Although the shell sort algorithm is significantly better than
insertion sort, there is still room for improvement. One of the
most popular sorting algorithms is quicksort. Quicksort executes
in O(n lg n) on average, and
O(n2) in the worst-case. However,
with proper precautions, worst-case behavior is very unlikely.
Quicksort is a non-stable sort. It is not an in-place sort as
stack space is required. For further reading, consult
The quicksort algorithm works by partitioning the array to be
sorted, then recursively sorting each partition. In Partition
one of the array elements is selected as a pivot
value. Values smaller than the pivot value are placed to the
left of the pivot, while larger values are placed to the right.
Figure 2-3: Quicksort Algorithm
int function Partition (Array A, int Lb, int Ub);
select a pivot from A[Lb]...A[Ub];
reorder A[Lb]...A[Ub] such that:
all values to the left of the pivot are <= pivot
all values to the right of the pivot are >= pivot
return pivot position;
procedure QuickSort (Array A, int Lb, int Ub);
if Lb < Ub then
M = Partition (A, Lb, Ub);
QuickSort (A, Lb, M - 1);
QuickSort (A, M + 1, Ub);
In Figure 2-4(a),
the pivot selected is 3. Indices are run
starting at both ends of the array.
One index starts on the left
and selects an element that is larger than the pivot,
while another index starts on the right and selects an element
that is smaller than the pivot.
In this case, numbers 4 and 1 are selected.
These elements are then exchanged, as is shown in
This process repeats until all elements to the left of the pivot <= the pivot,
and all elements to the right of the pivot are >= the pivot.
QuickSort recursively sorts the two subarrays,
resulting in the array shown in Figure 2-4(c).
As the process proceeds, it may be necessary to move the pivot so
that correct ordering is maintained. In this manner, QuickSort
succeeds in sorting the array. If we're lucky the pivot selected
will be the median of all values, equally dividing the
array. For a moment, let's assume that this is the case. Since
the array is split in half at each step, and Partition must
eventually examine all n elements, the run time is
O(n lg n).
To find a pivot value, Partition could simply select the first
element (A[Lb]). All other values would be compared to the pivot
value, and placed either to the left or right of the pivot as
appropriate. However, there is one case that fails miserably.
Suppose the array was originally in order. Partition would
always select the lowest value as a pivot and split the array
with one element in the left partition, and Ub - Lb elements in
the other. Each recursive call to quicksort would only diminish
the size of the array to be sorted by one. Therefore n recursive
calls would be required to do the sort, resulting in a
time. One solution to this problem is to randomly select an item
as a pivot. This would make it extremely unlikely that
worst-case behavior would occur.
for quicksort is included.
Typedef T and comparison operator
compGT should be altered to reflect the data stored in the array.
Several enhancements have been made to the basic quicksort
Also included is an
of qsort, a standard C library function usually implemented with
quicksort. Recursive calls were
replaced by explicit stack operations.
Table 2-1, shows timing statistics and stack utilization before and after the
enhancements were applied.
- The center element is selected as a pivot in partition. If
the list is partially ordered, this will be a good choice. Worst-case
behavior occurs when the center element happens to be the
largest or smallest element each time partition is invoked.
- For short arrays, insertSort is called. Due to recursion and
other overhead, quicksort is not an efficient algorithm to use on
small arrays. Consequently, any array with fewer than 12 elements is
sorted using an insertion sort. The optimal cutoff value is not
critical and varies based on the quality of generated code.
- Tail recursion occurs when the last statement in a function is
a call to the function itself. Tail recursion may be replaced by
iteration, resulting in a better utilization of stack space.
This has been done with the second call to QuickSort in Figure 2-3.
- After an array is partitioned, the smallest partition is
sorted first. This results in a better utilization of stack
space, as short partitions are quickly sorted and dispensed with.
Table 2-1: Effect of Enhancements on Speed and Stack Utilization