The Quicksort Algorithm
Quicksort is the fastest known comparison-based sorting algorithm (on average, and for a large number of elements), requiring O(n log(n)) steps. By convention, n is the number of elements to be compared and big O is a function of those elements. Quicksort is a recursive algorithm which first partitions an array according to several rules:
- Pick an element, called a pivot, from the array.
- Reorder the array so that all elements with values less than the pivot come before the pivot, while all elements with values greater than the pivot come after it (equal values can go either way). After this partitioning, the pivot is in its final position. This is called the partition operation.
- Recursively apply the above steps to the sub-array of elements with smaller values and separately to the sub-array of elements with greater values.
Quicksort was invented by Tony Hoare and has undergone extensive analysis and scrutiny, and is known to be about twice as fast as the next fastest sorting algorithm. In the worst case, however, quicksort is a slow n² algorithm (and for quicksort, “worst case” corresponds to already sorted). (Click this link for an example of the Quicksort Algorithm written in C)
Credit: Wolfram Alpha/Wikipedia