PriorityQueue: Priority-based queue implementation

In the world of data structures, queues are commonly used to store items in a specific order. However, what if we want to prioritize some elements over others? This is where a PriorityQueue comes to the rescue! A PriorityQueue is an implementation of the Queue interface that allows us to order elements based on their priority.

What is a PriorityQueue?

A PriorityQueue is a specialized queue that can store elements in a specific order defined by their priorities. Unlike a regular queue, where elements are stored in a "first-in, first-out" manner, a PriorityQueue allows elements to be retrieved based on their priority. The elements with higher priority are dequeued first.

How does a PriorityQueue work?

A PriorityQueue can store elements of any type, but the elements must be comparable so that their priorities can be determined. In Java, this is achieved by implementing the Comparable interface or by providing a Comparator to the PriorityQueue.

When an element is added to a PriorityQueue, it is placed in its correct position based on its priority. The element with the highest priority is always at the front of the queue. Whenever we remove an element from the PriorityQueue, the element with the next highest priority takes its place at the front.

Behind the scenes, a PriorityQueue typically uses a binary heap data structure to efficiently maintain the ordering of its elements. This data structure ensures that the element with the highest priority is always at the top.

Basic operations on a PriorityQueue

A PriorityQueue supports the following basic operations:

  1. add(element): Adds an element to the PriorityQueue based on its priority.
  2. peek(): Returns the element with the highest priority from the PriorityQueue without removing it.
  3. poll(): Retrieves and removes the element with the highest priority from the PriorityQueue.
  4. size(): Returns the number of elements present in the PriorityQueue.
  5. isEmpty(): Checks if the PriorityQueue is empty.

These operations allow us to interact with a PriorityQueue and utilize its priority-based ordering.

Example usage of a PriorityQueue

import java.util.PriorityQueue;

public class PriorityQueueExample {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Create a PriorityQueue of integers
        PriorityQueue<Integer> priorityQueue = new PriorityQueue<>();

        // Add elements with different priorities
        priorityQueue.add(10); // priority = 10
        priorityQueue.add(30); // priority = 30
        priorityQueue.add(20); // priority = 20

        // Retrieve and remove elements from the PriorityQueue
        while (!priorityQueue.isEmpty()) {

In the above example, we create a PriorityQueue of integers and add elements with different priorities. When we retrieve and remove elements from the PriorityQueue using the poll() method, the elements are returned in descending order of priority (highest priority first). Therefore, the output would be:



PriorityQueue is a valuable data structure that allows us to handle elements based on their priority. It ensures that the element with the highest priority is always readily available. By understanding the basic operations and usage of a PriorityQueue, we can leverage its power to solve various real-world problems efficiently.

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