas selection and bubble sorts have to check all elements for every comparison.

Insertion sort also has an advantage in time complexity for smaller data sets since fewer comparisons are needed compared to selection and bubble sorts. However, this advantage quickly disappears when sorting large datasets due to its slower runtime.

Tips for Optimizing Insertion Sort Performance

There are a few ways you can optimize your insertion sort implementations to maximize speed and efficiency. Firstly, you should avoid using excessive conditional statements as they can negatively impact runtime performance. Secondly, use a while loop instead of a for loop whenever possible. Finally, you should also try to pre-sort or partially sort your data set as much as possible since insertion sort performs faster with pre-sorted or partially sorted data.

In conclusion, insertion sort is an efficient sorting algorithm well-suited for small datasets or those that are partially sorted. It works incrementally by selecting one element from a list and comparing it to those on its left until all the elements have been compared and stored in the correct order.

Anand Das

Anand Das

Anand is Co-founder and CTO of Bito. He leads technical strategy and engineering, and is our biggest user! Formerly, Anand was CTO of Eyeota, a data company acquired by Dun & Bradstreet. He is co-founder of PubMatic, where he led the building of an ad exchange system that handles over 1 Trillion bids per day.

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