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Thinking in Java
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List functionality

The basic List is quite simple to use, as you’ve seen so far with ArrayList. Although most of the time you’ll just use add( ) to insert objects, get( ) to get them out one at a time, and iterator( ) to get an Iterator for the sequence, there’s also a set of other methods that can be useful.

In addition, there are actually two types of List: the basic ArrayList, which excels at randomly accessing elements, and the much more powerful LinkedList, which is not designed for fast random access, but has a much more general set of methods.

List (interface)

Order is the most important feature of a List; it promises to maintain elements in a particular sequence. List adds a number of methods to Collection that allow insertion and removal of elements in the middle of a List. (This is recommended only for a LinkedList.) A List will produce a ListIterator, and by using this you can traverse the List in both directions, as well as insert and remove elements in the middle of the List.


A List implemented with an array. Allows rapid random access to elements, but is slow when inserting and removing elements from the middle of a list. ListIterator should be used only for back-and-forth traversal of an ArrayList, but not for inserting and removing elements, which is expensive compared to LinkedList.


Provides optimal sequential access, with inexpensive insertions and deletions from the middle of the List. Relatively slow for random access. (Use ArrayList instead.) Also has addFirst( ), addLast( ), getFirst( ), getLast( ), removeFirst( ), and removeLast( ) (which are not defined in any interfaces or base classes) to allow it to be used as a stack, a queue, and a deque.

The methods in the following example each cover a different group of activities: things that every list can do (basicTest( )), moving around with an Iterator (iterMotion( )) versus changing things with an Iterator (iterManipulation( )), seeing the effects of List manipulation (testVisual( )), and operations available only to LinkedLists.

// Things you can do with Lists.
import java.util.*;
import com.bruceeckel.util.*;

public class List1 {
  public static List fill(List a) {
    Collections2.fill(a, Collections2.countries, 10);
    return a;
  private static boolean b;
  private static Object o;
  private static int i;
  private static Iterator it;
  private static ListIterator lit;
  public static void basicTest(List a) {
    a.add(1, "x"); // Add at location 1
    a.add("x"); // Add at end
    // Add a collection:
    a.addAll(fill(new ArrayList()));
    // Add a collection starting at location 3:
    a.addAll(3, fill(new ArrayList()));
    b = a.contains("1"); // Is it in there?
    // Is the entire collection in there?
    b = a.containsAll(fill(new ArrayList()));
    // Lists allow random access, which is cheap
    // for ArrayList, expensive for LinkedList:
    o = a.get(1); // Get object at location 1
    i = a.indexOf("1"); // Tell index of object
    b = a.isEmpty(); // Any elements inside?
    it = a.iterator(); // Ordinary Iterator
    lit = a.listIterator(); // ListIterator
    lit = a.listIterator(3); // Start at loc 3
    i = a.lastIndexOf("1"); // Last match
    a.remove(1); // Remove location 1
    a.remove("3"); // Remove this object
    a.set(1, "y"); // Set location 1 to "y"
    // Keep everything that's in the argument
    // (the intersection of the two sets):
    a.retainAll(fill(new ArrayList()));
    // Remove everything that's in the argument:
    a.removeAll(fill(new ArrayList()));
    i = a.size(); // How big is it?
    a.clear(); // Remove all elements
  public static void iterMotion(List a) {
    ListIterator it = a.listIterator();
    b = it.hasNext();
    b = it.hasPrevious();
    o =;
    i = it.nextIndex();
    o = it.previous();
    i = it.previousIndex();
  public static void iterManipulation(List a) {
    ListIterator it = a.listIterator();
    // Must move to an element after add():;
    // Remove the element that was just produced:
    // Must move to an element after remove():;
    // Change the element that was just produced:
  public static void testVisual(List a) {
    List b = new ArrayList();
    System.out.print("b = ");
    a.addAll(fill(new ArrayList()));
    // Insert, remove, and replace elements
    // using a ListIterator:
    ListIterator x = a.listIterator(a.size()/2);
    // Traverse the list backwards:
    x = a.listIterator(a.size());
      System.out.print(x.previous() + " ");
    System.out.println("testVisual finished");
  // There are some things that only LinkedLists can do:
  public static void testLinkedList() {
    LinkedList ll = new LinkedList();
    // Treat it like a stack, pushing:
    // Like "peeking" at the top of a stack:
    // Like popping a stack:
    // Treat it like a queue, pulling elements
    // off the tail end:
    // With the above operations, it's a dequeue!
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    // Make and fill a new list each time:
    basicTest(fill(new LinkedList()));
    basicTest(fill(new ArrayList()));
    iterMotion(fill(new LinkedList()));
    iterMotion(fill(new ArrayList()));
    iterManipulation(fill(new LinkedList()));
    iterManipulation(fill(new ArrayList()));
    testVisual(fill(new LinkedList()));
} ///:~

In basicTest( ) and iterMotion( ) the calls are made in order to show the proper syntax, and although the return value is captured, it is not used. In some cases, the return value isn’t captured at all. You should look up the full usage of each of these methods in the JDK documentation from before you use them.

Remember that a container is only a storage cabinet to hold objects. If that cabinet solves all of your needs, it doesn’t really matter how it is implemented (a basic concept with most types of objects). If you’re working in a programming environment that has built-in overhead due to other factors, then the cost difference between an ArrayList and a LinkedList might not matter. You might need only one type of sequence. You can even imagine the “perfect” container abstraction, which can automatically change its underlying implementation according to the way it is used.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire