In computer science, a data structure is a data organization, management, and storage format that enables efficient access and modification.More precisely, a data structure is a collection of data values, the relationships among them, and the functions or operations that can be applied to the data.
Data structures serve as the basis for abstract data types (ADT). The ADT defines the logical form of the data type. The data structure implements the physical form of the data type.
Different types of data structures are suited to different kinds of applications, and some are highly specialized to specific tasks. For example, relational databases commonly use B-tree indexes for data retrieval,while compiler implementations usually use hash tables to look up identifiers.
Data structures provide a means to manage large amounts of data efficiently for uses such as large databases and internet indexing services. Usually, efficient data structures are key to designing efficient algorithms. Some formal design methods and programming languages emphasize data structures, rather than algorithms, as the key organizing factor in software design. Data structures can be used to organize the storage and retrieval of information stored in both main memory and secondary memory.
Data structures are generally based on the ability of a computer to fetch and store data at any place in its memory, specified by a pointer—a bit string, representing a memory address, that can be itself stored in memory and manipulated by the program. Thus, the array and record data structures are based on computing the addresses of data items with arithmetic operations, while the linked data structures are based on storing addresses of data items within the structure itself.
The implementation of a data structure usually requires writing a set of procedures that create and manipulate instances of that structure. The efficiency of a data structure cannot be analyzed separately from those operations. This observation motivates the theoretical concept of an abstract data type, a data structure that is defined indirectly by the operations that may be performed on it, and the mathematical properties of those operations (including their space and time cost).
There are numerous types of data structures, generally built upon simpler primitive data types:
In addition, graphs and binary trees are other commonly used data structures.
Most assembly languages and some low-level languages, such as BCPL (Basic Combined Programming Language), lack built-in support for data structures. On the other hand, many high-level programming languages and some higher-level assembly languages, such as MASM, have special syntax or other built-in support for certain data structures, such as records and arrays. For example, the C (a direct descendant of BCPL) and Pascal languages support structs and records, respectively, in addition to vectors (one-dimensional arrays) and multi-dimensional arrays.
Most programming languages feature some sort of library mechanism that allows data structure implementations to be reused by different programs. Modern languages usually come with standard libraries that implement the most common data structures. Examples are the C++ Standard Template Library, the Java Collections Framework, and the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Modern languages also generally support modular programming, the separation between the interface of a library module and its implementation. Some provide opaque data types that allow clients to hide implementation details. Object-oriented programming languages, such as C++, Java, and Smalltalk, typically use classes for this purpose.
Many known data structures have concurrent versions which allow multiple computing threads to access a single concrete instance of a data structure simultaneously.
In computer science, an array data structure, or simply an array, is a data structure consisting of a collection of elements, each identified by at least one array index or key. An array is stored such that the position of each element can be computed from its index tuple by a mathematical formula. The simplest type of data structure is a linear array, also called one-dimensional array.
In computer science, an abstract data type (ADT) is a mathematical model for data types. An abstract data type is defined by its behavior (semantics) from the point of view of a user, of the data, specifically in terms of possible values, possible operations on data of this type, and the behavior of these operations. This mathematical model contrasts with data structures, which are concrete representations of data, and are the point of view of an implementer, not a user.
C is a general-purpose, procedural computer programming language supporting structured programming, lexical variable scope, and recursion, with a static type system. By design, C provides constructs that map efficiently to typical machine instructions. It has found lasting use in applications previously coded in assembly language. Such applications include operating systems and various application software for computer architectures that range from supercomputers to PLCs and embedded systems.
In computing, a hash table is a data structure that implements an associative array abstract data type, a structure that can map keys to values. A hash table uses a hash function to compute an index, also called a hash code, into an array of buckets or slots, from which the desired value can be found. During lookup, the key is hashed and the resulting hash indicates where the corresponding value is stored.
In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. Instead, each element points to the next. It is a data structure consisting of a collection of nodes which together represent a sequence. In its most basic form, each node contains: data, and a reference to the next node in the sequence. This structure allows for efficient insertion or removal of elements from any position in the sequence during iteration. More complex variants add additional links, allowing more efficient insertion or removal of nodes at arbitrary positions. A drawback of linked lists is that access time is linear. Faster access, such as random access, is not feasible. Arrays have better cache locality compared to linked lists.
Pascal is an imperative and procedural programming language, designed by Niklaus Wirth as a small, efficient language intended to encourage good programming practices using structured programming and data structuring. It is named in honour of the French mathematician, philosopher and physicist Blaise Pascal.
In computer science and computer programming, a data type or simply type is an attribute of data which tells the compiler or interpreter how the programmer intends to use the data. Most programming languages support basic data types of integer numbers, floating-point numbers, characters and Booleans. A data type constrains the values that an expression, such as a variable or a function, might take. This data type defines the operations that can be done on the data, the meaning of the data, and the way values of that type can be stored. A data type provides a set of values from which an expression may take its values.
In computer science, an associative array, map, symbol table, or dictionary is an abstract data type composed of a collection of pairs, such that each possible key appears at most once in the collection.
Generic programming is a style of computer programming in which algorithms are written in terms of types to-be-specified-later that are then instantiated when needed for specific types provided as parameters. This approach, pioneered by the ML programming language in 1973, permits writing common functions or types that differ only in the set of types on which they operate when used, thus reducing duplication. Such software entities are known as generics in Python, Ada, C#, Delphi, Eiffel, F#, Java, Nim, Rust, Swift, TypeScript and Visual Basic .NET. They are known as parametric polymorphism in ML, Scala, Julia, and Haskell ; templates in C++ and D; and parameterized types in the influential 1994 book Design Patterns.
In computer science, a set is an abstract data type that can store unique values, without any particular order. It is a computer implementation of the mathematical concept of a finite set. Unlike most other collection types, rather than retrieving a specific element from a set, one typically tests a value for membership in a set.
In computer science, a list or sequence is an abstract data type that represents a countable number of ordered values, where the same value may occur more than once. An instance of a list is a computer representation of the mathematical concept of a tuple or finite sequence; the (potentially) infinite analog of a list is a stream. Lists are a basic example of containers, as they contain other values. If the same value occurs multiple times, each occurrence is considered a distinct item.
In computer science, a stack is an abstract data type that serves as a collection of elements, with two main principal operations:
In computer science, a pointer is an object in many programming languages that stores a memory address. This can be that of another value located in computer memory, or in some cases, that of memory-mapped computer hardware. A pointer references a location in memory, and obtaining the value stored at that location is known as dereferencing the pointer. As an analogy, a page number in a book's index could be considered a pointer to the corresponding page; dereferencing such a pointer would be done by flipping to the page with the given page number and reading the text found on that page. The actual format and content of a pointer variable is dependent on the underlying computer architecture.
In computer science, a record is a basic data structure. Records in a database or spreadsheet are usually called "rows".
In computing, a persistent data structure is a data structure that always preserves the previous version of itself when it is modified. Such data structures are effectively immutable, as their operations do not (visibly) update the structure in-place, but instead always yield a new updated structure. The term was introduced in Driscoll, Sarnak, Sleator, and Tarjans' 1986 article.
In computer science, a dynamic array, growable array, resizable array, dynamic table, mutable array, or array list is a random access, variable-size list data structure that allows elements to be added or removed. It is supplied with standard libraries in many modern mainstream programming languages. Dynamic arrays overcome a limit of static arrays, which have a fixed capacity that needs to be specified at allocation.
In computer science, a radix tree is a data structure that represents a space-optimized trie in which each node that is the only child is merged with its parent. The result is that the number of children of every internal node is at most the radix r of the radix tree, where r is a positive integer and a power x of 2, having x ≥ 1. Unlike regular trees, edges can be labeled with sequences of elements as well as single elements. This makes radix trees much more efficient for small sets and for sets of strings that share long prefixes.
In computer science, a container is a class, a data structure, or an abstract data type (ADT) whose instances are collections of other objects. In other words, they store objects in an organized way that follows specific access rules. The size of the container depends on the number of objects (elements) it contains. Underlying (inherited) implementations of various container types may vary in size and complexity, and provide flexibility in choosing the right implementation for any given scenario.
In computer science, an array type is a data type that represents a collection of elements, each selected by one or more indices that can be computed at run time during program execution. Such a collection is usually called an array variable, array value, or simply array. By analogy with the mathematical concepts vector and matrix, array types with one and two indices are often called vector type and matrix type, respectively.
This glossary of computer science is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in computer science, its sub-disciplines, and related fields, including terms relevant to software, data science, and .